Preparation / Directions:
Cumin (pronounced "que min") is the spice that makes it hard to say "no" when walking by a taco stand. Its nutty, earthy aroma spells comfort food, Mexican style. This tiny, toast-colored seed of an annual herb in the parsley family is grown mainly in India and the Middle East.
Spaniards brought cumin to the New World, where it quickly took fire and became an anchor of Mexican cooking.
Cumin's slightly bitter, spicy (but not hot) flavor is the backbone of chili and curry powders. It also works its magic in Caribbean food. Try it with ground meats, sausages, stews, and bean dishes. Or, use it to season veggies, chutneys, dips, and salad dressings. Toasting the seeds lends them a pleasant, smoky essence.
To toast, place them in a small frying pan over low heat; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Or, spread them on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350F oven about 10 minutes or till brown and aromatic, stirring occasionally.
Most spices retain their flavor better when stored whole in airtight containers; this is especially true of cumin. Use the seeds whole or grind in a coffee grinder (clean it carefully after use, unless you're a fan of cumin-flavored coffee), a blender, a mortar and pestle, or with a hammer and cutting board.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Magazine May 199