Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Thing of the Week - Cumin

Yesterday I went north and visited my college roommate, whom I don't get to see often enough. We had nice time catching up, shopping and eating Thai food. One of our stops was at the Penzey's spice mother-ship store. I love Penzey's Spices, and I frequently order from the catalog. Going to the store, was a new experience though, because I could smell and sample the spices and spice mixes.

One of my all time favorite spices is Cumin. I bought a whole bunch of it, and my girlfriend was wondering, what am I going to do with all that cumin? So for her - and my other readers (hello, Mom!) here is the deal on cumin, and why it is my favorite thing of the week.

According to Penzey's Spices, cumin is one of the most popular spices in the world, second to black pepper. It is used in Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Latin American cooking. It has a strong, pungent smell and a distinctive taste which blends wonderfully with a lot of other flavors, because it enhances and draws out the natural sweetness in other foods. It can be used either as whole seeds and in a ground form. (I've used both, but mostly the ground type.)

So what do I use cumin in?
Black Bean Soup
Chicken Curry
Scrambled Eggs
Cornbread Muffins

Here is my Black Bean Soup recipe to get you started with your personal love of cumin. It is low-fat, delicious, and really cheap to make:

Simple Black Bean Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans black beans, drained
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion and bell pepper. Cook until peppers are wilted and onion is translucent. Add the garlic and the spices. Saute for just a minute more, don't let the garlic brown. Add the chicken broth; bring to a boil.

2. Add the beans, bring back to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a blender, puree half the soup. (You can also mash the beans in the pot as they cook). Add the puree back to the pot, reheat and serve.

This is good with corn muffins (add the cumin to the batter) or just some crusty bread and a nice salad. Make it totally vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

Here are some other recipes that feature cumin as a starring ingredient:
Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans and Cumin
Three Bean Salad with Cumin, Cilantro and Oranges
Muhammara Dip with Cumin and Cayenne
Lentil Soup with Lemon
Good, Basic Chili
Steak Tacos
Whole Enchalada Bake
Indian Style Scrambled Eggs
Potatoes with Cumin - Substitute hot pepper sause for the Harissa.
Spicy Lentil Nachos
Breakfast in a Cup - Make a head and freezable!
Black Bean Breakfast Burrito


The Original Drama Mama said...

Ooooh, Thai with an old college buddy sounds wonderful...I'm not quite sold on the cumin though...maybe I'll try the recipe!

Happy New Year!!!!