Monday, December 14, 2009

The Mother Lode

I think we all know that I'm a sucker for a deal on spices. This is mainly because if you're going to cook on a budget, you're going to need to take action to keep things interesting... very cheap ingredients (lentils, beans, grains, and so on) can take on a huge range of flavors if you do things right.

Well, this weekend... I hit the mother lode. A friend and I went to an area of town full of every kind of Indian store you can think of- clothes, food, groceries, everything. (this, by the way, is why I love L.A... I spent the morning there, then went to little Ethiopia for dinner, then I came home to my place, which is in little Brazil). ANYHOW. Check this out... I think I may never need to buy cumin, ever, for the rest of my life. This beat the ethnic section of my regular grocery store, which I had previously been all excited about, hands down- $1.80 for half a POUND of cumin? Holy smokes!

I got a couple of things I'm particularly psyched about...

1. cardamom pods
Why am I all excited about this? Mainly because I find cardamom fascinating- my family is Scandinavian, and growing up, I completely associated the taste with desserts made by my Grandmother (in addition, it is an ingredient in Glogg, which is the spiced wine you'll find on the stove of everyone I'm related to during the holidays). Only as an adult did I learn that its a huge component of Eastern cooking as well- I had this very surreal experience at the home of a friend, when her Mom used it in a rice dish- it took me half the meal to figure out what the strangely familiar flavor was. And only 10 minutes ago when I googled it, did I learn that together the Near East and Scandinavia consume half the worlds cardamom. I really like the idea of these two completely diverse regions and cultures independently landing on a same favorite spice. Plus, apparently its related to ginger, and, I do love ginger.

2. Garam masala
in seed form:
I didn't even know you could get this. I always have garam masala on hand, but its usually a mysterious powder. Now, the mystery is unveiled and I can see all the raw components (of course, I have to figure out how to grind it up, but thats another adventure).

3. Moong beans
One of my favorite things is to buy ingredients I've never used before, and just figure out what to do with them once I'm home. Thats not totally the case with these beans because I'd heard you could use them for daal. But, I've definitely never cooked them myself, and just spent part of the evening looking around for recipes. A pot of daal is currently bubbling on the stove, destined to be my lunch tomorrow if it works out. If its edible, you'll be seeing it soon! (it smells good, so my hopes are high).

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