Smoky spice

Vineyard Haven library’s Spice Club warms up Island kitchens.


The only challenge to the first monthly Zoom Spice Club was that I wanted to make every single person’s recipe immediately after the gathering.

The club is the brainchild of Anne McDonough, program planner at the Vineyard Haven library. She said the idea stemmed from a conversation she had with the program director at the Nantucket library, Janet Forest, who said its club enjoyed a great and wide appeal, which is what McDonough is looking for here.

The idea of the club is actually super-simple. Every month you find an enticing recipe for the selected spice, make the delectable dish, then talk about it at the meeting. This month we worked with smoked paprika. Normal paprika is made of crushed dried chilies, while the smoked version uses peppers that are smoke-dried, usually in oak, giving it depth and distinct flavor. The library provided us with two tablespoons, and McDonough got hers from Atlantic Spice Company at

First and foremost, folks reported on how they liked their creation, what the preparation was like, and hints and/or modifications. There were lots of oohs and ahhs, and it was easy to ask questions. There were some super-easy recipes, and then others that required more prep. Probably the simplest was the Vinaigrette for Kale Salad with Olives, Dates, and Avocado,

where you mix 3 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/2 c. olive oil, and pour over a kale salad made with olives, dates, and avocado. Finish off by sprinkling it with pine nuts.

Two particularly interesting recipes were were the Mexican-accented Ground Beef Chili with Chocolate and Peanut Butter (, in which the unsweetened chocolate is reminiscent of a mole sauce, and the dish is accented with, among other things, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and stout. (The cook suggested dark chocolate stout, since there was some left over to sip while the dish cooked.) All together, the chili takes approximately an hour to prepare. The other was the alluring Shrimp and Chorizo Paella with Smoked Paprika (, whose green olives sound like they add just the right accent. Looking at the sample list below, there isn’t one that doesn’t sound mouthwatering.

The unanimously acclaimed successful initial meeting was just what McDonough hoped for. “I thought that was so much fun last night,” she said afterward. “I was excited to see the pictures of what people had made, and I swear I could smell how good it all must’ve been through the computer! I was surprised at the variety that people came up with, from simple things like adding a tablespoon to mayonnaise to make a sauce for the chicken and potato stew garnished with crisp radishes, to the more complicated paella. I wish it had been a real, in-person potluck so we could all try each other’s dishes, but I am inspired to get in the kitchen and do more with the spice.”

The club meets monthly, with the Tuesday, Feb. 16, bonus of Island baker Liz Kane of Cakes by Liz joining the group. All meetings run from 6 to 7:30 pm. Register at