Warm spices & winter jewels make recipes for a romantic dinner
Just when I’m tired of root vegetables and winter squash, bored with rustic comfort food and stuffed to the gills with the pedestrian turkey, nature titillates my sense of pleasure, and the jewels of winter arrive in the markets. I’m talking about exotic fruits perfect for pairing with winter spices. These winter fruits cooked with the spices that represent winter flavors take seasonal cooking to flavorful new heights.
Exotic fruits to pair with kitchen spices
What are these exotic, winter fruit flavors that send my taste buds into their happy zone? Pomegranates, kumquats, star fruit, guava, passion fruit and pineapple, to name a few, brighten the shelves and lend a touch of the exotic to my cooking palette. But best of all, many of these ingredients are legendary aphrodisiacs. With gems like these on the menu, one doesn’t have to work very hard to create a dressed up and mouth-watering meal for date night or any evening for two at home.
Cooking with winter fruits
We tend to think of fruits as items suitable only for snacks or desserts. Maybe a salad but rarely as a part of a main course. This is a shame. Exotic fruits bring balance and acidity to a dish. Many of them are very friendly to grilling or frying. Part of my goal with this winter spices and exotic fruits menu is to inspire you to use more fruits in savory applications.
Pairing fruits with Eastern spices
Cooking these beauties with warming winter spices invents a seductive meal that sounds like the foodie’s version of “My Favorite Things.” Nutmeg on star fruit and allspice on guava. Cinnamon, star anise and juicy papaya. The flavors meld together like a well-composed musical score, and elegance is effortless.
Planning a romantic dinner for two during the holidays or even Valentine’s Day? Selecting an array of exotic winter jewels and warming winter spices will create sublime dishes that promise to make beautiful music.
Tips on using Asian spices
The best spices I use in winter are also referred to as the warming spices. They are so named after their ability to warm the body from the inside out. This is also part of the history that makes the spices used in cooking aphrodisiac.
Chinese five spice powder, made with a blend of cinnamon, clove, anise, fennel and peppercorn is one of my favorites. (You might find slight variations on this blend. But you can always make your own to ensure the balance of flavors is to your taste.) Although cinnamon–a dominant flavor in five spice powder–is typically used in Western recipes for baking and other sweet dishes, in other cuisines it is frequently used in savory recipes with stunning results. Because it is one of the spices most of us know the best, it makes a great starting place if you want to experiment with Asian spice.
The benefits of spices
Using dry spices in cooking has some advantages to your health. One of the greatest benefits of spice in your cooking is that you can use less fat and sodium. That’s because the robust flavor and heat of the spices gives your food the body and complex flavor we typically get in Western recipes from judicious use of fats and salt.
When to replace spices
It is important, however to make sure you use fresh ground spices. As spices age, they lose their flavor and with it the ability to excite the palate. Ground spices will typically need to be replaced every six months or so. Whole spices will last longer, potentially up to five years. Not sure if your spices are still good? Try a sniff test. If they still have a vibrant aroma, they’re still good to use. But you don’t want to cook with spices that have lost their fragrance.
Hopefully these tips for cooking with spices will inspire you to start layering your winter recipes with some of these flavorful warming spices and winter jewels. But if you need more inspiration, here are my recipes for a spice-laced, romantic menu for two.
My winter spices recipes
Diane Brown is author of The Seduction Cookbook: Culinary Creations For Lovers
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