Curated and adapted by Gary Meyer
Spices from the Oaktown Spice Shop can take a very good dish to new levels.
C.J. Hirschfield wrote about Oaktown as they have adapted during the pandemic to provide their goods to home chefs around the world. EatDrinkFilms has chosen some recipes and comments from their website (plus one of our own) to get you started.
There is a full meal starting with Bloody Mary cocktails, a zucchini salad, strawberry spaghetti, and chewy molasses cookies for dessert; plus great popcorn idea to eat while watching an after-dinner movie.
The spices used will have a link directly to a description on the OSS website. Everything is available by mail-order and if you live in the bay area you can arrange for pick-up.
Bloody Mary for Two
Sunday brunches were made for Bloody Marys. Celery salt is a classic ingredient in this savory cocktail, but our Grand Lake Shake builds on that flavor, adding onion, garlic, white pepper and more.
4 oz your choice of vodka
2 tsp dijon mustard
8 oz tomato juice
2-4 dashes hot sauce
2 tsp. Grand Lake Shake, divided
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 lemon wedges
1 dill pickle spear
1 lime wedge
1 stalk celery
Rub the lime wedge around the rims of two pint glasses and roll the rims in 1 tsp of Grand Lake Shake. Fill glasses with ice. In a cocktail shaker, add vodka, tomato juice, mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Grand Lake Shake and cover and shake.
Pour over ice and garnish with lemon wedge, dill pickle, and celery. Feel free to add other garnishes like olives, pickled peppers or green beans, cheese wedges, beef sticks, shrimp cocktail, etc.
Raw Zucchini Salad with Poivre a La Mode
Sometimes I ask myself, what were we thinking when we named a spice blend “Poivre a la Mode?” The title often prompts questions and befuddlement among our customers. What is this…Poivre a la Mode, they ask?
To this, we answer: It’s our gussied-up version of lemon pepper. And it really would have been a shame to simply call this blend “lemon pepper,” as it is so much more than that.
Of course it contains fragrant, potent lemon zest and the highest quality black pepper.
But it also features Amchoor Powder, or dried unripe mango. Amchoor is traditionally used as an ingredient in Indian cuisine. In this blend it adds another layer of tartness with an ever-so-slightly sweet note.
Finally, we’ve incorporated a fragrant and savory mix of thyme and green onion, making this a one-of-a-kind seasoning befitting its name, Poivre a la Mode.
It’s delicious on chicken and fish, not to mention eggs and popcorn. Here, we’ve whisked it into the easiest salad dressing for the simplest summer salad.
I use an old-fashioned mandolin to shave the zucchini; you can also use a box grater, a regular mandolin, a vegetable peeler or a spiralizer.
If you’d like to dress it up a bit more, this salad is delicious with a handful of fresh herbs such as mint or basil; toasted nuts or crumbled feta cheese.
The result is a bright, zingy side dish perfect for your next BBQ. Very a la mode indeed!
Juice of a lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Poivre a la Mode
1 teaspoon flake salt
1 pound zucchini
First, make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and Poivre a la Mode.
Trim the ends of the zucchini. Use a mandoline or vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini into thin strips. When you are ready to serve, combine the zucchini and the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and add salt or more lemon juice if desired.
Optional add-ins: fresh herbs such as mint or basil, toasted pine nuts.
Spaghetti, Strawberries, Tomato, Balsamic
If one visited the Manhattan Italian restaurant Sfoglia during the strawberry season you might have seen an item on the menu that sounded odd—“Spaghetti, Strawberries, Tomato, Balsamic.” If you were with people who had eaten it they would insist you give the dish a try. And after a few tastes of this heaven, you wanted it again. But alas the restaurant has new owners/chefs.
“During our stay in Reggio Emilia, Colleen and I worked briefly at Ristorante Picci, owned by the Picci family, who also produced their own balsamic vinegar. It was at the restaurant that we discovered the Italian habit of macerating strawberries in balsamic vinegar. The slight acidity of the vinegar serves not only to emphasize their sweetness but also to accelerate the release of their juices. We found this combination very pleasing.
When we opened our first Sfoglia restaurant on Nantucket, we joined in a local island activity and picked our own berries from local farmers’ strawberry fields. It was then that I remembered our Italian strawberry experience and envisioned balsamic vinegar–macerated strawberries tossed with some spaghetti. When I told Colleen about my idea, she suggested that I add acidic tomatoes to counterbalance the sweet-tart strawberries. We have customers who come to the restaurant once a year just for Spaghetti, Strawberries, Tomato, Balsamic. It’s become one of our signature dishes. There is only a small window between May and June for enjoying this pasta because it can be made only with ripe and in-season strawberries.”
Cathy Meyer has made it often since tasting it there. Like many cooks, she has experimented. The amounts do not need to be exact and she adds bell peppers, sautéed onions, and has made the finished dish even better by seasoning with Oaktown Spice Shop’s Aleppo Chile Pepper Flakes.
Here’s the recipe. Serves 2-4
1 pound good-quality dried spaghetti or fettuccine (or experiment with a pasta of your choice)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil per your taste
1 pound ripe strawberries, cleaned and halved; small berries left whole
2 tablespoons good aged balsamic vinegar (Try Amphora Nueva for great choices)
2 cups San Marzano tomato purée or a combo of diced tomatoes & puree
4 ounces reserved pasta water
1 large red onion, diced
1-2 diced garlic cloves
1-2 red and/or yellow bell peppers
½ teaspoon Sea salt or kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Oaktown Spice Shop Aleppo Chile Pepper Flakes
- In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil and sauté the onion until softened. Add garlic & half of the strawberries over medium heat. Cook the strawberries until tender—the sides will become transparent and start to release juice. Add optional bell peppers.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add vinegar to strawberries and reduce by half. The sauce will appear syrupy. Use your hands to squeeze and break up the tomatoes directly into the skillet. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer.
- Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions or al dente. Use a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs to remove the spaghetti from the pot and place them directly into the skillet. Stir to coat the spaghetti with the sauce. Save 4 ounces of reserved pasta water.
- Add tomato purée, the rest of the strawberries, and the reserved pasta water, and reduce by half again until the sauce thickens. Season to taste.
- Oaktown Spice’s Aleppo Chile Pepper flakes gives it a perfect zing. Finish with olive oil, salt and black pepper as desired.
- Serve immediately.
Add Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese if you like.
Gael Greene writes about the restaurant and their cooking and here are the pages in their cookbook about this recipe. New York magazine published a variation. The above is a combination of their two versions and Cathy’s personal adaptations.
Since the Suhanoskys no longer own Sfoglia the dish is not on the menu. The couple are divorced and each runs a small restaurant in Boston but neither place has a strawberry spaghetti dish on the menu. Lucky for you it can be easily made in your kitchen for a fraction of the price we paid in New York.
Mama Jane’s Crinkle-Top Chewy Molasses Cookies
“Mama Jane” is my best friend from high school’s mom. We spent many afternoons and weekends in the cozy breakfast nook of her kitchen, snacking on her scrumptious cookies or fresh-baked bread.
Now, Mama Jane is a devoted Oaktown Spice Shop customer, even though she still lives in Southern California.
She was tickled that I wanted her recipe. When I wrote her to ask, she said, “I had to laugh! I’ve been making these since I was 12 years old, but they weren’t perfected until I was in my 60’s and started using Oaktown Spice spices!” Thank you, Mama Jane!
These molasses cookies really sing with the addition of our freshly ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Thick and chewy with crackled sugary tops, they’re perfect for an after-school snack with cold milk.
Makes about 36 cookies
¾ cup soft shortening or butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup molasses (I used Grandma’s Unsulphured Original)
2 ¼ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 ½ teaspoons Saigon Cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons Ground Ginger
2-3 tablespoons (or more) Crystallized Ginger (optional)
Turbinado Cane Sugar, “Sugar in the Raw” or any crunchy kind of sugar available for the topping
Mix shortening or butter, sugar, egg, and molasses thoroughly. Measure flour, then mix all dry ingredients into flour. Stir everything together. Chill dough for about an hour.
Heat oven to 375. Gently roll chilled dough in 1¼” balls (or whatever size you want! I don’t actually roll the dough into balls but just take “chunks” out).
Dip tops into a bowl of water and then into a bowl of the crunchy sugar. Place sugared side up on baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Bake 10-12 minutes or just until set but not hard. If you leave them on the sheet for a minute or so, they are easier to remove. Cool on baking rack.
For written instructions go here.
Spicy Sweet Curry Popcorn
We are big fans of popcorn in our house, not only because it’s the perfect snack to go with movie night, but because it’s a great palette for spice experiments!
Curry powder adds a beautiful yellow hue to popcorn, and the combination of the savory notes with a touch of honey is pretty addictive. Plus, the honey helps the spice to stick.
Spicy Sweet Curry Popcorn
3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Madras Curry Powder*
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Whisk in honey and salt. Whisk 1 tablespoon curry powder into the oil-butter-honey mixture.
Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in another pot over high heat. Test the oil by putting one kernel in. If it pops right away, it’s hot enough. Add the rest of the kernels, stir and put the lid on the pot. Shake vigorously until the popping slows down.
Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and add the spice mixture, tossing with a spoon to coat. Add more salt, spice or butter as desired.
* You can substitute your favorite curry powder, such as Jamaican Curry, Japanese Curry, Thai Curry or Vadouvan. If you use Vadouvan, which includes salt, you might want to reduce the added salt in the popcorn recipe.