Rub Me the Right Way


We here at ES headquarters are pretty obsessed with spices. Put any one of us in front of even an average supermarket dried spices aisle, and don’t expect to get out of there anytime soon. On one particularly productive workday, gansie compiled an excel spreadsheet listing every spice she owned. She forwarded me the document and asked me to review and advise in case she had missed anything. I think I remember the phrase “I only have four sea salts listed and I know I have more than that.”

My point is, we have problems. But my other point is, spices are frickin amazing. You just sprinkle this magic little dust on your food, and it is instantly spicy, savory, salty, sweet, or some beautiful combination of all of the above. It almost feels like cheating.

While searching for the perfect spice to redden up my dahl, I happened upon a quirky little package of ume-shiso sprinkle, described on the bag as how:

Ume- Shiso Sprinkle is a traditional Japanese condiment. Shiso (Perilla) herb is used in the preparation of umeboshi to impart its vivid red color. The shiso leaves are then sun-dried and finely chopped to make this zesty spice.

In my desperation, I thought this might make my dahl red, even though a close reading suggest this is the part of the leaves that don’t leave behind a red stain. So while it didn’t work for that recipe, it did leave me with this interesting little tangy spice, which I’ve been sprinkling on all kinds of meals that are just a little short on flavor. It’s kind of salty, a tad sweet, with a hint of smoke, but really ‘tang’ is the overwhelming adjective here.

For the pork tenderloin pictured above, I made a simple spicy rub by mixing ume-shiso sprinkle with cayenne, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper; rubbed that on the pork and let it sit for a day. It’s a fun, different taste that played well with the spicy – just be sure not to overdo it – they are serious about the sprinkling part, because this stuff is quite potent.

Pictured with ajvar (which you can also read about in the dahl article), and my latest obsession, green beans sauteed in garlic, butter and parmesan.

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  • gansie March 10, 2008  

    holy shit. so i just went through my “cooking club” folder and found my spice list – *56* freaking spices. i’m insane.

  • bobbyc March 10, 2008  

    The only problem with shopping for spices at a typical grocery store is grossly overpaying for them. It’s obscene what McCormick charges compared to somewhere that repackages bulk.

  • gansie March 10, 2008  

    i hear you. and i’ve been itching to go to the new penzey’s spice store in rockville, md.

  • Yvo March 10, 2008  

    gack, I don’t like ume/umeboshi. oh well, you eat more of it, less for me to frown at. try the actual pickled umeboshi berries (ok that’s not a spicy)… they have preservative powers so like, if you ever pack lunch, if you put one in your rice, it’s meant to prevent it from going bad before lunch time =)

  • BS March 10, 2008  

    nice tip, Yvo! Definitely putting those berries on the to-eat list.

  • Yvo March 10, 2008  

    err, I meant that’s not a spice, not “not a spicy”.

  • JoeHoya March 10, 2008  

    Gansie – we’ve talked about spices before, but I found a great source after we discussed file.

    Believe it or not, A. Litteri’s in Northeast sells a wide range of spices (most in large volumes) for very reasonable prices.

    Worth the trip – even if you don’t wait in line for one of their delicioius deli sandwiches.

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