A Feast for All the Senses

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As I mentioned in a previous post “The Business of a Business You Love” ((https://passportdinnersblog.com/2016/10/14/the-business-of-a-business-you-love/), the great re-boot of my company, my vision, my passion has been quite a process.

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My original Exotic Moroccan Feast box, pictured to the left and below, was fine.

 

 

 

 

It had all the organic dry ingredients and menu & preparation instructions you needed to have a nice theme dinner party, plus decorating ideas and music choices to complete the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I desired to provide a more authentic experience, a feast for all the senses. So after being introduced to Renda from The Argan Project, Renda was able to provide me with a contact in Morocco, Farid,  through whom I could add items to my Exotic Moroccan Feast, giving the venturous cook a more authentic experience. Still great menu ideas. Still all organic food items. All our food items are hand picked and carefully measured to give you the perfect amount needed for each dish.

Even more Historical & Cultural information plus more Moroccan music choices. But enhanced with additional products such as a premium loose leaf Moroccan mint tea, sweetened with organic cane sugar, culinary Argan oil, organic raw honeys, organic Ras el Hanout Moroccan spice blend, a hand painted mini tagine, plus a hand of Fatima key chain.

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Whether you’re the venturous home cook yourself,img_3744or you wish to give a unique gift to those special foodie friends of yours, shop now at passportdinners.com. Our exotic ingredients will help you create a unique international dinner party for all the senses. And become a Passport Dinners Loyalty Rewards member.

 

 

 

 

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Taste the World, One Box at a Time

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Sassy Saffron

As the most expensive spice in the world, you may wonder if saffron is worth it, and you might wonder what it tastes like. Given its price tag, up to $2700 per pound, you may assume it’s sweet ambrosia. In fact, saffron is somewhat bitter, but its flavor is also complex.  Some say honey-like.  Some say bitter.  I say earthy, a little like fresh hay, and a little goes a long ways.

The word saffron derives from the Arab word zafaran, meaning yellow, and it was mentioned as far back as 1500 b.c. in many classical writings, as well as in the Bible.  It has been used by the Assyrians in 7th century BC, by the Persians in 10th century BC, by the Chinese in offerings to Buddha in 3rd century AD, by the Moors in France in 8th century AD, and in the Americas in the 1700’s.  It has been prized as an aphrodisiac.  It has been used for medicinal purposes.  It has been used to add color to cloth.  But I prefer to use it in cooking.

Saffron threads can release aroma, flavor and color for 24 hours or more, depending on their quality.  Many people try to cultivate saffron and may use pesticides and chemicals to try to protect this expensive spice from pests. Chemicals can ruin the value of saffron. Organic saffron is stronger in taste and sometimes even cheaper than chemically sprayed saffron.  It is definitely to your advantage to purchase only organic saffron.  Our DIY dinner kits at Passport Dinners contain only organic saffron of the highest quality.

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus.  The saffron crocus blooms with its delicate violet flower each Autumn in various countries such as Iran, Greece, and Spain.

Crocus sativus in Conservatoire National des P...Each saffron crocus grows from 8 to 12 inches tall and, in a good year, bears several flowers, each with three bright crimson stigmas, the female part of the saffron crocus.  The stigmas are the only part of the saffron crocus that when dried (cured) properly become commercial saffron.  The male part of the saffron flower, the stamens, are half the size of the stigmas, are deep yellow, and have NO culinary value.  Beware of saffron that has added weight from these yellow stamens.  Look for the vivid crimson saffron only.

And that price tag?  It is estimated that it takes some 14,000 stigmas to produce only one ounce of saffron threads.  When the saffron crocus blooms, usually for a 3 week time period, the  harvesting and processing begins.  Open flowers are picked and then carefully dissected to extract the stigmas.  They are dried over heat and then packaged for sale.  This labor-intensive process generates the cost of these crimson threads.  

The saffron crocus provides the deep yellow color and pungent flavor that is critical for the success of some of the world’s most traditional dishes:  bouillabaisse from France, lamb curries from India, paella from Spain (as in Passport Dinners DIY Valencian paella kit), risotto milanese from Italy, or preserved lemon chicken from Morocco (as in Passport Dinners DIY Fez Preserved Lemon Chicken kit).

If you haven’t tried it before, pick up a container of organic-only saffron threads, and travel the world through food with the most expensive spice in the world.  Or try one of our DIY dinner kits that already have that crimson spice included.

Try a taste of the world, a culinary journey, with our DIY dinner adventure kits at passportdinners.com

Sweet or Savory? Cinnamon

Organic Saigon Cinnamon

Spicy.  Sweet.  Woody.  Certainly fragrant.  What is the scent of cinnamon?  When you open a package or bottle of cinnamon you are transported.  Maybe to Grandma’s house.  Maybe to an exotic land.  Maybe in something sweet.  Maybe in something savory.

One of our favorite ingredients to use at Passport Dinners is fragrant cinnamon. Our Moroccan cinnamon & honey dinner kits include organic Saigon Cinnamon (genus Cinnamomum), which is more closely related to Cassia (C. Aromaticum), native to Burma, than to Cinnamon (C. Verum), native to Sri Lanka.  Saigon Cinnamon also is considerably higher in essential oils than either Cassia or Cinnamon, and commands a higher price.

You don’t even have to open one of our seasoning packets with cinnamon to catch a whiff.  Those essential oils waft out as soon as you open the lid to the dinner kit box.

When you purchase cinnamon make it a high quality cinnamon such as Saigon Cinnamon, keep it in a cool place, and use it quickly.  You don’t want to lose any of that spicy, sweet, and woody fragrance.  Better yet, buy the cinnamon sticks and grind them yourself in a spice grinder.  Trust me, you’ll never go back to that bottled stuff at the grocery store.

Try a taste of the world, a culinary journey, with our DIY dinner adventure kits at passportdinners.com.

Yay, It’s Olympics Time!

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????How do you celebrate the Olympics?  Or do you?

My family so looks forward to when the Olympics come around, winter or summer sports, doesn’t matter.  We grab our Olympic mugs, resplendent with Sam the Eagle, that we picked up when the Games hit L.A. in 1984, and plop in front of the big screen to gulp coffee and watch our favorite events.Sam the Eagle!

Of course, we had to start off Friday’s opening ceremony with some small plates from various countries.  How about tasty sardines in olive oil from Spain that I picked up from the grocer?

I can think of many, many small plates I love from Spain, but I didn’t want to ignore some great foods from other countries.

So next we headed to the African continent for a savory chicken bisteeya.  Creamy, crunchy, and a little sweet with powdered sugar and toasted, sweetened almonds. I’ll include the info on this bisteeya variation in a future post.

OK, so not necessarily a favorite of my family’s, but I enjoyed it:  Smoked salmon with cream cheese and fresh dill, served with capers and crackers (damn camera ate my photo!), along with the July cocktail of the month:  the Dawa from Kenya.  Tart, cold, a little sweet becoming sweeter as you stir the dawa stick into the cocktail https://passportdinnersblog.com/2012/07/27/julys-cocktail-of-the-month-out-of-africa/.  Neither the smoked salmon and cream cheese spread or the dawa were difficult to make.

Hmmm, need something a little asian:  chicken shu mai, little steamed dumplings, from the grocer, dipped in a mix of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and chili oil.  Yep, that works.

Then pay homage to the USA with a Santa Maria style grilled tri tip, fired on the grill to perfection by my honey, paired with a Cote du Rhone from France. 

I think this was just an excuse to eat some great food.

How do you celebrate the Olympics?

Try a taste of the world, a culinary journey, with our DIY dinner adventure kits at passportdinners.com.