Maura Alia Badji
Grocery store brands, dollar store finds, more local fruits and veggies, less red meat, and home-cooked meals over take out---these are some of the cost-cutting measures I've adopted during this long recession.
I like the challenge of saving the most money while getting the best food for my small family.
However, there are two things I won't stint on: good dark chocolate and fine spices. The right spices and marinades can dress up economical meals, enriching flavor and enhancing texture. I consider it a double win if I can find reasonably priced fine spices and herbs.
Awaken Savor's fine spice and herb blends offer exotic and enticing tastes from around the world at prices that don't break your budget.
One of my favorite Awaken Savor blends is Ras el Hanout , a rosy-hued rub which includes saffron stigma, mild paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander seed, cassia, turmeric, fennel seed, allspice, green cardamom seed, whole dill seed, galangal, nutmeg, rosebud powder, bay leaves, caraway seed, cayenne pepper, clove, mace, cubeb pepper, brown cardamom, lavender flowers, orris root.
Its subtle yet intense aroma, which reminded me of the Chicken Tikka Masala I had enjoyed for years at my favorite restaurant in Seattle, Cedars on Brooklyn, compelled me to prepare a home-cooked version.
I also prepared chicken breasts, marinated in olive oil and pomegranate-infused wine vinegar with a pinch of salt (a habit I haven't totally dropped), and then grilled for a quick lunch with steamed jasmine rice and greens.
Za'atar is a peppery, smoky traditional Middle Eastern blend of thyme, oregano, basil, savory, whole dry marjoram, ground sumac berries, sesame seeds, orange peel, and hyssop.
Za'atar is something of an aquired taste. However, I enjoyed Awaken Savor's version much more than Penzey's Fine Spices blend, which I used a few years ago and found to be a little bitter.
I whipped up a simple olive oil and lemon juice based marinade with a pinch of salt and chopped chives. There was enough to divide for use on grilled tilapia filets one day and baked chicken breasts the next. The blend has a multi-layered flavor which enhanced both the poultry and fish.
I approached Texas Tear Dropper meat rub with some trepidation. A fiery blend of chipotle, cayenne, aleppo, chiles, black peppercorns, wasabi, and mustard, I had been warned it was HOT. However, after marinading a London Broil in the rub with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil and grilling it to medium rare, I found the spice-infused meat extremely flavorful with just the right amount of heat. It also has a strong and delicious aroma.
All Awaken Savor blends are salt free; I added a small amount of salt to two of the marinades I prepared, but you can easily do without. They are all natural and each product comes with a recipe card that includes the origin of the blend.
Awaken Savor products are available at www.awakensavor.com, and at many fine food stores.