How do you say cardamom?
Nobody's entirely sure of the etymology of the word, though it originated in ancient Greek (kardamomom), but the names for this popular spice from the ginger family are varied: shooshmir (Armenian); sugmel (Tibetan); trúc sa (Vietnamese); phalazee (Burmese); elaichi (Hindi); habbahan (Arabic); karudamon (Japanese); cardamomo (Italian); kardamonas (Lithuanian); kardemon (Estonian); kardemomme (Danish).
My favorite is kardemumma (Swedish) perhaps because I can imagine my Swedish brother-in-law Nils pronouncing each lilting syllable -- kar de MUM a -- his blue eyes twinkling, a glass of cardamom-laced akvavit raised for a toast.
The fruit of a large bush that grows wild in the Cardamom Hills in southern India, kardamonas is cultivated in Tanzania, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Guatemala. It's the world’s third most expensive spice, after saffron and vanilla, because it too must be harvested by hand, when the pods are only three-quarters ripe, or the pods will split open and spill their seeds.
Dried green pods should be hard, and the seeds inside them sticky. The seeds lose their flavor quickly when ground; even the whole pods will lose 40 percent of their essential oil within a year. When you can, buy whole green kardemomme pods, and grind as you go.
For convenience, I buy ground kardemon in small quantities, from Penzeys or from a local Indian spice market that has a lot of turnover. I always keep a bit in a jar on my spice rack, and store the rest in the freezer.
Kardemumma's warm, smoky, lemony flavor enhances dishes sweet (cardamom cookies, orange and cardamom upside-down cake, pistachio-cardamom cupcakes, cardamom and pine nut pears) and savory (Moroccan lamb tagine, beef curry, Indian spice broiled chicken).
Spice rub for chicken
Providence chef Diane Vatcher shared some of her spice rub formulas for a grilling class in the Ninecooks kitchen, and a few weeks later our cooking group had a great time mixing up dry rubs for different types of meats and fish. You can use this Moroccan-inspired rub on a whole chicken or turkey breast roasted in the oven, too. Makes enough for 6 large chicken breasts.
3 Tbsp ground cardamom
3 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground turmeric
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground allspice
3 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cloves
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or jar. Store in an airtight container for up to two months.
To cook, take chicken out of the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature. Rub lightly with olive oil, then massage some spice rub into the meat. Set aside while you heat the grill.
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