The Spice Is Right: Sweet Or Savory Round-Up Part I

Well, I am pleased to see a staggering number of entries to the second edition of “The Spice is Right,” and am happy to note that we have a few new faces here, jumping in to play the game this time around.

As I noticed in the first round, there were trends and patterns appearing in the entries. It seems that creative minds think alike–keep your eyes open when you read these entries and you can see the patterns emerge. However, even with a few similarities developing from entry to entry, the sheer diversity of recipes along with the thought that food bloggers put into this event is amazing, and once again, we are going to have a wonderful collection of recipes to bookmark and try.

First up, from northern Germany, Ulrike of Kuchenlatein is back with a very pretty dessert that she reports “even the children liked.” Noting that rhubarb is in season where she lives, Ulrike chose to highlight it in Tapioca with Peppered Rhubarb, a confection that uses black pepper to spice up a puree of the sour fruit. The combination of fruit and black pepper is an unusual one, but one that is becoming more and more popular across the world as people realize that the biting nature of pepper heightens the natural sweetness inherent in fruit. Besides–doesn’t the black-flecked pink rhubarb look pretty with the tapioca pearls?

Danielle of Habeas Brulee brings us another sweet dish using an unusual flavor: paprika. Noting that her family is Hungarian, she lists for us the many dishes that she grew up eating that were flavored with paprika: stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikas and goulash. (Dang, girl, you are making my mouth water with that list, you know?) When she told her Mom she was going to make a dessert with paprika, however, the maternal disapproval was swift and complete. But that didn’t stop Danielle, she went on, at the urging of Dave modify her cinnamon roll recipe to use paprika instead. The resulting Paprika Sticky Rolls not only look delish, but must have been truly divine, because Dave polished off half a pan of them in one night. (Dave is one smart guy, it sounds like.)

I love the way that I get to find new food blogs, just because I host this event. From the Roaring Belly of the blog, A Belly in the Wild comes a really wild treat that I would love to try: Korean Chili Powder Cupcakes! Adapting recipes from chockylit, who is Our Lady of the Cupcake, she made some fantastic-looking wee cakes that blend the fire of Korean chili flakes with the richness of chocolate, with a sweep of ginger-warmed vanilla icing. Wow! I want to go hang out in the kitchen with the Roaring Belly!

Nandita of Saffron Trail took up the challenge by making a spicy, savory dish with cardamom, a dish that when she was growing up in southern India, was pretty exclusively in sweets. (It is in northern Indian cuisine that I have primarily seen it used as a savory spice, as well as a sweet one.) After giving a bit of history of the spice and its culinary and medicinal uses throughout history, she decided to cook it with mango, ginger, garlic and chile into a delicious-sounding Spicy Cardamom-Mango Chutney. It doesn’t just sound good–look at the vivid color of the chutney–a feast for the eyes.

Debbie of Dejamo’s Distracted said that what she liked most about this event were the buried memories that are stirred to the surface of the unconscious, bringing with them scents, flavors and foods of times long past. She must have been stirred up quite a bit, because she posted -two- recipes using poppyseeds, so I had to choose which one to picture. I went with her Poppyseed Spiral Cookies, because they were just so darned pretty, but really her Chicken Chennai recipe looks pretty tasty, too. In addition, that recipe is fully illustrated, step-by-step, so if you are timid about trying to cook Indian food, because it looks too hard or involved, check out this recipe. Debbie holds your hand through the process and helps the reader out every step of the way.

Is that a pretty picture or what? Meeta, the blogger behind the excellent German blog, What’s For Lunch Honey? gives us a vision of a light dessert in shades of white and red. What is it, other than gorgeous? What spice is that? Black pepper, once again, making friends with fruit and asparagus in Strawberries, Asparagus with Orange Filets. The light, refreshing dessert is also heated up with a goodly dose of fresh ginger, which tells me that I am going to have to give it a shot once the strawberries come into season here! (Though, I will probably pass it off as a salad and not a dessert; my friends and family already expect my salads be composed of unusual combinations of fruits and vegetables. If I tried to get them to eat dessert with asparagus, there may be a mutiny in my kitchen.)

I love creativity, and people who take chances. And several entrants to this event have qualified for my admiration for going on out on a limb and really getting wild with the flavor combinations, but none more so than LG from Georgia, the author of the blog, Ginger and Mango. Even though she has had a couple of bad experiences experimenting in the kitchen, she took up the challenge posed by “Sweet or Savory,” and decided to see if anyone had ever cooked a savory dish with vanilla. And she did find a recipe for a kingfish steak, but leery of ruining an expensive bit of fish, she substituted the more common shrimp, and threw down and made a delectable plate of Vanilla-Flavored Shrimp. She combined the vanilla with ginger, garlic, shallot, lots of chiles (a woman after my own heart) and balsamic vinegar, and created a curry that was hot, sweet and sour all at once. You go, girl!

Mackey’s back and comes bearing a hot dish of sweets from the Philippines that are dark and wickedly delicious. What has the author of The Edible Garden got for us to share today? Nothing less decadent than honey-sweetened Chili-Chocolate Truffles. Oh, Mackey–I swoon to you and your love of chili mixed with chocolate, that being one of my favorite flavor combinations, ever! The fire of the chiles really offsets the dark richness of the chocolate, while the chocolate calls forth the fruity flavor of the chiles which goes often untasted. A match made in heaven!

Nobody who makes such fine looking food strikes me as reluctant, but Gabriella has named her blog My Life As A Reluctant Housewife, so I have to take her word for it. But I still have my doubts, because those Lamb Kebabs with the Three C’S (cinnamon, cumin and coriander) are looking dangerously tasty. It seems that Gabriella grew up as I did, in the strong belief that cinnamon was a sweet spice, and had only recently started using it in savory dishes. Here’s to opening up a whole new world in cooking!

Last but not least, we come to Kitarra of Cooking Debauchery who loves vanilla with a boundless passion, and so, she chose to highlight it in a savory dish that is both sweet and tart, mellow and creamy and spicy with a hint of cinnamon: Vanilla-Scented Scallops. Aren’t they lovely? She made two sauces–a pomegranate cinnamon sauce and a vanilla cream sauce, and then did a lovely plate presentation of the two swirled together at the edges. Absolutely gorgeous, and I bet delicious, to boot!

Well, this is the first installment of the Sweet or Savory round-up; look for the second installment later today, and the third either tonight or tomorrow.

There are a lot more beautiful entries to come, so stay tuned!


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  1. Hello Barbara, this Ulrike at Küchenlatein. I am a woman, although there is an “e” at the end, Ulrike is a girl’s name 🙂

    Comment by ostwestwind — May 17, 2006 #

  2. That sure is a super first round up Barbara! Ten and still counting..I’m waiting to see the rest – you’ve put in so much effort into the write-ups


    Comment by Nandita — May 17, 2006 #

  3. Ai ya! I am mortified, Ulrike (now you can see why I only took one semester of German in college and did poorly in it!) I have gone back and edited the pronouns, and please, please, forgive me. I am very, very sorry. (I never could keep gendered nouns in German straight, either–the signifiers are different than they are in Latin and French–the two languages I had previously and did pretty well in!)

    Nandita–one of the reasons I take the time and effort with the round-ups that I do is that I want each and every participant to feel special and appreciated. I very much appreciate all of the work that people put into the entries and am impressed with the care that is taken in writing and presenting the entries, so I like to give some back to everyone.

    Besides, the more enticing I make the write-ups, the more people will come and read your entries.

    Look for the second installment, along with the announcement of the next theme later today. The third installment might be tonight, but probably will be early tomorrow morning!

    Comment by Barbara — May 17, 2006 #

  4. This was a fantastic idea. Thank you for making it happen! I’m still brainstorming off it.

    It’s fascinating to me, seeing people define certain spices as exclusively sweet or exclusively savory and feel adventuresome for using them as the other, when I’m so used to using them for both. Cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, poppy seeds, cardamom… I’ve used these for both sweet and savory for as long as I can remember. It was actually my mother (yes, the one who sometimes disapproves) who first made me a batch of black pepper brownies when I was a kid.

    (In this round-up, the Korean chili powder cupcakes are the only things that startled me, because I’ve only ever used that spice for heating up my udon. Brilliant!)

    I guess that’s what it is to be a NYC native, my actual native culture.

    Comment by Danielle — May 17, 2006 #

  5. Oh! Also, a follow-up on my mother: After I posted, I told her what I’d gone ahead and done, and that it had worked out. She was grudgingly fascinated and took my word for them being quite tasty.

    Comment by Danielle — May 17, 2006 #

  6. Hi Barbara
    Thanks for the wonderful roundup..You took time to explain each and every entry in detail!

    But.uh..emm..I dont remember ever setting foot in Malaysia 🙂
    I live in U.S 🙂

    LG of Ginger and Mango

    Comment by L.G — May 17, 2006 #

  7. LOL I misread your original post. I thought we were *supposed* to do one of each dish. I was a little surprised that you’d set that goal; had I been thinking more clearly I would have double checked. But this worked out–I got two great recipes out of it!

    And thanks again for doing such a wonderful job–with the challenge *and* on the write-ups.


    Comment by dejamo — May 17, 2006 #

  8. Danielle–I am glad your Mom came around. And yes–I think that growing up in NYC did affect your view of flavors and spices. I grew up in a much more homogenous, very insular sort of place, where cinnamon was always used for sweet stuff and that was it. The only exceptions were Cinci chili and the few Greek, Indian and Syrian families in town who used it in savory foods. It must have been great to grow up in NYC!

    LG–I fixed that! Duh–It was because you had that notice about the language on your blog that I assumed. Shows what happens when I write quickly late at night and don’t read as carefully as I could. At least I got your pronouns right!

    Debi–that is okay–Hadar did the same thing, as you will see as soon as I post the next bit of round-up!

    Comment by Barbara — May 17, 2006 #

  9. WOW. You have done a SUPER fabulous round up. I have just loved loved loved reading about all these recipes and will continue to delve further into many of them.

    oh and trust me, I am reluctant about many of my housewife duties. cleaning. laundry. getting up early. But making up recipes and smooching my kids from head to toe? no, not reluctant about that.

    My Life As A Reluctant Housewife

    Comment by Gabriella True — May 17, 2006 #

  10. Well, at least I was right and you are not reluctant about the cooking part! (I am not so great with the cleaning, laundry and the like, either.)

    Comment by Barbara — May 17, 2006 #

  11. Hey Barabara,
    I found it 😉
    Thank you for such the great love and care you put in all the roundups. Your gentle and caring passion for all of us fellow bloggers is one of the reasons I love your blog.

    Comment by Meeta — May 20, 2006 #

  12. […] The Spice Is Right: Sweet or Savory? Round-Up Part i […]

    Pingback by blog from OUR kitchen » Spice is Right#2 (What to do?!) black pepper... we adore good food — May 21, 2006 #

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