Cumin – A savory cooking spice

How often do you season your cooking with cumin? Author Brenda Hyde says this is a spice you’ll want to keep in a handy spot.

Cooking with cumin
Cumin is a spice that most of us associate with spicy Latin American food, but it’s also used in Dutch, Belgian and even Austrian cooking. Ground cumin can be added to pot roast recipes, as well as potato dumplings. It’s a spice well worth keeping on your shelves for a variety of dishes.

Cumin is a member of the carrot family and a relative of caraway. Most of us use ground cumin that we purchase. It does require hot summers with at least three months of high temperatures to ripen the seeds. If you wish to try growing cumin, start seeds indoors and set your plants out after the danger of frost has passed. Plant in full sun in a light textured soil. Make sure you give it plenty of room, at least 18 inches for each plant. The entire plant should be uprooted just before the seeds completely ripen and it can be hung to dry upside down in a paper sack to keep from losing the seeds. The whole or crushed seeds can be kept in airtight containers.

Moroccan Potato Casserole


  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons wine or herb vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 large red, green or yellow bell peppers, mixed
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Seed and cut the peppers into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Combine garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor bowl. Process until mixture forms a paste. Add herbs, and blend. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and 2 to 3 tablespoons oil; blend. Season to taste with salt. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, peppers, and celery. Season with salt, and toss with herb sauce.

Transfer to a large shallow baking dish. Scatter tomatoes among the potato mixture. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons oil over top, and cover with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Mexican Smoked Chili Marinade


  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 canned chipotle chilies, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic,minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, or more to thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the orange juice and lime juice in a small saucepan and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup. Place reduced juice and remaining ingredients in a blender and puree to a smooth paste. I strongly recommend that you spread paste on the meat to be marinated.

Marinate seafood for 2 hours, poultry, beef and pork for 4 to 6 hours.Turn once or twice. Makes 1 cup, enough to marinade about 2 pounds of meat or seafood. Note: the Chipotle Chilies are VERY HOT, so if you need to, try cutting back the chilies in half the first time you make this. Remember, you aren’t eating the marinade itself, but just adding the taste to the meat. Grill the meat as usual, and discard the marinade.

Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Sauce


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water


  • 16 corn tortillas (6 inch)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 cups (24oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

For sauce, in large saucepan or Dutch oven brown ground beef with onions, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Drain. Add broth, tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, and cumin. Mix well, breaking up tomatoes with large spoon. (if you don’t like chunks of tomato, throw them in blender to puree slightly) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 1 hour.In small bowl mix cornstarch and water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Gradually add to chili sauce, stirring constantly. Continue cooking 5 minutes.

For enchiladas, heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat about 1/2 inch oil in small skillet until hot but not smoking. Quickly fry each tortilla in oil to soften, about 2 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towels. Spoon 1/3 cup cheese down center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in two 11 X 7 baking dishes. Top with chili sauce. Cover with foil. Bake 10 minutes or until hot. Remove foil. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese, and continue baking 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Note: I also make these with 1/2 a cup or so of ground beef in addition to the cheese in each enchilada that has been browned and seasoned with chili powder and salsa.

Tortilla Stew


  • 1 package corn tortillas, any size
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 whole, boned, skinned chicken breasts,
  • cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 16-ounce bag of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of diced green chilies
  • 12 cups of chicken broth, fresh or canned
  • Juice of three limes
  • 3 tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 3 tablespoons Chili Powder

Cut the tortillas into 1/2 wide strips and fry them in the hot vegetable oil in a large pot until they are very crisp and brown. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Place the remaining ingredients into the pot. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings and add more if needed.

Place handful of the fried tortilla strips in the bottom of a soup bowl, then ladle some of the stew over them. Serve hot. You can serve extras such as sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese if you wish.


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