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Well and Good: The Spices of Fall

What’s my favorite thing about fall? It has to be the amazing smells. Whether it’s at my favorite restaurant, at home or here at FRESH, you can tell when fall has come. How? The fragrances of cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg fill the air! If you’re like me (and most people, in fact), some spices have been in your cabinet since last Thanksgiving. The spices we use in fall aren’t commonly used in the dog days of summer. Who wants a piping hot pumpkin latte when it’s 105 degrees outside?  

No matter their flavor profile, spices (especially ground spices) can be delicate and lose a great deal of fragrance (and taste) when they aren’t used quickly. Restocking your fall spice pantry can seem like a daunting task, but have no fear! The FRESH bulk specialists are here with some of our favorite spices, and even one of our favorite recipes to go right along with them. If you try them out, let us know what you think the next time you’re shopping with us! 

Cinnamon: Did you know cinnamon is a bark? Here at FRESH, we have cinnamon sticks as well as several varieties of ground cinnamon, including organic. Take home a little of each and find out if you can tell the difference!  

Nutmeg: 80% of the world’s nutmeg comes from Indonesia! With whole and ground nutmeg, FRESH has you covered. If you’ve never tried whole nutmeg, why not? It’s a seed from the nutmeg tree and its flavor lasts almost indefinitely. One whole nutmeg seed goes a long way! Nutmeg is a common “secret ingredient” in many family recipes. A great mac and cheese recipe follows from one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten.   

Cloves: The first clove forests were discovered in Indonesia. Actually a dried flower bud, cloves are known for their fruity, spicy taste and are an essential ingredient in the fragrant foods of fall. If you’re buying for flavor, whole cloves are a great choice; just grind in your spice grinder when you’re ready to use. If that’s not your speed, go for the ground! Just buy a little at a time, as ground spices lose flavor quickly. 

Allspice: Given its name by British troops who didn’t know what it was, allspice comes from the berry of the allspice tree (shocking, I know). Spicy and strong, allspice is used in ciders, teas and cookies for unmistakably rich fall flavor. Here at FRESH, our favorite is Jamaican allspice and we love it in a spice rub for apple-stuffed pork chops. Yum!  

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese 

1 Tbs vegetable oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 lb fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed) 

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.