I love to cook but I hate the phrase, “mom, what’s for dinner?” I am always searching cookbooks, web sites and others for inspiration. Recently, while visiting my son in Minneapolis, I reversed roles and asked him that very question-“son, what’s for dinner?” I don’t get to the city often and on this trip, we attended the Caspian Bistro not far from the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. They have a wonderfully delicious Middle Eastern selection on their restaurant menu. Our meal was fabulous but the grocery store is what really got me excited.
Not a terribly large store, just one isle up and one isle down, I saw all kinds of wonderful treats. There were teas, spices, and a wide variety of rice, fruits and pastries. I thought of getting something totally unknown, like I can’t even read the label unknown, but instead opted for a bit of the familiar. I know I could not eat octopus! Trying to think what I had in my own cupboard at home, I remembered a fresh jar of local honey. Maybe I could get the makings for baklava but that is pretty labor intensive. Instead I found a jar filled with a mixed variety of nuts; pistachio, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and apricot kernels all covered in honey. Apparently this is used as a spread on toast or pastries. Perfect! I could get cute jars, fill them with my favorite nuts and cover with honey. What a great gift!
Any real herbalist becomes a bottle connoisseur of sorts. We purchase food, at least I do, thinking how I can reuse the bottle. I have been known to buy something just for the bottle. When I spied a beautiful one filled with rose-water and saffron, yea I had to get that too. I am not sure what I will do with this but I know I can make my own rose water and adding a bit of saffron come close to this beauty. I believe it will make a nice dessert syrup.
For my last purchase, I picked up 2 bags of mixed spice filled with a variety of seasonings. Unable to read the label, I made my best guess as to what could be inside by smell and color. With my nose buried in the bag, I refused to ask the clerk. I am sure I can figure this out in the privacy of my kitchen. One was labelled for meat and one for fish but why not a veggie stew, soup or in a bean dish? It will be a taste experience!
I brought enough home to get myself started. Next time, my son says we are heading to the African market! I can’t wait!