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September 9, 2010

Cumin (Recipe: chickpea falafel) {vegan}


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.

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August 24, 2010

Vanilla powder, a Pantry Special (Recipe: cinnamon and vanilla challah French toast)

Cinnamon and vanilla challah French toast 

Vanilla powder (also known as ground vanilla), a very recent arrival in my pantry courtesy of Cousin Martin's eclipse-watching trip to Tahiti, takes the bean out of vanilla beans. It's made by grinding whole dried vanilla beans into a powder. No fuss, no muss, no leftover slit vanilla pods (after all, how many of those can you stick in the sugar jar?). You get pure vanilla flavor without the additional alcohol in extracts, and, unlike extracts, the powder can be added directly to warm liquids and the flavor will not dilute. Best of all, you still can see the little flecks of vanilla in your dish. Be careful when purchasing, as some vanilla powders (including some popular brands) also contain sugar; read the label to be sure you are getting 100% pure vanilla powder. When baking, add vanilla powder with the dry ingredients. If your recipe calls for one teaspoon of vanilla extract, substitute one-half teaspoon of vanilla powder and add one more teaspoon of liquid (milk, buttermilk, etc.) to the wet ingredients.

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August 10, 2010

Curry powder (Recipe: stir-fried curried beef with tomatoes and peas)

Stir fried curried beef with tomatoes and peas 

When someone mentions curry powder, I think of Indian food.

Don't you?

We need to think again.

Most Indian cooks create their own curry-powder-like blends, portioning out their favorite spices from a masala dabba, adjusting the balance to the needs of a particular recipe. There's no one "curry powder" in Indian cooking. The curry powder we buy -- the "convenience" blend from the supermarket or spice merchant -- has no place in most Indian kitchens.

Many cuisines incorporate the component flavors of curry powder into their own dishes; Indian spices traveled with merchant ships to the Caribbean, Europe, South Pacific, Japan and China. And eventually they made their way to my own kitchen, where both sweet and hot curry powders have a place on the spice rack.

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August 5, 2010

Red pepper flakes (Recipe: stir-fried corn and red pepper with ginger and garlic) {vegan, gluten-free}

Stir fried corn and red pepper with ginger

On my spice rack, two pint-size mason jars filled with red pepper flakes sit side by side on a shelf.

One jar contains mild flakes, the other hot. They look identical, so I'm glad I remembered to label the top of the jars!

Red pepper flakes are a staple here in Pizza World (also known as Rhode Island, the most Italian state in the country), where a shaker jar sits on the table of every pizzeria.

In my kitchen, they're a staple, too, thanks to their long shelf life. And while I have many types of hot sauce and chili pastes in the pantry, red pepper flakes contribute heat, and only heat, without adding vinegar and salt where you don't want them.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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