Cumin: I have to confess my obsession with cumin: Its toasty, smoky flavor had me at, well, first taste. It is said to be one of the most popular spices in the world, preceded, I have read, only by black pepper. This little oblong seed is actually a dried fruit and is generally not used in its raw form. It can be toasted in a dry pan or fried in a little oil, powdered in a spice grinder or toasted and then pounded with a mortar and pestle.
Read more: iSPICE – CUMIN
Red & Green Chilies: Apologies that my photo shows only red! But I love all chilies. Love them or hate them, you have to admit they demand and command respect for their flavor, texture and heat. What scares people most about the peppers — or, if you’re like me, what attracts you most — is the heat.
When you cut open a chili pepper, its tiny little white seeds are exposed. They are the culprits/heroes responsible for the heat. But heat varies depending on the type of chili and how ripe it is. Even chili peppers from the same plant can contain varying degrees of heat.
Recipe: Basil Chicken with chilies
Cloves: Unfortunately, my very first memory of cloves is associated with pain. It was excruciating. I must have been about 10, with a horrid toothache. My father wrapped two cloves in some cotton and told me to bite on it with the tooth that hurt. Ouch. I did, and a few minutes later the pain subsided enough for me to feel human again. Luckily, other people in this world have kinder, gentler memories of this lovely spice. “My mother loved any kind of spice cookie with cloves in the recipe. I think I inherited that from her,” says Karen Adler, one-half of the BBQ Queens (with Judith Fertig) whose newest cookbook is “300 Big & Bold BBQ & Grilling Recipes” (Robert Rose, 2009). “As I began to bake, I would do combinations of cinnamon and cloves for more flavor. I also like to pickle olives, and a small bunch of cloves in the pickling juice adds a wonderful earthy dimension of flavor. When I began barbecuing, I found that cloves added to barbecue rubs or sauces added a very nice depth of flavor.”