“Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking” by editors of America’s Test Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen, 294 pages, paperback, $29.99

Spices are more than food accessories, the folks from America’s Test Kitchen say in their latest cookbook, “Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking.” They call spices the life, warmth and fragrance of dishes.

The cookbook’s goal is to teach readers about the world of spices and the key techniques “that will unlock the spice’s flavors and aromas and make your food taste its best.” That’s why the book is organized by methods for working with spices.

Side Dish: Recipe for Bruschetta with Ricotta, Roasted Red Peppers, and Rosemary Oil

It begins with a discussion on what a spice is. The book’s authors define spices “as anything from a plant that is dried and can flavor food.” They admit some sources categorize anything coming from leaves, flowers or stems as herbs, but “since we use these in the same way (as spices), they’re welcome here.”

Perhaps the book should have been named “Seasonings” since it calls salt, a mineral, the “most essential” seasoning of food and its recipe collection opens with a chapter on getting more out of salt and pepper.

Other chapters look at rubs; toasting and blooming (cooking ground spices in fat) to maximize flavor in braises, curries and chilis; finishing dishes with a sprinkle or drizzle at the last minute; spice-infused oils, pickles and preserves; and spicing up baked goods and desserts.

The book features 139 recipes for entrées, appetizers and sides and 47 recipes for homemade spice blends. Among the recipes are peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin with hollandaise sauce, barbecue roast chicken with potatoes, Southwestern burgers with chipotle ketchup, blueberry streusel muffins and chocolate chai masala truffles.

Nutritional information is available for each recipe. The book is illustrated with full-color photographs. It includes tips on how to grind and store spices and extensive information about the overall flavor, origin and typical uses for commonly used spices.

The home cook interested in upping the flavor of his or her food will want to take a look at “Spiced.”


Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at sonnierfood@gmail.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.