Perfect Timing for The Spice Companion
Photo: Thomas Schauer used with permission

Perfect Timing for The Spice Companion

You don’t have to be an herbalist, mixologist or gourmet chef to fall for Lior Lev Sercarz’ brilliant and accessible guide, The Spice Companion; A Guide to the World of Spices.

Watch for our give-away later this week!

This volume will be an inspiring addition to your home library. Or if you can imagine parting with it, gift it to your Thanksgiving and you will be adored forever by the lucky recipient.

Any home cook knows the disappointment of buying too much dill for chicken soup, using half of the bunch, only to find it goopy and useless in the vegetable bin just a few days later. Instead of wasting it, how about drying it on your counter top and grinding it into a powder to season your baked goods, roasted veggies or legumes?

Sercarz’ easy and accessible guide to 102 essential spices and herbs suggests new uses for old favorites and introduces many herbs and spices that most of us have never heard of.

Entries in this beautiful encyclopedic volume are organized alphabetically with descriptions of flavor and aroma that only a master of this niche could write. Sercarz jumps into suggestions and recommendations that are eye opening and mind expanding.

Interested in exploring the tart and floral notes of sumac? How about seasoning mascarpone cheese with ground sumac, honey and olive oil and serving that with waffles and dried figs for breakfast? Easy!

While familiar herbs and spices like chives, cumin and cinnamon are well represented, the unfamiliar captivated me and kept me flipping the pages. Lovage, Long Pepper, Mahlab and Safflower (“cheap saffron”) are just a few waiting to be discovered.

I especially appreciate the entries on peppers that range from peppercorns (green, red, white and black are all different. Did you know?) to pepperoncini, pimenton, pink pepperberries and piri piri. For those who like nuanced heat in their dishes, this section will teach you all you need to know.

This user friendly and captivating guide provides a QUICK BLEND recipe that suggests how to use each spice/herb in combination with others.  Each herb or spice is accompanied by rich photographs and botanical illustrations, a clever and lovely reminder that many of these flavor building blocks are deeply rooted in history.

See below for a quick blend for citron.

the spice companion a guide to the world of spices brighten winter dishes with citrus
Illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott

As chillier temps descends on the Northeast, I yearn for brightness in my cooking. In that spirit, I turned to the pages on LEMON PEEL to find inspiration beyond zesting and juicing this common fruit which is as omnipresent as onions and garlic in most kitchens.

What I found was an enhanced way to consider using the peel of this fruit. While lemon juice adds refreshing zing to dressings, pastries, drinks both alcoholic and non- the peel is high in oil content, making it perfect for baking. But the focus here is on the freshly zested or dehydrated peel, something I’ve tossed mindlessly into the pail hundreds of times.


Never again.

Recommended pairings include adding lemon peel to risotto, snapper ceviche, linguine, marmalade and sorbet.

“If you are up to the challenge, you can use up citrus peels—organic and untreated, or very clean and wax-free—by leaving them out in the open to dry. Then, either keep the peels whole or grind them before storing in an airtight jar. This way you’ll have full control of the process and the end result.”

A useful Quick Blend at the end of each listing prompts the reader to imagine flavors that deserve to be explored more broadly.

 See the Quick Blend Citron, below, for some mouthwatering inspiration.

For more on La Boite, Lior Lev Sercarz’s spice emporium and retail store, classes and events in NYC and across the USA click here.

About the images used in this post:

Reprinted from The Spice Companion.Copyright © 2016 by Lior Lev Sercarz. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Thomas Schauer. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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