If you’ve ever enjoyed shawarma (also known as shwarma, on the menu at Napa’s Small World Café and other eateries), you know why this iconic Middle Eastern dish has so many fans in the Americas.

The Arabian Peninsula republic of Yemen was a center for spice trading in ancient times, and to this day spiced food is the norm there. This is a country where fiery zhug paste is served with virtually every meal, and even coffee is spiked with fragrant hawaj, a blend of ginger, cinnamon, ca…

The classic North African seasoning known as harissa is a spicy red paste made from chilis, cumin and garlic. Especially popular in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cuisines, harissa adds its bright color and bold flavors to a wide variety of dishes.

Tzatziki, a refreshing Greek dip, a healthy appetizer served with pita, doubles as a sauce for grilled or roasted meats — especially lamb, whether from the grill, in a burger or on a sandwich.

Rice is one of our favorite grains to prepare, because of its many varieties and almost infinite possibilities. Slow-cooked arborio rice makes creamy Italian risotto; bomba rice is the classic base for Spanish paella; mochi rice makes sweet Japanese desserts; and so on. You could make a rice…

Roast chicken and potatoes with French herbs and turmeric is home cooking at its most satisfying: a simple chicken dish, seasoned with savory herbs and healthy spices. It’s also pretty easy to prepare: Just a little cutting and slicing of potatoes, lemon and onion, a bit of sauteing and mixi…

Here in the Napa Valley, we’re lucky enough to have a year-round growing season for many culinary herbs, including sage. One small sage plant in your garden will quickly grow tall and wide, producing plenty of fresh leaves for you to pick at will.

Have you been thinking about brining your holiday turkey, but uncertain about how to pull it off? Good news: Brining is a lot easier than it sounds.

November is the month of turkey in the United States, with countless families planning their Thanksgiving meal around a whole-bird main dish with all the trimmings.

Flaky, buttery and fragrant with spices, strudel originated more than three centuries ago in central Europe. Strudel is most often associated with Hungary, Austria and neighboring countries, but wars and migrations have brought this delicious pastry to the world.

Pumpkins are everywhere this month: piled up at farm stands and supermarkets, standing sentinel at doorways and grinning at us from almost every shop and office window. Some of these glowing orange globes are fake, but most of them are real — and real pumpkins make excellent eating.

One of the most ancient spices we sell is the long pepper, also called long black pepper, Indian long pepper, jaborandi pepper and a host of other names. It originally comes from India and Indonesia, and is used whole in a number of slow-cooked dishes and pickles in Asia, East Africa and Nor…

If you’ve ever tasted spicy chocolate with chili pepper, you know how good it is. A traditional Mexican flavor pairing, this dynamic duo is making its way around the world in pastries, ice cream and even meat dishes.

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In the Northern California wine country, where we keep our Napa Valley shop, the concept of “terroir” is a familiar one. In a way that’s hard to translate, this French word expresses the way a wine’s flavors are influenced by the character of the soil and climate in which the grapevines are grown.

Chilled, jiggly treats made with gelatin have had their place at the American table for generations. If you were born after World War II and think “Jell-O with canned fruit and Cool Whip,” your mouth will probably start to water with nostalgia.

We all know that eating dried legumes — also known as pulses — is great for your health: They’re packed with fiber, protein and vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and Vitamin B6. (Pulses are even getting their own International Year from the United Nations — more on that news after the recipe).

Fresh, sweet corn on the cob is one of the glories of summer dining — especially when cooked on the grill. Now that corn is abundant at grocery stores and farmers markets, we’re grilling and enjoying it both on and off the cob.

Vanilla — where would we be without it? This aromatic orchid pod from Mexico has been adding its fragrant flavor to food and drinks for hundreds of years.

One of the classic French culinary herbs, tarragon has a long and illustrious pedigree. Its very name, Artemisia dracunculus, evokes ancient, even mythical, times: Artemisia is derived from Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and hunting, and “dracunculus” is Latin for “little dragon.”

Of all the diet doctrines that promise a longer life, better health and a fitter body, the one we like most is the simple Mediterranean diet. Brightly colored and bursting with flavor from fresh vegetables, herbs and olive oil, it requires no complicated cookbooks or special equipment and of…

Thicker than a soup but thinner than a stew, Hungarian goulash has become its native country’s most famous culinary export, along with Hungarian paprika, which gives the dish its distinctive warm and fruity pepper flavor.

Do modern humans have a love-hate relationship with sugar? Sometimes it seems that way. We crave sugar’s sweetness, yet deplore its effects, such as weight gain and the jitters.

Chances are, if you’ve gone out at all over the past couple of decades, you’ve been in a café where someone was ordering the spiced tea beverage called chai. Just about every supermarket now has packaged, ready-to-drink chai for sale, while recipes abound for chai ice cream, chai doughnuts, …

Sometimes you just want a quick lunch or supper without getting out all the pots and pans, but you still crave more flavor than the usual makeshift sandwich provides.

When we first opened our Napa shop in 2008, we had hundreds of herbs and spices for sale — including garlic and dozens of chilies — but no garden vegetables to speak of.

Customers at our Napa Whole Spice shop sometimes ask us why we carry cinnamon chips, as well as the more familiar powdered and quilled (“stick”) cinnamon. This week’s recipes are part of the answer — but first, a little bit about where we get this magnificent spice.

Buttery cookie dough, wrapped around a sweet and chewy filling: By any name, these treats are fun to make and delightful to eat — yet they’re named for one of the archvillains of the Hebrew Bible.

Olive and grape-seed oils, delicious as they can be on their own, become even more mouth-pleasing and versatile when infused with herbs and spices. You can find many varieties of commercially made infused oils on the market, or you can make your own in less than 10 minutes for a fragment of …

Of all the splendid flavors found in the cuisines of India, tandoori dishes are among our very favorites. Yet the word “tandoori” itself does not refer to any specific flavor or ingredient — it’s derived from “tandoor,” an Indian name for the kiln-like earth oven found in many Asian, Middle …

Ronit was raised in a Moroccan home, where she grew up helping her mother cook the family meals. Traditional Moroccan food calls for many spices, and Ronit became comfortable with all of them and their different uses in the kitchen. But she never imagined that spices would become both her li…

The rise of “no-knead” bread baking, spearheaded by Jim Lahey of New York City’s Sullivan Street Bakery and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, has made it possible for just about anyone to make fresh-baked artisanal bread on a daily basis.

Where would we be without apples? These crisp, rosy fruits — and believe it or not, they are a member of the rose family— provide sweet, juicy eating when fresh, thirst-quenching beverages when pressed and mouthwatering flavors when preserved.

Cool autumn days and long winter nights call for comfort cooking — savory, satisfying dishes that fill the kitchen with glorious aromas. Roast chicken is one of our family favorites, especially with stuffing to soak up the juices.

The hospitality and cuisine of the Druze community have been known for more than a thousand years in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan have the largest Druze populations today, but you can also find Druze people in many other co…

A fairy story told in many lands concerns a foodie princess who is exiled after angering her father, the king, by telling him she loves him “as much as salt.” She becomes a great chef and, unbeknownst to the old king, arranges for him to be served a lavish banquet — prepared without salt.

One of Mexico’s first and greatest gifts to international cuisine is mole, a family of complex, chili-based simmering sauces that can be red, green, brown or nearly black.

Falafel. It’s easy to say, easy to eat and surprisingly easy to prepare at home. These savory, cumin-scented chickpea fritters, packed with protein and fiber, are a common street food across the Middle East and Mediterranean, and can now be found in most American cities as well.

A member of the bean family, fenugreek is a plant that yields both seeds and leaves (called methi) for cooking. Long grown in Western Asia and the Mediterranean, fenugreek is now cultivated worldwide, including the United States.

It’s a controlled substance you can buy without a prescription: The red peppers of Espelette, in the Basque region of southwestern France, produce the only spice that can legally be called piment d’Espelette, Espelette pepper o — in the Basque language — Ezpeletako biperra.

Ruby red, golden orange or striped, always topped with deep green leaves, beets — or beetroot, as this vegetable is known in other parts of the English-speaking world — are among the most colorful members of the “superfood” crowd.

There are certain libations that still evoke a sense of mystery around their origins. One is the Bloody Mary — how this particular drink derived its peculiar name is still being debated.

Korean cuisine is right at the top of our list, especially the way the Koreans sit down to enjoy a full-course traditional meal, which includes many side dishes like broiled or grilled fish or beef, bean paste soup, steamed vegetables, and their famous kimchi.