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The Times
  • Kitchen Call: Reach for the spice rack for a winter warm-up

  • Looking for a way to take away the winter chill, short of getting on a plane to Florida? Try these warm and smoky spices.

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  • The forecast calls for more snow. Blizzard snow. Sleet. Light, fluffy snow. Swirling, snow globe snow. Weekend storms when it seems the city plows get bogged down. Weekday storms that cause hazardous commutes. The stuff piles up in increments of inches or feet.
    Sometimes the weathercasters get it right. Often their forecasts miss the mark. Either way, the anticipation sends everyone to the grocery to stockpile milk and bread. And, anticipating power outages, piling on the deli products.
    The planning, the shopping, the long, tortuous wait for the storm to materialize, freezes the soul. Leaves the frantic shoppers wishing for warmth.
    Short of hopping a plane -- if the airport is even open -- for warmer climates, the spice section provides less expensive, and tasty, solutions.
    Warm ground spices or powders heat up foods from the southern Mediterranean to the Southern hemisphere in everything from tagines to chilies. Skip right by the paprika that Grandma sprinkled on potato salad and deviled eggs. Instead, look beside it for smoked paprika. Its rich, smoky essence goes a long way to warm up bland food.
    Under “C” in that same spice section is where the chipotle powder sits, often ignored. And over in the canned or specialty foods section, find whole chipotle peppers, preserved in adobo, an even spicier flavor that seasons and sauces everything from stew to meatloaf.
    Chipotles start out as green peppers, get smoked, and dried, then ground for a spice or canned with adobo sauce. They spice up casual snack mixes, lend warm undertones to sophisticated roasted fish steaks and fillets like tuna or salmon, and light up weeknight meatloaf.
    Chipotle Snack Mix
    Makes 4 cups
    Cook’s choice: blanched or regular almonds and hazelnuts that have already been shelled.
    2 cups whole almonds
    1/2cup whole hazelnuts
    1-12 teaspoons chipotle powder
    1 teaspoon dried orange peel
    1 cup dried apricots, chopped
    1/2 cup chorizo sausage, chopped
    1/2 cup Manchego cheese, chopped
    1. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet large enough to hold them in a single layer, until lightly golden. Transfer to a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, smoked paprika and orange peel; toss until almonds are coated. Set aside to cool.
    2. Add apricots, sausage and cheese; toss until combined.
    Tuna Steaks with Smoked Paprika
    Makes 8 servings
    1/4 cup orange juice
    2 tablespoons olive oil (set aside 1 teaspoon)
    2 teaspoons dried thyme
    4 medium tuna steaks (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total weight)
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 tablespoon smoked paprika
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon grated orange zest
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    a 10-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
    Page 2 of 2 - 1. Whisk together in a large bowl the juice, olive oil and a teaspoon of thyme. Add tuna steaks, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 15 minutes, turning once or twice.
    2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    3. Toss together sugar, paprika, cinnamon and orange zest. Remove tuna from marinade; discard marinade. Place on a rimmed sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Rub top of tuna with spice mixture. Transfer tuna to the oven and roast, 10 minutes.
    4. Warm the reserved 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet. Add spinach, cooking 2 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly wilted. Plate the spinach, top with tuna steaks.
    Chipotle-Smoked Paprika Meatloaf
    Makes 6 to 8 servings
    6 strips bacon, very finely minced
    1-1/2 pound ground beef
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 cup plain dried bread crumbs
    3 eggs, beaten
    1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1 tablespoon salt
    1-1/2 teaspoons each chopped herbs: flat-leaf parsley, rosemary and thyme
    1-1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1/4 plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
    2 tablespoons sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.
    2. Mix together the bacon, ground beef, onion, cream, bread crumbs, eggs, cilantro, salt, herbs and paprika until well-incorporated.
    3. Transfer to the oven; bake, about 35 minutes, not quite done.
    4. Stir together the ketchup and sauce from the canned chilies. Remove meatloaf from the oven and pour half the sauce over it. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes longer; it should reach 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Serve with the extra sauce on the side.
    Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.

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