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What is Baharat Spice?

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Question: What is Baharat Spice?
After reading your blog and reviewing recipes, I decided to visit my local Middle Eastern/Medterranean grocery store to buy a few items. The owner of the store recommended a few different spices, including something called baharat. I am able to decipher what the other spices are, but I have no idea what baharat is and how to use it. What can baharat be used for? What does it taste like? Is is spicy? I can't wait to use it next time I cook, but I want to make sure I use it correctly and with the right food (chicken, seafood, or beef?) I am new to Middle Eastern food and need a little help! Can you please tell me about baharat spice?
Answer: Baharat is very common in Middle Eastern cooking. It is not actually one spice, but a blend of several spices. What spices are included in the blend vary geographically, but you can generally expect the following spices to be found in baharat: black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, paprika, and cinnamon. Again, it does vary geographically, so your baharat may contain additional spices or may not have all the spices I have listed. For example, in Turkey, baharat often contains mint. A lot of people like baharat because it does not contain any salt.

Baharat can be used many ways in the kitchen. From seasoning meat and vegetables, it can also be used a dry rub or marinade for both for veggies and meats. It is also used to season seafood. It is by no means spicy. It is aromatic and gives a little zest to any dish -- especially, rice, lentil, and pilaf dishes. It has a very nice blend of both sweet and smoky, which you can probably ascertain by giving the open jar a little sniff.

I use it in everything from hamburgers to lamb chops. For recipes using ground beef, I mix the baharat into the meat before cooking. I usually use about 1 teaspoon for every pound of ground beef. While the taste is not overpowering, it is very aromatic, hence such a small amount. I don't want the aromatic smell to influence the taste buds, so I am pretty conservative with the spice.

I also use it as a marinade for chicken and lamb. I add 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons baharat, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt to a bowl or freezer bag with chicken or lamb and allow to marinate for 24 hours. The results are absolutely delicious and can only be achieved by using a blend of spices like baharat.

For a zest version of pita bread, I like to brush a little butter or olive oil onto pita bread and sprinkle a little baharat on the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 250 degrees and you have bread with a little "kick"!

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