Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New feature I'm adding

Starting to day, I am adding a daily item to food chronicles. There may not be a regular post daily, but there will be The Spice of the Day post every day. I will discuss a different spice each day in hopes that you will venture forth and try something new!


I mentioned we went to Penzy's in Torrance during December. I was insearch of a few spices I could not pick up in town. We have a very diverse group of people living here, yet the stores have refused to carry anything other than the "normal" ethnic types of supplies. Sp now and then I must venture forth.

My first choice is Cardamom. I first became acquainted with this spice in a chocolate truffle from an artisanal candy maker. It reminded me quite a bit of nutmeg, but still different. Don't avoid this spice because you don't like nutmeg, it isn't strong like nutmeg, yet it does have a very distinct flavor. In the picture it is the far right spice. I took a shot showing the tops of the bottles so you could see the difference in density of each. Cardamom is very dense as opposed to other spices when ground. It is available in pod form, white, black or green pods and that is probably the best way to purchase it. Then you can grind it as you need it. I bought the ground for expediency's sake.

Cardamom is native to India, yet its use has spread worldwide. India's cooks use both the green and the black pods in thier cooking. It is used with meats and vegetables and could be considered a mainstay ingredient. In the mideast the green pods are sometimes combined with coffee beans prior to roasting to add body and depth to the flavor. The green pods are preferred in the mideast and India. Scandanavian cooks use Cardamom in baked goods, white pods are used mainly as their choice. In Africa, the black pods are the preferred choice. The black pods have a distinct smokey flavor that has developed in them over the years and is also used as a substitute for the more expensive green pods in India.

The pods, intact with no splits, can last forever. They can be cracked open and the spice ground when needed, however the ground Cardamom is easily used for baking because of its ease of use. The pods can be used for flavoring ganache. While heat the cream before adding it to the chocolate, steep a few pods in the cream. Strain the cream to remove the pods prior to adding it to the chocolate. It gives the chocolate a rich flavor that many people will enjoy.

Cardamom can be added to several different recipes such as jam, tea, coffee, chocolate, various meats such as lamb or veal, and baked goods.

Here's a recipe from Epicurious:


Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cayenne pepper enhance this North African-style dish.It can be served over steamed rice.

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder o-bone (round-bone) chops, trimmed, boned, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cups chopped onions
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 cup water

2/3 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat. Heat vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saut
 until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add lamb and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced ginger and stir 1 minute. Add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add apricots to pot and simmer uncovered until liquid is slightly thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar and sugar. Season to taste with salt. Divide stew among 4 bowls.

Serves 4

93% of the people who tried this recipe would make it again. Sounds good, I'll have to give it a try.