Updated: November 1, 2011 12:35PM
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved the market.
From my perch atop the shopping cart, I would gaze open-mouthed at the mountains of brightly colored produce and the shelves of bottles, jars and boxes in every size and shape that I could imagine. To me, it was a world of infinite wonder and possibility.
Some things never change. Wherever I travel abroad, I make a point to explore the local market.
I love to walk among the locals, hearing the foreign yet familiar sounds of haggling over the price of fresh herbs or whole fish; feeling the tide of patrons pressing in to view and sample each stall’s wares and then receding into the meandering crowd, and letting my inner child come out to marvel at the colors and shapes and their boundless possibilities.
I want to smell, taste and touch everything. I want to pull aside the elderly woman moving between the stalls and implore her to teach me what to do with the spices, mollusks and fruits that I have never tasted — or even seen — before. And of course, I want to bring it all home to play with in my kitchen.
One of my goals with my artisanal chocolate and confections company is to transform the bounty of the market into uniquely delicious sweet treats by pairing savory ingredients, seasonal produce, fresh herbs, teas and even beer with our tried and true treat recipes and artisan techniques.
One of my favorite market destinations has always been the spice stall. It overflows with barrels of powdered spices in the most vibrant shades of red, orange, brown and yellow that you’ve ever seen, with tiny unmarked jars of dried this and ground that.
The spice stall is my proverbial candy store. The kid in me stares wide-eyed at the spectrum of color, convinced that those powders must have magical powers; the chef in me knows that many do.
I fill Ziploc bags with whole and ground spices and dried herbs, some familiar and highly-coveted, others new and intriguing, and I begin to formulate the blueprints for new recipes in my mind.
It was on one of these visits to the spice stall that our new Hot and Spicy Collection was born. Launched just in time for Valentine’s Day, these treats are sure to turn up the heat, pairing spices from around the globe, such as Thai and Indian curry blends and chipotle and ancho chilies, with the sweetness of chocolate and caramel.
One of my favorite examples of heat and sweet is this wasabi truffle, which pairs the intense heat of a beloved Japanese condiment with the sweetness of white chocolate.
It’s a delicious example of the good that can come from opening our minds and palates to the wonders of the market.
Nicole Greene is the owner of the Chicago-based truffle truffle (truffletruffle.com) .