Cumin (Recipe: chickpea falafel)
A fun thing to know about cumin:
Since the Middle Ages, people have believed that cumin -- one of the "warm" spices, along with cinnamon, allspice and coriander -- is a food of love. They carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin was thought to keep lovers -- and chickens -- from wandering, and to ensure a happy life for a bride and groom who carried cumin seed in their wedding ceremony. And, I guess, to ensure that the couple always would have their chickens. And eggs.
Cooking or baking?
Both, but primarily cooking. Most often cumin adds a smoky tone to savory dishes, especially in Latino and Indian cuisines.
Keep a small supply of cumin seed on your spice rack, in a tightly sealed jar or tin. Buy in bulk (more economical), and store the rest in the freezer. It's always best to grind as you need it, but I usually keep a jar of ground cumin on my spice rack, too. I use it a lot and it doesn't have time to lose its potency. If you buy ground cumin in bulk, you can store it in the freezer for up to one year.
The first time I tasted falafel, I was a teenager traveling in Israel, and falafel stands were everywhere. It was cheap, delicious, and vegetarian. The falafel patties came in pita bread stuffed with lettuce and tomato, and a slathering of hummus, and that's still the way I like to serve it, though it's also served with tahini or yogurt. Falafel can be made with chickpeas, or fava beans, or a combination of the two. Adapted from Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood, by Francine Halvorsen, this recipe serves 4.
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic
3 Tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne or ground chile pepper
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
Pita breads, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, hummus (for serving)
Soak the chickpeas in 6 cups of water for 24 hours. Drain and place in a food processor with all of the ingredients except the oil, and process until well ground.
Heat the oil in a wok. Form the chickpea mixture into 12 balls, and when the oil is hot, fry a few at a time. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.
Serve warm or at room temperature on a pita bread, with lettuce, tomato, and hummus.
Other recipes that use cumin:
Cumin-spiked tofu, from 101 Cookbooks
Apple and cumin lentil salad, from Chocolate & Zucchini
Roasted cauliflower with lemon, curry, and cumin, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Spiced bulgur pilaf with pine nuts and currants, from Cookin' Canuck
Cumin scented stir-fry beef with celery, from Jane Spice Recipes