The Spice of Life

Our favorite spicy recipes to soothe the soul.

Punxsutawney Phil supposedly saw his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter. But that doesn’t have to mean another month of humdrum fare. Spice up your mid-winter meals with some of those neglected seasonings at the back of your pantry: We mean you coriander, turmeric, paprika, cayenne and ginger. There’s no reason why the final throes of cold weather can’t pack a punch, so here we offer some of our favorite spice-centric recipes.

Cardamom Rice with Duck Eggs in Yogurt

4 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 fresh green chilies, thinly sliced
2 cups Basmati rice
3 cups water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
8 duck eggs
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cups chopped cilantro
5 tablespoons lime juice
8 tablespoons Greek yogurt
black pepper, freshly cracked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large ovenproof pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add onions and garlic and sauté on low 5-6 minutes. Add cardamom, coriander, turmeric, salt and chilies, and stir. Reduce heat to medium. Add rice and coat in spice mixture. Add water and bring to boil. Cover and place in oven for 25 minutes. Fill a saucepan with 4-5 inches of water and add vinegar. Bring to a boil. Carefully crack eggs into water and remove from heat to rest for 4 minutes. When rice is done, stir in cilantro, parsley and lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste. Divide among bowls and spoon yogurt on top. Place two eggs on each and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Gambas al Ajillo

For the Brava sauce:
4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon pimentón or Spanish sweet paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
salt to taste

Grate the flesh of the tomatoes over a mixing bowl, discarding skins. Pour grated flesh through a fine mesh strainer to make about 1½ cups of purée. Heat olive oil in a small pan over low heat. Add the purée, sugar, bay leaf, pimentón and cayenne. Increase heat to medium. Cook about 10 minutes until mixture reduces by ¼. Remove from heat, add vinegar and season with salt.

For the shrimp:
¼ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 guindilla chile pepper
1 teaspoon brandy
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup Brava sauce
1 teaspoon chopped chives
salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes until browned. Add shrimp and chile pepper. Sauté until shrimp are pink. Add brandy and lemon juice. Cook 1 minute. Spoon ¼ cup Brava sauce into the center of 4 plates and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with chives and salt to taste.

Serves 4

Puerto Rican Pernil (Roast Pork Shoulder)

1 bone-in pork shoulder, approximately 5-8 pounds
1 cup sour orange juice (or ½ cup each orange and lemon juice)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered
10 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ cups cilantro with stems
1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Rinse the pork and dry well. Score the surface of the meat by cutting slits into the skin and fat. Combine remaining ingredients in a food processor and purée into a smooth paste. Pour the paste over the entire roast, spreading well to ensure complete coverage. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator and let sit for 30 minutes. Place the pork in a roasting pan and wipe excess marinade off the skin into the bottom of the pan. Add 2 cups of water and cover tightly. Bake in the lower portion of a 325-degree oven for 4-7 hours (this will depend on the size of the roast), or until the internal temperature in the shoulder’s thickest part reaches 190 degrees. Uncover the roast, and broil it 5–10 minutes, or until the skin is crispy, being careful not to burn it. Transfer to a platter and serve with Arroz Con Gandules.

Serves 6

Thai Tom Kha Soup

3 cups of light, unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock (salt-free canned variety is fine)
1 level tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
juice of one lime
3 pounds chicken breast tenders
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1 green chili pepper, slit at the tip
1 stalk lemongrass, its base bruised with the back of a knife
1 teaspoon rind of green lime
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup finely sliced spring onion

Heat the sesame oil in a soup pot. Stir in the ginger, and as soon as it becomes fragrant, pour in all liquid ingredients. Add the piece of lemongrass and the chili pepper (with slit tip).

As the liquid begins to boil, reduce heat, but do not cover, or the soup will curdle. Stir in the salt and sugar to taste. Sprinkle in the lime rind. Add the pieces of chicken tenders to the soup and cook gently for about 20 minutes.

Remove the chili and the lemongrass before serving hot and garnished with slices of lime fresh cilantro and spring onion.

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