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5 Exotic Recipes That Will Take Your Tastebuds to New Places

A Blend of Cultures

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When chefs want to add depth and complexity to their food, they turn to the secret that cooks around the world have always relied on: the spice blend, a thoughtful combo of ingredients that come together as distinct and delectable. Harissa paste and baharat are two of the best Middle Eastern mixes finding their way into our kitchens. Even more, they're loaded with antioxidants and help with weight loss. Each spice you throw into your dish carries a different health benefit. Once you go the spice route, you'll never turn back.

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Lam Kebab Skewers with Harissa Goat Cheese

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Lamb is a great choice if you are looking to switch up your protein. Not only is it a different flavor for your taste buds, but it's also loaded with zinc (which could help boost your sex life). And if you aren't already a fan of goat cheese, you just might be a convert after trying these skewers—courtesy of Bahr Rapaport, owner and chef of Seabird and Mezetto in New York City.

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Spiced Pan-Roasted Chicken with Olives, Figs, and Mint

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Add mint to your usual oven-roasted chicken, and it becomes a whole new meal. Plus, it has perks: Mint has been known to alleviate digestion issues. Olives add flavor for very few calories (5 olives only have 26 calories), while figs add a natural sweetness. This chicken dish by Russell Bry, concept chef of Yalla Mediterranean in California, just might become your new go-to.

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Basmati Rice and Lentils with Cucumber and Orange

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Both basmati rice and lentils serve as a great way to sneak protein into a meat-free dish. (Lentils are also packed with folate, a B vitamin that helps decrease the level of amino acids, making them a great brain food.) Before you order fried rice on a lazy night in, considering cooking up this recipe by C. J. Jacobson, executive chef/partner of Ēma in Chicago, instead.

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Carrots with Pistachios and Sumac

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Though it has only a few ingredients, this recipe will shock you with its big flavor. Sumac (a native Middle Eastern spice) adds a pop of tartness to vegetables and meats, as well as a gorgeous red hue. Pistachios are salty and packed with antioxidants, and add some crunch to this meat-free dish by Michael Solomonov, chef and partner of Zahav and partner of Dizengoff in Philadelphia. (Try out these vegetarian recipes if you're loving no-meat Mondays but have hit a plateau in the kitchen.)

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Orange Olive Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

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This recipe is perfect for the days you want something a bit lighter but don't want to skimp on flavor. Harissa is a condiment that adds high-impact flavor and some spicy heat. Stir it into soup, use it on meats, or add a drop to a dipping oil. Or, like this salad by Einat Admony (owner and chef of Bar Bolonat, Taïm, and Balaboosta in New York City), create your own vinaigrette with some extra kick.

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Pineapple Baharat Sundae and Hazelnut Brittle

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Spices aren't just for your entrees. By adding baharat (a complex blend of spicy and sweet seasonings) you won't have to decide between a sweet or savory treat. This recipe by Madeleine Kemeny (pastry chef of Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston, Illinois) blends pineapple, vanilla bean paste, and slow-churned vanilla ice cream for an upgraded, exotic version of your classic sundae. (Next up: this health-yet-indulgent green tea chocolate cake.)

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DIY Harissa

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Not everyone has a grocery store that caters to worldly cuisines. The good news: Harissa is just as easy to make at home as it is to buy. Blend together a handful of spices and you have a homemade harissa that will last about three months.

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