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Friday, January 25, 2008

SPICES AND TIPS FOR COOKING

GARLIC

Synonyms : Clown’s trade

Forms of use : Bulb, fresh, whole, or in the form of a paste, dried and ground.

Origin : Native to western Asia. It is grown in temperate and subtropical climate.

Aroma : slightly savory, slightly sweetish taste. It smells like sulfur and therefore it is peculiarly penetrating.

Use : Garlic plays a big role in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Very dominant in tapas, antipastos or mezzos. It goes well with meat and fish, souffl├ęs, and soup. Its aroma contributes to some salad dressings and dips.

Hidden use : whether mixed into Italian pesto, Asian curry, pasta or Indian spice dishes, many cooks consider garlic an essential ingredient.

Buying/storing : available all year aroung. In spring, young garlic can be eaten whole as a vegetable. If it is stored in a dark, dry place, it will last for several months. Garlic paste, both in a jar and in a tube, should be store in a refrigerator once opened. Garlic powder as well as salt should be firmly closed and stored in a dark place.

Tips for cooking :

You can recognize fresh garlic by its hard white cloves covered with a dry peel. When buying garlic, push carefully on the bulb. Maybe you wonder why some bulbs are rose and others are white. The difference in taste is insignificant. Gourmet cooks usually prefer rose colored garlic. Garlic paste tastes very similar to bulbs. Use salt or powder only if you want to season something quickly.

Before you start peeling and cutting garlic, moisten your hands and the cutting board – they will release their smell faster.

Garlic develops its full aroma only when pressed through garlic press or sliced with a knife. When garlic is roasted in oil or cooked, it loses its piquancy.

HORSERADISH

Synonyms: red cole, cran, cranson, meredic, rabano picante

Form of use : root, fresh, whole and grated, as a paste, dried, as powder or in flakes, ground, in powder or pickled.

Origin : Grows in the steppes of eastern Russia and Ukraine. It is cultivated all over Europe, Asia, and North America.

Aroma : Sharp and acrid. Fresh-grated horse radish fills the eyes with tears.

Use : Essensial spice in Bavarian and Austrian cuisines. Horseradish is added to beef dishes and goes well with hearty stews and soups.

Buying/storing : Horseradish roots should be used fresh immediately after digging. Should remain whole if stored. The white flesh should not be grayish. The root cannot have more than two heads and should weight at least 6 oz. Fresh horseradish is available from Oktaober to March. You can store it in cold cellar or in the refridgerator. You should use bottled horseradish during the rest of the year. Horseradish powder and flakes are rarely available.

Tips for cooking

Horseradish powder and flakes must be mixed with water. The potency of horseradish roots peaks at harvest time in the fall and then gradually decreases. Pay attention to this fact when cooking with fresh horseradish.

CINNAMON

Synonyms : -

Form of use : dried bark, divided into pieces or ground

Origin : Srilanka (Ceylon). It is cultivated in Indonesia, Madagaskar, the Lesser Antilles and Central America as well.

Aroma : Highly aromatic, fine and sweet. However, its taste is sometimes bitter.

Use : It is used in sweet dishes, cakes, chocolate drinks, fruit juice, mulled wine, tea and honey, and is added to rice milk in some countries. In Asian cuisine, it is common to use cinnamon to season meat and fish dishes as well as pilafs and curry. Cola drinks, lemonades, and chewing gums often contain cinnamon oil.

Buying/storing : Cinnamon powder, ground from crushed sticks, is more precious than sticks. Both cinnamon sticks and powder should be stored in airproof containers in a dark, dry place.

Tips for cooking :

Cinnamon is the most important ingredient in gingerbread, which contains coriander, anis, Chinese anis, cloves, orange and lemon peel, cardamom, nutmeg, mace and pimento. Mulled wine spices include cinnamon sticks, Chinese anise, cloves and cardamon

Important warning : cinnamon oil, prepared from bark, can irritate skin. Therefore, mild oil prepared from cinnamon leaves is suitable for baths and massages because of its relaxing and antispasmodic properties. It is a good way to treat gastrointestinal disorders or strained muscles.

you can get more spices and information at SPICES

CHILI SAUCES AND PASTES

AMERICAN CHILI SAUCES

Tabasco

It is a pure and natural product from chili peppers. The peppers pods are ground and mixed with a little salt on harvest day. The mixture is poured into oak casks and aged for 3 years. As it ferments, it develops its full spicy aroma. When the chili pepper mix has rested long enough, unwanted liquid is drained and distilled vinegar is added. Everything is blended continuously for 4 weeks. Then the remaining shucks and seed corns are separated. The red sauce is bottled, packed in cardboard boxes and distributed all over the world. The proportion of ingredients contained in the mix, namely chili peppers, salt and distilled vinegar, is not known because it is a fiercely guarded family secret.


Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce
A sister of the red pepper sauce was invented I 1996. It is milder and is made from aromatic Jalapeno peppers. This sauce is intended for lovers of mildly hot dishes.

Carribean Chili Sauce

There are a number of Carribbean chili sauces, but one thing in common – all of them contain cut chili, onion, vinegar and salt. Depending on the particular chili sauce, the color can be bright red (if it contains tomatoes) or yellow (if it contains tumeric).


ASIAN CHILI SAUCES

Chinese and Korean chili sauces
It is usually very salty and is used as a kind of salt substitute in traditional Asian cuisine. In China, it is common mainly in the Sezchuan and Hunan provinces.


Thai and Malaysian chili sauces
These Asian chili sauces differ from Chinese and Korean varieties because they usually contain a good deal of ginger. Their consistency is thicker that that of other chili sauces.


Sambals
Sambal are pastes rather than sauces. They are made from chili peppers. You can still spot little pieces of the pods in the product. They originated in Indonesian cuisine, but are now a fixture in the cuisines of many other Asian Countries. They come in various flavors. Sambal Ulek, sometimes called oelek, is the best-known chili paste. It is extremely hot and should be added to dishes only in very small quantities. Sambal manis is a sweet and rather mild paste. It is a mix of chili and shrimp, enhanced with Kaffir lime leaves, Kemer (pistachio) nuts, brown sugar and oil. Most sambals are soft at room temperature, but some are solid and sold in blocks. The most popular one is sambal kacang, which includes ground peanuts. It must be diluted with hot water before use.


AFRICAN CHILI PASTE

Harrissa

This chili paste is from North Africa. It is extremely hot and is produced from dried or fresh chili. Harrissa also contains garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and mint. Milder versions contain tomato as well. It is used in Arab cuisine to season soups and stews and to color mayonnaise and rice. Lamb, chicken and fish are marinated in it before grilling. This hot paste is served with couscous in North Africa.


IMPORTANT WARNING :
If your fingers come in touch with hot sauce or sambal, wash your hands well and be careful not to rub your eyes. The capsaicin contained in chili peppers is very aggressive and extremely hot.