Local spice companies offer your flavor faves with a nod to kashrut

The earthy whiff of cumin, the sweet smell of cinnamon, the tingle of ground peppers and the mix of hot and spicy tastes from a special curry mix are all available with kosher certification from Bay Area spice purveyors who have found that a hechsher (symbol of kosher certification) is good for business.

“When we opened our business, we wanted to be part of the kosher industry,” said Israeli-born Ronit Madmone, co-owner of Whole Spice, based in Petaluma. Madmone’s company specializes in ethnic flavors and seasoning mixes. Whole Spice’s freshly ground spices can be found in the company’s Napa store and online at www.wholespice.com.

John Chansar, senior customer service manager at American Natural and Organic Spices, based in Fremont, said his company’s dried herbs and whole and ground spices are certified kosher because “everybody should have access to good things.”

“We are also a green company and donate a portion of our sales to charities to support homeless children,” he said.

The company’s Spicely brand is widely available in the Bay Area, as well as online at www.spicely.com.

Both companies also feature gluten-free and organic products. Below are recipes to take advantage of the wonderful spice mixes they offer.


Baharat Tomato Sauce with Zucchini or Okra

Serves 6

Adapted from the Whole Spice website

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp. paprika

1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. baharat spice mix

1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. tomato paste

1 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 lb. zucchini or fresh okra, sliced

1 cup vegetable broth

In a large cooking pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onion, frying until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Add paprika, black pepper, baharat, cumin, bay leaves, and salt. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to combine flavors.

Add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add parsley, cilantro and okra or zucchini; mix all ingredients well. Add vegetable broth and mix. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are soft. (Okra will take longer than the zucchini). Add water if sauce is getting too thick. Taste and correct seasoning. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice.


Quick Zucchini Dill Pickles

Makes about 1 quart

4-5 small zucchinis

11⁄2 cups vinegar

1⁄2 cup water

1⁄2 tsp. salt

4 garlic cloves, cut in half

1⁄4 cup dill sprigs, washed

1 Tbs. pickling spice mix

1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Wash and rinse well 1-quart or larger glass jar. Fill with boiling water and set aside.

Wash zucchinis well. Slice into ¼-inch rounds. You should have about 5 cups. Put vinegar and ½ cup water in a saucepan with salt. Bring to a simmer.

Pour hot water out of glass jar. Layer  zucchini, garlic and dill in jar. Scatter pickling spice and red pepper flakes in jar. Pour warm vinegar mixture to fill, making sure the vegetables are totally covered with liquid. Cover with airtight lid and store in refrigerator. Chill overnight before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at [email protected].

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].