Spices, Technique

The Best Spice-featured Cookbook in 56 Years

The Spice Cookbook, by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckley has been my library reference since it was published in 1964. Not for the recipes or the authors’ innovations, which were not impressive then or now, but for the 75 page opening treatise on the spice trade and spices. Ah, time marches on and in this case to good effect. Lior Lev Sercarz lives spices, but so do the people at McCormick, Penseys and The Spice House. But those guys can’t cook. Lior’s resume as a chef is long and impressive, his decision to abandon the stove to open and run a spice store built on his cooking experiences and spice preferences sets his whole effort and this cookbook apart.
Mastering Spices is a beautiful cookbook with about 43 recipes, each with 5 variants. Nothing complicated–all basic everyday dishes that reader/cooks will find approachable. What sets it apart are ‘master’ and ‘main’ spice blends that Lior has created for each dish. It will take a commitment to buy and blend the spices given here. What I will do, is match my recipes to his and note the spices he uses. For example, my Red Snapper Veracruzana is Lior’s Chraime: Seafood in Tomato Sauce. He uses coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric and Aleppo pepper. I don’t but will–can’t wait!
I like this cookbook. It is a contribution to the culinary literature. Home cooks tired of bland food or with a pantry of underused spices will find this cookbook very useful both as a cookbook and as a reference. Lior’s spice store is www.laboiteny.com. Spices combinations (about 50 of them) are marketed as creative blends without specified uses (there are hints). I ordered and received five of Lior’s spice blends. Haven’t tried them yet but have opened each for a good sniff. They are impressively complex. Each blend is carried by 3 or 4 traditional spices with many added exotics, such as pimenton, rose pedals, urfa biber, lime leaves, honey and even tea and coffee. Uniformly blended with little or no dust evident in each jar. At $15 for 1.75 oz, they should be very very good. ” We’ll see, but Lior knows his stuff and his cookbook is a winner, which bodes well for his spices.

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