Last week I shared how to make chicken, vegetables, and grain – all in one pan, topped with a tasty spice blend. Because who doesn’t like an easy-to-create meal and only one pan to clean up afterwards?! But really, “I told you that story – so I could tell you this one.” (To quote a storyteller of my youth.)

When it comes time to spice the chicken – what do you like to put on yours? For me the answer is – what do I feel like tasting today? But for people that grew up without the benefit of lots of tastes and flavors – sometimes you need a little guidance.


Variety is the Spice of Life.

Uncle Smokey says, “Growing up, we had 3 spices – salt, pepper, and onion powder. Once I went out on my own and started tasting food made with creativity, I was hooked on flavors. Now I have close to 40 different herbs and spices in my cupboard. Why so many? Because sometimes you need a few allspice berries or some fenugreek seed.” He goes on to add, “And if it’s one thing I never get tired of, it’s variety.”

A microplane can quickly grate nutmeg for fresh, savory flavor in your cooking.
Ready-Made Blends – They can save the day! (It’s their super power.)

What if you don’t want to have 40 jars of spices overflowing your cupboard? You can find some delightful ready-made spice blends to capture a certain style of cooking. Many people have heard of zahtar, a blend popular in the Middle East that generally features oregano, thyme, savory, sumac, and toasted sesame seed. A blend like this is handy to have around and use on many sorts of food. I used to use zahtar to season oil and vinegar salad dressing, and then I discovered I am allergic to sumac – a kissing cousin to poison ivy.


Don’t Stop With Zahtar

There are so many other spice blends available in this world, don’t stop with one. Mexican mole are popular, but their flavor is not for everyone. If you prefer milder foods with subtle flavor, you might enjoy either of these two blends from Pereg. Both Koobah and Shawarma impart rich and savory flavors to vegetables and meat alike.

Rose petals are often found in Middle Eastern cooking.


Pereg’s Koobah starts with baharat, a ubiquitous Israeli and Mediterranean staple, and then adds warm layers of cinnamon, allspice, rose, nutmeg, and cardamom for a complex finish. It makes an excellent dry rub for grilled or roast lamb, salmon, and chicken. I adored this flavor – both rose and nutmeg highlighted the chicken, zucchini, and rice. The company, Pereg, suggests using it sprinkled into burgers, mixed with hummus, or tossed onto vegetables (particularly corn on the cob and eggplant) before roasting.

Not just for meat – this shawarma spice blend is delightful on vegetables as well.


If you grew up on a remote farm in the Midwest, shawarma was not only not an option, it wasn’t in your lexicon! Shawarma is a style of roasting meat on horizontal spits. It became popular in the Eastern Mediterranean over 300 years ago, and came to our corner Sonoran of the world as “tacos al pastor” when it was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants.

Back to shawarma – the word once referred exclusively to grilled lamb. This was generally spiced with a mixture of cumin, coriander, allspice, garlic, paprika, turmeric, and salt. Quite traditionally, the Shawarma blend from Pereg contains those spices. Not a lamb fan? Uncle Smokey isn’t either but he loved the shawarma sprinkled on the chicken and summer squash. The manufacturer, Pereg, says that it can also be used on chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey.

Shawarma on the left and Koobah on the right. Great to sample the both at the same time.
Blends Make Useful Rubs

Uncle Smokey reminds us that a good rub is a grill chef’s best friend. Rubs seal in flavor, form a tasty crust, add color, and reheat well on left-overs. They’re also easy to use. No need for marinades because rubs do all the work. Best of all, they impart an addictive flavor to everything they touch.

About Pereg

Pereg Gourmet Foods has been around for over a century, and are famous for their vast variety of pure and natural spices and spice blends, from traditional favorites to exotics from around the culinary world. All Pereg products are certified kosher and are dairy-free and lactose-free as well as all natural, with no additives or preservatives. Many products are also certified gluten-free and non-GMO.

soule-gardening-southwestTo learn to use other savory Sonoran herbs, visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule‘s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Facebook page. We both have copies of Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we may get a few pennies.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. You can use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit, plus you must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


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