The first time my then-boyfriend-now-husband Ed decided to buy a birthday gift for me he wanted it to be something very very special. We had been seeing each other for some time and things were now “serious.” The gift had to be good.
So he consulted with his older, married sister who advised him to get something “personal.”
Which he did.
He gave me two spice racks filled with spice bottles (27 for each rack, which equals 54 bottles of spice).
His sister was appalled.
I was thrilled beyond belief.
To me, the spice racks plus 54 bottles was personal. Even then I loved to cook and invent new recipes and taste new ingredients and use all sorts of seasonings.
He knew me.
That was, still is, critical to any lasting relationship.
I can’t remember all the spices (and dried herbs) he chose, but of course there were the usual cinnamon, ginger and cloves; rosemary, thyme and oregano.
These days, years later, my spice racks are still filled. And I still use many of the “usual” — freshly grated nutmeg for cake, ground cumin to jazz up lamburgers and such.
But the bottles number way more than 54 (I have a whole “seasonings” cabinet now). Because there’s a world of spices, herbs and interesting blends to try that we didn’t know about then and that I want to experiment with.
Like Za’atar. I have 3 or 4 different versions of commercial blends. Same goes for Ras el Hanout, Dukkah and Baharat. And others.
I also have many other spice blends that are homemade (I spoon them in a small spice bottles so they look store-bought).
Today is my birthday. I don’t know what birthday gift is in store for me this year.
I do know that the older you get the more you think about birthdays past.
So I am remembering that first one with Ed. His gift, those spice racks and bottles, started us on a delicious culinary journey together.
We’re still travelling.
Mostly I am still enjoying the pleasure of knowing that Ed got that gift so right.
Roasted Cornish Hens with Baharat and Mango
2 large Rock Cornish hens (about 1-1/2 pounds each)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons Baharat
1 cup mango juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry the hens. Rub the skin with the vegetable oil and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and Baharat. Place the hens breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Pour the juice over the hens. Roast for another 15 minutes, baste and turn the hens breast side up. Raise the heat to 425 degrees. Roast for 15 minutes, baste the ingredients and roast for another 10 minutes or until the hens are cooked through and the skin is crispy. Makes 4 servings