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Rich and hearty, earthy and warm, with an edge of citrus, cumin adds instant depth to any dish. You might recognize cumin as one of the main flavors in chili powder and taco seasoning. But there’s so much more to it. This global traveler is at home in the kitchens of Mexico, Spain, India, North Africa and the Middle East. It’s a must-have for enhancing the savory flavor of rich meats like beef and lamb. And it accentuates the sweetness of root vegetables, like carrots and beets. We especially love how ground cumin adds complexity to vegetarian dishes, from vegetable and bean stews to grilled tofu. Its ability to enrich the taste of such a wide variety of ingredients makes it one of the top 10 spices sold in the U.S. Use ground cumin rather than whole cumin seed in recipes where you want the flavor to disperse evenly throughout.
Q: If I don’t have ground cumin on hand, what makes a good substitute?
A: Whole cumin seeds ground in a coffee mill will do the trick. But if you don’t have any cumin in your pantry, try a similar amount of chili powder. Cumin is, after all, one of the dominant flavors in chili powder—plus you’ll get a bit of chili pepper and oregano in the mix.
Cumin is a member of the parsley family. Surprised? You’d never guess that if you compared its warm, earthy flavor and aroma to parsley’s mild, green character. Cumin seed, like celery seed, is actually the dried ripe fruit of the plant. Cumin has known many uses over its long history. People have been enjoying it at the table since 5000 B.C.
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