Chef Diane Curtis of MarRay Foods, a culinary and agricultural historian, holds a bachelor’s degree in Roman history and a master’s degree in Islamic studies. She specialized in ancient Mediterranean history and worked as an experimental archaeologist, recreating ancient recipes utilizing historic methods.

Encouraged by her husband, Diane followed her passion and started a food history Patreon community online. Peers found her work fascinating and wanted to buy ingredients from her to create their own dishes. Diane handcrafted authentic Middle Eastern spice blends, small-batch infused vinegars and shrubs—aged blends of fruit juice and sugar—from ancient Roman roots, and a plethora of other goods inspired by the ancient Mediterranean. MarRayFoods sprang from there and is now a recognized member of the Georgia Grown initiative.

Diane hopes people approach her products with an open mind and a sense of culinary exploration and discovery. She doesn’t want people to be intimidated by spices they have never encountered, explaining,“I want people to discover these new flavor profiles while also learning the places [from which] they originated.I am very conscious of the fact that I am a White woman creating Middle Eastern foods. I am extremely sensitive to cultural appropriation because there is a huge difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. I do not want to erase the origin of these spice blends because they should be authentic and true.”

Because Diane does not want the significance of these spices to be diminished, she labels them as they did in ancient times. Her items include dried fig and warm spice baklava rolls, advieh berenj (Persian rice spice blends), and duqqa, an Egyptian condiment made from nuts, seeds, and warm spices. These items and more can be purchased in her online store or at the Canton Farmers Market at Brown Park in historic downtown Canton on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., June 1 through August 31.

MarRay Foods Chermoula

Market Recipes MarRay Foods Chermoula | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1/2 preserved lemon, minced
  • 8 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz. preserved olive oil
  • 1 tbsp MarRay Foods Chermoula Spice Blend
  • 1 cup tightly packed Italian parsley, minched
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro, minced

Begin the Fun

  1. Remove the flesh from thepreserved lemon and discard. Rinse, dry, and mince the rind.Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, and spices. Whisk to emulsify. Add the preserved lemon, parsley, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Gradually add more oil to your desired consistency. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Top grilled steaks and lamb chops or use as a bread and vegetable dip. Store unused chermoula in the refrigerator for up to two days.

PRINT RECIPE: MarRay Foods Chermoula

 

MarRay Foods The Herb Garden

Market Recipes MarRay Foods The Herb Garden | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin (or similar London dry)
  • 1/2 oz. MarRay Foods Lemon & Basil Shrub
  • 1/2 oz. 18.21 Lavender and French Sea Salt Rich Simple Syrup
  • 1 dropper of 18.21 Earl Grey Bitters
  • Lemon wheel
  • Basil leaf

Begin the Fun

In a shaker with ice, add gin, shrub, syrup, and bitters. Shake and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora, coupe, or martini glass. Garnish with the lemon wheel and basil leaf.

PRINT RECIPE: MarRay Foods The Herb Garden

 

MarRay Foods Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad

Market Recipes MarRay Foods Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad | Photo Credit: Raymond Werner for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed and reserved, quartered and very thinly sliced
  • 1 large navel or blood orange, quartered and very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large red onion, quartered andvery thinly sliced
  • 1 whole pimiento, drained (reserve 1 tbsp. of the juice) and finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 MarRay Foods Spicy Citrus White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp of the reserved pimiento juice
  • Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Begin the Fun

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, juices, salt, and pepper. Whisk to emulsify. Add fennel, orange, red onion, and pimiento. Toss well to thoroughly combine. Mince some of the reserved fennel fronds and add to the salad. Refrigerate uncovered for at least an hour. Remove approximately one hour before serving.

PRINT RECIPE: MarRay Foods Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad

All MarRay Foods items can be purchased online or at the Canton Farmers Market beginning June 1.

 

 

 

 

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