By Amanda Opaluch | May 31, 2011

Photographer: Amanda Opaluch

Amanda Opaluch is the creator of the food blog, The Cilantropist, where she shares seasonal and vibrant recipes with a focus on eating well and living the good life.  Her work has appeared on GourmetLive, Fine Cooking, and The Kitchn, as well as on the food photography galleries Tastespotting and Foodgawker. Read her first piece for MarcusSamuelsson.com here: 

One of my favorite things about cooking is working with fresh or dried herbs and spices.  When herbs are fresh and full of life, they can brighten the flavor of almost any dish or can add a pop of color as a beautiful garnish.  On the other hand, dried spices and herbs can add subtle nuances with just a pinch or larger spoonfuls of spice blends can create heady aromas.  To my mind, good herbs and spices are the cornerstone of great cooking.

I generally keep a few fresh herbs in my refrigerator at all times (always cilantro, and usually either basil or thyme) but I have an extensive collection of dried herbs and spices.  Most of them you probably have too – oregano, paprika, chili powder, and the like – but others you might find to be more exotic or otherwise interesting.  For instance, I have a small jar of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice), herbs de provence, and also baharat.

Photo: Amanda Opaluch

Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend commonly used to season lamb, as well as other meat dishes or lentils, stews, and soups.  There are different varieties – the one originating in Turkey also contains mint – but the most traditional Arabic or North African baharat spice blend often contains black pepper, coriander, cloves, cassia bark, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice.  Some blends also include chili pepper or paprika to give them a bit more ‘heat.’  I discovered baharat a few years ago when I made a Lebanese Lamb and Bean Stew, and since then I have used it for several other lamb dishes but also for baking.

Photo: Amanda Opaluch

For these sweet potatoes, the combination of baharat, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar is the perfect mix of savory, spicy, and sweet.  As the sugar caramelizes and the potatoes roast in the oven, the woody aroma of the cloves and nutmeg will fill your house and transport you to Middle Eastern markets.  The strong mix of spices here is meant to be potent, which is exactly the way I like it.  Under the savory and sweet, these potatoes are definitely spicy, so if you can’t take the heat, feel free to omit the cayenne pepper.  Overall, this blend of spices and flavors will transform a simple, everyday potato into something out of the ordinary, so why not shake up your usual routine and try something a little exotic?

Photo: Amanda Opaluch

For more delicious recipes, find Amanda on Twitter or on Facebook, or subscribe to The Cilantropist by email.

Baharat Roasted Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Servings: 4


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baharat spice blend
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper(add only if your spice blend does not already have chili or cayenne pepper, check the label)
  • 1 tsp packed brown sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or canola oil


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

1. To prepare sweet potatoes, either peel them to remove the skins, or wash and dry them thoroughly if leaving the skins on (based on your preference). Slice the potato lengthwise into about 3-4 slabs, each about 1/2 inch thick, then slice the slabs lengthwise again into long sticks, about 1/2 inch thick. Or, if you prefer, slice the potato into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick.

2. Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until well combined.

3. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread potatoes evenly, then drizzle with the spice glaze. Using your hands or tongs, toss the potatoes on the baking sheet until they are evenly coated with the glaze, then spread them out to roast them in a single layer. Roast them in a preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes, until they are fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven, turn them over, and then return them to the oven to roast for an additional 8-10 minutes or until they are crispy and a dark caramel color. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

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