Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spices

Spices commonly refers to aromatics, herbs and spices used in seasoning. Briefly, aromatics are roots; herbs are soft green leaves and stems, usually fresh; and spices are dry seeds, nuts, fruits and barks. Herbs and aromatics keep days and weeks, but dry spices keep months and years, and have been traded around the world.


India is located at the center of trade routes on the Indian Ocean, between the Middle East and Europe to the west, and Indonesia and China to the east. Indian merchants on the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, similar to Italian merchants on the Mediterranean, introduced and supplied India with spices from both the East and West.

India is known for its spices, and provides many examples to learn and practice seasonings. Spices let us choose a varieties of tastes, instead of just fat and salt. From sauces to pickles to preserved cheeses and meats, it’s the seasonings, from roots, leaves, seeds, fruits and barks, all plants, that distinguish and provide signature flavorings to our favorite ingredients. Spices can add flavor to our everyday cooking.

There is mystery and secret in learning spices. Products often keep their seasonings secret, with ingredients listing bases like onion, garlic and ginger, and including the rest of seasonings as just spices.  Ingredients are ordered by volume, but measures are never given. Learning to blend pastes and roast and grind spices creates the almost magical potions and powders of cooking. The amounts are small, and often mixed and ground together into a single ingredient, a spice mix. I think of spice mixes, prepared for each dish, as a single ingredient.


dry herb



bay leaf
1 year
5
essential
fresh herb



garlic
1 month
2
essential
ginger
1 month
1
essential
cilantro leaf
3 days
1
essential
curry leaf
1 week
1
optional
ground spice



red pepper
1 year
12
essential
turmeric
1 year
1
essential
sea salt
1 year
1
essential
paprika
1 year
3
optional
whole spice



coriander seed
1 year
14
essential
cumin seed
1 year
3
essential
black pepper corns
1 year
2
essential
brown mustard
1 year
12
optional
green cardamom
1 year
2
optional
cinnamon
1 year
1
optional
cloves
1 year
1
optional


ESSENTIAL HERBS (5)
Garlic: Aromatic

Ginger: Aromatic. Native to China.

Bay Leaf: Bay leaf is a strong leaf, used as base seasoning in stews and broths in North India as wells as Middle East and Europe. South India prefers curry leaves.

Coriander Leaf / Cilantro: Adds bitter finish. Cilantro is used as finish for salads, sauces and stews, similar in function to parsley in European and Middle East.

Lemon (Lime): Lemon Rice. Adds sour and fruity taste. Lemon juice is used as dressing for salads and finish in stews, similar in function to vinegars.

OPTIONAL HERBS (1)
Curry Leaf: Lemon Rice. Native to South India and Asia. Curry leaf is a strong leaf, used as base seasoning in stews and broths, similar in function but different taste and aroma to bay leaf in Europe and Middle Eastern and Northern India.

ESSENTIAL SPICES (6)
Sea Salt: Rice. A pinch and no more is all that’s needed to make the difference between plain and tasty.

Black Pepper: Pilaf. Black pepper is native to India, and along with cumin, garlic and ginger, provides basic heat.

Turmeric: Pilafs. Aromatic like garlic and ginger. Gives brown rice a nice yellow color. Turmeric is a yellow root related to ginger. Commonly used in small quantities in everything.

Cumin Seed: Common. Used similar to black pepper. Often paired with coriander. Native across Middle East (Egypt), grown across Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Coriander Seed: Coriander is native to India, and grown across Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Red Chili Pepper (Cayenne Pepper): Native to America; paired with black pepper and cumin for extra heat.

OPTIONAL SPICES (4)
While common today, these spices are native to Indonesia (Spice Islands).

Brown Mustard Seed: Lemon Rice. Mustard seed is grown across Europe, Middle East and Asia. India uses brown mustard.

Green Cardamom: Eggplant Biryani, Biryanis. Cardamon is native to Middle East.

Cinnamon: Rice Flakes, Eggplant Biryani, Biryanis. Cinnamon is the bark of a tree. Native to Sri Lanka.

Cloves: Eggplant Biryani, Biryani. Native to Indonesia (Spice Islands).

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