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Published: Saturday, 12/25/2010

Flavor trends will test your taste buds

Did you get one present of green peppercorns and another of goat's milk? You're in luck!

That's because McCormick spices has predicted that the combination of green peppercorns and goat's milk will be one of the top 10 flavor pairings of next year.

So will pickling spice and rice vinegar. And so will herbes de Provence and popcorn. And, just in case Santa brought you some ancho chile pepper and some hibiscus flowers, so will they.

For more than a decade, the McCormick people have been releasing their Flavor Forecast, predicting what the biggest flavor trends will be. Coincidentally, they all seem to feature spices sold by McCormick. But some of the combinations, at least, are less bizarre than others.

Consider, for instance, mustard seed and vermouth. That could work, and McCormick even offers a few helpful recipes (at flavorforecast.com) such as Mustard Seed-Crusted Chicken with Vermouth Sauce or Braised Lamb Shanks with Mustard, Fennel, and Sweet Vermouth.

Another promising combination is roasted curry powder and wild mushrooms, which yields recipes for Curried Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas, among others.

Cilantro and nut butters (peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, etc.) could work well too, if combined thoughtfully enough. A Coconut-Almond Chicken Stew with Cilantro sounds downright tasty, and the Spiced Jasmine Rice with Macadamia Nut Butter and Cilantro is worth a try.

But some of the other combinations are, let's face it, a little iffy. The spice company also recommends combining fennel with peri peri sauce (it's an extremely hot African sauce), thyme and stone fruits (such as peaches and plums), and caramelized honey and adzuki red beans.

Whatever they are.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped (about cup)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons curry powder

8 ounces assorted wild mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster, and cremini), sliced

3 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 flour or whole wheat tortillas (8-inch)

4 slices light Havarti cheese

2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup reduced fat plain Greek-style yogurt or sour cream

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes or until tender. Add curry powder; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add mushrooms; cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato; cook and stir 1 minute. Transfer mushroom mixture to bowl. Wipe skillet clean.

Place 2 tortillas on work surface. Divide mushroom mixture, cheese slices, and spinach evenly between tortillas. Top with remaining tortillas.

Brush skillet with oil. Heat on medium heat. Cook 1 quesadilla at a time for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until cheese is melted and tortilla is lightly browned. Cut each into 6 wedges. Serve with yogurt or sour cream.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Source: McCormick & Company

Rodin was an OK sculptor, we guess. Michelangelo had his moments.

But could they sculpt in food products?

The Kalahari Resort in Sandusky has erected a 6-foot-high Jamati hut made out of gingerbread and chocolate, which is all very well and good, but it's just a gingerbread house turned African. What really caught Morsels' eye is the animal that stands next to it: It's a giraffe made entirely of 25 pounds' worth of Rice Krispie Squares.

We stand in awe of the brilliance of the concept. Could there be a more perfect medium for sculpting than Rice Krispie Squares? Think of how well they stick together. And when you get right down to it, could they be put to better use?

Unfortunately, this is the last week the giraffe and hut will be on display. It all comes down on Jan. 1.

We shouldn't even have to remind you that if you go, don't eat the giraffe.

The foodie paradise that is the Chef's Garden continues to bring top chefs and great food to Milan, Ohio.

The January Earth-to-Table dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute will feature chef Katsuya Fukushima, who recently won on Iron Chef America and has an extensive resume that extends even beyond television. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 29; the cost is $75 per person.

For the Valentine's Dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 12, two chefs will be brought in to do their best with ingredients that are fresh, seasonal, and sustainably grown, Erica Wides and Beej Flamholz. The cost for this dinner, which will also include a silent auction, is $85 per person.

And if you like to play chef, you can cook alongside any of these chefs all day long on the day they make their dinner. You can learn new tips and recipes, plus you get lifetime bragging rights that you can casually drop into conversations whenever the occasion arises. The cost is just $350.

Reservations are required for the dinners and the Chef for a Day program, and space is limited. For information or reservations, call 419-499-7500

Items for Morsels may be submitted up to two weeks in advance of an event to food@theblade.com.



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