Spicing Up Holidays With Mace

Husband-and-wife team Rich Waxman and Cathy Moratto grow spices, vegetables and exotic fruit on three acres in Kalaheo.

What’s growing: Avocado, apple banana, celery, cherry tomatoes, clove, durian, figs, Hawaiian chili peppers, kale, lemongrass, lettuce, lima bean, mace, mamey sapote, mangosteen, Meyer lemon, nutmeg, onions, passion fruit, papaya, pomegranate, sage, star fruit, Swiss chard, vanilla.

MACE

Mace is the aril – a bright-red, lacy covering – of the nutmeg seed’s shell. Red fades to amber as the mace dries, and the aroma is sweet and fragrant, similar to nutmeg. The taste is warm, sharp, more intense and slightly sweeter than nutmeg. Because mace yields are much less than nutmeg’s, it has greater value: A pile of fruit large enough to make 100 pounds of nutmeg produces a single pound of mace.

Originating in Indonesia, mace was introduced to European markets by Arab traders in the 11th century and was chiefly used for flavoring beer. While the Dutch waged war over nutmeg and held control of the Spice Islands until World War II, the British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and most notably Grenada, where it is the national symbol and proudly emblazoned on the country’s red, yellow and green flag.

Season: The nutmeg fruit ripens in early summer and will split open, revealing a glimpse of the scarlet-red mace inside.

Tip: For a strong, rich flavor, try replacing black pepper with mace in savory meat dishes.

Preparation: Ground mace pairs well with Asian cuisine, baked goods, beans, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, dairy, ginger, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, chocolate, hazel-nuts, lamb, chicken and fish. It is an ingredient in curry, garam masala and ketchup. Moratto uses mace in smoothies, egg dishes and in breadfruit dishes.

Health benefits: Mace aids digestion, stimulates the appetite, increases circulation, relieves fatigue and can help clear up digestive tract infections.

Kikala Farms’ mace can be found at: Talk Story Bookstore, Hanapepe. Call Moratto at (415) 717-4743.

CHRISTMAS SPECULAAS ‘Tis the season to bake cookies, and I thought I’d share this holiday recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook. You might recognize speculaas (SPEC-you-lahss) in the grocery store. The thin, crisp, dark brown windmill-shaped cookies are popular in Holland and Germany. A speculaa windmill mold is the classic shape in The Netherlands, their home. You don’t need a mold to make these delightfully spicy cookies, just drop on a baking sheet and press. Almond flour can be purchased from a natural foods grocery store.

Makes 2 dozen small cookies.

* 2 to 4 tablespoons milk, plus extra for glazing
* 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 1/2 cups flour
* 1/2 cup almond flour, toasted

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, almond flour, baking powder and enough milk to make a stiff dough. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Drop two teaspoons of dough onto parchment paper. Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and press dough into a 1/4-inch circle. If the dough sticks, gently run a butter knife between the dough and glass. Bake cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly brown around the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Marta Lane is a Kauai-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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