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Where EAST meets the Northwest


Pictured is a serving of Citrus and Spice Strawberry Compote. (Milk Street via AP)

From The Asian Reporter, V32, #9 (September 5, 2022), page 9.

Sugar and savory spices liven up summer berries

By Christopher Kimball

Christopher Kimballís Milk Street

Itís time to stop thinking about the difference between sweet and savory spices. Many cooks around the world donít make such a distinction.

In Greece and Turkey, for example, tomato sauce comes spiked with cinnamon, and in Mexico, fruit salad is sprinkled with cayenne pepper. In both cases, the spice is subtle but adds just enough contrast to make each bite more interesting.

We kept that in mind while searching for an easy way to enliven a simple summer berry compote. In this recipe from our book COOKish, which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, we tried black pepper and chili powder, a blend that can include not only spicy cayenne but also cumin, garlic, and onion powder. The combination of sweet strawberries and savory spices was a hit, the perfect topping for vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

A single teaspoon sufficed for a pound of sweet strawberries, half of which we cooked with a relatively small amount of sugar and lime zest. We lightly mashed the cooked berries and poured them over fresh ones, which softened with the compoteís heat.

Substituting garam masala, an Indian spice blend that includes warming spices like cinnamon and clove but also black pepper, mustard, and coriander, was just as good with the citrus zest and berries, though with a different flavor profile.

Editorís note: To view additional recipes, visit <>.

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Citrus and Spice Strawberry Compote

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 tablespoons white sugar, divided

Grated zest of 1 lime or 1 lemon or Ĺ medium orange

1 teaspoon chili powder or garam masala

ľ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Pinch of kosher salt

In a medium bowl, toss two-thirds of the berries with 1 tablespoon of sugar and the zest; set aside. In a small saucepan, toast the chili powder, stirring, until fragrant; add the remaining berries, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, the pepper, salt, and ľ cup water. Simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes, then mash the berries to break them down. Cook, stirring, until jammy. Immediately pour over the berries in the bowl and stir. Let stand for 10 minutes.

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