Toasted Cumin: Bringing out the flavors of Raw Foods
By Ushi Patel
There seems to be quite a debate whether toasting a spice prior to grinding and using it actually brings out the flavor. On the one side, toasting is a superficial trend denying that raw spices have been used for centuries and contain beneficials oils that are released in the air, not the food, when heated prematurely. Toasting spices in India was a practical technique to dry spices out during the Monsoon. On the other side, is the glamour and exotic appeal of earthy and smoky anything. The texture is different than the raw powder. The flavor is enhanced and tastes good.
I take the stance of my grandmothers – nothing is bad or good in the kitchen, it’s just different, and really a matter of tastebuds or preference. Personally I love keeping toasted cumin on hand mixed with a touch sea salt to enliven salads or to sprinkle over fruit. Do it on Sunday mornings and keep it in the pantry for the week, to bring out the flavor of raw foods without too much salt or heavy dressings.
Toasted Cumin Seeds
It’s simple, that’s why I love it. Here’s some quick instructions for a yummy staple.
½ cup of whole cumin seeds (Here’s a good bulk source)
1 tbsp of sea salt (fine or flaky according to desired texture)
Heat a small skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add the cumin seeds.
Shake the pan to keep the cumin seeds moving and cook until the seeds darken slightly. You’ll know it’s done when the earthy aroma of the seeds is released, usually about 1 minute.
As soon as the seeds are toasted, transfer them to a bowl or mortar and pestle to cool quickly and stop the cooking process. Add sea salt.
For a texture crush slightly in a mortar and pestle or for a fine powder use a clean coffee grinder and pulverize.