I’m going to let you in on a secret in the legend of Z&B: Chef Kevin Archer, the creative mind behind Zelda & Bramble Superlative Seasonings, didn’t used to like popcorn. He thought it was okay, perhaps, but nothing to seek out.
Then one day, when Z&B was just a twinkle in Kevin’s eye, we decided to give seasoned popcorn gift sets for the holidays. Kevin knew it was only responsible to try the gifts out first rather than accidentally subjecting our loved ones to something terrible. So he dutifully made popcorn and arranged it in piles on a baking tray, then added a different spice blend to each one. He tried the Curry popcorn, the Blackened popcorn, the Memphis popcorn…and before he knew it, he was shoveling handfuls of popcorn into his mouth a la Cookie Monster.
“What is going on?” thought Kevin. “Who am I?” As he licked the remaining spices off his fingers and waited for the kitchen to stop spinning, he realized that the powerful flavors of his spice blends—powerful enough to send this skeptic into a popcorn frenzy--must be harnessed for good. Thus Z&B was born.
To this day, popcorn is an integral part of Z&B’s rigorous testing process. Before any blends get the stamp of approval and make their way to the public, Kevin and I put them to the popcorn test. Popcorn makes a perfect canvas for most spice blends, with its salt, oil, and heat kicking the flavors into high gear. Curried Popcorn, Thai Yellow Curry Popcorn, Chili Popcorn, Umami Popcorn, Chesapeake Popcorn, and even Green Zing! Popcorn and Jerk Popcorn have all passed the test with flying colors. But we remain diligent and test again and again and again just in case!
Don’t take my word for it, though; conduct your own popcorn tests and tell us what you think! Here’s our scientific process:
Which Z&B blend is your favorite on popcorn? Let us know how your experiments turn out!
P.S. We find that chunkier blends such as Smoked Rosemary & Peppercorn, Dukkah, and Bagel Shakes! tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl rather than sticking to the popcorn, but stay tuned for the next blog, where we use those blends in one of our other go-to snacks!
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Southern tradition says that eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring you good luck for the year ahead. Granted, Zelda & Bramble Superlative Seasonings bring you luck, happiness, and good flavor every day of the year, but still! Black eyed peas are darn tasty and satisfying, and you can never have too much luck, especially when you have it over cornbread with savory greens on the side!
Z&B’s Creole & Soul Food Blend is a natural fit for black eyed peas, with lots of garlic, onion, herbs, allspice, paprika, and just the right touch of heat. Z&B Memphis Rub is also an excellent alternative!
Here is how we’ll be making our luck on January first; feel free to join in our celebration!
Creole Black Eyed Peas:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon Z&B Creole & Soul Food Blend
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 bay leaves
2 cups black eyed peas (pick out rocks!)
8 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste
a bit of ground black pepper
1. Warm the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion and sauté gently for 5 minutes.
2. Add the bell pepper, celery, Creole & Soul Food Blend, and garlic. Sauté for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the bay leaves, peas, and stock. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Check for doneness and simmer longer if needed.
4. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Take pot off the stove and get a spoon!
Serve over cornbread (here’s our go-to recipe) with steamed or sautéed greens seasoned with a pinch of Z&B Quatre Epices or Umami Seasoning for maximum luck and deliciousness!
Here’s to a superlative 2019, full of good times, caring friends, and food that nourishes and delights inside and out! We at Z&B can’t thank you enough for your enthusiastic support throughout our first year, and are excited to share more food and flavors with you in the year to come!
Dreary December weather makes me want to eat nothing but soup every day! This week, I made a hearty mixed vegetable soup with chickpeas, using a mix of fresh vegetables and ones we froze or canned over the summer. The soup gets its complex and slightly spicy flavor from Z&B’s Chesapeake Blend, a bold mix of spices and herbs including paprika, celery seed, mustard seed, nutmeg, pepper, bay leaves, ginger, allspice, and more. The Chesapeake harmonizes particularly well with the tomato and chickpeas, creating a well-rounded soup. This recipe is super flexible; feel free to swap out the veggies I used for whatever you happen to have on hand! It’s a great way to use up leftovers!
Here’s how I made it:
I warmed the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, then sautéed the onions and garlic until they started to soften. I added the carrots, celery, butternut, and Z&B Chesapeake Blend, stirred well, and cooked for 5 to 10 minutes. I then added the stock, chickpeas, and tomato, and brought the soup to a boil. I let it simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables were soft. I added the green beans and salt and cooked a few minutes more, until the beans were cooked. I stirred in the kale and took the pot off the heat.
This recipe serves 8. Serve with a crusty piece of bread for a simple, nourishing, and belly-warming lunch!
Until next time, folks, stay cozy!
We recently had a potluck and bonfire at our house, and the fallen leaves and crisp (okay, cold!) fall air inspired me to make an autumnal harvest dish. I roasted winter squash, apples, and onions with Z&B’s classic French blend Herbes de Provence and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Then I topped all that goodness with pumpkin seeds toasted with Z&B Umami Seasoning!
The mix of sweet and savory, herby and nutty, earthy and bright flavors turned out even better than I expected! Z&B Herbes de Provence, a verdant and floral blend of summer savory, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, and lavender lends a great aroma—and taste—to the apples and squash. The Z&B Umami, with its allspice, mushroom, smoked black tea, miso, chicory, and more, adds an earthy and slightly smoky depth to the toasty, nutty pumpkin seeds. Yum!
Here’s how I made it:
I preheated the oven to 450°. I combined the butternut, onion, olive oil, balsamic, Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper and put it on a baking tray. I roasted it in a 450° oven for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. I cubed the apples, added them to the baking tray, and continued to cook until the apples and squash were soft and the onions started to caramelize (another 15 minutes or so). (If you cut the apples in advance, toss them in a little balsamic or lemon juice to keep them from browning). I sprinkled Umami-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds on top before serving.
This scale serves 4.
Umami-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
We just had our first fire in the fireplace, so it must be time to feature Zelda & Bramble’s new cold-weather indulgence: Cocoa de Santa Fe! A mix of dark chocolate, real vanilla beans, cinnamon, and smoky chiles, this rich and sophisticated tribute to traditional Mesoamerican flavors is far beyond your average hot chocolate! Its flavors are complex and not overly sweet, and the chiles add just the right touch of spiciness. When we sampled the Cocoa on a recent cold morning at the farmers’ market, people said it warmed them twice!
You certainly can’t go wrong drinking Cocoa de Santa Fe as intended (instructions for a cup of this goodness are on the bag and on the website), but of course I had to see what else I could do with it! This velvety chocolate mousse remains in keeping with the Cocoa’s Southwestern spirit by using avocado for creaminess and agave nectar for sweetness. And like the Magic Bean Dip, the Chocamole is as easy as it is decadent—5 ingredients plus a food processor and you’re good to go!
Here’s all you have to do:
Combine the following ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
Serves 2… if you can bear to share it!
At the farmers’ market, people often ask me which of our spice blends is my favorite, and I tell them that that is like asking someone to pick their favorite child! Well, confession time… I have a new favorite child: Zelda & Bramble’s new Magic Bouillon Powder!
Kevin developed this amazingly savory blend as a soup base, and it is a great shortcut to flavorful vegetable stock for any recipe (if you didn’t get a chance to make your own stock). Most bouillon cubes and soup bases contain lots of salt and fillers, but who wants that? Zelda & Bramble’s version is made entirely of real ingredients you’d actually want in your soup, starting with dried herbs and vegetables, plus miso and mushrooms for savory depth. A mug of this delicious broth even makes a great treat on its own; simply whisk a tablespoon of Z&B Magic Bouillon Powder into a cup of hot water and curl up with a book!
The blend’s comforting and almost Thanksgiving-y flavors of sage, rosemary, onions, celery, mushrooms, and more lend themselves to lots of non-soup uses, too. Since I love to experiment, that’s how I love to use Z&B Magic Bouillon Powder the most. Toss diced potatoes in Magic before roasting! Use it in place of Garam Masala when you make Crunchy Chickpeas! Season your Savory Multigrain Porridge or grits with it! Or make this Magic Bean Dip for your next party!
When one of our dedicated customers told us she had mixed Magic into her hummus, I was inspired to make this white bean dip, and I’m so glad I did—the flavor is outrageous and complex, and the dip is about the easiest thing in the world to make! Seriously: put a handful of ingredients—mostly pantry staples—in your food processor, add Magic, and give it a whirl. Instant deliciousness you may very well devour before your guests arrive!
Magic Bean Dip
Makes about 3 cups.
Here’s all I did:
I put the following ingredients in a food processor and processed until smooth.
We harvested the last of our okra this week and began our garden take-down, so what better way to celebrate the end of the garden season than by eating it! I adapted a version of the North Indian okra and onion dish bhindi do pyaza to feature the three stars of our garden this year: okra, tomatoes, and butternut squash. Okra—also known as bhindi—takes center stage!
This is the first year I’ve grown okra, and it has been such a joy! The beautiful, tropical-looking plants, now towering at 8 feet tall or more, have been producing steadily since they were 8 inches tall at the beginning of July. Okra, brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, is related to the hibiscus plant, and the stunning off-white flowers with burgundy centers reveal this familial link. It is popular in Indian, African, Caribbean, and Creole cuisine. The tender young pods are high in fiber and vitamins. Okra can While I know some people object to okra’s texture, I’d say try roasting or grilling it to avoid the slime (might I suggest tossing it in Z&B Chesapeake Blend, Creole & Soul Food Blend, Blackening Spice Blend, or Umami Seasoning first?). I find that the okra adds silkiness to the creamy butternut and the acidic tomatoes and amchoor in this recipe.
I seasoned this Bindhi with Butternut using Z&B’s rich, complex, yet vastly versatile Z&B Garam Masala, complemented by turmeric; ancho, the dried form of the mild but deeply flavored poblano chile; and amchoor, a tangy powder made from dried green mangoes. You can find ancho in most grocery stores, but you may need to go to an Indian market or spice shop for the amchoor. If you can’t find amchoor, I recommend you make this dish anyway—it’s still delicious! Just maybe increase the Garam Masala to your liking.
Here’s how to make it!
Sauté onion in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it begins to caramelize. Stir in turmeric, ancho, and salt. Add okra and tomatoes and sauté for about 10 minutes more or until the okra begins to soften and tomatoes start to break down. Stir in amchoor powder and garam masala. Add butternut and stir just enough to incorporate but not so much that the butternut breaks down. Cook just until butternut is heated through, and serve over rice.
Yield: 6 servings
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did! Let us know what you think!
We’ve reached a bittersweet milestone in our garden; after a couple months of tomato harvesting frenzy (and canning in self-defense before the tomatoes engulf us!), I finally took down our tomato plants. That means we now have a plethora of green tomatoes to use! Kevin canned a big batch of the green tomato-based relish chow chow, which we will savor with black eyed peas throughout the winter. We’ve grilled some green tomatoes, allowed others to ripen, and I used them in this tasty and filling chili!
The green tomatoes add a nice bit of tartness to the rich and savory flavor balance of Z&B Chili Seasoning, making for a warming yet bright dish to say goodbye to summer and usher in sweater weather! And if your beans are already cooked, it’s a really quick meal to throw together.
This chili is especially good paired with Chesapeake Roasted Okra (see below!), using Z&B’s new Chesapeake Blend. The complex coastal flavor of this classic blend is intense yet really versatile. It’s great in chowder and in this crazy-good Parsnip Mash, but roasting okra is one of my favorite things to do with it! And don’t worry, okra-phobes, it isn’t slimy, just delicious!
These were my ingredients for the chili:
· Splash of olive oil
· 1 medium onion, diced
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 2 tablespoons Z&B Chili Seasoning (you could also use some Z&B Firestorm Blend here if you like heat!)
· ½ pound bell and/or poblano peppers (or use some hotter peppers if you like), diced
· 1½ pound green tomatoes, diced
· ¾ pound ripe tomatoes, diced
· 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15.5 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
· 1 tsp salt
· Cilantro or parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)
· Chesapeake Roasted Okra (instructions below)
I sautéed the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until the onions were translucent. Then I added the Chili Seasoning and peppers and cooked for a few minutes over medium heat. I added the green tomatoes and cooked for another few minutes. Then I added the ripe tomatoes, black beans, and salt, and kept cooking until the beans were hot. I served it over brown rice with a little parsley and Chesapeake Roasted Okra on the side. Yum!
This recipe serves about 4.
To make Chesapeake Roasted Okra:
I washed and trimmed the stems off 2 pounds of okra and tossed in a drizzle of olive oil, 2 teaspoons Z&B Chesapeake Blend, and about ¾ teaspoon salt. I roasted the okra on a baking sheet at 450° for about 15 minutes.
Fellow gardeners, how are your gardens winding down? What are your favorite ways to use end-of-season vegetables to celebrate the coming of autumn?
Recently, Kevin was the featured chef for a food demo at the Franklin County Farmers’ Market, and he made an ultimate farmers’ market dish: Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry! He started his morning at the market by going from farmer to farmer, shopping for ingredients for the curry. Zelda & Bramble’s Thai Yellow Curry Seasoning brought together the flavors of summer squash, bell peppers, green beans, cabbage, okra, scallions, and even blue potatoes, as well as basil and cilantro from our fellow vendors Salad Days Farm, Happy Jack’s Farm, Blackberry Heaven, and Cedar Ring Greens. With the help of volunteer Amy, Kevin chopped and stir-fried up a storm, while samples flew off the table! (Not literally, don’t worry.)
Folks were impressed by how easy it was to prepare such a flavorful dish, and how flexible it can be based on what vegetables are in season. Many were excited for some new inspiration in their farmers’ market shopping and summertime cooking. And more than one person said that it was the first time they had actually enjoyed okra! I’d call that a success!
When you make this recipe yourself, play, experiment, have fun, and try something new! That’s half the fun of cooking, after all!