Thursday, November 8, 2012

Super spicing your home-cooked meals

Fresh Icelandic haddock coated in spices and served with mashed sweet potatoes.

The spice mixture after I added a couple of ounces of Aleppo red pepper.

It didn't take long after our power was restored to shake off Hurricane Sandy, restock the refrigerator and freezer, and get back into preparing quick, nutritious meals at home.

Instead of huddling around the gas fireplace, we've resumed gathering for good breakfasts and dinners in our cozy kitchen.

One of the items I had almost ran out of before the storm hit Oct. 29 was a mixture of bread crumbs and ground spices I've been using for years to coat fish fillets, chicken, pork or beef before baking or roasting them in the oven. 

This is no-recipe cooking at its simplest and quickest, with the juices from the fish or meat rejuvenating the ground spices.

This week, I searched our cupboards and freezer for  spices -- new and old -- and combined them in a big plastic tub stained from all the ground red pepper it has held. 

I decided to streamline the ground-spice mixture by eliminating the bread crumbs and using many more spices than the ones I've long favored from Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit, which I would mail-order  by the case.

Post-Sandy breakfasts included callaloo and saltfish with sweet plantains and boiled green banana, above, and organic eggs with whole-wheat pasta and sardines, below.

I didn't discriminate between new bottles of spices and the old ones I found in the back of the closest, refrigerators or freezer.

I started with Organic No Salt Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Ground Black Malabar Pepper, Dried Onion Flakes and other spices from Costco Wholesale.

I found a couple of old containers of Jamaican and Indian curry powders, Chinese Five Spice Powder and White Pepper; Corrado's Ground Ginger and Dried Mint Leaves. 

Korean Red Pepper, Cayenne Pepper and Ground Saigon Cinnamon also went into the mix. I didn't add salt, but had some spice mixtures with salt to add to the plastic tub. 

I can't think of any ground spice that wouldn't be appropriate for the Super Spice Mixture, and you can just continue to replenish the container as you use the mixture. 

For example, you can add a couple of ounces of ground cumin, which is what I did today.

I used the spice mixture to coat fresh, wild-caught haddock fillets from Iceland that I found at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for $7.99 a pound.

I unwrapped the tray of fish, ran it under tap water, cut it up into smaller pieces and coated both sides with spices in the container, which I keep in the refrigerator.

Or you can spread the spices on a plate and coat the fish that way.

The fillets were ready after about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and I served them with mashed sweet potatoes and wedges of lime.  

The heating system at the Little Ferry H Mart was broken today.

My wife went to Costco Wholesale in Hackensack today and Tuesday, and I shopped today at the ShopRite in Hackensack and H Mart in Little Ferry, a Korean supermarket, which had lights but no heat.

At Costco, a 10-pound bag of sweet potatoes from North Carolina was $5.99, 10 pounds of organic carrots were $7.99, a 1-pound package of Kirkland Signature Smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon was $15.39.

A 2-pound package of Jarlsberg Light sliced, reduced-fat cheese was $9.99, and 3 pounds of sodium-free California almonds I roast at home were $12.99.

At H Mart, a 15-pound bag of California-grown Kukuho Yellow Label Rice was on sale for $9.99. Other sale items were frozen Greenshell Mussels for $5.99 and a large bunch of fresh spinach for 99 cents.

At ShopRite, I bought the last three packages of antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken legs and thighs for $1.89 a pound.

Now, the house is filled with the aroma of Curry Chicken.

But I'll be content with whole-wheat rigatoni in bottled marinara with added anchovies, which cook away but leave behind a robust taste; steamed spinach and a salad.   

Today, this omelet was made with Manchego cheese I didn't throw away.

After Hurricane Sandy knocked our power out on Oct. 29, we could still cook on our gas stove by igniting it with a match.

So, we cooked and ate what we could, supplemented by prepared food from Whole Foods Market; gave away a  lot of items from the freezer and threw away food.

But I didn't discard Tropicana orange juice in sealed cartons; Manchego, grated Pecorino Romano and another hard cheese; two jars of kimchi, olives, capers in brine, homemade pesto, ground spices, bread and tortillas. 
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  1. i bought those sweet potatoes, also. they tasted bland

  2. I boil them and eat them plain but you can add butter substitute, olive oil or grated cheese. When mashed with skin and garlic cloves, olive oil, a little salt and other seasoning will boost their flavor.

  3. Thanks for the Shop-Rite tip. At Corrado's this week, jumbo yams are .39/lb...another good deal.


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