Cinnamon the Lesser Known of Mexican Cooking Spices
How Cinnamon Enhances Mexican Cookery
Cinnamon is often used in sweet treats such as dessert empanadas or Mexican fried ice cream recipes. It goes very well with fruit, especially apple and pear. Cinnamon can be used in savory recipes and goes very well with tomato-based dishes. It can be infused in its stick form or ground to make a powder. A softer version of cinnamon is called canella. This variety comes from Ceylon rather than Malabar and also suits Mexican cookery.
Less Common Spices – Epazote, Cocoa and Avocado Leaves
Epazote, also called “Mexican tea,” is not a common spice but does feature in some Mexican food recipes. It is a strong spice, which is toxic in large amounts but, when used correctly, can add flavor to bean dishes. Epazote is good to soothe intestinal pain caused by overindulgence in the beans. There are different epazote varieties, some of which have the smell and flavor of citrus and others, which are more like mint.
Cocoa is used in Mexican cookery, to add a warm flavor to both savory and sweet recipes. Small amounts of cocoa and peanut butter are added to over thirty different spices to make mole, a thick sauce, which goes well with chicken.
Avocado leaves are toasted then ground to a powder using a mortar and pestle.Their fragrance is reminiscent of hazelnut and anise. They are used in Mexican stews, fish, or chicken dishes and in mole.
Mexican Spice Blends Such as Recado Rojo
A popular spice blend often used in the Yucatan area is recado rojo, which dates back to Mayan times. It contains annatto seeds, which give it, and the resulting recipe, a red color. Spices found in recado rojo include cloves, cumin, oregano, garlic, and cinnamon. American Indians used to use annatto seeds to make body paint.
Another popular spice blend is made by mixing cornstarch, chili powder, salt, paprika, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Dry spice blend mixtures can be stored for months in an airtight jar and don’t lose their potency as long as they are kept dry and away from excessive light or heat. Spice blends can be rubbed on to meat or fish before cooking it or used in sauces or in other recipes.
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