One of the world's most popular spices, cumin is extremely aromatic, with a warm, spicy, slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Cumin seeds are enjoyed around the world but especially in North African, Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican cuisines.
A primary ingredient in curry and garam masala blends, cumin seasons many ethnic dishes. Latin American soups and stews are flavored with cumin, as are Mexican meat, bean and rice dishes. While Mexican cooks characteristically rub the cumin seeds in their hands before dropping them into the cooking pot, Indians sprinkle the roasted, powdered spice over cooked vegetables and meats. In Morocco, brochettes (grilled meat kebabs) are seasoned with a blend of cumin, turmeric, ginger, peppercorns, garlic, onions and parsley.
Germans have long used cumin in sauerkraut, while the Hebrews traditionally add it to unleavened bread. Dutch and Swiss cooks use it to flavor cheese (Edam cheese in particular), cakes and breads (especially rye). Western cooks use it--in combination with other spices--to flavor fruit pies and cookies, cheese dips, cottage cheese, sandwich spreads, eggs, fish, casseroles, salad dressings, tomato-based sauces, poultry and meats like roast pork, sausage and meat loaf. (Cumin is also found in commercial meats, cheeses, liqueurs and pickles.)
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