Cumin: What is it and How to use it

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Last week Joe and I got some AMAZING cumin at Bieler’s Amish Market in Green.  The color was a beautiful burnt caramel-y color, the armoa was earthy and strong.  Joe used it in his rubs for the smoked meats he made that weekend, but I got to thinking, “How much do we really know about cumin??”

Cumin is an ancient spice that dates back to the Old Testament.  Shaped like a caraway seed, cumin is the dried fruit of a plant in the parsley family.  It’s 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 interchangable 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 spiced, 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 liqueurs.

I use cumin all the time!  It is probably the most used spice in our home, only third in line behind the salt and pepper.  It goes in my salsa, rice, egg salad, almost anything we eat.  Try it in your favorite recipe!

Couscous Salad with Spicy Yogurt Dressing

1 TBSP olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 small rib celery, finely chopped

1 cup couscous

1 ½ cups water

Spicy Yogurt Dressing

3 TBSP Greek yogurt

1 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp minced fresh ginger or 1 tsp dried

1 clove garlic, crushed or ½ tsp minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

Pinch black pepper


½ cup dried currants or raisins

½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

½ cup chopped green bell pepper

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

½ cup sliced green onions

FOR COUSCOUS: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and heat. Add onion and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Add water and bring to a boil. Pour in couscous and cover, removing from heat. Let stand 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff gently with a fork and set aside to cool. FOR DRESSING: In a large bowl, mix together lemon juice, yogurt, oil, ginger root, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper. Whisk before using.

FOR SALAD:Transfer couscous to a large serving bowl. Stir in currants, chickpeas, bell peppers, cilantro or parsley, and green onions. Add the dressing and toss to coat,. Garnish with a sprinkling of currants and green onion if desired. Serves 8.



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