(Delicious) Research and Development

3 years ago By Christine Sahadi Whelan
(Delicious) Research and Development

If you regularly shop at Sahadi’s, you’re probably familiar with our spice blends. But, did you ever wonder how we came up with that new product? When I’m researching whether we should make and sell a new blend, I can get quite obsessive! I start on Google, looking through dozens of recipes for whatever it is, researching its origin and different uses. I spend days thinking about the flavor profiles of the individual ingredients, as well as the balance of blending them together. I dissect the ingredients and work with them individually to blend them into the perfect marriage of flavors.

This month I have been working intimately with both harissa spice and dukkah seasoning. This means they have shown up everywhere from my Easter Brunch table to our evening appetizers at home! I’ve mixed them with Lebanese olive oil for a premier dip for crusty bread, and then used them to dry rub chicken for depth of flavor — these two seasonings have been everywhere in my kitchen recently.

Every detail gets checked and double checked. Toast the spices in a cast iron pan individually or all at once for convenience sake? Hint: individually is always better for control. Use only one type of pepper or is a variety better? Verdict: Ultimately depth of flavor required variety.

The myriad of choices for base nuts for the dukkah required many samples and we eventually settled on a flavorful combination of chopped, roasted shelled pistachio and almonds hand-blended with seeds. Then, we individually toasted a unique blend of whole spices, which we coarsely ground afterwards for the best texture. This was then blended with the nuts and sprinkled with an exotic herbal mixture. The coarse texture of the nuts and spices created an explosion of flavors in every bite! I can already imagine a multitude of uses for this terrific seasoning. Swirled into Lebany, sprinkled on salads, blended into pilafs and (of course!) served as a dipping sauce with a good olive oil — just a few of the uses that come immediately to mind. Tonight, I will coat a beautiful little goat cheese in it, sauté until light brown and serve over spring greens.

The Harissa spice blend presented a different set of challenges. Traditionally, I’ve always thought of Harissa as a hot sauce, not a dry spice mix. Some years ago, one of our suppliers offered it as a dry spice, so we began carrying it. While it has become a popular item, I still feel that with some tweaking I could increase the depth of flavor and get a product closer to the traditional flavor profile. The key to refining the flavors was in the base peppers themselves. A blend of peppers enhanced the pure pepper flavor and toasting them brought out their richness. Once again individually toasting the whole spices, then grinding them for texture made a tremendous difference. This also makes a fine fiery dipping sauce with olive oil. As a chicken rub, it offered a tremendous amount of flavor with a nice kick. Next up will be swirling it into Lebany for a peppery spread.

I usually find that staying true to traditional flavors with top quality ingredients makes for the best, most flavorful blend. While it’s great to enjoy traditional tastes, I also love to use these blends in unique ways to make them my own.