New to us, but pantry staples for generations in their countries of origin, there’s a flood of seasoning blends on the market that can add a little global pizzazz to your cooking. Here are four of our faves.
A French colonial version of the classic Indian garam masala or “mixed spice,” this golden blend including fried shallots and sometimes garlic is a great addition to your pantry. The blend varies by brand, but usually contains toasted and ground cumin, cardamom, black pepper, and maple-like fenugreek seeds, which lend a smoky, sweet flavor. The mix of turmeric and cumin combo has been shown to help fight inflammation, while fenugreek is considered to be good for digestion. Try it blended with Greek yogurt in a chicken-apple curry salad, in lentil soup, chickpea curry or sprinkle it on seared scallops.
Sold in jars or tubes as a paste or as a dry spice blend, harissa (ha-REES-ah) hails from North Africa. Though it is based on red chilies, it’s more than just hot. The addition of garlic, olive oil, cumin, coriander, caraway, and sometimes mint give the spice paste and spice blend a smoky depth. It’s positively delicious swirled into dips like hummus, sprinkled on fish before grilling, and makes a great vinaigrette when blended with lime juice and olive oil. The chiles in harissa contain capsaicin, an antioxidant that may boost metabolism and reduce inflammation.
Try: Mina Harissa
Invented in Mexico (pronounced Ta-HEEN), this chile pepper-based seasoning has garnered a loyal following for its blend of red chile powder, salt and puckery dehydrated lime. A ¼ teaspoon serving of their low-sodium Tajin blend is just 140mg sodium and a little goes a long way. Bartenders coat the rims of margaritas with the tangy blend, but we love it sprinkled on tropical fruit salads and corn on the cob.
Both a culinary herb and a blend of herbs and spices, za’atar is a Middle Eastern ingredient that has a woody, herby scent from wild thyme, oregano and sometimes marjoram and lemony flavor from ground sumac berries and a nuttiness from sesame seeds. The essential oils in thyme and oregano have traditionally been used to treat coughs and the flavonoids in them could protect against cell damage. Sprinkle it on flatbreads, mix with olive oil for an impromptu dip for raw vegetables, use as a seasoning for chicken or salmon, or mix into yogurt for a quick sauce for grilled meat or seafood.
Try: Spicewalla Za’atar