Caraway Seed, these aromatic seeds come from an herb in the parsley family. They have a nutty, delicate anise flavor and are¬†widely used in German, Austrian and Hungarian cuisine. Caraway seeds flavor many foods including cheese,¬†breads, cakes, stews, meats, vegetables and the liqueur Kummel. They should be stored airtight in a cool, dark¬†place for no more than 6 months.
- A member of the ginger family, this aromatic spice is native to India and grows in many other tropical areas including Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. Cardamom seeds are encapsulated in small pods about the size of a cranberry. Each pod contains 17 to 20 tiny seeds.
- Cardamom has a pungent aroma and a warm, spicy-sweet flavor. It's widely used in Scandinavian and East Indian cooking. Cardamom can be purchased either in the pod or ground.¬†
- The latter, though more convenient, is not as full-flavored because cardamom seeds begin to lose their essential oils as soon as they're ground. The seeds may be removed from the pods and ground, or the entire pod may be ground. A mortar and pestle make quick work of the grinding. If using cardamom to flavor dishes such as stews and curries, lightly crush the shell of the pod and add the pod and seeds to the mixture. The shell will disintegrate while the¬†dish cooks. Be frugal when using cardamom ‚ÄĒ a little goes a long way.
- Once used in love potions and to perfume wealthy Romans, this age-old spice comes in two varieties ‚ÄĒ Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (cassia). Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. The bark is harvested during the rainy season when it's more pliable. When dried, it curls into long quills, which are either cut into lengths and sold as cinnamon sticks, or ground into powder.
- Ceylon(or tree) cinnamon is¬† buff?colored and mildly sweet in flavor; cassia cinnamon is a dark, reddish brown color and has a more pungent, slightly bittersweet flavor. Cassia cinnamon is used and sold simply as "cinnamon" in many countries (including the United States). Cinnamon is widely used in sweet dishes, but also makes an intriguing addition to savory dishes such¬†as stews and curries. Oil of cinnamon comes from the pods of the cinnamon tree and is used as a flavoring, as well as a medicinal.
- Considered one of the world's most important spices, cloves are the dried, unopened flower bud of the tropical evergreen clove tree. Reddish brown and nail-shaped, their name comes from clavus , the Latin word for nail.
- Cloves are sold whole or ground and can be used to flavor a multitude of dishes ranging from sweet to savory.
- Native to the Mediterranean and the Orient, coriander is related to the parsley family. It's known for both its seeds (actually the dried, ripe fruit of the plant) and for its dark green, lacy leaves. The flavors of the seeds and leaves bear¬†absolutely no resemblance to each other.
- Mention of coriander seeds was found in early Sanskrit writings and the seeds themselves have been discovered in Egyptian tombs dating to 960 b.c. The tiny (1/8- inch), yellow-tan seeds are lightly ridged. They are mildly fragrant and have an aromatic flavor akin to a combination of lemon, sage and caraway. Whole coriander seeds are used in pickling and for special drinks, such as mulled wine. Ground seed is used in¬† many baked good (particularly Scandinavian), curry blends, soups, etc. Both forms are commonly available in supermarkets. Coriander leaves are also commonly known as cilantro and Chinese parsley.
- Fresh coriander leaves have an extremely pungent (some say fetid) odor and flavor that lends itself well to highly seasoned food. Though it's purported to be the world's most widely used herb, many Americans and Europeans find that fresh coriander is definitely an acquired taste. Choose leaves with an even green color and no sign of wilting. Store a bunch of coriander, stems down, in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the leaves. Refrigerate in this manner for up to a week, changing the water every 2 days. Coriander leaves are used widely in the cuisines of India, Mexico, the Orient and the¬† Caribbean.
- Also called comino , this ancient spice dates back to the Old Testament. Shaped like a caraway seed, cumin is the¬†dried fruit of a plant in the parsley family. Its aromatic, nutty flavored seeds come in three colors: amber (the¬†most widely available), white and black (both found in Asian markets).
- White cumin seed is interchangeable¬†with amber, but the black seed has a more complex, peppery flavor. Cumin is available in seed and ground forms. As with all seeds, herbs and spices, it should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months. Cumin is particularly popular in Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cooking. Among other things, it's used to make curries, chili powders and Kummel Liqueur.
- Widely used in Indian cooking, authentic Indian curry powder is freshly ground each day and can vary dramatically depending on the region and the cook. Curry powder is actually a pulverized blend of up to 20 spices, herbs and seeds. Among those most commonly used are cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric (the latter is what gives curried dishes their characteristic yellow color). Commercial curry powder (which bears little resemblance to the freshly ground blends of southern India) comes in two basic styles ‚ÄĒ standard, and the hotter of the two, "Madras." Since curry powder quickly loses its pungency, it should be stored, airtight, no longer than 2 months.