Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Art of Spice Blending: Lebanese Seven Spices

When it comes to adding flavor with spice home cooks regularly add a pinch of this or a pinch of that to their culinary creations. Whether you cook by instinct or prefer the carefully measured approach of a finely tuned recipe, the art of spice blending is a worthwhile indulgence. The most rewarding aspect of blending your own spices is the level of intimacy one develops with individual materials that comprise the blend, as well as resulting synergies amongst the spices. A deeper understanding of flavor transpires as does a level of sensuality that is transmitted from the hands of the cook to the palate of the guest.

Lebanese Seven Spices is a versatile mixture that can be easily made by the home cook. It can be used to season vegetables, meat or as a seasoning to coat mirepoix used in soups and stews. There are as many variations of Lebanese Seven Spices as there are cooks, but one of the best versions can be found in Faye Levy's Feast from the Mideast: 250 Sun-Drenched Dishes from the Lands of the Bible. Glass Petal Smoke cites specific spices over Levy's general choices in the formula for Lebanese Seven Spices:

Lebanese Seven Spices Blend
by Faye Levy
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground Black Tellicherry Pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground Chinese Cassia Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground Ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground Guatemalan Cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground Sweet Hungarian Paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground Coriander Seed
  • 1 tbsp ground Cumin Seed (Allspice can be substituted in kind)
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg (1 tsp Chili Powder or 1 tsp Ground Cloves may be added if using Allspice in the previous step).
If you would like to marry Lebanese Seven Spices with a Middle Eastern creation, Glass Petal Smoke's Turkey Baharat will do nicely. Substitute two tablespoons of Lebanese Seven Spices for the Baharat seasoning in the original recipe and voila; you are a mistress/master of spices!

Faye Levy's Feast from the Mideast: 250 Sun-Drenched Dishes from the Lands of the Bible book is out of print, but you can find used copies online. It is filled with excellent recipes and it a worthwhile addition to any cookbook collection. The recipe for Lebanese Seven Spices is on page 13. Ms. Levy writes a food column for The Jerusalem Post. 

The Spice House in Chicago is a great source for fresh spices. They sell spices in jars and in bags so you can purchase the amounts you need. 

Bormioli Rocco manufactures terrific glass jars in a variety of sizes in their Quattro Stagione line. Their half ounce canning jar is perfect for storing homemade spice blends. Ace Hardware sells individual jars in-store in a variety of sizes at terrific prices. P.S. Bormioli Rocco is also known for manufacturing beautiful perfume bottles.

The photograph that accompanies this post was taken by Riyaad Minty on Flicker Creative Commons with embellishments by Glass Petal Smoke. Some rights reserved.