Spice Route: A Journey of Global Flavors

In the majority of the world, spices are now taken for granted. But centuries ago, they were important enough to inspire wars, travel around the globe by ship and even trade for the island of Manhattan. CanolaInfo's latest recipe collection, "Spice Route: A Journey of Global Flavors," explores the rich history of spices with an array of international dishes tracing the famous trade passage. All are made with heart-healthy canola oil, which is ideal for cooking with spices. On September 16, renowned Indian Chef Raghavan Iyer will unveil these exotic new FREE recipes in a special interview that will trace the history of spices, plus reveal "spicy facts," such as nutmeg trees once drove real estate values and selling counterfeit saffron was a capital crime!

Turmeric-Rubbed Wild Halibut with Cracked Black Pepper

Slabs of fresh, wild-caught Pacific halibut are gorgeous when served against a backdrop of turmeric-colored, creamy coconut milk studded with ginger slivers, coarsely crackedblack peppercorns and sweet-smelling cinnamon. The beauty of this curry sauce made with canola oil is that it never overshadows the delicate flavor of the fish. Plus the halibut and canola oil provide different types of healthy omega-3 fats.

Ingredients:

4 skinless fresh, wild-caught Pacific halibut filets (about 1 pounds/500 g)

1 tsp turmeric 5 mL

1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL, divided

1 cup finely chopped red onion 250 mL

2 green or white cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches/7.5 cm long)

1 can (13.5 oz/382 g) unsweetened coconut milk

1 tsp coarsely cracked black pepper 5 mL

1 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt 5 mL

2 to 4 medium to large fresh or dried bay leaves

2 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 1-inch/2.5-cm long, 1-inch/2.5-cm wide and 1/8-inch/0.3-cm thick), cut into matchstick strips

1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped (no need to remove seeds)

Instructions:

1. Sprinkle and coat each fish filet on both sides with turmeric.

2. In large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil. Add filets to pan and allow underside to sear to light brown, sun-yellow color, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip them over and sear other sides to similar color, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove filets from pan and set on plate. Drizzle another 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil into hot pan. Add onion, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks to pan and stir-fry until onion is partially browned and smells aromatic, about 3 minutes.

3. Pour in coconut milk and add pepper, salt, bay leaves and ginger. Stir once or twice to incorporate flavors. Return filets, including any pooled liquid, to pan. Cover filets with creamy sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan and poach, basting slabs occasionally, until fish feels firm and barely starts to flake, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Put filets on serving platter and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep warm. Add tomato to pan. Raise heat under pan to medium-high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Pour sauce over filets and serve immediately with steamed rice noodles, red rice or basmati rice.

Yield: 4 servings. Serving Size: 1 halibut filet with 1/3 cup (75 mL) sauce.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories 450

Total Fat 36 g

Saturated Fat 19 g

Cholesterol 55 mg

Carbohydrates 9 g

Fiber 1 g

Sugars 3 g

Protein 24 g

Sodium 670 mg

Potassium 782 mg

Phyllo Bundles with Saffron-Flavored Chickpeas

In this dish, crispy, burrito-style bundles cocoon a world of flavors found in Greek kitchens. Sweet-scented saffron, fragrant nutmeg and pungent black peppercorns combine with nutty chickpeas, iron-rich greens and salty feta. Canola oil binds these flavors and prevents the phyllo sheets from sticking together, creating a flaky texture. Serve these bundles of deliciousness with a green salad for an incredible lunch or dinner.


Ingredients:

4 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL, divided

1 large red bell pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, finely chopped

1/2 tsp saffron threads 2 mL

1 can (15 oz/425 g) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

1 package (10 oz/283 g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of all excess liquid

1 package (8 oz/227 g) feta cheese, crumbled

6 scallions, green tops and white bulbs thinly sliced

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill 15 mL

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 large lemon, zested and juiced

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 5 mL

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper 2 mL

1/2 tsp coarse sea or kosher salt 2 mL

1 package (1 lb/454 g) frozen phyllo sheets, thawed, unwrapped and covered with a damp kitchen towel

Instructions:

1. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

2. In medium skillet, heat 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil over medium-high heat. Once oil appears to shimmer, add pepper and saffron and stir-fry until pepper is softened, about 5 minutes. Scrape this orange-hued medley into medium bowl, leaving any remaining oil in skillet. Add remaining 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil in skillet, mix and set aside.

3. In small bowl, add chickpeas, spinach, feta, scallions, dill, eggs, lemon, nutmeg, pepper and salt. Mix well.

4. Working on clean and dry cutting board, carefully peel apart one phyllo sheet and place on board. Brush with saffron-hued oil from skillet. Peel second phyllo sheet and place on brushed surface. Repeat twice more for stack of four sheets.

5. Place 1/2 cup (125 mL) filling alongside lower third part of shorter side of phyllo sheets. Fold longer edges over filling and roll sheets, burrito-style, to reach top third of other short sides. Brush edges with saffron canola oil and fold over to form a snug packet. Brush all sides with more oil and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets (you may have some leftover) and use up all filling until you have about eight bundles.

6. Bake bundles until sunny brown and crispy, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve with colorful side dishes as desired.

Yield: 8 phyllo bundles. Serving Size: 1 phyllo bundle.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories 480

Total Fat 18 g

Saturated Fat 5 g

Cholesterol 55 mg

Carbohydrates 60 g

Fiber 7 g

Sugars 4 g

Protein 19 g

Sodium 980 mg

Potassium 335 mg

Persian Lamb Stew with Dried Apricots

This is Iyer's version of a classic Persian lamb stew, which adds and subtracts several ingredients while keeping the dish's essence intact. Heat-tolerant canola oil is ideal for browning the onion, lamb and apricots before their spice bath. Serve the stew with steamed basmati rice or pass along a basket of warm pita to mop up all that wonderful sauce.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coarsely chopped firmly packed fresh mint leaves 60 mL

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger 30 mL

2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic cloves 30 mL

1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt 7 mL

1 tsp cumin 5 mL

1/2 tsp turmeric 2 mL

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 2 mL

1 1/4 lbs boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed off and discarded, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes 625 g

1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL

4 cups finely chopped red onion 1 L

1 cup dried apricots 250 mL

1 cup water 250 mL

1 Tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar 15 mL

2 Tbsp malt or cider vinegar 30 mL

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems 60 mL


Instructions:

1. In medium bowl, combine mint and all spices; mix well. Add lamb and toss to coat with marinade rub. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight, to allow meat to absorb flavors.

2. Preheat wok, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drizzle canola oil down its sides. As soon as oil forms shimmering pool at bottom, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, stewing onion in its own juices, about 5 minutes. Once liquid evaporates, reduce heat to medium and stir-fry until onion turns honey-brown with deep purple hue, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add lamb and apricots and raise heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until meat sears and starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Some canola oil will separate from onion and lamb, and glisten on top of mixture. Apricots will start to soften a bit.

4. Add water and stir once or twice. Once mixture boils, almost instantaneously, reduce heat to medium-low, cover wok and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer lamb, apricots and onion to serving bowl and leave behind some sauce in wok.

5. Stir brown sugar into wok. Heat from sauce will melt sugar. Pour sauce over lamb and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle cilantro over stew and serve.

Yield: 8 servings. Serving Size: 1 cup.

Cook's Tip: The intense heat and ease of cooking in a wok are unmatched in other pots and pans, especially if you are using an old-fashioned carbon steel wok. When using a wok or cast-iron skillet, it's important not to stir in highly acidic vinegar until after you have transferred the sauce to a serving bowl because vinegar can strip a wok's seasoning within seconds. Although you can always re-season the wok if you forget, it will impart a metallic taste to the stew.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories 260

Total Fat 12 g

Saturated Fat 2 g

Cholesterol 55 mg

Carbohydrates 22 g

Fiber 3 g

Sugars 13 g

Protein 19 g

Sodium 510 mg

Potassium 578 mg


"Lentils of Arabia" with Rice, Cumin and Caramelized Onions

A Lebanese peasant food staple, this dish is a nutritional powerhouse that combines quick-cooking brown lentils with starchy rice and fresh ground spices. Deeply brown sweet onion, sautéed perfectly in canola oil, adds a textural contrast. For a great stand-alone meal, serve the lentils with diced cucumbers and tomatoes, sprinkled with toasted cumin and coriander. Make this a day or two ahead of serving to let flavors mature and evolve.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown French lentils 125 mL

1/2 cup long-grain white rice 125 mL

5 cups water 1.25 L

2 Tbsp ground coriander seeds 30 mL

1 Tbsp ground cumin seeds 15 mL

1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL

2 large yellow onions, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 tsp coarse sea or kosher salt 5 mL


Instructions:

1. In medium saucepan, add lentils and fill pan halfway with water. Rinse lentils by rubbing them between your fingertips. Water will become cloudy; drain it. Repeat three or four times, until water remains relatively clear then drain. Now add rice and 5 cups (1.25 L) water. Bring water to boil over medium-high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that may form on surface. Stir in coriander and cumin. Lower heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice and lentils are soft and creamy in texture, similar to cooked risotto, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. While grains cook, in large skillet or wok (preferred), heat canola oil over medium heat. Once oil appears to shimmer, add onion and stir-fry until it turns deep caramel brown in color, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Once lentils and rice are cooked and porridge-like in consistency, stir in onion along with salt and serve warm.

Yield: 6 servings. Serving Size: 2/3 cup (150 mL)

Cook's Tip: For a more colorful presentation, serve this stew alongside a platter of fresh cut vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, raw red onions and wedges of lime. Like it hot? A few sliced chiles are a welcome addition. Or try a simple dollop of spiced, thickened yogurt. Sprinkle in some fresh mint and shred a handful of cucumbers for textural contrast.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories 220

Total Fat 10 g

Saturated Fat 1 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Carbohydrates 26 g

Fiber 6 g

Sugars 2 g

Protein 6 g

Sodium 390 mg

Potassium 250 mg


Pork Tenderloin with Five-Spice Powder and Peppers

The simplicity of this recipe belies its complex flavors – don't underestimate the power of five-spice powder. This blend, in existence for centuries in China, successfully balances basic tastes of sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty through spices like fennel, star anise, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns and cinnamon. Canola oil's neutral flavor showcases this glorious spice blend.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp tomato paste 30 mL

2 Tbsp soy sauce 30 mL

1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt 2 mL

2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder 10 mL

1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes 500 g

2 Tbsp cornstarch 30 mL

1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger 30 mL

1 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems 30 mL

3 scallions (green tops and white bulbs), sliced into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces

Instructions:

1. In small bowl, stir together tomato paste, soy sauce, salt and five-spice powder.

2. In medium bowl, toss pork and cornstarch together.

3. Heat wok, large skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over high heat. Drizzle 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil down sides of wok. When oil forms shimmering pool in bottom of wok, add pork and stir-fry, stirring constantly, until pork turns slightly brown yet still pink in center, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pork to plate.

4. Trickle remaining 2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola oil down sides of wok and quickly stir-fry garlic, ginger and bell pepper until some pepper starts to blister, 5 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste mixture and stir to warm it, about 30 seconds.

5. Return pork to wok, including any juices from plate, and stir well to combine ingredients and season meat and vegetable with aromatic sauce. Once pork feels hot to touch, 2 to 4 minutes, stir in cilantro and scallions, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings. Serving Size: 1 cup (250 mL).

Cook's Tips: Most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores carry a five-spice powder blend. If not, make your own by combining 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) fennel seeds, 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) whole cloves, 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) Sichuan peppercorns (or 2 tsp/10 mL ground), six star anise (or 2 tsp/10 mL ground) and three 3-inch (7.5-cm) long cinnamon sticks, broken into smaller pieces, in a spice grinder. Grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. Some of China's signature dishes, such as Peking duck, barbecued spare ribs and roast pork, are flavored with this classic blend. Other five-spice powders may include cardamom, cassia (instead of cinnamon), ginger, nutmeg and even licorice root.

If doubling or tripling this recipe, cook the dish in two or three separate batches to retain that wok-seared, smoky flavor. If you overcrowd the pan, the ingredients will be stewed as opposed to stir-fried and seared, and the consequence will be blah-tasting fare.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories 300

Total Fat 17 g

Saturated Fat 2 g

Cholesterol 75 mg

Carbohydrates 11 g

Fiber 1 g

Sugars 4 g

Protein 26 g

Sodium 550 mg

Potassium 602 mg

Ethiopian Chicken with Berberi Sauce and Fresh Ginger

This historic dish is a prime example of how a handful of the right spices, introduced by traders along the spice route, create a perfect balance of hot and sweet. Add good quality poultry, canola oil, a few onions and pieces of ginger and you have a meal fit for a king. If you can find injera bread – spongy, crepe-like, sourdough bread from an Ethiopian restaurant or store – you will witness a heavenly marriage on your very own plate.

Ingredients:

1 tsp cumin seeds 5 mL

1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from green or white pods) 2 mL

1/2 tsp black peppercorns 2 mL

3 to 5 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de arbol), stems removed

1 cinnamon stick (about 3-inches/7.5-cm long)

2 small yellow onions, one coarsely chopped and other finely chopped

2 pieces fresh ginger (each about size and thickness of 25-cent coin)

2 large garlic cloves

1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL

1 cup tomato sauce 250 mL

3 lbs (1.5 kg) cut-up bone-in chicken, skin removed (see Cook's Tips)

1 tsp coarse sea or kosher salt 5 mL

Instructions:

1. In small bowl, combine cumin, cardamom, peppercorns, chiles and cinnamon. Preheat large skillet over medium-high heat. Once pan feels hot, add to spice blend pan. Toast spices, stirring them constantly as they bloom with nutty aroma and turn just a shade darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Quickly remove spices from pan and transfer to plate to cool, about 5 minutes. Once cooled, transfer spices to grinder, like coffee grinder, and grind to consistency of finely ground black pepper.

2. In food processor, place coarsely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and ground spices. Mince ingredients to consistency of slightly coarse paste.

3. In same skillet, pour canola oil and heat over medium temperature. Once oil appears to shimmer, add finely chopped onion and stir-fry until it turns light brown around edges, about 5 minutes.

4. Add paste to skillet and cook, stirring ingredients occasionally, uncovered, until moisture in paste evaporates and canola oil starts to separate from mix, 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Add chicken pieces and allow them to absorb flavors from other ingredients, turning occasionally, uncovered, until some pieces turn lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

6. Pour in tomato sauce, sprinkle in salt and stir well.

7. Lower heat to medium-low and cook chicken, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat in thickest parts is no longer pink inside and juices run clear, 20 to 25 minutes.

8. Serve chicken warm with aromatic sauce alongside a plate of rice, couscous or in the traditional way with slices of hard-boiled eggs.

Yield: 8 servings. Serving Size: 1 chicken piece and 1/3 cup (75 mL) sauce.

Cook's Tip: Cut-up, bone-in chicken can be found in every grocery store's meat department. These skin-on pieces are easy to work with compared to the messy process of skinning a whole chicken and cutting it into smaller pieces. To skin, hold chicken piece in one hand and with a paper towel in the other hand, pull off skin, using towel to help you grip skin. Sometimes partially freezing chicken also makes skinning easier. While pre-cut pieces make for less work, they are typically more expensive than a whole chicken.


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