I have been having one godawful time lately getting inspired to do any cooking, much less anything for this month’s Spice Challenge. A few weeks ago I had a gallstone attack, and as a result I’m now on an extremely low-fat diet until such time as the surgeons can be bothered to take my gallbladder out. How low is “extremely low”, you ask? Try 30-35 grams of fat, per day, and not all of it in one meal, so I can’t even save up for one semi-normal dinner, say. 30 to 35 grams of fat may sound like a lot, but when you consider that one tablespoon of oil contains 9 grams of fat, even something as healthy-sounding as simple salad with vinaigrette, or a grilled, skinless and boneless (and might I add flavorless) chicken breast suddenly becomes worrisome. Veggie burgers and fat-free Jello tapioca pudding cups with fat-free Reddi-Wip have become my lifeline. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?
So, this month, I’m resorting to an old favorite, a Moroccan spice mix, which comes from a recipe for braised Moroccan chicken that’s probably my husband’s all-time favorite of all the dishes I’ve ever made. Of course, making that dish right now would probably not be wise, since it involves fatty chicken thighs (you know it’s bad when even a dish designed by Graham Kerr, ex-Galloping Gourmet and currently a proponent of all things heart healthy, isn’t low-fat enough for you), but maybe I’ll find something else I can make with it. Maybe some Moroccan veggie burgers? At least it smells really good.
Moroccan Spice Mix
(slightly adapted from a Cooking Light recipe)
5 tsp cumin seeds
5 tsp whole coriander
2 1/2 tsp whole allspice
5 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground/grated, if possible)
5 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Toast cumin seeds, whole coriander and allspice in a shallow pan over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan now and again. When their warm, spicy aroma hits you, they’re done. Pour the toasted spices into a spice/coffee grinder (use one dedicated to spice grinding–if you use the same grinder you use for grinding coffee beans every day, it’ll just taste like coffee), or you can use a mortar and pestle. Either way, grind the spices into a powder, more or less. Mix with the nutmeg, ginger, cayenne and cinnamon, and store in an airtight jar.
This recipe makes more than enough for the chicken recipe linked to above, even if you double (or triple, or quadruple) the amount of spice mix called for in it (sometimes the folks at Cooking Light are wimps when it comes to spicing dishes). I haven’t experimented a whole lot with different uses for it, but I’m thinking a touch of it might be interesting in something sweet—Moroccan cinnamon toast, anyone?