September ushers in the bountiful fall harvest season, and with it, a host of comforting dishes from soups and stews to bakes. The right spices add depth to these dishes by enhancing flavor and complexity. For a little help trying out a few new spices, visit Narrin’s Spices and Sauces and Urban Herbs at the West Side Market. Here are some of our favorites to get you started.
Aleppo pepper is a moderately-hot pepper grown in Syria and Turkey. It comes from the Halaby pepper, a burgundy chili, and its mild but highly flavorful taste profile makes for a lovely alternative to crushed red pepper—though not quite as hot, it enhances flavors by adding a fruity, quiet heat to any dish.
Epazote, most commonly found in Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine, is praised both for its culinary and medicinal properties. Its strong smell means many people don’t take to it right away, but it adds an earthy flavor to stews and bean-based dishes. This herb shines brightest when added toward the end of the cooking process. Add epazote to a savory, Mexican-inspired root vegetable soup for a unique fall dish.
Cloves are native to Indonesia, but many warmer locales cultivate them. Used ground or whole, cloves are aromatic and one of the most prominent flavors in chai tea. Cloves are often used in herbal and Ayurvedic medicine, and are seen most frequently in Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and north African cuisine.
Cinnamon may not sound like an unfamiliar spice, but it deserves a spotlight because of its varied and versatile flavor profiles. Vietnamese cinnamon, also known as Saigon cinnamon, is the strongest, spiciest, and sweetest of all the cinnamons, and claims the highest essential oil content. Try adding a pinch of cinnamon to a savory marinade for vegetables or meat. Cinnamon goes well with everyone’s fall favorites, like apple cobbler and ginger cookies. Try giving your brownies a unique twist by adding cayenne and cinnamon.
Tarragon is member of the sunflower family and is one of the four French fines herbes, along with chervil, chives, and parsley. It’s best known as the main flavor in a bearnaise sauce, but can also liven up dishes featuring chicken, fish, or eggs. It’s also delicious when freshly chopped and added to a salad. Salmon marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and freshly chopped tarragon is sure to win over anyone at your table.