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BLOG > Eat Winter! Week 3: Hot Spice for Cold Nights


We all crave a bit of heat on the inside, or rather for the insides, when it’s cold outside.  Which is why winter is the perfect time for soul-soothing, heart-warming spicy food. I lust after the kind of hot, fiery, wake-me-up and keep-me-excited intensity of Indian or Korean dishes as well as the gentle heat-meets-sweet of cinnamon, the vigor of ginger, the aromatic ease of cumin, and the subtle distinctions of sharp, smoky, and pungent you get from all those great Mexican chilli peppers.

I couldn’t wait, so decided to switch things around a bit in the Eat Winter! celebration calendar and focus this week on all kinds of piquant, piercing, and even just ever so slightly earnest spice on the tongue.  Where on the earth do you find your favorite spicy cusine?  Do you have a favorite peppery dish you love to do in cold weather? Or is there one spice that really gets you excited when the mercury drops?

Stay tuned for podcasts this week on great ideas on spicing up your cooking and your cocktails.

19 Responses to “Eat Winter! Week 3: Hot Spice for Cold Nights”

  1. Jill Says:

    Cumin, cumin, cumin! I put it Mexican food, Middle Eastern food, you name it. It’s a really great, versatile flavor without a lot of heat.

  2. Gail Says:

    I love Mexican food and am trying to learn more about about countries nearby like El Salvador. Some of the resaturants in my town do both cuisines together. There’s this very spicy cabbage I really like and I’ve been trying to find a recipe since it’s such an excellent winter vegetable.

  3. Josh Says:

    It’s not really a whole cuisine but I love Japanes wasabi. Not just in sushi but in other sauces for fish. And even in mashed potatoes.

  4. Lisa Says:

    Cardamom. My great grandmother was Swedish and the traditions were handed down. The Swedes love cardamom.

    I especially like making holiday breads and cookies with it. Also adding it to rice pudding.

  5. Ji-Young Park Says:

    I crave rich and spicy Korean soups/stews and do a lot more clay tagine cooking during the cold months.

  6. Susan Says:

    I never really thought of spicy food as a particularly winter thing. I think I eat a lot of my spicy food in summer, like easy Mexican and salsas and that kind of thing. But now that I think about it, I really love red pepper flakes in comfort food like pasta sauces.

  7. Anne Bramley Says:

    Me too! With a young one in the house and a heat-meister husband, cumin has become my default spice.

  8. Anne Bramley Says:

    Oops! Getting the hang of the blog still.

    Lisa, I’ve always been so intrigued by cardamom and the Swedish connection. So glad you brought it up.

    Ji-Young, we are big, big fans of Korean stews. I’m always planning on actually learning how to make something a little more authentic but often end up doing a fish stew with hot paste in the end. Terrible cheating I’m sure.

    Love to hear the Mexican interest here, too.

  9. Ramin Ganeshram Says:

    Cinnamon! It’s a common spice in Persian stews, particularly for cold weather. I also love garam masala. Garam or garm means “warm” and refers to the fact that the spices are toasted to bring up a toasty aromatic effect. My favorite winter Persian Stew is Koreshte Kadu Tanbal–pumpkin, prunes, chicken or lamb, cinnamon, saffron and other spices…

  10. Mariana Says:

    Star anise in sea-food stews, cinnammon in meat stews, all types of pepper in savory dishes and black pepper in chocolate!

  11. LuAnn Says:

    I ordered some Shichimi Togarashi or Japanese Seven Spice from the Spice House in Chicago and use it in everything — vegetable stir-fries, stews, rice and on noodles. Adds so much flavor and a little heat. They also sell a wonderful Vietnamese cinnamon that is really sweet and terrific — I throw that in chili and sprinkle it on yogurt.

  12. Anne Bramley Says:

    The Spice House really is wonderful, isn’t it, LuAnn? One of the things I really miss about Chicago. I remember that cinnamon so well. But now I’m curious about what’s in this Japanese Seven Spice.

  13. Anne Bramley Says:

    I am already so warmed just thinking about Koreshte Kadu. What a heavenly mixture, Ramin. I must try this. And thank you for explaining garam — understanding makes food so much more meaningful.

  14. Anne Bramley Says:

    I’m intrigued by star anise in seafood stews, Mariana, as well as black pepper in chocolate. Recipes? Recipes!

  15. Leslie Says:

    I love chili during winter, especially green chili! We’re lucky enough to live somewhere where there are many ethnic grocery stores, as well as a Penzey’s Spice store not too far away. I can run over to the Grand Mart that sells ingredients for just about every Asian and Hispanic cuisine. I buy a huge number of poblano peppers and tomatillos, roast them, and puree them. I use either pork or chicken, chicken stock, torn corn tortillas (for thickening) onions, garlic, and lots of cumin!

  16. Debra Daniels-Zeller Says:

    Salsa–and it has to be the best, and I found that in Austin, Texas where my sister lives. Could be I visit her in the fall just for the Texas salsa I bring home.

  17. Anne Bramley Says:

    Two more for the southern parts of North America! How wonderful to have a seasonal ritual like that, Debra. And Leslie, you are a woman after my own heart. I fall back on dinner of slow-cooked pork shoulder with lots of green chillies and cumin this time of year. You two, too, are making me miss Chicago and it’s excellent Mexican food.

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