A spicy combination


Spices were the most precious commodity of the ancient world, treasured during the millenniums before refrigeration and modern food-preservation techniques for their therapeutic and culinary value. Fundamental to everything from ketchup to wedding cake, spices are still the most widely used seasoning after salt.

Harvested in a variety of forms -- as flower buds (clove), berries (allspice), seed kernels (nutmeg) or bark (cinnamon) -- dried whole spices can up be kept up to two years if stored away from kitchen heat, light and moisture.

Steeping spices releases some of their exotic perfume and flavor, but their potency is greatest when freshly crushed or ground.

Copyright Cole Publishing Group

Banana-Nut cake

Makes one 8-inch cake

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 soft-ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

1 egg

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 1/4 cups flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon each: salt and ground nutmeg

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


1/4 cup each: flour and firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl of electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy; blend in banana, sour cream or yogurt, egg and orange zest.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture alternately with milk, blending after each addition just until combined. Spread in a greased, 8-inch-square baking pan.

Sprinkle evenly with streusel, then with walnuts.

Bake until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (35 to 40 minutes). Let cool slightly before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Streusel: In a small bowl, mix flour, sugars and cinnamon. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.

Mulled Cider

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon whole allspice

5 whole cloves

1 3-inch strip lemon zest

1 stick (2 to 3 inches) cinnamon

4 cups cider or apple juice

In 2-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients. Place over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes to meld flavors. Strain into heat-proof mugs.

Pub Date: 01/31/99

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