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Buffy’s Slayer Helper-Put it on pizza!!!!

Homemade pan pizza with buffy
Homemade pan pizza with buffy

Well, I didn’t make a heart shaped pizza, but I did make some delicious homemade pan pizza this weekend.  One of Pinch’s most popular blends is our Buffy’s Slayer Helper, I wanted to show how easy it is to add amazing flavor to your everyday cooking, and I find this blend shines the most on top of pizza. Whether it is a frozen pizza, your favorite take out, or my favorite, homemade pizza; Buffy really takes it to the next level, with tons of garlic, parsley, basil, and a touch of chili flake as its tools.P1030736

I love making pizza, you name it; thin crust, deep dish, pan, wood fired, frozen, gluten free, simple, and exotic.  I’ve built pizza ovens, made pizza at burningman on a car and helped make pizza with my mom when I was a little boy.  I just can’t get enough.  In this instance, the weather was telling me to stay indoors, so pizza was going to happen in the basic kitchen oven.  For this type of cooking I prefer to cook pan pizza using a cast iron skillet.  Here’s what I do, and you can too.

First you need to make some dough.  You want to have at it rise for at least a few hours, but my preference is to make dough the day before.  There are a ton of recipes out there on the Internet.  I have usually used recipes from Peter Reinhart, as he is kinda of the guru of dough, and his slow fermentation method yields great results, especially for wood fired thin crust.

Here are the ingredients for his basic pizza dough

  • 5 1/4 cups (24 ounces by weight) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons (1/2 oz.) sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) room temperature water

A couple notes on making dough.  When you dissolve the yeast, add your sugar and really let the yeast get frothing before you incorporate it.  This will insure that the yeast is hungry and active when it meets the flour.  Thus you get really good fermentation, and excellent bubbly dough.

Essentially you need to mix all the ingredients together, with either a mixer or by hand.  When it has come together, but still fairly moist, you want to knead the dough.  Add flour as needed.  I like my pizza dough to be fairly moist but you have to be able to work with it.  A dough knife is really helpful at this stage.  After kneading you will want to let the dough rise.  If you are going 24 hours, let it rise in the fridge.  If you are cooking same day, put it somewhere with constant room temperature.  Either way, cover it with plastic wrap, a moist towel, or put it in to a tupperware container.

The dough should double, maybe even triple in size.  If not, something went wrong.  Now you need to pull the dough out, and separate it in to separate pieces.  Each piece will represent a pizza.  This size recipe yields 5 thins, or in my case yielded 3 pan pizzas.  Form each piece into it’s own ball and allow to rise for another 30 minutes or so.  Get your oven going.  I put mine at 500.  You want that sucker to be hot.  Let it preheat while the dough is resting/rising.photo 2

Now shape your dough.  I put some oil in the pan.  Plop the dough in and start stretching it evenly to the edges of the pan.  It might fight you a bit, but it will hold it’s form.  Now add some sauce, and cheese, and BUFFY, and what ever toppings you like.  On this pizza we put fresh mushrooms and giardiniera from Pickle O’Pete, thanks to our friends at eatgiardiniera.com.

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Throw it in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until it has browned up to your liking.  Carefully remove it, the pan will be extremely hot.  You should be able to run a spatula around the edge and transfer the pizza to a cutting board.

Cut and serve.

As always, please feel free to contact us if you need some additional guidance or just want to chat about pizza and Buffy’s Slayer Helper.

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January shall be Indian spice mix month-Tandoori at the start

We are always hard at work adding new products and creating new blends here at Pinch.  This month we have decided to add some new blends and we will be focusing on creating some Indian spice blends.  Today we began work on a classic mix, Tandoori.  As always we are use the finest spices to create these blends.

Tandoori is a cooking technique that uses high heat in clay ovens.  The ovens are used to create delicious flat breads like naan and meats similar to American bbq.  One classic dish is Tandoori chicken, which is a made with a marinade of spices and yogurt.  Then it is cooked at high heat on skewers in a tandoor oven.

Our test batch of tandoori spices includes the following organic spices: cayenne, coriander, cumin, black pepper, clove, cardamom, fenugreek, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, turmeric, and paprika.  We will be testing it out on some chicken in the coming days, so check back to read about the results.

 

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Event-Spices as Food and Medicine

Join us on Saturday for this educational event.

Spices as Food and Medicine

Saturday, October 6th – 3 PM

Join Doctors of Tibetan Medicine, Monika Budáčová and Todd Marek, on Saturday, October, 6th at 3PM at Pinch Spice Market for a general introduction to the theory of Tibetan Medicine and the use of spices, common and uncommon, as remedies and preventatives for common ailments. We will briefly introduce the practice of Traditional Tibetan Medicine and its foundational theories of the 5 elements, the 3 nyepas (sometimes translated as humors), and the six tastes. From there we will discuss the medical uses of 12 spices in medical formulas, food, and as simple home remedies.

Pinch Spice Market
1913 N Milwaukee
Chicago, Illinois 60647
http://www.pinchspicemarket.com/

Visit the Sha Chung Healing Group website for more information about Tibetan Medicine and our practitioners.
http://www.shachung.org

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Ras El Hanout Part 4: Mission accomplished

After three months of research, testing, tasting and sharing we finally created our own Ras El Hanout.  We have had it on the shelves for the past 2 weeks and it has been a real hit.  As we set out to create this mix it seemed to be a daunting task and at one point it felt almost impossible.  Along the journey we created another very traditional blend, the Ethiopian Berebere, and we were introduced to many other traditional spice mixes.  So how do we feel now that the Ras El Hanout is finished?

We are very proud of this organic spice mix that takes some of our more rare organic spices and showcases  them in a rich tapestry of flavor.  Our customers have been over joyed to take home a jar and start cooking with this most traditional of spice blends.  After working so hard on this we are now going to start selling some of our spices blends online, and thus this long road will lead us onto another road.  How very appropriate.

This process has also solidified our commitment to making our blends authentic.  Where as we could have made the Ras El Hanout with 10 ingredients we opted to use 26 ingredients.  This takes longer, and requires a ton more testing, but the final product speaks for itself.  Beyond this, it gives our customers the chance to experience our blends as though they were in the countries in which they have been traditionally used.  Here are a few pictures of the Ras El Hanout as it is blended.  Please come visit us for a taste and look for this to be for sale on line in the coming weeks.

So what do you do with this amazing stuff?  One of the easiest and most fulfilling uses is to simply mix it in with rice. This will add a very nice floral aroma to the rice and give it a huge flavor boost.  Best part is when you add the Ras El Hanout you will probably find it unnecessary to add any salt.  Did we mention that the Ras El Hanout is completely salt free as well?

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Ras-El Hanout: Part 3 Testing, testing testing

We have been working extremely hard at our humble little spice shop here in Chicago.  We have made several test batches of our Ras El Hanout and we think it is going to be absolutely epic.  As we researched this spice blend it became apparent that authentic Ras El Hanout is rare at best in the United States.  An authentic version with all organic ingredients may just be something that doesn’t exist.  We have set out to make a masterpiece and that is what we have made.  After our current round of testing we should be putting this into production in the next week or so.

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Ras-El Hanout Part 2: Berbere similar and a little less intimidating

Organic Ethiopian BerberAs I continue working through the rather intimidating Ras-El Hanout, it has become apparent that I might want to get my feet wet before I jump in the ocean.  When we opened Pinch our friend and designer of the fixtures at Pinch, Travis, came in and requested some Ethiopian Berbere. Although we didn’t have it, I promised to figure out a recipe for him.  The berbere is actually very similar to the ras-el hanout in that it combines a rather large list of spices.  So here we are, a perfect spice mix to get my feet wet: Ethiopian Berbere.

A little background on the Berebere:  Berbere is the base of most Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. If you have ever eaten Ethiopian food, this is a very spicy blend, with a majority of its weight in the form of hot chilies.  Much like the Ras-El Hanout, the Berbere does not have a set recipe.  This is something that individual families, restaurants, spice markets, towns, etc. spin in their own way.  In my research, the key is to develop a balance between the heat of the chili with the aromatic sweetness of the other ingredients.

The process of creating this recipe has really instilled in me a new appreciation for how spices combine.  Whereas our standard Steak , is a simple combination of a few key ingredients, the Berbere’s flavor profile goes all over the place and uses tiny amounts of powerful spices to form a symbiotic relationship and give depth and balance to the mix.  I did a ton of research on the web to hone in on that perfect, authentic recipe.  Rather than focus on the ingredients, I became very conscious of what each ingredient did for an individual recipe.  Then, like any good spice shop purveyor, I took a look at what some of my best items are (yes all of our items are awesome, but you know some are just amazing).  The key to the final recipe was getting the most flavor using small amounts of very strong ingredients, then kicking into spice heaven with a blast of heat.  Here is a picture or two of the blend in process.
Organic Ethiopian BerbereOrganic Ethiopian Berbere

So what did I end up putting in the blend?  Here is a list in order of amount used: cayenne, sea salt, birds chili, chipotle, paprika, fenugreek, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, coriander, cumin, allspice, mace, tumeric, ceylon cinnamon, and clove.  The chilies make up about 2/3 of the overall weight of the rub, so there is some real heat.  Yet the aromatic, and flavorful combination of spices that accompany them standout on their own and have staying power that lasts (with a nice burn).

So now we are proud to offer an authentic and deliciously addictive Ethiopian Berbere.  This is not for the faint of heart, but if you like a touch of heat in your cooking, I am confident you will find some creative ways to use this rub.  So far I have made roasted chicken, spicy scrambled eggs, Ethiopien Berbere BLT’s with avocado, and a spicy Ethiopian Berbere smoke knackwurst.

Next up…I might actually tackle the Ras-El Hanout.

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The 7 Super Spices

The Super Spice 7 in all their glory!

We’ve been accused of being overly fond of spices. The world may label us “spice cadets” or “herbmaphrodites” but we’re tired of hiding our true selves. We love spices, herbs, and all of the things they do for us.

We love for all of our beloved herbs and spices. But we can’t deny that among the noble ranks of the spice world there are those which are destined for greatness.

There are 7 Spices which are so healthful and so beneficial to people in so many ways that they’ve been dubbed the 7 Super Spices. This Justice League of spices includes: cinnamon, oregano, ginger, dried red pepper, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.

Like the Avengers, these spices defend humanity against its greatest foes. Unlike the Avengers, these spices can’t be defeated by Dr. Doom and his nefarious plots.

These spices and herbs also are rich in phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids and other phenolics, all of which boast health-promoting attributes. Spices and herbs are classified as fruits and vegetables, but since they don’t have the water content of most produce they’re richer in these better-than-awesome-for-you compounds.

These spices can reduce inflammation, help relieve allergy and asthma symptoms, add antioxidants, promote circulation and lower blood pressure. They can help your immune system, all while making your every meal more delicious, fresher-tasting, and more robust in flavor.

We at Pinch are kicking off a 7-part weekly blogtacular on every super spice and the many ways they help us (spoiler alert: oregano cannot pick up your dry-cleaning). We will soon be offering the Super Spice 7 Pack featuring fresh and organic versions of these incredible ingredients.

Come to Pinch and see and smell these Super 7 for yourself. We can’t promise your life will be the same afterwards, but we can promise it will be more delicious with the addition of these unique titans of the flavorverse.

If you think you’re an old pro with these incredible spices, come on down and share recipes and preparations with us, we bet we might know of a few spice secrets you might not have heard before!

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License to Grill

This year, the hunger struck earlier than ever. When the nice weather first hit in March, the desire to grill awoke all over this fair city. We are readying our charcoal Webbers, our infareds, our propane, and of course, our smokers.

Barbecue remains the most American expression of flavor. Grilling didn’t start here, but we’ve done our best to show this world a thing or two vis-a-vis  spectacular meat and veggie creations.

At Pinch, we are so excited to ring in this season that we’re putting together a few special treats for our amazing customers. We’re offering a special box set of our most transcendent customized organic spice blends, which we’re calling our License to Grill  Set.

We recommend lump charcoal, grass-fed red meat, and of course, freshly-ground, organic spices. The difference is indelibly edible.

We will also be putting our hearts and souls into a barbecue demonstration on Sunday the 27th of May from 3:00 til 6:00pm, right here at Pinch Spice Market at 1913 North Milwaukee in Bucktown. We will be tasting brisket and homemade sausage while we teach you how to whip up your own BBQ sauce. It is BYOB, so grab a case or some bourbon and come learn a thing or two!

Civilization sprang up around our need to stand around open fire and cook and share food and words. Today it doesn’t get much better, once you add music and the right beverages to the mix.

Come down and upgrade your cooking game today. Our Jamaican Jerk Blend is begging to be caramelized over a fresh Amish chicken. Our Mole Rib Rub deserves to be caressed over the meatiest baby back ribs you can find.

Don’t forget the veggies. Veggies are just as necessary and delicious over fire as their meaty brethren. Any vegetable you can think of is a bit of olive oil, some French Grey Salt, and some Ground White Peppercorns away from being a transcendent vegetable eating experience.

Our options are unlimited, our cuisines are countless. Come into Pinch today and start crafting your own spice cabinet, and get the blends you need to add flavor to your summer!

 

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Ras-El Hanout-A quest for the perfect blend. Step 1: Setting the stage for a masterpiece

Here at Pinch Spice Market, our humble little spice shop in Chicago, we are continually developing new spice blends. So far we have created 8 in house blends including: Humboldt Sazón, Bay Seasoning, Popcorn Sprinkle, Lavender Sugar, Sizzling Steak,Veggie Sprinkle, and Jamaican Jerk Rub. Each of these have unique flavor profiles and
uses.

Developing a spice blend is tricky business, as you want each individual spice to play a role without over-powering the other spices. An artistic weaving of often contrasting flavors that symbiotically form a masterpiece, at least when we’ve done right. We use
our personal experiences; the knowledge of friends and customers; and tireless research to create our blends in the store. We have a tremendous amount pride in all of our herbs and spices, but specifically with the blends we showcase our love and devotion to
the craft.

This brings us to our new spice blend quest. Ras-El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend with a rich history in the culture of spice but with no clear-cut recipe. We are going to create an authentic and delicious Ras-El Hanout. This will be the first installment of
several posts as I go through the process of creating the blend. For today we will take a look at what Ras-El Hanout is, and also explore some of the process of creating a rub.

Ras-El Hanout roughly translates to head of the shop. Each spice merchant in Morocco creates their own unique Ras-El Hanout to showcase their best products. Generally, the blends will have at least 20 ingredients many of which are rarely seen on this side of
the world. The rub itself is used to season meats, and is also used in traditional tagine cooking. So let’s explore the basics of making a spice blend.

First a little about me, Shoebocks. My cooking style is rather loose and generally based on the actual touch, feel, flavor, aroma, and general gut instinct for the foods I am cooking. I bring this style with me when I create spice blends, but at Pinch I find myself fine tuning and striving for consistency. I have been cooking since I could reach
the kitchen stove. Learning to make scrambled eggs from my mom when I was probably 7 or 8.

At Thanksgiving my job was to make the cranberry sauce since I can remember. As a starving college student I was very skilled at the “stone soup” method of cooking. Everyone would bring something and I will create an amazing meal out of it. It’s a very handy skill that allowed me to eat very well on a very tight budget. Through my twenties and now into my thirties I have continued on a path of
passion and experimentation towards food. Creating sourdough starters from grapes and other fruits, brewing beer, curing meats, building pizza ovens and custom grills, and just plain having fun with it. This is why I had to co-found Pinch and why I am excited
to start this blend journey. Pictured below is a deconstructed version of our Popcorn Sprinkle, which is one of our most popular items.

 

Our organic popcorn sprinkle has been one of the best-selling items at our shop. I was inspired to create this blend after living for years with a popcorn addict. For me popcorn is the perfect venue for a spice blend to shine. Popcorn just begs for you to add flavor to it. A very neutral flavor and a texture wrought with a plethora of tiny places to hide huge flavor. When I developed the recipe I knew the truffle salt was going to be a key player in the mix. Our truffle salt is literally an explosion of flavor just primed to stick to some freshly popped corn. I set out to find other spices that would accentuate
the rich flavor of the truffles, yet be strong enough to compete for space in our palate. Sage became an obvious choice because it has a warm, almost soothing flavor and aroma. Combined with the truffle, the aroma alone gets your mouth watering. With these two key ingredients it was a matter of rounding out the blend. Fresh ground pepper adds a nice bite, and the summer savory gives just a slight
bittersweet taste at the back of the blend. I then finished the rub with a nice Himalayan pink salt and bit of natural Atlantic sea salt. Unlike many rubs this sprinkle is intended to be used just as one would use salt on popcorn, or any dish. It is a great finish and adds an immense amount of flavor.

So that gets us started on the journey. In the next installment we will create a new blend, Berbere. This is an essential rub for Ethiopian cooking and is a great starting point to develop the more complex Ras-El Hanout.

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Oxidants Happen

Spices pull a heavy workload for your health. Sure, they’re delicious. Certainly, they’re affordable. They are diverse as they are delicious. But what many folks aren’t clear on is how very healthy spices are, and how beneficial adding them to your diet can be to your overall well-being.

At Pinch, we believe in spices and their ability to promote a happier more contented body, which is a side-effect of their flavor-boosting power (but if you can do both, why not?)

Antioxidants are vital compounds which find oxygen that is released into your body (by one of many chemical processes, most of which are constantly occurring in most bodies) and eliminate free-radical oxygen which causes damage to tissues of the body, internally ageing your body and organs.

Antioxidants are in so many foods and beverages which we’re supposed to be consuming every day. Blueberries, kale, spinach, green tea, and cinnamon are prime examples. These foods are all similar in that they contain considerable amounts of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavonoids.

What’s different is that only one of the listed foods is a spice. Meaning it doesn’t go bad as quickly, it’s more versatile, and you can take it with you everywhere!

Many spices contain huge amounts of health-friendly compounds. The fresher the spices, the more of antioxidant-rich they will be. Organic, freshly packed and ground spices are what we do at Pinch Spice Market, which retain their freshness and power longer than pesticide-laden traditionally harvested spices.

By volume, spices such as cloves, oregano, rosemary and sumac all have exponentially more antioxidant power than black raspberries, cucumbers, watermelon, and even squash with its skin.  Of course, it’s much easier to eat 100 grams of cucumber than 100 grams of cloves, but when used liberally with your cooking, you will dramatically increase your antioxidant intake.

Come see (and smell) these heroic spices and their healthy counterparts. Ask your experts at Pinch how you can get more of a certain spice into your diet, and start giving your body those added benefits, along with the gift of deliciousness.

Learn which spices can help you the most against these dastardly oxidants at Pinch today. It’s amazing how much more you can do for your health with a single Pinch.