When asked (and I often am) “What is your favorite thing to cook?” I always answer, “What I haven’t cooked yet.” Nothing gets me more excited than jumping into the kitchen to try new ingredients or cooking familiar ones in new ways. Recently, however,…
In preparation for an in-store demo with Washington, DC spice shop, Bazaar Spices, I stopped by to meet with co-owner, Ivan Fitzgerald. “What should I cook with?” I asked. Ivan looked around the shop then walked to the back. “We’re featuring micro-regions,” he said. “Think Persia instead of the entire Middle East, and Georgia instead of all Slavic cuisines.”
Ivan filled a small bag with Baharat and black limes, dry Adjika and Kkmeli Suneli, and I felt my chest begin to tighten. I had never cooked with any of these, had no idea how they tasted and certainly knew nothing of the ingredients they traditionally seasoned. With the best game face I could manage, I eked out a smile, thanked Ivan and left the store, my panic growing.
“I’m doomed.” I thought, “How, in just seven days am I going to become an expert on Persian and Georgian cuisine?”
“Wait,” I realized. “Seven days from now isn’t a worry at all, because in just three days Ivan’s wife and co-owner Monica Grover is going to be cooking with me at our weekly, Tuesday night #testkitchen.” Panic turned to fear.
As Tuesday night neared I debated traveling to Persia or Georgia rather than face cooking with their herbs and spices. Finally urgency overcame fear and I hit the kitchen. I began by opening each bag, inhaling the fragrance and tasting each blend. I added them to simply steamed carrots and sautéed cabbage. On my tongue I found familiar notes: Georgian Khmeli Suneli was where my Polish family traditions met Garam Masala. Persian Baharat offered a warmer echo of Chinese 5 spice.
Tuesday night I greeted Monica, panic reduced to mere butterflies. Together we developed five new recipes for Saturday’s presentation. In just a few days I had learned very little about the rich cultural cuisines of Georgia and Persia, but I had introduced their spices into familiar dishes, taking them to intriguing new places.
Fearlessness, it turns out, doesn’t come from expertise, but from enough experience to know that everything will taste good in the end. And remember, have fun! It’s just cooking.
Bazaar Spices #testkitchen recipes:
(new recipes released all week 5/30)
Blue Fenugreek Pork and Mushrooms (6/4)