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One-Spice Magic

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

Spices have the incredible potential to transform a simple dish, and you don’t need a mélange of them to create tremendous flavor. Add cumin to hummus; paprika to fish; or cinnamon to brisket and these foods take on a life of their own as a single spice works its magic.

I am passionate about one-spice dishes because of an experience I had this summer, cooking in a makeshift kitchen with a very limited pantry. My husband worked as the drama director at a Jewish sleep-away camp, where we lived for eight weeks in a cabin. After eating two disappointing meals in the camp’s commissary, I went to Walmart and outfitted our small space with an electric burner and a few basic pots. I bought a slab of wood to function as a countertop and used our bathroom sink to wash the dishes.

In this rustic set-up, I made the most glorious, tasty, healthful meals. Best of all, my limited pantry led me to discover the power of letting one spice do its job.

Of the dishes I created this summer, one of our favorites was stewed chicken with paprika, summer squash and chickpeas, which we enjoyed at many outdoor Shabbat dinners amidst the beautiful backdrop of the Catskill Mountains. This one-pot main course lets the stove — and the paprika — do all the work.

Now that it’s fall, I can’t stop making it.


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