F is for Five-Spice

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Chinese five-spice powder typically includes ground star anise, fennel, Chinese cinnamon (cassia), cloves and Sichuan peppercorns (not necessarily in equal amounts), plus spices such as ginger and black pepper. The aromatic blend depends on who’s mixing it up. But hey, that’s more than five! The name refers not to the number of spices, but to what the Chinese consider to be five principal tastes. They aim to balance the yin and yang in food – warm and sweet vs. cool and pungent. Chinese five-spice powder is not just for Chinese food. Try it in spice cookies, desserts and drinks. (Check out this decadent Spiced Honey Hot Chocolate.) Or use it to make seasoned kosher salt for your next barbecue. Five-spice works best with assertive or fatty meats, such as pork, beef and duck. It holds up in braises, roasts, stir-fries and marinades. It overwhelms lean chicken, seafood and vegetables. Grinding spices, pg. 151 in 12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets.

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12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets

Paperback, 704 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose

In thousands of entries on every aspect of cooking and baking, Susan Sampson provides expert information that is indispensable in any kitchen, including: keeping produce safe from spoilage, protecting equipment from nasty bacteria, shortcuts, embellishments, restaurant tricks, presentation tips, party planning and recipe development.

Whether just browsing or desperately trying to solve a vexing emergency, every home cook will treasure this book.

Susan Sampson (a.k.a. The Fare Lady) is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer who lives in Toronto.