A few months back I noticed a new spice store in the neighborhood. Seeing as how "the neighborhood" I speak of is one Silver Lake Junction, a mish mash of fun but ofttimes expensive stores catering to the tragically hip and excessively moneyed, I'd all but avoided the spice shop, save for the two times I attempted a pop-in in while in the neighborhood and found it closed both times.
But one sunny Saturday morning recently, I found myself at the new cafe next door to the spice store for brunch (a little place called Forage...which was delicious, but see the aforementioned tragically hip and excessively moneyed comment above) and lo and behold, Spice Station was open! So we walked down a charming little outdoor corridor, following the signs to the back patio, and found a airy, deliciously aroma-ed little store that I'd like to someday use as my home-decor muse.
The dude working the front counter couldn't have been more helpful, and explained the whole buying process once we told him it was our first visit. Dozens and dozens of interesting spices and flavored sugars lined the walls, with little jars out for visitors to sniff and sample. Alie and I wandered around in awe, opening jars and oohing and aahing over the varieties.
They also had gift sets, like the salt set that is definitely going on my birthday wish list next year. Alie ended up buying some loose tea, which they carry in excessive varieties, while I walked away with three little bags of exciting stuff.
As soon as I left the store I started plotting the meal I would make utilizing my purchases (which were not at all as expensive as I had imagined). For the balsamic salt, I halved a pound of brussel sprouts and tossed them with cubes of butternut squash and chopped kale. That was mixed with olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, and about two teaspoons (probably a little more) of the salt.
The whole concoction went on a sheet pan, which I sprinkled with even more salt, and into the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. Once the veggies were nice and caramelized, I tossed them with balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese. Holy crap it was good.
I left the hot pepper salt (the Ghost Pepper being the hottest pepper on the planet and me being a big pansy when it comes to spicy stuff) in the capable hands of Colin. He squeezed the juice of two limes, chopped about an inch of fresh ginger, and splash of olive oil and put that over low heat. Next he added about a teaspoon of the ghost pepper salt and gave it a minute on the heat to mingle. He then poured the mixture atop some cooked shrimp, which were skewered and wrapped in tin foil to marinate.
Then he grilled that shit, because he is in love with his grill and will not pass up an opportunity to cook something on his grill. Note: I am perfectly okay with this, as got-dayum, food tastes so much better when cooked on a nice grill.
For the toasted coconut sugar, the very first thing that popped into my head was: CREME BRULEE. And yes, it was in all caps because I just get that excited about creme brulee. Have you ever made it? It's deceivingly simple to prepare, although it does require some patience, a few extra dirty dishes, and a couple more steps than a simple dessert usually would. But my god it's worth it.
After making the coconut custard itself and refrigerating the little ramekins for a few hours, I sprinkled more coconut sugar than the recipe called for because I am Georgia and sugar is my favorite vice.
My motto has always [just now] been "why use a creme brulee torch when your best friend has a blow torch she's willing to let you borrow in exchange for a ramekin of delicious, delicious creme brulee?"
The meal was a complete success, with every dish yummier than the next. I can't wait to hit up the spice store again and fill my spice rack with new and exciting flavors. Maybe I'll even make it a weekly thing, and start reoccurring Spice Mondays posts. Hell, I've already used the leftover spices and sugar in pretty much everything I've cooked since. Wee!