I get a small thrill whenever I receive a new catalog from Penzeys, Ltd., the peerless Milwaukee spice house. Penzeys sells an awesome variety of spices and dried herbs--three cardamoms, four cinnamons, 14 peppercorns and blends. And each catalog is a mini-encyclopedia, with information ranging from the number of crocus blossoms it takes to make a pound of saffron (70,000) to the effects of Indonesia's fires and droughts on my favorite white pepper from Borneo.
Bill Penzey is the man who oversees this expanding empire, which has been in the family since his father founded it in 1957 as a coffee and tea business. Bill's sister, Pam, takes care of the catalog while he travels from Croatia to India to Malaysia turning up world-class spices. The four spice-studded recipes that follow are inspired by items from the catalog--including Chinese ground ginger, Turkish bay leaves and Moroccan coriander--that both the Penzeys and I are excited about right now.