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Common spices steal the show in uncommon uses

San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2010) — The saying, “Too many cooks spoil the stew” certainly did not ring true at the past week’s San Francisco Chefs Food & Wine Festival. Last Thursday evening, seven bay-area chefs demonstrated their creativity and expertise at the Spice Party, a special VIP kick-off event for the festival.

The event, sponsored by Frontier Natural Products Co-op, presented various tastes showcasing similar spices in dissimilar, culturally driven dishes using spices – such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, cloves and cardamom – in unusual and original ways. The unique recipes also featured some less-well-known spices and spice blends, including vadouvan, harissa and asafoetida, specialties that aren’t usually found on your grocery store shelves but can be purchased from specialty stores and online.

Aziza Chef Mourad Lahlou created a delectable dish with egg, charmoula (a marinade used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking) and potato foam using chili, cumin and caraway. Chef Anjan Mitra of Dosa presented a cold dish called Dahi Papadi Chaat, made of bite-sized flat crispy bread, potatoes, organic yogurt and tamarind with mint-cilantro chutney, and hot lamb and potato croquettes. Some of the common spices he used were cumin, red chiles, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

Not to be outdone, New Delhi Restaurant’s Ranjan Dey whipped up Mini Samosas with tamarind chutney using cumin, coriander, ginger and other interesting seasonings such as black salt, tamarind and jaggery. Sharing the culinary spotlight were Nopa Chef Laurence Jossel’s creations -- Olive Oil Poached Spiced Albacore, and Watermelon and Tequila Sangrita, featuring popular cumin, coriander, red chili pepper and black pepper spices, along with fennel.

Chef Gerald Hirigoyen from Piperade turned out Five-Spice Oxtail Salad with herbed vinaigrette; Piperade Tartlet with serrano crisp and espelette pepper; and Marinated Sardines, with tomato concasse, which included favorite spices coriander, cinnamon and clove. Chef Hoss Zare from Zare at Fly Trap delivered Crostini with Seven-spice Braised Lamb Shank and chilled yogurt soup with raisins, cucumbers, radishes, dill, saffron oil and cumin.

While these professional chefs outdid themselves to create fabulous, exotic dishes that included everyday spices, you don’t have to be an accomplished cook to do the same. In fact, Frontier’s Ellen Bouchard says opportunities to use common spices in uncommon ways abound for home cooks. “For example, lemongrass is more commonly used as an herbal supplement, but we’re seeing more chefs use it to soften the heat in curry dishes,” suggested Bouchard.

According to Bouchard, the great thing about these spices, along with dozens of other common and not-so-common spices, is that consumers can purchase them in bulk or bottled form. “The more exotic and unusual spices are sometimes only available in bulk, which is perfect because you can literally buy a pinch or a pound,” notes Bouchard. “That way you don’t end up with a large amount of something that will go to waste because you rarely use it. Also, it allows consumers to get top-quality spices at a generally lower cost than bottled spices.”

So whether you are a pro or an aspiring home chef who likes to experiment a bit in the kitchen, try spicing up the menu by using some of these common spices in different ways. The diners at your table will find them uncommonly good.

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Note to Editors: Product samples and digital images are available upon request.

Frontier Natural Products Co-op™
Founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Natural Products Co-op(TM) offers a full line of natural and organic products under the Frontier, Simply Organic®, Aura Cacia® and Aura Cacia Organics® brands. Products include culinary herbs, spices and baking flavors; bulk herbs and spices; and natural and organic aromatherapy products. Frontier's goal is to provide consumers with the highest-quality organic and natural products while supporting and promoting social and environmental responsibility. For more information, visit Frontier's website at

Editors may directly contact either of the following subject experts:

Norway, Iowa, 52318
Contact: Dr. Ravin Donald
Telephone: 319-227-7996

CH-4153 Reinach/Switzerland
Contact: Dr. Cameon Ivarsson
Telephone: +41 79 367 21 88

(1) Microbiological safety white paper published by ASTA American Spice Trade Association accessible through their website at