Herbs and Spices Around the World

Cooking with fresh-ground spices is the key to making your recipes pop.

by Chef Golda Ewalt
Herbs and spices around the world
From Agar to Za'atar, Bloomington Spice Works specializes in whole and freshly ground spices, herbs, salts and more.

Through food—whether enjoyed at home or your favorite restaurant—the flavors of herbs and spices can transport us around the world. Consider the flowery, fragrant aroma of cardamom that gives Indian chai tea its distinctive flavor, for example, or how lemongrass is used in some of the Vietnamese specialties at Thanh Linh here in Peoria. 

For a quick and fun day trip, full of flavor exploration, head to Bloomington Spice Works in nearby downtown Bloomington. This spice shop has an amazing selection of interesting salts, vanilla, hard-to-find herbs/spices and spice blends, as well as exclusive loose-leaf teas. During a recent visit, I picked up mild Aleppo pepper, smoked sweet paprika, whole cardamom, mesquite-smoked sea salt, juniper berries and lapsang souchong tea. Juniper berries give gin its distinctive flavor and are often used in German dishes such as sauerkraut and sausages. To learn more, go to bloomingtonspiceworks.com—it’s a great place to visit, to smell, and to explore unique herbs and spices from around the world.

When it comes to buying spices, purchase smaller quantities to help keep them fresh and flavorful—or try stocking whole spices and grinding them fresh before use. (To enhance the flavor, the whole spices can be toasted in a dry skillet for a few minutes before grinding.) You may even try your hand at making your own seasoning blends instead of buying packaged mixes. One of my favorite spice blends to make is a Moroccan blend, containing cumin, ground ginger, salt, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, clove and allspice. You can easily make your own blends that take your taste buds around the globe! 

Here in Peoria, [CxT] Roasting Company has created a savory spice blend containing their ground coffee. The robust Coffee Rub pairs well with grilled meats and roasted vegetables, such as broccoli, potatoes and butternut squash. This month’s featured recipe gets its depth of flavor from the [CxT] Coffee Rub, which can be purchased in their shop at Keller Station or on their website: cxt.coffee. The recipe was developed by Jessica Bishop, dietetic intern at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center.

This delicious beef stew gets its depth of flavor from the [CxT] Coffee Rub.
This delicious beef stew gets its depth of flavor from the [CxT] Coffee Rub.

[CXT] Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Makes 4 servings, 1½ cups each

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 32 ounces beef broth
  • 12 ounces chuck roast,
  • cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups chopped potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons [CxT] Coffee Rub
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 

Directions:

  1. Add the flour and broth to the slow cooker and stir until well-combined.
  2. Add the rest of ingredients to the slow cooker. Stir to mix well.
  3. Place the lid on the slow cooker, turn on high heat and cook for six hours. PM

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