4.21.10 Cardamom Central
My love for cardamom knows no bounds. I covet its pungent, deliciously floral spice—to smell (I adore perfumes that contain it) and to eat. Is that strange? If you are not familiar with this gorgeous flavor, I suggest you give it a try in either a sweet or savory recipe. I have posted several previously (rich shortbread-like cookies, a vegetarian curry, and ice cream). Don’t miss the new ones posted below: the ultimate lassi for warm weather; lamb chops for the grill or stovetop; and an easy and highly armotic basmati rice.
Cardamom refers to herbs within two genera of the ginger family Zingiberaceae: Elettaria and Amomum. Both varieties take the form of a small seedpod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Elettaria pods are light green in color, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. The green ones are sometimes bleached and appear as white.Brown (Black) Cardamom, Amomum sublatumThis coarse dark-reddish-brown pod looks something like a tiny coconut. It contains about 40 seeds and has a decidedly smoky aroma. The seeds are used in curries and rice dishes like biryani, and are an essential ingredient in garam masalas. The husks make a great smoking agent when soaked and thrown on hot coals in your grill.Green Cardamom, Ellettria cardamomumA bush in the ginger family produces these green pods that hold roughly 20 seeds each. Its flavor has a camphor-like quality and citrus intensity. The pods can be shelled to collect and grind the seeds, or can be used whole as in chai. Whole pod better retain the aroma of the seeds. Used in both sweet and savory preparations, especially in Indian cuisine, where even coffee is sometimes spiked with cardamom (divine!).White Cardamom, Ellettria cardamomumThese are simply green pods that have been bleached, which sweetens the taste and smoothes the intensity. Found mostly in Scandinavia, white cardamom is a key ingredient in spiced wines like glog, and in holiday yeast breads.Cardamom is used in many medicinal/therapeutic remedies. It is said to strengthen digestive activities, relieving flatulence, indigestion and heartburn. In India, it is commonly used as a breath freshener. Powdered seeds of cardamom are boiled in water to make tea and used to treat depression and even sexual dysfunction. Gargling with an infusion of cardamom and cinnamon cures sore throat and can also be useful in averting bouts of flu.Cardamom Lassiadapted from Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez serves 2At Lassi, her restaurant in the West Village, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez offers eight variations on the classic sweet-tart Indian yogurt drink but this one is the most addictive. Some traditional recipes call for adding ice but this tends to make it watery, so just take the time to chill it before drinking.2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt3 tablespoons superfine sugar1 teaspoon ground (green) cardamom1 pinch sea saltPuree yogurt, sugar, cardamom and salt in a blender until well combined. Divide lassi between 2 glasses and chill until quite cold, about 45 minutes.Lamb Chops with Cumin, Cardamom and Limefrom Gourmet magazine serves 43 garlic cloves, finely chopped1/4 teaspoon ground cumin1/4 teaspoon ground (green) cardamom2 tablespoons fresh lime juice3/4 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon black pepper2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil8 (1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick) rib lamb chops (2 lbs)Whisk together garlic, cumin, cardamom, lime juice, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons oil, and transfer to a sealable plastic bag just large enough to hold lamb. Add lamb and seal bag, forcing out excess air, then massage lamb until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature, turning bag occasionally, 15 minutes.Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook half of lamb about 3 minutes each side for medium-rare. Transfer cooked lamb to a platter. Wipe out skillet, then heat remaining tablespoon oil and cook remaining lamb in same manner. Transfer to platter and let stand 5 minutes.Basmati Rice with Black Cardamomserves 42 black cardamom pods1 tablespoon butter1 bay leaf, large1/2 cup onion, chopped1 cup basmati rice2 cups water3/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepperSplit open the cardamom pods and remove the sticky seeds, discarding the pods. Separate the seeds with a sharp knife and crush them in a mortar and pestle.In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add cardamom seeds and bay leaf and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes.Add rice and cook, stirring, until it looks milky and opaque, about 3 minutes longer.Add water, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.