In My Kitchen – April 2015

This post is part of an ongoing series of posts called “In My Kitchen” hosted by the wonderful Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. The posts are a fascinating glimpse into kitchens around the world. Please take the time to check out posts from Australia, South Africa, Asia, Sweden, the U.S., and the U.K. (to mention a few).

The months are flying by, April already! How did that happen? It’s been a busy month and I am excited about many new things in my kitchen. Now I need to find time to use them. I went a little crazy at the Oaktown Spice Shop, they had so many new things I hadn’t seen before. Just walking into that small shop puts me in heaven, the smells…oh my!

I understand that asafoetida powder is most often used in Indian vegetarian cooking, it’s also known as Hing. Derived from a species of giant fennel, asafoetida has a unique smell and flavor. It is called for often in Indian cooking, primarily with legumes and dishes featuring vegetables such as cauliflower. I’ll be on the search for recipes, any suggestions? The spice shop mentioned that it can be used as a replacement for garlic for people who cannot tolerate it. Since that’s true for my neighbor and friend, I wanted to try it.



Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family, and comes from West Africa. This spice is commonly known as grains of paradise, Melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains, fom wisa, or Guinea pepper, and is obtained from the ground seeds; it imparts a pungent, peppery flavour with hints of citrus, flowers, coriander, and cardamom.

The name comes from Medieval spice traders looking for a way to inflate the price – it was claimed that these peppery seeds grew only in Eden, and had to be collected as they floated down the rivers out of paradise. They were used as a cheaper substitute for black pepper.

A New York Times article written by Amanda Hesser has popularized grains of paradise. She wrote, “I put a few between my teeth and crunched. They cracked like coriander releasing a billowing aroma, and then a slowly intensifying heat, like pepper at the back of my mouth. The taste changes in a second. The heat lingered. But the spice flavor was pleasantly tempered, ripe with flavors reminiscent of jasmine, hazelnut, butter and citrus, and with the kind of oiliness you get from nuts. They were entirely different from black peppercorns and in my mind, incomparably better.”

Have you tried them? If so, how did you use them?

Grains of Paradise

Grains of Paradise

Research on-line suggested grinding them with peppercorns and using as a rub for steak. Since I had just purchased some wonderful grass-fed, humanely raised, beef steaks (these are sirloin) at the butcher’s, the timing was perfect.

Steak with a pepper and grains of paradise rub

Steak with a pepper and grains of paradise rub

Wow! Wonderful. I served slices of the steak with a spoonful of pickled mustard seeds.

Pepper and Grains of Paradise Rubbed Steak with Pickled Peppercorns.

Pepper and Grains of Paradise Rubbed Steak with Mustard Seeds.

I was intrigued by a recipe in the cookbook “A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories” for tomatoes with olive oil and vanilla bean salt. It was recommended to use the salt with the summer’s best acidic tomatoes. Once we have great beefsteak tomatoes at the farmer’s market, I will make good use of it.

Vanilla Bean Sea Salt

Vanilla Bean Sea Salt

About a month ago, a post about “Aussie Olive Salt” on the blog Please Pass the Recipe caught my eye. Sandra is a talented cook and writes a wonderful blog. She ran across this salt at the restaurant “Ethos” and recreated the recipe. Olives have a good deal of umami and a salt made with them would add quite a flavor punch. As with the vanilla salt, it was recommended for use with a tomato salad. I pinned her recipe for future reference and thought these semi-dried olives would be a good start.

I found the olives at a stand at the farmer’s market. A few nights ago I added a handful to a green salad, oh my! They were wonderful. The “Aussie Olive Salt” is next on my list.

Dried Olives

Dried Olives

I’m on my second jar of this Calabrian hot pepper paste. I use it when a pinch of red pepper is called for add a few dabs to the top of a pizza. It’s one of those items which sits beside the stove, there are so many uses when you need a punch of heat and spiciness.

The caper powder was on the shelf below. Can you tell I am in search of new flavors? I wonder how the powder would be in a pasta sauce…what do you think?


I purchased this bowl from a potter at the local farmer’s market. The grooves are for grating garlic, you then use the bowl to prepare your salad dressing or other sauce. I’m thinking it would be a wonderful bowl to use for a caesar dressing.


And lastly, I saw these spring colored bowls at Crate and Barrel, I love the colors and will use them in spring table settings. They are big enough for a generous serving of pasta or soup.



That’s what’s happening in my kitchen this month, what about your own?


41 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – April 2015

    • Please join us. It’s a wonderful group of “foodies” and a close community of bloggers. I think you will enjoy it. Seriously, think about adding a post each month. I’ve learned a lot from the posts of other bloggers, the group is very inviting to new members.

      • I’m not sure if the group is still open for this month, the 10th is the close date for submission. Take a look at the other posts for ideas. But really you could write about anything. Maybe a new appliance, a new technique, new dishes or pots/pans, spices, food finds on travels, new cookbooks, teas…

        Any and all of those are interesting to the group. Please join us next month if it is already closed.

  1. A very spicy IMK Liz. Thanks for the mention, and enjoy the olive salt. I use hing as a garlic replacement, it’s subtle, but the flavour is there. Look forward to reading more creations with the new spices

  2. Hing I can pronounce, asafoeteda not so much. What a fragrant spice journey you provided this month; Grains of Paradise just topped the “must try” list. Penzeys doesn’t list them, can you recommend a source?

  3. Oh, Liz. Those dried olives seem interesting to me. If I am not mistaken, I have not seen dried olives. And I love the plates. 😀

  4. Such lovely produce and thank you for allowing me to learn something new!
    Asafoetida powder is an acquired spice, but does add depth to an Indian dish!
    Thank you for sharing this month’s kitchen view too!

  5. Love all the spices and mixtures…also lots of interesting information. I didn’t know asafoetida could be used as a garlic substitute. Good to know. I also love Sandra’s olive salt and use it any chance I get. I’m now intrigued by that vanilla salt. Great post!

  6. Grains of paradise! Hard to go past a name like that! I’ll be on the look out for some from now on. And the garlic bowl is very clever, but is it hard to clean? Beautiful steak – grass fed beef is (I think) so much more tasty than grain fed!

    • Yes, grass fed and humainly raised. I also used the same combination of the Grains and cracked black pepper as a rub to some lovely lamb chops. It was good.

      No, the bowl comes clean with a stiff brush. I now wish I had a much bigger one to use for salads. I think you could probably use it for grating ginger as well.

  7. Asafoetida is definitely a bit pungent – the foetida bit refers to its fetid smell, like rotten eggs. But it does mellow on cooking. It’s used a lot in Indian vegetarian cooking, as you said, partly for the flavour but also as it’s said to reduce flatulence – quite an issue in a diet heavy in pulses / legumes! 😉 I hope you’ll forgive my recommending a site I’m involved in myself, but my mum’s recipe website (Mamta’s Kitchen) has hundreds of mostly Indian recipes, many of which use asafoetida. And there’s a forum if you have questions as well. Hope that helps!
    Kavey (fellow IMKer)

    • Hello Kavey, Thank you for the tips, no forgiveness neeeded! I will checkout your Mom’s website for ideas. I love that IMK has put me in touch with so many wonderful bloggers from around the world. It’s been better than any search I could have run on my own. The shear variety of kitchens, recipes, and just general musings about life have expanded my “universe”. I wish I lived closer to some of you to actually meet.

  8. Liz! I am drooling looking at that steak!!! Yum! I must have a look for a similar bowl over here although I have never seen one like that yet. Spices look great btw, particularly like to vanilla sea salt, See you next month xx

  9. Liz, I use asafoetida in my Indian lime/lemon pickle, but haven’t tried it in many other things. You’ve got lots of other great sounding ingredients there – I really like caper powder too and add it to lots of egg dishes as well as tuna, and I think we may have scattered on pizza. That bowl with the garlic grater built in is such a clever idea, it would be very cool for making a salad at the table…

    • Hello Beck, what a great idea for the caper powder! I sometimes find that regular capers on pizza are too salty (especially if there are olives and anchovies as well), I will try the powder. Is your lime/lemon pickle on-line? Sounds good.

      Yes, the bowl would be great for a salad at the table, especially a Ceasar. I may need to go back and purchase a bigger one. Thank you for visiting.

  10. Cute bowl for grating garlic and making salad dressings. Have never seen caper powder before and as for the hing… once opened place it in another container or else it could perfume your entire store cupboard 🙂

  11. What a fun collection of spices you have this month! I keep a jar of sea salt with a vanilla bean in it on my counter, I’ll have to use it on my tomatoes once they come in.

  12. I love IMK, so many good ideas. I’ll be searching out grains of paradise, vanilla bean salt and Olive salt… I love salts 🙂 I’d look out for a little dish with the garlic grating ridges. I like garlic but I know a couple of people how are averse so they might prefer Hing. Very interesting.

  13. I like the Oaktown Spice Shop packaging and how could anyone resist buying Grains of Paradise! Sounds like I would spend hours filling up a basket in that store.
    Your garlic grating bowl is great as are your pretty new bowls.
    Have a super day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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