Try Cool Spices This Summer

Columnist Stephanie Casey
Columnist Stephanie Casey

It’s Texas. It’s summer. It’s hot.

For lots of us, that means keeping the heat out of the kitchen with cold salads and grilled meals, which makes it a fun time of year to get creative with your spices and play with flavor in familiar dishes.

With Google at your fingertips, it’s easy to figure out specific spice profiles. Say you want to work an Indian influence into your homemade burger and grilled french fries — searching “common Indian spices” will return the basics. Next thing you know, you are sprinkling cumin and coriander into your burger mix, tossing your fries in cinnamon and red chili, and using brown mustard as the main condiment.

Or maybe you are bored with the same old salad? Get your avocado on by using avocado oil instead of olive oil in a homemade dressing. Achieve a Tex-Mex feel by blending the oil with ripe avocado, Just Mayo, fresh lemon, fajita seasoning, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Toss with your usual salad ingredients and break up a few tortilla chips on top.

Put things on the grill you’ve never considered putting on the grill before. I’ve cracked a bunch of pepper on berries and tomatoes, shaken a dash of celery salt with them, then throw them over the fire for a couple minutes and used that as a sandwich topping.

Adding smoked sea salt to any fruit or vegetable will give that beloved smoky bacon reference without the added fat. A favorite is from a local line by Chef Milton. You can also find a range of smoked salt options in Central Market’s spice aisle. I’ve got a wonderful flaked one by Falksalt that has a hint of sweet caramel to it. Sprinkle on our local summer seasonals such as eggplant, squash, melon, or okra, add a little oil, and marinate to enjoy raw or throw on the grill for a savory side, main dish, or use as a salad or sandwich ingredient.

Spices make terrific souvenirs and expand your flavor repertoire. It’s an affordable way to experiment. Plus, every time a jar is cracked, a travel memory is recalled — even if the trip was just to a local market where a clever seasoning made eyes at you. “Well, hello. Want to come back to my place, Maui Onion Blend?” Yes, yes I do.

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