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Home / Articles / Columnists / Healthy Living /  Spices of Life
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Friday, November 2,2018

Spices of Life

By Karen Ellis-Ritter  


What are the two main components of food that create a heightened sensory and culinary experience? Texture and flavor! Of course, many foods have a fabulous flavor without a stitch of seasoning (mainly raw fruits and veggies). However, exposing oneself to the abundant variety of spices that translate to ethnic modalities such as Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Thai, Korean, Italian, Vietnamese, or any other international cuisine is truly a joy!

As a vegan, I recreate many traditional dishes by “veganizing” them. For instance, if I want to make a chili, I can swap the ground beef for a plant-based veggie ground, or I can use plantderived ingredients to produce cream sauces, cheeses or dips. Nearly any dish can be veganized, including pizza, quiche, lasagna, curries, casseroles, stews and desserts. For those people who are attached to their traditional dishes, they can keep the tradition and sense memories of their childhood, while ditching the animal cruelty!

Sometimes, I take it a step further by recreating certain flavors that only spices can provide. For instance, I still enjoy the flavors of eggs and seafood, though I no longer consume animalderived products.

A great solution for the “egg” flavor is Indian black salt, also known as Kala Namak. It can be purchased in Indian grocery stores or on amazon. com. I will usually make an eggless salad by using mashed tofu, vegan mayo, dill and other herbs, chopped onions, carrots and celery, Kala Namak and some Dijon mustard.

Seafood flavors can be recreated using various seaweeds, such as kelp, dulse and wakame. I make a mock seafood salad using mashed chickpeas for a tuna-like texture, young (green) jackfruit (canned, in brine) for a lobster-like texture, and/or shredded hearts of palm for a crab-like texture. All of these items can be purchased canned if you are in a hurry. In addition to the seaweeds, I use herbs and spices that one would use on seafood, such as old bay seasoning, horseradish, paprika, and fresh lemon juice. You can even make ceviche, replacing the fish with oyster mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms. The rest of the recipe is usually vegan.

Some other unusual spices that I have grown fond of are in the category I refer to as smoky, woody or earthen. Some of these include smoked paprika, Urfa biber (a smoked pepper popular in Turkey), sumac (a tangy root spice), cumin, mesquite, and liquid smoke (hickory). Other pantry essentials include nutritional yeast flakes (nutty, cheesy, tangy) and Jamaican Jerk seasoning (spicy hot and savory).

Everyone has their preferences. The good news is we can keep experimenting! There are always new spices to discover. Happy tasting!


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