Nutmeg is the spice many of us associate with holiday treats: apple and pumpkin pies, custards, cookies, spice cakes, eggnog. The seed kernel inside the fruit of a large evergreen tree, nutmeg has a sweet, aromatic, nutty bouquet, and a warm, sweet, nutty flavor. Nutmeg is also wonderful in savory dishes such as pasta and braised vegetables.
In the Middle Ages, nutmeg and mace grew in one spot on earth: the Banda Islands of present-day Indonesia. The Arab traders who sold spices to Venetian merchants kept the location of the source of this prized spice a closely guarded secret, which it remained for hundreds of years. Nutmeg has long been thought to possess or impart magical powers, enhancing virility, beauty, or popularity.
Today, nutmeg and mace are grown in numerous balmy locations from Indonesia to Grenada ["The Nutmeg Island"] in the Caribbean. Nutmeg is *not* a nut and does not pose a risk to people with nut alleges.
Nutmeg is delicious in sweet and dessert dishes, including french toast, and the whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Nutmeg is also a fabulous "secret ingredient" in savory foods: stews, cream soups and sauces, souffles and egg dishes, meatballs, and homemade pork, Mortadella or bratwurst sausage. Nutmeg is essential for bechamel sauce, and pairs nicely with vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, beans, onions, and eggplant.
Nutmeg should be added toward the end of the cooking process because its flavor diminishes when heated. One whole nutmeg equals 2 -3 tsp ground nutmeg.
*Little-known non-culinary fact: Nutmeg contains myristicin, which is reputed to be a strong deliriant [i.e., makes you delirious]. Never mind that it can make humans sleep for over 72 hours, one site says, "it is recommended not to feed eggnog to dogs." Because of its possible use as a hallucinogen, nutmeg is banned in Saudi Arabia.