Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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caraway, and chile powder, while baharat, a warm, all-purpose Middle Eastern spice blend popular in Egypt is made with loads of black pepper, cumin, coriander, and cloves. Street foods like savory brik pastries, meat kebabs such as kofte and shwarma, and hearty dishes like Egypt's kosheri (a lentil and rice dish) are part of everyday life. Small plates for sharing, like babaganoush eggplant dip, are common restaurant fare. And of course, there's Morocco's famous mint tea. "It grows all over the place," says von Bargen. Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Simple Cafe chef/owner Samia Behaya was born and raised in France by first generation Algerian parents, and says that North African cuisine, for her, is rooted in tradition and culture. "I wanted to create a place that is real and authentic to what it was like cooking from my parents' home." Algeria is such a unique place and it stands out from other North African countries because of our rich history. Whether it is because we were colonized by the French, or the way Algerian cuisine is inf luenced by various other cultures such as Berber and Arabic, it is that variety and diversity of culture that blends into the way we approach making food." First-time customers often mistake her menus for Moroccan food, but she's happy to play the role of chef-educator. "Couscous, tagine, and tchoutouka—with their full f lavors and North African colors—have become much more mainstream," she notes. At Simple Cafe, Behaya serves babaganoush, and a vegetable and chickpea tagine with couscous alongside creative dishes like cumin fries and a Vietnamese-style Bánh mì sandwich made with merguez lamb sausage. At her other restaurant, LOT45, there's Algerian boreck (a f laky pastry with seasonal fillings), steak frites, and Bluepoint oysters with harissa cocktail sauce. Chef Lior Lev Sercarz, spice blender to some of the world's top chefs, recently created a custom dukkah spice blend for Chef Michael Mina's namesake restaurant that speaks to Mina's Egyptian heritage. "Egypt has more inf luences from the Middle East than you would see in central or western North Africa," says Lev Sercarz. "The reality is that each country is so different from one another. They're all in North Africa but the dishes and cooking methods are different." Regional Spices Lev Sercarz explains that one of the defining features that sets North Africa apart from the cuisines of neighboring Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries is how they use spices, which can be attrib- uted to the influence of age-old trade routes. "Ras al hanout, harissa, and dukkah are all pretty popular nowadays. They've been growing the past three to five years," he says. "They often share a mix between the sweet and savory—sweet from spices, not sugar." Fragrant spices like rose petals, orange blos- soms, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are often combined with savory cumin, caraway, and chiles. "Tagine spice blends are common in North Africa and a sign of personal culinary style, as each one is different," he says. At La Boîte, Lev Sercarz's destination spice shop in Manhattan, his own Marrakesh spice blend captures that iconic sweet-savory profile with a blend of cumin, cinnamon, thyme, and other spices, and is perfect for f lavoring skewered meat or couscous. The Tangier blend—the chef 's play on ras el hanout—has a warm and f loral note thanks to rose petals, cinnamon, and cardamom. Izak is a low-heat, harissa-inspired dry blend that's great on many foods, even pizza. PHOTO: SIMPLE CAFE 96 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com global cuisine Tabil, a staple spice mix popular in Tunisia and Algeria, is made with coriander, caraway, and chile powder, while baharat, a warm, all-purpose Middle Eastern spice blend popular in Egypt is made with loads of black pepper, cumin, coriander, and cloves. PHOTO: LA BOÎTE

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