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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Spicing up 2010

"Dining in" is making a comeback this winter according to the McCormick spice company's Flavor Forecast. From casual potlucks to clever themed dinners, dining at home can be less expensive than going to a restaurant.

McCormick's key trends of exotic and ethnic flavor pairings have no shortage of taste. Some of the combinations are so esoteric that only by seeing how they are combined in recipes can you imagine the taste.

Kevan Vetter, executive chef at McCormick, uses these flavor trends to bring the restaurant experience home in the spirit of the gastropub. (The gastropub, a term coined in 1991 in London, concentrates on quality food and is a combination of pub and gastronomy.)

His menu uses four of the 10 pairings: almond-ale, chives and fish sauce, turmeric and vine-ripened tomatoes, and pumpkin pie spice and coconut milk.

These recipes are available at flavorforecast.com.

The Almond-Ale Spritzer is a cocktail combining pale ale and almond extract with sugar, cilantro, lemon juice, and seltzer water. This is served with Sloppy Joe Sliders, which also have hints of almond, pale ale, garlic, and ginger.

All the ingredients which comprise a restaurant spring roll are used to make a salad. Salad greens, grilled pork (cut into strips), and carrot are dressed with a vinaigrette of classic Asian ingredients (fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, chives, soy sauces, and sweet red chili sauce). Baked wonton cups are filled with the salad mixture.

Instead of serving an entree, create gourmet tacos using Turmeric-Spiced [grilled] Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salsa, which is also flavored with turmeric.

The sweet ending is Mix-and-Match Spiced Mousse Minis. Pumpkin pie spice and the creaminess of coconut milk mixed with cream cheese and cream are the flavor base for the Spiced Mousse. Make desserts to suit individual tastes by layering the spiced mousse with ingredients to make Fudge Brownie, Banana Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, and Pina Colada. The mini desserts are served in mini or cordial glasses large enough to use a teaspoon or demitasse spoon.

Other flavor combinations include turmeric and vine-roasted tomatoes. Make Grilled Indian-Spiced Flatbread using packaged naan or Indian flatbread (sold in the deli department of most supermarkets) as the crust. Top with sauted onion flavored with ground turmeric, cumin, and crushed red pepper, then add the tomatoes and goat cheese and grill for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from grill and sprinkle with mint.

Roasted ginger is a new spice, says Laurie Harrsen of McCormick. Gingered Rhubarb Sauce makes a spicy-sweet sauce for grilled tilapia. Roasted Ginger and Rhubarb Upside Down Cake uses two cups fresh or thawed frozen rhubarb pieces and one pear cut in 20 slices in place of the pineapple often used in this dessert.

Preserved lemons, also called salt-cured lemons, are a widely used Moroccan condiment. They are pickled in a brine made from salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Bay leaves and preserved lemons are used to flavor rice pudding, tortellini paired with spinach and wild mushrooms, and Simmered Moroccan Chicken, a one-pot meal.

Thai basil and watermelon, caraway with bitter greens, and roasted cumin and chickpeas are on the list. Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab & Creole Mustard makes a classically Southern dish when topped with fresh crab meat, perfect as an appetizer or a lunch. That's a spice combination that never goes out of style.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at:

food@theblade.com

or 419-724-6155.



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