Nutmeg

February 28th, 2012 2 Comments

We now begin the trip home.  The American Birkebeiner ski marathon is over, the car is packed to the gills and we are pointed south heading towards brown grass and re-entry into the world.

After leaving the home-base cabin we stopped in at the “00” trails near Seeley for one last ski.  With the new snow it was slow but it didn’t matter, it was achingly sweet as we said farewell for another year to that sweetheart of a trail, and to snow.

 

.

No pictures from the Birkie, but here are some of the Garmisch Inn, a compound that was part of the area’s connection with Chicago during Prohibition.

.

.

 

 

Hayward, Hurley and Hell (Superior) were known as “The Devil’s Triangle” because of the rough logging towns, speakeasies, brothels and mob hideouts.  Many of these places have been turned into retreats and resorts, check here for more about that topic.

.

.

.

.

And now, on to food…

We were running around a lot during the activities of Birkie, so there was not much cooking going on this week.  Instead I’ll rave about one of my favorite ingredients.

Nutmeg, a lovely little nugget and a cook’s faithful Helper. It is endearingly referred to as The Italian MSG, enhancing the flavor of everything it touches.  It not just enhances, it helps to expand flavor and spreads it horizontally.  It’s like “volumizing shampoo”, but it really does work!   Not a bad buddy to have in the kitchen.

 

If I had to pick 5 seasonings for my life on the deserted island (you remember…the one with the patch of kale and the tree full of chickens) it would be Nutmeg, Parsley, Thyme, Paprika and Salt.

Oh wait!  I can get salt from the ocean, so I get to choose another spice. But now I have to decide if the fifth element will be Cinnamon or Coriander…cinnamon or coriander….cinnamon or coriander??  If I had coriander, I could also plant it and get fresh cilantro, so I suppose the two-for-one aspect tips the scales for Coriander being the fifth spice.

This is a rough question, like asking which of your children you like best.

I hope the rest of my spices don’t read this.

.

If there existed an Island of Versatility…Nutmeg would be Queen of it.  Dill and mustard may be fabulous, but they have strong personalities and don’t consistently “blend” like our friend Nutmeg.

.

.

This is the pile of spices I took on the trip.  Nutmeg, Thyme, Coriander, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Granulated Garlic and crushed Red Chiles.

 

Some botanical and historical details about Nutmeg…

Nutmeg is the kernel of an apricot-like fruit from evergreen tree of the Myristica genus, native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia.  Mace is the thin leathery tissue with a reddish hue which surrounds the nutmeg kernel.

It was one of the spices for which European countries waged bloody wars, and their lust of spice (and the profits of the trade) spurred onward the mad rush to access the East by other routes, drastically changing the face of the globe and the futures of everyone on it  (there is an awesome chapter in An Edible History of Humanity delving into the spice trade).

Nutmeg trees are now grown in Indonesia, New Guinea, India and Grenada.

 

 

Nutmeg is our first adventure into the Helpers series.  More to come…

 

Foods that I season with nutmeg:

  • Red pasta sauce
  • Chicken, any style
  • White sauce/Macaroni and Cheese
  • Roast beef
  • Chili
  • Rice pilaf
  • Marinades
  • Pasta salad of all varieties
  • Lamb, Pork chops, Venison, Bison
  • Chocolate cake and brownies
  • Almost all of my Mexican cooking
  • Almost every soup I make
  • Poached pears, apples, peaches, plums
  • Most anything sweet

 

Try it in your next meal!

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Edie Jacobsen says:

    I’m sure you know this but I have found that freshly grated nutmeg is so far superior to the ground that you buy, even at our beloved coop. I now carry a grater and nut along in my travels. My other traveling spices are oregano, basil, cayenne, parsley, cinnamon, salt, pepper. a foavorite trick of mine for desserts that have a crust like apple pie is sprinkle the crust with notmeg before filling or if a graham cracker crust include nutmeg and cinnamon. Yum. Of course I use nutmeg in macaroni and cheese and some other cheese sauces.

    • Ruth says:

      Yes, grated is the best! I haven’t yet packed the little grater on my travels…but that could be coming soon. They should include a nutmeg grater on Swiss Army knives!

Leave a Reply