Friends and Family A Spicy Round-up

Nutmeg would like to introduce some of her friends and family.  Without a doubt, they are a spicy bunch and that is what she loves most about them.  There are a few who have not quite defined themselves yet (more on them at a later date).
In no particular order…
She is complex; a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus the stigmas are dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, long the world’s most expensive spice by weight, is native to Southwest Asia.  A carotenoid dye, crocin, allows saffron to impart a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Saffron has further medicinal applications.  There is no question this gal has good taste.  Saffron has led Nutmeg down several paths to the world’s most expensive brands, restaurants, wines etc.  Saffron is as lovely as her name.
In her case, “spicy” is undisputed.  Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago, and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas that is self-pollinating. Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean).  This is logical because Chili has a particular affection for the Caribbean having spent a considerable amount of time there.
Chilies are now cultivated around the globe and the medicinal effects were recorded as early as 1494.  The interesting thing about Chili is she is well-travelled although still yearns to visit many other cultures.  She should take solace in the fact that she is insidious in those areas even though she has yet to experience them.  The use of chili can be found in the cuisine of the following countries and many others; Mexico, Spain, Philippines, Turkey, India, China, Korea and Japan.
Hot Sauce:
An interesting guy, with a name like that what else could he be but hot?  It is interesting that he and Chili are such good friends.  Hot sauce is typically made of the following ingredients;  chili pepper, vinegar and salt. Peppers used are often of the varieties Cayenne, Jalapeño and Habanero. Chipotles (smoked jalapeños) are also common. Other ingredients, including fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, mangoes, carrots, and chayote squash are sometimes used to add flavour, mellow the heat of the chilis, and thicken the sauce’s consistency. Famous hot sauces include:
  • Tabasco (Avery Island)
  • Barbados Hot Sauce (no messing with this it’s hot)
  • Frank’s Red Hot (Ohio)
  • Pico de Gallo (Mexico)
  • Nam Prik (Vietnam)
  • Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Well, she is diverse! She has flavouring and medicinal qualities as evidenced by her nurturing and caring nature. The cayenne, or Guinea pepper or bird pepper is a hot, red chili pepper used to flavour dishes and for medicinal purposes. Did you know she is named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana?
The fruits are generally dried and ground, or pulped and baked into cakes, which are then ground and sifted to make the powdered spice known as cayenne pepper. Cayenne is used in cooking spicy dishes, as a powder or in its whole form (such as in Sichuan cuisine) or in a thin, vinegar-based sauce. It is generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Units, which means a sliding scale that one can tolerate on the heat scale.
Just ask her partner she is HOT!
A fellow with undisputed taste – have you ever tried to buy a truffle?  You will find truffles used in high-end Spanish, French and Italian cooking.  A truffle is a fungal (mushroom with a fancy name) that develops underground and relies on mycophagy (look that up) for spore dispersal. Almost all truffles have a  close association with trees – which if you have dogs like Nutmegs’ they love these things and have no idea whether they are eating high quality or Safeway brand…
There are hundreds of species of truffles, but the fruiting body of some (mostly in the genus Tuber) are highly prized as food. The 18th-century French gastronome Brillat-Savarin called these truffles “the diamond of the kitchen”.  It is a good thing Mr Truffle is an attractive specimen and many of these tubers are far from attractive but without a question full of flavour and heart.  A final word on Mr Truffle he is a bit of a switch-hitter and cannot decide between the white or black variety.  More material on him at a later date…
Well here is an interesting lady; she is a corporate powerhouse by day, a no-nonsense Super-Mum by night and a part-time babysitter for her ageing husband.  The interesting thing about cilantro is there are actually several names for the same herb; cilantro in the Americans, coriander in Southern Europe and Asia, and in some parts Chinese parsley.  This herb is used extensively around the globe as a garnish or key base ingredient.  Our friend is well-travelled, adventurous and never takes no for an answer.  What is not to like about this gal?
Nutmeg’s friend Paprika is a mysterious Scorpio.  She is a wise soul, which would explain why this spice is used in so many old world countries (Hungary, Spain etc.). This is a spice made from the grinding of dried fruits of Capsicum (e.g., bell peppers or chili peppers). In many European countries, the word paprika also refers to bell peppers themselves. Seasoning is used in many cuisines to add colour and flavour to dishes. Paprika can range from sweet (mild, not hot) to spicy (hot). Flavours also vary from country to country. This gal is somewhat defined by the full range of flavours (mild to spicy) – loving mum and wife to one gal you do not want to mess with on the ski hill.

This one exudes the cool factor, she is one of a kind in a sea of varieties (hundreds of mint species).  She has a Latin name too –  Mentha.  Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial herbs.  Due to their tendency to spread unchecked, mints are considered invasive (aka weed).  In Mint’s case, this is a good thing, when she grabs on to an idea or a sales opportunity watch out.  She becomes a subject matter expert, make sure she asks all the questions and then she uses her network to spread the message.  Mint has a magnetic personality, she loves to laugh and there is always a great story.  There are many culinary uses for mint but the only one that Nutmeg actually like is the Mojito.

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