Middle Eastern Five-Spice
Many countries have a sweet spice mix like this Middle Eastern five-spice: the Chinese have a five-spice, the French have quatre epice, and in the United States, we have pumpkin pie spice mix. The combination of aromatic tropical evergreen seeds enhances meat, chicken, and rice dishes. It’s also wonderful added to feta cheese and marinated mushrooms. Just use a pinch to lightly perfume a dish.
Nutmeg is the seed of a fruit from a tropical evergreen tree that grows in many hot-climate countries.
Nutmeg and mace are often confused. Mace is actually the placenta of the nutmeg. It has a lighter, subtler flavor and is much more expensive. A ripe nutmeg looks like a small nectarine but is very sour and almost inedible. When a nutmeg is broken apart, the mace is blood-red and turns dark orange after drying. The mace is removed from the nutmeg and then processed separately. It is rare to find the mace still attached to the nutmeg.
Although you can buy ground nutmeg, it is often stale, so I prefer to grate whole nutmeg. I use the tiny-gauge side of a box grater, which can also be used as a zester. You can also use the long, single-sided handheld graters that are used to grate Parmesan cheese. In any case, the grater’s holes should be small enough to powder the nutmeg. Hold the nutmeg between your thumb and first three fingers, being careful to grate the nutmeg and not your fingers. Also, you can find grinders or mills made especially for whole nutmeg at kitchen shops and through online sources, such as www.amazon.com.
Nutmeg is the perfect perk for the classic bechamel, Mornay, or white sauce. It adds a sweet, caramel fragrance to tomato- based pasta sauces (with or without meat), winter squashes, spinach, and cakes and pies.
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Equipmentblender, spice grinder
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturespiced
- 2 tablespoons whole allspice
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg (see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Using a coffee grinder or blender, grind the allspice, cloves, and peppercorns until fine. Transfer the ground spices to a small mixing bowl.
Stir in the nutmeg and cinnamon.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, such as a cupboard, for up to 4 months.
2006 Ana Sortun