It's easy to get into a rut... especially in the Summer when we feel less creative
about cooking. But that's just the time to experiment a little with some spices
you might not be used to using!
Here are our Top 5 Picks for Spicing up your Summer!
Cumin is the pale green seed of Cuminum cyminum, a small herb in the parsley
family. The seed is uniformly eliptical and deeply furrowed. An ancient spice,
Cumin is native to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt. Currently it
is grown in many places, as it is rather easy to grow and adapts well to many
Cumin is one of the ancient spices, a favorite of the Romans and it
is mentioned in the Old Testament. During medieval times, it was favored in
Europe and Britain, but it seems to have gradually lost favor in those places.
It is frequently used in Mexican dishes such as chili con carne and hot tamales.
Cumin has a distinctive, slightly bitter yet warm flavor.
For a change of pace, try ground Cumin added to tangy lime or lemon based
marinades for chicken, turkey, lamb, and pork. Or, add Cumin to chili,
spicy meat stews, barbecue marinades, and sauces. Stir toasted Cumin into your favorite
low carb muffin batter to create an easy south-of-the-border accent. Heat Cumin and
garlic in olive oil and drizzle over cooked vegetables. Ground Cumin is stronger
than whole seeds. The Cumin flavor is accentuated by toasting.
The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is special in that it produces two seperate
spices, nutmeg and Mace. Mace is the ground outer covering (aril) of the nutmeg seed.
A piece of unground Mace is called a blade.
Mace is indigenous to the Molucca Islands. There are both male and female trees and
they are planted in a ratio of about 1 male tree for every 10 female trees. The
Portuguese controlled the Mace trade until they were driven out by the Dutch in 1602.
At one point the price of Mace was so high and nutmeg so low that one Dutch official,
unaware that Mace and nutmeg came from the same tree, ordered growers to burn nutmeg
trees and grow more Mace.
Mace is most popular in European foods where it is used in both savory and sweet dishes.
It is the dominant flavor in doughnuts, so adding it to your low carb baked goods can
offer a familiar, decadent flavor. Mace has a flavor and aroma similar to nutmeg, with
slightly more pungency.
You can also use it in an array of savory favorites, such as pates, creamed spinach,
and whipped cauliflower (fauxtatoes.)
Tarragon is a small, shrubby herb, Artemisia dracunculus, in the sunflower family. Tarragon,
unlike many other herbs, was not used by ancient peoples. It was mentioned briefly in
medieval writings as a pharmaceutical, but did not come into common use until the 16th
century in England. It was brought to the United States in the early 19th century.
Tarragon has a slightly bittersweet flavor and an aroma similar to anise. It adds flavor
to egg and cheese dishes, light soups and even fresh fruits. To baste chicken, fish or
seafood, blend Tarragon with butter, chives, and lemon!
Summer Savory is an annual herb belonging to the mint family. Its dark-green, narrow leaves
are dried and crushed. Romans used Savory as an herb and seasoning even before they used pepper.
They used it as a medicine, a bee sting treatment, and an aphrodisiac. When the Romans brought
it to England, it was used as an ingredient in stuffing rather than as an herbal remedy.
Summer Savory has a clean, piney fragrance and peppery flavor and enhances almost any savory
dish. It goes well with soups, stews, cabbage, and sauerkraut. Or top chilled, poached fish
or chicken with a blend of Summer Savory, chives, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Crush Summer
Savory in your hand or with a mortar and pestle before use to release the flavor.
Coriander is the seed of Coriandrum sativum, a plant in the parsley family. The seed is globular
and almost round, brown to yellow red, and 1/5 inch in diameter with alternating straight and
wavy ridges. It's probably one of the first spices used by mankind, having been known as early
as 5000 BC. Sanskrit writings dating from about 1500 BC also spoke of it. The Romans spread it
throughout Europe and it was one of the first spices to arrive in America.
Coriander has a mild, distinctive taste similar to a blend of lemon and sage. It is not
interchangable with cilantro, although they are from the same plant. Ground Coriander seed is
traditional in desserts and sweet pastries as well as in curries, meat, and seafood dishes
with South American, Indian, Mediterranean, and African origins. Add it to stews and marinades
for a Mediterranean flavor.