Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vermont Baharat

What is baharat and why am I sharing it with you? Baharat is a spice blend in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Baharat actually means "spice" in Arabic and their are many versions. Whenever I have it in the house I find myself adding it to many dishes as a spice rub on meat, or added to a braise or veggie burger. It is a very aromatic and exotic blend that really enhances so many of the dishes I use it in. I encourage you to make some of your own and experiment with it. Although it will also be useful if you wish to cook along with me.

I discovered baharat when searching for a recipe to use the leg of lamb and navy beans I had. I found a lebanese stew that mostly called for basic pantry items, and something called baharat. Of course there was a link to a place to order the spice blend from but that wasn't going to work for dinner that night. Also making my own blend would be much less expensive. If I want to prepare meals within our budget I cannot pay someone else to mix my spices.

So I looked on the internet for a baharat recipe. Thanks to google I found a website with six versions of baharat from different regions as well as uses for the blend. This is one of my favorite, and possibly most insane ways to cook. That is I refer to several versions of the same item and then combine them to my tastes with some alterations all my own. It must look ridiculous when I have cookbooks all over the kitchen all opened to the same dish, looking back and forth at the directions as I cook. This was much easier as all the recipes were on the same page. After looking at the many variations and the spices used I made my own blend with the amounts varied to our tastes, emphasizing the flavors we like best. I also added Mace, I find it really enhances the flavor of many dishes when used sparingly.

We were all out and it has become a favorite when sprinkled on meat about to go on the grill so I made some more the other day. Afterwards I made lentil burgers using the recipe for black bean burgers and 1 tsp baharat instead of all the other herbs and spices. This was a few weeks ago and I am half way through what I made. I just used it again yesterday to make the brisket for Passover. When I sprinkled it on the meat Julian said, remember when we made that? He really enjoyed shaking the spice jar to blend everything.

Vermont Baharat

1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground mace

Place all the ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid and shake to blend. If you like lamb this is especially wonderful rubbed on lamb before cooking. Although we also love it on steak, in stews, burgers...

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