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New Food Friday – Garam Masala

8 Feb Garam_Masala - Wikipedia

If you are an Indian food lover you will be very familiar with garam masala. For those who are not, garam masala is the spice (or spice mixture) that is on the agenda for today’s New Food Friday.

spice

Garam Masala, front row left (Photo credit: tonymz)

I was interested in a Tex-Mex recipe on a fellow blogger’s blog and that’s what motivated me to tell you about garam masala. 

http://perisspiceladle.com/2013/02/01/tex-mex-chili-gets-an-indian-touch

The recipe looked good but I knew I did not have garam masala in my pantry. I had looked for it before at my local Meijer but I couldn’t find it. When I went grocery shopping again, I lucked out because McCormick Garam Masala was on sale.

What is garam masala?

Garam masala is a Punjabi, or Northern Indian style curry powder. It is also used in some Nepalese and Asian cooking.

Spices - sxc.hu/Halifaxsxc

Curry, second row left; garam masala next to it. – sxc.hu/Halifaxsxc

Garam masala is a combination of spices that is used often in Indian cooking. It has many uses. You can use it as a rub for meats, in salad dressings, vegetables, breads, cookie recipes, and more. It is often used as a garnish and reminds me of basil in that sense because both are sprinkled on at the end of the cooking process to preserve their oils and special flavors.

In McCormick’s Garam Masala the ingredients are: cardamon, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, and coriander.

Garam Masala

McCormick Garam Masala

There are many versions of garam masala and many chefs and home cooks make their own version. 

What is the difference between garam masala and curry powder?

In the definition given by A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, curry powder is a turmeric-based spice mixture.

sxc.hu - tijmen - Curry Powder

Curry Powder – sxc.hu – tijmen

Another common ingredient in yellow curry and other curries popular in the West is mustard seed.

Indians refer to their spice mixtures as masalas. Besides garam masala, other types of masalas include chat masala, kala masala and dansak masala.  The word curry, coined by the British and derived from the word kari from the Tamil language of South India. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/412623-what-is-the-difference-between-curry-powder-garam-masala/#ixzz2KAMoEeY1

I have curry powder in my pantry and I rarely use it. After using garam masala, I prefer the garam masala. You can find garam masala in supermarkets, natural food stores, or Indian markets.

sxc-hu-lize-rixt-spice-bazaar

Spice Bazaar – sxc-hu-lize-rixt

What else can you tell us about garam masala, Marcella?

Garam Masala is also a Bollywood movie!

Garam Masala (film)

Garam Masala (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watch it on youtube! Here’s the link:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipSsGOeyzRg ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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New Food Friday – Saigon Cinnamon

1 Feb Cassia tree

Cinnamon, what would life be like without it? Stores are named after it: Cinnabon. Strippers are named after it: Cinnamon Buns. Musical groups are named after it: Cinnamon Chasers.

As you may know, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. It is one of the oldest known spices. Arab traders brought it from China in 1700 B.C.

It’s that spicy, aromatic, and sweet-hot spice that we love to add to dishes both sweet and savory. This New Food Friday is about Saigon Organic Cinnamon.

If you will recall, last week we (we?) were eating roots of trees (Yuca Root). This week we are eating the bark of trees. If I keep following this path, next week we (we?) could be eating leaves of trees or sap from trees! Perhaps my subconscious is still showing reverence to the almighty tree, after writing a post about the American blight-decimated chestnut tree!

Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t wait to finish using my regular (cassia) cinnamon so I could try my Saigon Cinnamon (which is still cassia cinnamon). Unfortunately, due to misinformation I received on the Internet, this is not the cinnamon I was looking for.

Let me explain. There are two types of cinnamon: one is called cassia cinnamon and the other is Ceylon cinnamon, the “true” cinnamon. I thought I was buying true cinnamon. I was not. In the States, what we know as cinnamon is really the bark of a cassia tree.

Brewster's Cassia - flowering tree

Brewster’s Cassia – flowering tree (Photo credit: Tatters:))

According to the http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the definition of a cassia tree is a tropical Asian evergreen tree (Cinnamomum cassia) having aromatic bark used as a substitute for cinnamon.

English: Bark of Cassia siamia tree ocurring i...

Bark of Cassia siamia tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, as far as cinnamon goes, Saigon Cinnamon is absolutely delicious! If you shake some on your finger and taste it, it is sweet as if there was sugar mixed in with the cinnamon. This surprised me!

It has that wonderful zing to it and I’m sure you already know that the aroma is divine. It is hard for me to imagine how much better “true” cinnamon would be! But I will continue to be on the lookout for it!

True cinnamon comes from Ceylon from the bark of a true cinnamon tree.  However, since 1972, the island country known as Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka.

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is situated off the coast of India and is often referred to as the “teardrop of India.” This is due to its shape like a teardrop. To add to the name confusion, they still call the true cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon (and not Sri Lanka cinnamon). 

In this photo below, you can see the difference between Ceylon cinnamon (left) and Indonesian (cassia) cinnamon (right).

English: Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) an...

Ceylon cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ceylon Cinnamon has citrus overtones and a rich buff color. It is less strong than cassia cinnamon, and lacks bite.  Ceylon cinnamon sticks are papery thin. It is the favorite cinnamon of both Europe and Mexico. It will shine in custard, cinnamon ice cream, Dutch pears, stewed rhubarb, steamed puddings, dessert syrups, or mixed into whipped cream.

According to the label of McCormick’s Organic Saigon Cinnamon,

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

it has been harvested from the central highlands of Vietnam and is the highest quality 100% organic cinnamon. That’s good enough for me! It was pricey as you can imagine. I think I paid over $4.00 for it for a 1.5 oz jar. It has a Best Buy date of October, 2014. It is long-lasting unlike many other spices which are best used within a 6-month period for optimum taste.

I decided to make cinnamon raisin bread with my Saigon Cinnamon. The results were great.

Cinnamon Loaves

Cinnamon Loaves

I baked two loaves on Tuesday and my house still smells like cinnamon. (You might want to remember this when the Christmas holidays come around, or if you want to sell your house!)  I love to pull apart a slice and “unwind” the curled bread. It brings out the kid in me, what can I say.

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

If you’ve never made cinnamon bread, you have to roll out the dough into a flat rectangle, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture over the whole thing. Then you sprinkle on the raisins.  Then you roll up the short end, or the end close to you, like rolling up a carpet.

Can you see in the photo where I began rolling up the dough? My recipe called for three eggs and I substituted two cups of white whole wheat flour for the white flour to make it more nutritious.

The recipe also called for a cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter, crumb topping which was just added work and totally unnecessary and then makes a mess when you slice it.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is delicious toasted and buttered with or without jam for breakfast. I used to eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on raisin bread at school when I was a kid, which is very good! It’s also good made into French Toast although I haven’t tried that myself. I also like it plain as a snack while watching TV in the evening.

There are many cinnamon raisin bread recipes online and it is amazing that they are all different! Look for one that has a lot of good reviews or get one from a trusted site like Martha Stewart or Epicurious. Use whatever cinnamon you have on hand but if you are running out of cinnamon, try the Saigon Cinnamon. It’s very good! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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