My Year and a Half with Milford

It was a cold and rainy winter morning in March 2012 (actually it was so long ago I don’t remember, but “cold and rainy winter morning” always makes for a better story beginning) when the Groupon arrived — a new online spice company called Milford Spice. I browsed their website and found a lot of interesting things, and who can’t always use some spices — especially at 50% off? It was near my birthday, so I treated myself to the Groupon and got shopping.

Bourbon barrel smoked sea salt, looks good doesn't it?

Bourbon-barrel smoked sea salt, looks good doesn’t it?

Here were many things I could use — saffron, Malabar black peppercorns, Middle Eastern zahtar, vanilla beans — and interesting things I’d never heard of before like bourbon-barrel smoked sea salt and toasted onion cane sugar (!). I was like a kid in a candy store, and put my order in. More

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The Oldest Spice

A few weeks ago, I was making choucroute, a German-influenced French specialty of the Alsace region, when I realized I didn’t have any juniper berries. (After all, who has juniper berries?) I emailed pal Ernie, who would be joining us for dinner that night to see if he might have some, in addition to caraway seeds and whole clove.

“I have caraway seeds,” he replied, “But I have no idea how old they are. They’ve been in here a long time.”

Old spices from my spice drawer (l to r): Chinese powdered ginger, herbes de Provence (who ever uses herbes de Provence!??), something so old I don't even know what it is, some Jamaican curry a friend brought me back from Jamaica when we were in our 20s, and ancient saffron from my dad's friend Pierre

Old spices from my spice drawer (l to r): Chinese powdered ginger, herbes de Provence, something so old I don’t even know what it is, some Jamaican curry a friend brought me back from Jamaica when we were in our 20s, and ancient saffron from my dad’s friend Pierre

I then queried neighbors Chris and Glennis to see if they had any juniper berries, and was pleased when Chris responded that they did. More

Crustaceans in Oz

I do a lot of shopping. I go to farmers markets, Japanese markets, Persian markets, Vietnamese supermarkets, Indian spice stores, Mexican carnicerias, Chinese poultry shops… And on the way home, I usually stop at the regular old grocery store. It’s where I get staples — sugar, cheese for the kids, bananas, hamburger buns, etc. Our local one has reasonably good produce, an excellent wine department and a nice view of the Pacific Ocean across the street.

Butter-poached Australian lobster with saffron risotto and lobster sauce

On Valentine’s Day afternoon, I dropped by the local overpriced seafood market to see if anything caught my eye to serve with the bottle of Perrier Jouet I had chilling in the fridge. And everything was, well, overpriced. More

Paella

There are a few things you must know about paella:

• It originates from the region of Valencia in Spain, and traditional versions were made in the field by hunters and contained not seafood but rabbit and snails.

• The pan is called a paella, and the dish is named for the pan. While you can cook a reasonable paella without the pan, it won’t have the same theater (see the video below). Besides, it’ll only set you back around $20 for a 15″ pan from Spain. (www.surlatable.com)

• Paellas were traditionally cooked outdoors over an open fire. This is still the best way to cook paella. Although you can achieve just as good an effect on the barbecue. When our kitchen was being remodeled, I cooked outdoor on the barbecue for two months. We ate a lot of paella. More