Allspice: No, this isn't a mixture of everything in your spice rack, but rather a dried berry of the pimenta tree. If that's a surprise to you, imagine how Columbus felt -- he thought it was pepper (thus the name pimenta, which is Spanish for pepper). The berries look a little like plump peppercorns and the flavor is pungent, but it is not pepper. The best allspice comes from Jamaica.
For the freshest flavor, you should buy allspice in berry form and grind or crush it as needed. The taste is a pleasant mix of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Used in jerks and for pickling, it goes great with meat and gives a nice kick to soups and stews.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen, just like its cousin cassia. It has an ancient pedigree, even being used to embalm a few pharaohs. That may not sound appetizing, but it has been found to be good for the heart, the stomach and the joints. Not impressed yet? Well consider that it also seems to mimic insulin and therefore helps diabetics moderate their sugar levels. So don't be shy with this tasty and healthy spice.

Cloves: The dried buds of a tropical evergreen, cloves are a wonderful blast of fragrance and flavor. They were the first known breath fresheners, but have a long, rich history in the spice trades. These sweet but pungent buds can overwhelm a recipe, so beware!

Coriander: Coriander is used in both sweet and savory cooking, adding a mix of lemon and sage-like flavors to any dish. In addition to its culinary flair, coriander has been considered to be an aphrodisiac by the ancients. Whether or not you will find love, coriander seeds add a sweet, fruity note a recipe and are thought to be good for both your mental powers and your digestion.

Garlic: Garlic is in the same family as onions and leeks, and purportedly provided ancient Roman soldiers the courage to battle the barbarians. Whether or not it gives you courage, it is known to lower blood pressure, which is great for your heart and helps prevent stroke. In addition, it has a long history as a digestive aid, so don't be shy with this wonderful herb, no matter what it does to your breath!

Hazelnut Mole

prep time: 10
cook time: 145


  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup hazelnuts with skin (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 large ripe plantains,* peeled, cut into 0.5 inch-thick rounds
  • 1 1/2 pounds Red Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored
  • 1 medium-size white onion, thickly sliced
  • 13 dried guajillo chiles* (about 1/3 cup), stemmed, cut open, seeds and veins removed
  • 3 dried ancho chiles* (about 3 tablespoons), stemmed, cut open, seeds and veins removed
  • 3/4 cup prunes (about 1/2 cup)
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  •  ,
  • 2 5- to 6 inch-diameter corn tortillas
  •  ,
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


Heat oil in large deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to skillet, sauté, 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to large bowl. Add hazelnuts to skillet, sauté, until golden, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with garlic. Add plantains and sauté, until light golden, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to same bowl. Add apples, sauté, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to same bowl. Sauté, onion until golden, about 3 minutes, transfer to same bowl (no oil will remain in skillet). Working in batches, sauté, a few chiles at a time in same dry skillet, 10 seconds per side, transfer to same bowl. Sauté, prunes 2 minutes, transfer to same bowl. Add all spices to skillet and stir 30 seconds. Transfer to same bowl.

Using tongs, turn tortillas over gas flame or in dry skillet over medium-high heat until black spots appear on both sides, about 1 minute. Crumble tortillas into same bowl. Add 2 1/4 quarts broth to bowl, press down on all ingredients to submerge. Let soak 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree contents of bowl in blender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if needed, until almost smooth. Transfer to heavy large pot and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer mole 1 hour 45 minutes, stirring often and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed to prevent scorching. (Mole will be very thick and will measure about 8 cups.) Stir in vinegar. Season mole generously with salt. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

*Available at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.