Paradise found

SN&R Illustration By Mark Stivers

A couple of months ago, I was browsing amid the spices at Whole Foods and ran across something I’d only heard about, with the evocative name of “grains of paradise.” I bought them, just to see what they’d be like, and found little mahogany-colored seeds, considerably smaller than a peppercorn. They have a pungent, peppery flavor that spreads over the tongue; despite the spiciness, though, the grains have all kinds of interesting dimensions: a citrusy taste, like tangerines; a slightly floral note; a resiny, piney finish. A little online research revealed them to be a West African spice that’s a member of the ginger family and also called malagueta pepper. A little experimentation in the kitchen revealed that the spice worked well in brines for chicken and pork, or crushed and used in rubs (maybe for a rib roast or lamb). They’d also be nice sprinkled on flatbreads or homemade crackers and paired with a creamy cheese.