Posts Tagged ‘cumin’

From herbs in the last episode, the Good Eats trail takes us to spices in episode 98. So, what is the difference between a spice and an herb? An herb is a leaf, while a spice is a different part of a plant. If you want to keep your spices fresh longer, it is ideal to purchase spices in their whole forms, grinding them in a spice-only coffee grinder just prior to use. I remember that my dad began grinding his spices after watching this episode when it aired in 2004. Read on for Alton’s spice-friendly recipes.

Dried Pear and Fig Compote

A fruit compote is the first thing Alton made in this episode.

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Ingredients for fruit compote: white wine, dried figs, dried pears, vanilla bean, lemon zest, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, Kosher salt, lemon juice, and honey.

To make his compote, place 4 ounces dried figs, 4 ounces dried pears, 2 T honey (Alton used orange blossom), 1/2 a vanilla bean, 1 C apple cider, 1 C white wine, a 1-inch strip of lemon zest, 1 T lemon juice, 6 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a medium saucepan.

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All of the compote ingredients placed in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, decrease the heat to low, and continue to simmer the compote for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I found that it took the full 1 1/2 hours of simmering for my compote to thicken as Alton’s had.

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The compote, brought to a simmer and left for 1 1/2 hours.

After simmering, remove the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and lemon zest; good luck finding the cloves – we didn’t find some of them until we ate the compote!

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The compote after simmering.

Serve the compote warm over ice cream or you can refrigerate it for later use. We ate the compote over vanilla ice cream and it was very flavorful and spicy.IMG_6930

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Compote over ice cream.

All of the spices seemed to be well-balanced, though clove was perhaps the most dominant spice. The compote was pretty sticky in texture and had little pops of crunch from the dried fig seeds, which were quite prevalent. Due to the rich color of the compote, and its spices, the compote seems to me like a good dish to make in the fall. This would also be great over a pork tenderloin. This is a recipe that truly shows how spices can contribute to a sweet dish.

Vegetable Curry

For a weeknight vegetarian dinner, consider giving Alton’s vegetable curry a try.

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Spices for Alton’s vegetable curry: coriander, onion powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed.

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Spices, divided for their addition in the recipe. Yellow bowl has cumin seed, fennel seed, and mustard seed. Red bowl has coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric. Green bowl has Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

The recipe begins with poking holes in a frozen bag of mixed vegetables. Microwave the veggies on high for 2-3 minutes, or until thawed.

Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, adding 2 T vegetable oil to coat the pan. To the oil, add 1 t cumin seed, 1/2 t mustard seed, and 1/2 t fennel seed. If you have a splatter guard, Alton recommends that you use it now.

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Cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed added to hot oil in skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a bowl 2/3 C plain yogurt and 1 t cornstarch, setting the bowl aside.

When the mustard seeds begin to pop in your skillet, add 1/2 t freshly ground coriander, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/8 t ground cinnamon, and 1 t ground turmeric.

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Coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric added to skillet once mustard seeds began to pop.

It is also time now to add two crushed cloves of garlic and three dried red chilies with their stems and seeds removed.

Cook this mixture until the garlic begins to turn golden, but watch it very carefully as the spices could easily burn. When the garlic begins to brown, add the thawed bag of vegetables to the pan, along with 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t sugar, and black pepper to taste.

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Thawed frozen veggies, stirred in, along with Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

Stir the vegetables until they are heated through and coated with the spice mixture. Finally, quickly stir the vegetables into the bowl of yogurt.

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Spiced vegetables added to yogurt.

In the episode, Alton appeared to serve his vegetable curry as a side dish, but I opted to serve his curry over rice for a main course.

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Vegetable curry served over rice.

We thought this curry was pretty impressive, though the chilies really didn’t make it very hot. I would prefer to have more heat in my curry, but that is just personal preference. Otherwise, this curry had a nice combination of spices and came together in a matter of minutes. To get some protein, you could always add some tofu or meat. I would not say this recipe wowed me, but it is good for what it is – an easy weeknight vegetable dinner. And, it does have lots of spice flavor.

Broiled Salmon with AB’s Spice Pomade

Alton’s third spice recipe features salmon. It begins by placing an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheating the broiler. Brush a sheet pan with canola oil, placing a skinless three-pound side of salmon on the pan; I opted for a smaller piece, or really two pieces, of salmon since there were only two of us eating.

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My salmon.

Sprinkle the fish all over with 1 to 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and with 1 t black pepper.

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My salmon, sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper.

In a blender combine 2 t onion powder, 1 t garlic powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1 t whole cumin seed, 1 T whole fennel seed, 1 T whole coriander seed, and 1 star anise pod.

Blend all of the spices and pour in 1/3 C canola oil while the blender is running.

Brush this spice “pomade” all over the fish and let the fish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Salmon, brushed with pomade and left to sit for 30 minutes.

After resting, broil the fish for 15 minutes and check it for doneness. To check fish for doneness, look for three things:  1- the fish should be firm and bounce back when touched, 2 – the fish should flake easily when scraped with a fork, and 3 – the fish should be at 131 degrees in its thickest part.

IMG_6921Keep in mind that Alton’s cooking time is for three pounds of fish, so you will need to modify cooking time for a smaller piece of fish. My salmon was honestly overdone on the edges. To me, a good salmon recipe is one that does not overpower the fish, yet enhances it. I think this recipe does that. The fish is flavorful and moist, but has the added flavor pop from the combination of spices.

Curry Powder Blend

The last recipe in this episode is for Alton’s curry powder. I have a lidded tin in my basement that contains nothing but curry powders. For as long as I can remember, my parents used this tin to house their curry powders, and I inherited it a couple years ago. We have sweet curry powder, Thai curry powder, hot curry powder, and maharaja curry powder. Never, though, had I made my own curry powder… until now.

For Alton’s curry powder, in a lidded container combine 2 T cumin seed, 2 T cardamom seed (I had to use ground), 2 T coriander seed, 1/4 C ground turmeric, 1 T dry mustard, and 1 t cayenne pepper.

Shake the mixture to combine. Since Alton’s curry powder contains lots of whole spices, you can grind the curry powder just prior to use.

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Alton’s curry powder.

I never knew my paternal grandmother, but my dad began serving me her curry recipe when I was very young, and it has always been one of my favorite things. It is fun to alter the curry by mixing different curry powders each time. To really test Alton’s curry powder, I used it exclusively in Grandma’s curry and it passed the test very well.

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A bowl of my grandma’s curry made with Alton’s curry powder.

Alton’s curry powder is a mixture of sweetness, nuttiness, citrus, bitterness, and moderate heat. I would call this a very good all-around curry powder, and it has been added to the tin for future batches of curry goodness.

Fresh Yogurt

Yogurt is one of those things that I always feel I should eat more of than I do. I tend to go in spurts with yogurt, eating it frequently for a while, and then not at all. Alton’s yogurt episode began with homemade yogurt. I made homemade yogurt once years ago when I was in grad school, as part of my food microbiology lab course. All I really remember from that experience was that I had a lab partner from Mongolia who called himself “Woody,” I could barely understand a word he said, and our yogurt was very pink. Needless to say, I was hopeful that my Woody-less yogurt would be more successful. When making Alton’s yogurt, you can use any type of milk that you choose, but Alton opted for organic 2% milk in the episode of Good Eats. Alton did say that whole milk will result in looser yogurt, while skim milk will yield yogurt with a grainy texture. In addition to a quart of milk, you will need 1/2 C of powdered milk, 2 T honey, and 1/2 C of plain yogurt, containing live cultures.

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Ingredients for homemade yogurt: plain yogurt with live cultures, dry milk, honey, and milk.

Begin by pouring your milk into a saucepan, adding the powdered milk and honey.

Meanwhile, allow your yogurt to come to room temperature.

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Plain yogurt, being brought to room temperature.

Using a probe thermometer, heat the milk mixture to 120 degrees over medium heat. Remove the milk from the heat, and pour it into a clean cylindrical container, allowing it to cool to 115 degrees.

Once the milk has cooled, whisk about a cup of the warm milk into the yogurt.

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About 1 C of warm milk whisked into yogurt.

Then, whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the cylinder of milk. Wrap the cylinder in a heating pad that will maintain the yogurt’s temperature between 100 and 120 degrees; you can test your heating pad first by filling your cylinder with water.

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Yogurt added to milk and wrapped with heating pad to ferment for 6 hours.

Allow your yogurt to ferment for three to 12 hours, depending on how you like the texture of your yogurt; a shorter fermentation will yield looser yogurt, while a longer fermentation will give thicker yogurt. Alton did an even six hours in the episode.

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Yogurt, after fermenting for 6 hours.

Refrigerate your yogurt overnight before using.

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Alton’s homemade yogurt.

I thought this yogurt was fine, but really nothing special. If anything, I would have liked this yogurt to have had a thicker texture, so I would possibly ferment it a little longer if I were to make it again. Honestly, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of making this again when I can easily buy yogurt that I like just as much.

Thousand Island Dressing

So, really, Alton calls this dressing “Million Island Dressing” in the episode, and it is a good use for some of his homemade yogurt. To make his dressing, whisk together 1 C plain yogurt, 2 T vegetable oil, and 2 T tomato sauce.

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Yogurt, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil.

Once combined, add 2 t lemon juice, 2 t dry mustard, and 2 t sugar.

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Lemon juice, dry mustard, and sugar added to dressing.

Next, whisk in 1 t Kosher salt and 1/2 t pepper.

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Kosher salt and pepper added to dressing.

Finally, fold in 1/2 C diced onion, 1 T relish, 1 T chopped green olives, and 1 minced jalapeno.

I enjoyed this dressing more than I thought I would. It has a really good kick from the jalapeno, tang from the yogurt and lemon, and bite from the onion. It also adds a lot of texture to a salad. We actually liked this enough that I made it a couple times in one week for us to eat on our lunch salads. This is a really good salad dressing.

Tarragon Yogurt Sauce

If you are looking for another savory application for plain yogurt, this tarragon sauce is one to try. This sauce is very versatile and could be served over many things, including fish, eggs, and vegetables; in the episode, Alton says that his favorite use of this sauce is over braised carrots, so that is how I opted to use mine. For this sauce, begin by heating a saucier over medium heat, adding 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 C finely chopped onion, and 1 1/2 t minced garlic.

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Olive oil, Kosher salt, onion, and garlic in saucier.

I did not have a saucier until recently, but I inherited my parents’ copper-bottomed Calphalon saucier when my brother and I finished sorting through our parents’ belongings; thankfully, my parents are still living, but they really do not cook anymore. Yes, I have learned that a saucier is a very nice tool to have for a job such as this tarragon sauce. While your onion and garlic saute, combine 2 T cornstarch and 1 C chicken stock in a lidded container, and shake to combine. This slurry will help to thicken the sauce, and will also prevent over-coagulation of proteins, AKA curdling. Cream-based sauces have enough fat to prevent curdling, but yogurt-based sauces do not. Anyway, add the slurry to the pan, increase the heat, and add 1 1/2 T dried tarragon, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and temper 1 C of plain yogurt by gradually whisking in some of the sauce mixture. Finally, add the tempered yogurt to the pan, whisking.

Heat the sauce over low heat, just until warmed through. As I said before, we ate this sauce over carrots as a side dish.

The tarragon flavor in this sauce is quite strong, giving a real anise-like flavor, and you also really taste the yogurt. This is a sauce you could make with other herbs too; I think a dill version would pair terrifically with salmon. Either way, this is an easy sauce to dress up veggies or protein.

Yogurt Cheese

What is yogurt cheese? Yogurt cheese is yogurt that has been allowed to drain, removing whey. While cheese has had its whey removed, regular yogurt has not. Allowing yogurt to drain results in a thick yogurt that has a consistency similar to cream cheese. To make yogurt cheese, line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth, setting the strainer over a bowl. Add a quart of plain yogurt to the strainer, folding the cheesecloth over the top.

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A quart of plain yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Weigh the yogurt down with the lid of a pot and a can, refrigerating it for four hours.

Yogurt cheese can be used plain as a spread, or in Alton’s recipe for frozen yogurt, which I will write about below. I tasted the plain yogurt cheese, but opted to use it for Alton’s other recipe; it tasted like plain yogurt… just much, much thicker.

Herb Spread

This herb spread is basically the same recipe as the one for yogurt cheese above, but with added seasonings. To a quart of plain yogurt (I used homemade) add 1 1/2 t cumin, 2 T chopped parsley, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Cumin, parsley, Kosher salt, and pepper added to a quart of plain yogurt.

As with the yogurt cheese above, place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and add the yogurt mixture.

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Seasoned yogurt poured in cheesecloth-lined strainer to drain.

Weigh the yogurt down with a pan lid and can, allowing it to drain for four hours in the refrigerator.

The resulting spread is tangy and has a punch of cumin, and it is great with crackers or on sandwiches.

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Herb spread with crackers.

Talk about an easy hors d’oeuvre, and it is even easier if you use store-purchased yogurt!

Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

This recipe is the perfect use for Alton’s yogurt cheese. Combine in a bowl 4 C plain yogurt cheese, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C light corn syrup, 2 t lemon zest, 1 T minced fresh ginger, and 3 T lemon juice.

Whisk the yogurt mixture until smooth and freeze in an ice cream mixture per the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the last few minutes of churning, add 1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger.

Freeze the frozen yogurt in the freezer until firm.

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Alton’s lemon-ginger frozen yogurt.

This frozen yogurt is super refreshing and reminds me of warmer weather (as I type this, it is snowy outside and the Christmas tree is illuminated). The first time we ate this frozen yogurt, the crystallized ginger seemed too chewy, but after freezing the yogurt for a longer period, the chewiness went away. I definitely foresee making this again, as it is packed with ginger and lemon flavor, and is a relatively healthy treat. This is worth making.