Search This Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Exploratory Food Excursion

I entered a book at work the other day called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese about how to make at home foodstuffs that are usually store-bought. Some of the stuff isn't vegan (like, um, grinding and stuffing yr own sausages...) but from a DIY and self-sufficiency standpoint, the book looked great. Plus the author has already done all the dirty work for us, meaning we don't have to buy all the ingredients and do all the work to produce something that tastes essentially similar and may cost more to make yourself.
I was particularly compelled by the book because it's now officially the holiday season and I typically like to stay anti-consumerist or support smaller, independent companies in my gifting. Plus, there is nothing more heartfelt than a nice, homemade gift. So when I stumbled upon a very interesting recipe in Make the Bread, I knew I had to run out and get some spices, obscure though they may be.
Hence, Kalustyan's! This was my first time at this amazing place, despite having heard many recommendations. It is a specialty foods store established in Manhattan in 1944 and now carries an amazing assortment of ethnic ingredients, groceries, beverages, and condiments - as well as housing a small selection of prepared foods.

                                             Towering wall of EVERYTHING EVER (A-C)

                                                           Everything ever, in jar form

                      Preserved lemons, cornichons, cabbage salads, I don't even know what

Bamboo Rice! Never even heard of such a thing. Next to Forbidden Rice and Basmati Rice and like 7 million other rices.

                       Prepared refrigerated stuff: turnip pickles, preserved lemons, kimchee

There were also rows of chips and such, frozen foods, filo dough, dried fruit in bulk (I stayed away), candies, tahini, tea... and even a small section of kitchenware and little cups for Arabian coffee! Needless to say, I could have been there for a long time. My OCD loves these shelves and collections, claustrophobic though it was in there. I stuck dutifully to my list, though, (mostly) and came home with these:

Ajvar (Spicy red pepper spread), vegetarian moussaka, and dried shiitake mushrooms are in the middle there - those were impulse purchases. For the present/project are: anise seeds, cardamom seeds, vanilla beans (in the bag and DAMN are they expensive), juniper berries, allspice berries, and whole cloves.
Any guesses as to what I'm making? I'll probably tell you when I start the project but I just want to be certain that the people I'm gifting this don't read the blog. And, ah, since the recipe only calls for a bit of each of these spices...does anyone have any ideas on how to use up some of these things? Or does anyone want a little bag mailed to them? Cloves, anise seed, anyone? Anyone?
That's all for now, though I also want to show you breakfast, inspired by Shen's smoothie yesterday. Hers looks a little nicer and thicker, but this was definitely different from what I usually smoothicize and very tasty.

Spinach, 1 1/2 frozen bananas, tahini, spirulina, coconut flakes, molasses. Cinnamon on top, next to my yoga mat which I actually used this morning - but as you may notice, the end is still curled a bit because it has been far too long since I've exercised at all.


  1. Maude Maude Maude...two or three stops from Brooklyn but it's another world! First their spices are way fresh and expensive. Cheaper places are the Middle Eastern places on Atlantic Avenue or Sixth and First for pure Indian or even 28th right around the corner from Kulystan's.
    Since the spices are not ground they will keep a long time if frozen. When you need them defrost, maybe toast, and grind!

  2. What a wonderful adventure! I love the idea of making gifts for people and try to get away with it as much as possible but most people aren't really feeling it. I'll send away a few homemade treats but unfortunately consumerism is still king :( That store seems amazing! I love finding new stores and taking my time and finding new things to try. You can probably make some sort of mulled wine with the leftovers? Or maybe add it to loose tea leaves and brew up your own homemade spicy tea? Smoothie looks great and yay for yoga! It has been far too long since I've practiced, I need to work it into my schedule again. Can't wait to see what you make, and the book sounds really interesting!

  3. So I just typed up a long comment and it seems to have disappeared into the blogosphere :( That is sad. The just of it was that the book sounds really interesting and your adventure sounds like fun! I love exploring new places and finding new products. You can probably make mulled wine or homemade spiced tea with the extra spices or freeze them? Can't wait to see what you make and the smoothie looks great! Oh and yay for yoga, I need to start practicing again!

  4. That looks like one amazing (albeit overwhelming) shopping experience. I would probably have stood in awe of the variety of items stocked, before trying with all my might to resist impulse buying. The book also sounds interesting. It looks like you could make a tasty, wintry spice blend with your list items. That was probably the obvious guess, haha.

  5. It sounds like you're making a mulled cider type drink in a large batch (bath tub perhaps?) to give to friends & relatives.

    Please do get the Smoothie recipe down so I can make it at home. It was one of the most delicious things I've had in many many years.

  6. I love shops like that — especially if I have a list of things to buy and a plan to use them. Otherwise I get overwhelmed and don't know what to get. I recently bought some of the same spices to make a Sri Lankin curry powder. Juniper berries are something I've never purchased, and now I'm itching to make something with them. But what?

  7. Oh my god, I'd go insane in a store like that. It's bad enough here as it is where I have to go all over town to stock up on my ethnic spices and dried goods. I tried za'atar balabi for the first time today (a Middle Eastern spice mix with thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and a few other things), and it was so good! There's a whole great big glorious universe of spice mixes out there--I can hardly wait to see what you make!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. whoa, I guess my post got messed up or something too. It looked like it was in some other language..or maybe it's my computer..haha! ah!

    Anyway, I said:
    Bamboo rice! that's crazy. But incredibly cool.
    I get lost just walking through the door in places like that. You can't possibly see everything without missing big chunks. I'm pretty jealous though. They don't have a shop like that one around here.

  10. Very cool! You must have been like a kid in a....spice store?

  11. Fun excursion! I love shops like that. I've seen the bamboo rice before, and was almost going to buy some once, but never did.

    I'm thinking those spices might make a nice infusion of some sort. I'll be looking forward to seeing the finished product.

  12. Looks like a fun place to shop! I have absolutely no idea what you could be making...

  13. Wow I love that store!!! I've never been, but it looks awesome! You got some great spices! I love the smoothie too. It looks like a normal one I would have :)

  14. New grocery store explorations are the best! I swear, I would be thrilled to go on a grocery shopping date.

    Wish there was a Kalustyan's near me, I've heard such great things.

  15. Fun store. I'm sure you have something very cool you're making.

  16. Oh wow....I would be in so much trouble if we had a store like that where I live. Way to go by sticking to your list. Someone would have to drag me out of that store.
    Never bought anise seeds or juniper berries. I would have no idea what to do with them. What are you making....hmmmm? Is it what Shen said? I also love giving homemade gifts. I'm still undecided as to what I'm going to do this year. Sounds like a very cool book!


Leave a message and I'll call you back.