Cardamom, here you come!
With the holiday season passing, the presence of cardamom in baked goods, unfortunately, will too. Or will it? According to the US Food & Beverage Trends report, cardamom is projected to be one of the spices of the year– perhaps due to the surge in popularity of savory Indian and Scandinavian cuisines. Being a huge fan of this aromatic, exotic spice, I am in “flavor”!
What is cardamom?
Cardamom, is member of the ginger family – native to India, but is also grown in Mexico, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Indo China and Tanzania. There are two very different types: green and black. Each has their own unique flavor and use in cooking and baking. Green cardamom is delicate with a slight eucalyptus sensation; black cardamom is bold and smoky.
What does it taste like? Cardamom is one of those spices that cross the sweet/savory boundary between desserts and entrees. The flavor is difficult to describe. It’s more intense than clove and milder than ginger with a tingly finish. Just as cinnamon describes cinnamon, cardamom describes cardamom. You get it as the jar opens!
Cardamom may be the third most expensive spice in the world (following saffron and pure vanilla) – but so worth it. And a little goes a long way. For example, with just half a teaspoon you can transform basic sugar cookies or vanilla cheesecake into extraordinary. This is not an exaggeration!
Cardamom is available in several forms, each with a particular use in cooking:
• Green pods (purest form) – used mainly in savory dishes. When used for sweets, pods are split and the seeds ground.
• Ground (most common) – used in both sweet and savory cooking, but primarily for breads and sweets. It does not have a long shelf life. For best flavor, buy only what you plan to use.
• Black/Brown pods – used almost exclusively in savory Indian dishes and a handful of Sichuan dishes. Pods are smoked, giving them a deeper, slightly more bitter aroma.
• White (bleached) pods – used mainly in Scandinavian dishes. Pods are bleached in the sun, which gives the cardamom a brighter, more brisk flavor.
• Seeds – used for sweet and savory dishes. Longer shelf life than ground.
If you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve dessert that is both light and decadent and boasts a beautiful presentation, I recommend this recipe:
6 peeled Bosc pears
3 cups water
2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
6 black peppercorns
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 (1.5-liter) bottle Asti Spumante or other sweet sparkling wine
1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
2 cardamom pods, crushed
Mint sprigs (optional)
Ground cardamom (optional)
To prepare pears, working with 1 pear at a time, hold pear, stem side down, in 1 hand. Make 3 or 4 quick cuts into pear from the bottom, using a melon baller
(do not remove stem). If necessary, cut about 1/4 inch from base of each pear so they will sit flat when served.
Combine 3 cups water and next 5 ingredients (through wine) in a large stockpot over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 6 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
Add pears. Using tongs, place a small clean plate on top of pears to weigh them down. Return to a simmer; cook 15 minutes or until tender. Remove pot from heat; cool mixture to room temperature. Cover and chill 4 hours or up to overnight (do not remove plate).
To prepare cream, melt ice cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add cardamom; cook 2 minutes or until fragrant, shaking pan frequently. Stir cardamom into melted ice cream; cook over medium-low heat
5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Cool cream to room temperature; cover and chill.
Remove the plate from chilled pears. Remove pears from liquid with a slotted spoon; discard liquid. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons cream onto bottom of each of 6 small dessert plates
or shallow bowls; top each serving with 1 pear. Garnish with mint sprigs and ground cardamom, if desired.
Liz Zack, Cooking Light