Today, June 10, 2022, is National Herbs and Spices Day, so of course I’m going to celebrate!
After more than a year of promoting Spicebox Kitchen, you’d think I have a quick answer to the question, “What’s your favorite spice?” But I still don’t have a quick answer, because that would be like picking a favorite child! I usually try to get away with naming 5. But recently, I have started to offer advice on how to integrate more spices into your cooking, if you’re not accustomed to doing so. My tip? Pick a spice you’re interested in using, and then try it in different cuisines to see how different cultures use it. Take cumin, for example. This earthy seed is used in both whole and ground forms in many cuisines, including Mexican and Indian. Learn how to use it in one of those cuisines to start, then when you get a sense of the flavor it adds to food, you’ll be more comfortable exploring how it’s used in other cuisines, including Indian, Middle Eastern and more. I happen to love cumin. And from a health perspective, it’s helps with digestion and is also a source of iron.
Need a recipe to start with? Try it in the Trinidadian Okra and Tomatoes in Spicebox Kitchen.
I’m sharing it here in celebration of National Herbs and Spices Day. Enjoy!
And tell me in the comments, what’s your favorite spice?
Okra and Tomatoes
Serves 4 as a side dish
This dish is based on an African recipe of stewed okra and tomatoes. It also has a hint of Indian influence with the addition of cumin and the cooking method, which, rather than stewing, involves searing the okra over very high heat until slightly charred. For people who may not enjoy okra due to its gummy starches, this demonstrates two pro tips for reducing that characteristic—cooking okra with something acidic, in this case tomatoes, and cooking at high heat.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ cup diced onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 ounces fresh okra, top and tail trimmed, sliced into ½-inch pieces, or frozen, sliced okra
1 Roma tomato, cut into ½-inch dice
Heat a medium-size skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium heat, then melt coconut oil in skillet.
Add onion with a pinch of salt and cook for about 30 seconds, then add garlic and cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds.
Increase heat to high, add okra, and cook, stirring, for 30 to 60 seconds, or until slightly charred.
Add tomato plus salt and pepper to taste, stir to combine, and cook for another 3 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Excerpted from SPICEBOX KITCHEN: Eat Well and Be Healthy with Globally Inspired, Vegetable-Forward Recipes by Linda Shiue, MD. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Whole coriander seed in just about everything.