A few weeks ago, friends visiting Turkey surprised us with a delivery of two unidentified spice blends. Immediately I started thinking about what I could make with the spices.
Our dinner at Lot 7 gave me some ideas. I got some more ideas from The Taste and Master Chef. (I don't know about you, but, with the exception of Hell's Kitchen, TV cooking competitions get me fired up to get in the kitchen.) Last week I decided I was going to go for it when I stumbled across an amazing deal on lamb chops.
Have you ever cooked with unknown spices?
Before I could start cooking, I needed to figure out the flavor profile for the dish. That meant I needed to get some idea of what was in the spice blend. From visual inspection, I was sure the mix contained paprika and one or both of cayenne pepper and chili powder. Smelling the spice blend I was able to determine that cumin and mint were present.
To get a better idea of the other spices in the blend, I consulted The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, turning first to Turkish Cuisine. The additional spices were dill, parsley, black pepper, and sesame seeds. I flipped to Mint, Dried and added Oregano. The Cumin listing added many more spices: Bay leaf, Cardamom, Coriander, Fennel, Garam Masala, Mustard, Saffron, Thyme, and Turmeric. For each spice, The Flavor Bible identifies the taste (bitter, sweet, spicy, and more), the weight, and the volume; and suggests tips for cooking.
So how does this meal do with my three criteria: budget friendly, super easy to make, and flavorful? 3 out of 3, a definite keeper.
- Effort: Super easy. Can prep everything ahead of time, so that all you need to do is sauté your onions and garlic and then simmer your chickpeas for twenty minutes. If you prep everything ahead of time, you'll have a complete meal on your table in less than half an hour. Again, faster than ordering food to be delivered.
- Cost: $10.69 for 2 servings, or $5.35 a person. The $5.35 doesn't include my two lunches. For me, the chickpeas with cous cous worked well for two light lunches. For someone with a heartier appetite, it needs to be paired with a chop or extended with a stew.
- Taste: Spot on. Luckily there's enough of the spice blend to make this dish again. I'll need to play with the ratio of individual spices to recreate the flavor once the mix runs out.
Broiled Lamb Shoulder Chops
Ingredients (for two servings)
- 2 lamb shoulder chops, an inch thick
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 4 teaspoons, Turkish Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
InstructionsIn a large resealable plastic bag, combine the oil, the spices, and the salt. Add the lamb chops and toss until coated. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Before cooking, let the chops stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Adjust your broiler rack so that the top of the chops when placed on the broiler pan is 2 inches from the heat. When one side is browned, season, turn and finish cooking on the second side. Broil until the chops are the desired doneness, about 10 to 12 minutes for medium.
Chickpeas with Diced Tomatoes
Ingredients (for four servings)
- 1 15-ounce can, Chickpeas, drained
- 1 10-ounce can, Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies, Mild
- 1 6-ounce can, Tomato paste
- 6 ounces Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 1 teaspoon, Turkish Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 medium Onion, diced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
InstructionsCombine chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste, coconut milk, spices, and salt. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the onions until soft and beginning to slightly brown. Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly. When you can smell the garlic, add the chickpea mixture and simmer gently until it has reduced a bit and thickened. Serve warm.