The elements of spice

How the spice scale pleases your palate at Lloyd’s Chicago, Chicago’s best restaurant for business lunches? My initial thoughts when I hear the word “spice”, I think hot burning lips and many glasses of water or milk to cool it off. The reality is spice is so complex and varies from sweet desserts to mild enhancements to dishes, to pure euphoria. The elements of spice can be defined as fiery, fresh, aromatic. Therefore, it is an integral ingredient in many of our dishes at Lloyd’s Chicago.

When we look at the element of spices you should ask what are they, what are their benefits, and how does our chef incorporate them into our comfort food menu.

Spices: What are they?

An aromatic or strongly flavored seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance used to flavor food. Some spices are cinnamon, cloves, peppers, ginger, vanilla, and nutmeg. Naturally, when you read some of these you can divide them into sweet and savory. However, many chefs are integrating the savory spices into desserts and the sweet spices in entrees. This technique is nothing new and used in many ancient and traditional cooking methods throughout the world.

Spices that are regularly used in baked goods include cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Chili peppers and cloves tend be used in more savory dishes. Countries in warmer climates use spices to keep their meat from spoiling and usually mix a few spices together. Common spice mixtures include Cajun spice from the United States, Curry powder from India, Five-spice powder from China, and Jerk spice from Jamaica. The mixture of spices are highly coveted and used in traditional methods of cooking.

Benefits of Spice

Spices are usually ground down into a powder, but some spices are available whole. Just keep in mind that these spices can hold quite a strong punch. Very small amounts of spice can go a long way. The great thing about spice is that it add loads of flavor yet very little in the calorie department. Spices are known to have antioxidant benefits and may aid in nutrient absorption.

Spice has been used since ancient times due to its ability to preserve and prevent spoilage of food. Therefore, many ancient cultures have used spices in their cooking when refrigeration and freezers where not common. One ancient process of using spices is with Kimchi. Kimchi is fermented cabbage. The cabbage is covered in spices and wrapped in leaves. The cabbage is stored underground and allowed to ferment for weeks to months. If you look on many Asian influenced menus today, Kimchi is an important element to their menu items. The spices help preserve the cabbage and turn it into a very tasty salty and tangy treat.

How our chef incorporates spices into our comfort food menu

Taken a deeper look at the elements of spices, you start to see not only are there a variety of different spices, but flavors, mixes, cooking techniques, and healthy benefits. So how does, Lloyd’s Chicago prepare dishes with spices…..

  1. Appetizers:

    Sesame seared Yellow fin Tuna, sashimi style with wasabi, ginger, & soy sauce.

In this menu item, the spice ginger is served sliced and pickled. The thinly shaved pieces are rich in antioxidants and have added benefits due to the fact it was pickled with vinegar which can aid in digestion. Pickled ginger is used in this dish to enhance the fresh flavors of the tuna and also to cleanse the palate in-between bites. Wasabi is also another root spice that adds a bit of heat to this dish.

  1. Salads:

    The Vietnamese Crunch salad, with red & green cabbage, romaine, quinoa, tomato, pineapple, red/green bell peppers, cashews, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, spicy lemongrass vinaigrette. This fresh and flavorful dish is chockful of vegetables, herbs, and whole grains. The spice in this dish is sneaky.

You can find it in the spicy lemongrass vinaigrette that is acidic, sweet, with a hint of spice. Our chef uses a chili oil in the vinaigrette recipe. The oil is infused with star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, crushed Sichuan peppercorns, crushed Asian red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. The spices in the oil are roasted until aromatic and darker in color. Roasting the spices in the pan, opens the peppercorn up to a richer and deeper spice flavor.

So when you dig into this dish at Lloyd’s Chicago, your business lunch restaurant in Chicago, you will notice that there are levels of heat and subtle hints of roasted goodness. A delicate balance is played with the fresh vegetables to make the perfect dish for lunch or dinner.

  1. Entrees:

    The Blackened Atlantic Salmon is encrusted with blackening spice, seared and topped with sweet chili-garlic sauce. This dish embodies spice from the blackening spice crust to the sweet and spicy chili sauce to garnish. Origins of blackening spice is from Chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans. He made it famous and a household spice in many home kitchens.

Blackening spice is a mixture of paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, white and black pepper, dried thyme and oregano. A spice mixture like this makes a subtle punch of spice yet doesn’t overpower the protein it encases.

Sweet chili sauce adds another element of spice. Mixed with vinegar and sugar, a few teaspoons of minced hot chili pepper (usually Thai chilies) and ginger root, it is a well-balanced sweet and spicy sauce. So if you are looking for a dish filled with the elements of spice, Lloyd’s Blackened Salmon is a must have.

Just one more pinch of spice

Spices are not only categorized as sweet and savory spices but there are different levels of heat as well. Choosing a cooking method also changes the complexity and heat level of that spice. Spices are interesting and add a whole new depth of flavor to a dish. So when you see that spice is an integral part of a menu, you know that flavor drives the menu. At Lloyd’s, we appreciate the elements of spice and serve it up to our guests. So if you are in the mood for a spicy dish, join us for your next lunch or dinner. Ask the bartender for a touch of spice in your after work martini at Lloyd’s bar as well. See you soon!