Trends and Underutilized Spices

Part 5 of 5

While trends come and go, Lior Lev Sercarz hopes that the spice trends stick. 

“There’s more awareness every year for spices, the uses of spices and understanding that there are spices for everybody. You don’t need to belong to a certain ethnic group, you don’t need to live in a certain environment, everybody can and should enjoy spices on a daily basis,” believes LaBoîte’s master spice blender. 

Recent trends include Za'atar, Aleppo chili from Syria, and Vietnamese cinnamon along with Sri Lankan cinnamon. 

“Za'atar is a blend native to the Middle East. You can find it in many countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Syrian, Israel, Palestinian territories and even Greece. The traditional recipe is made with Za'atar leaves, which are related to the oregano-marjoram family. Next is sesame seed and sumac, which is a Middle Eastern berry that is tart and fruity. From that point on, everybody has their own inclusions and additions, and the blend can be fine or coarse,” explains Lior, adding that Za'atar is used on flatbreads, salads, cheese, yogurt and in some cooked dishes. “This blend is very popular because it can be consumed as is, you can just eat it, contrary to other blends where you need to do a little bit of cooking to be able to enjoy it.”

In the wake of trends, are traditional spices that are tasty and readily available in most markets, but are overlooked and underutilized. 

“Things like poppy seeds, are everywhere, but ask the average cook when’s the last time they used poppy seeds, the answer is probably never. They probably have not even made a poppy seed cake or poppy seed lemon cookie,” says Lior. “So I think that’s a great example of something that is available, delicious, yet underused and there’s a lot of great ways to use it in savory cooking.”

“There’s definitely a lot of less-know spices like Nigella seeds, which I think are fantastic. They are a combination between sesame, onion and garlic in terms of flavor profile with great texture. The list goes on and on,” says Lior, who has authored several books. They  include: The Art of Blending, which features 41 blends along with recipes and cooking tips; The Spice Companion, is an illustrated guide to 102 spices, complete with blends and recipe ideas, and Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking, which offers 250 recipes informing readers on how spices can change the way one makes every meal. 

“At the end of the day,” says Lior, “my goal is to promote spices, beyond basic salt and pepper, as essential ingredients that deserve the utmost respect in the home cook or professional’s pantry.”

Click here to learn more about Spiced Raisin Marmalata.

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