~ Essential Spices and Herbs ~
◦ This aromatic spice is of the carrot family and can be described as a rich, earthy flavor. Cumin, originating in the Mediterranean, is used in almost every Tex Mex dish, from taquitos to refried beans. Sprinkle cumin powder on tortilla chips and pop in the oven for a delicious seasoning. **Try toasting whole cumin seeds in a skillet and ground with a mortar and pestle– it will bring out a smokey flavor!
◦ This flavorful spice varies in taste from mild to extremely hot. Chili powder has little aroma, but can pack a punch in soups, taco meat or sauces. Made from grinding various dried red peppers, chili powder can also have a smoked flavor to complement pork or carne asada.
◦ Paprika is Hungarian for “flavor.” A mild spice, this deep red powder is cultivated from a variety of red capsicum peppers. Sweet to taste, paprika can be used as a Tex Mex topping on pizzas or tortillas or mixed into chili to even out the hot flavor.
◦ The word adobo means marinade in Spanish. Sprinkle on Mexican cheese for adobo topping, use to spice Tex Mex pasta or pizza recipes or marinate meat for spicy adobo main meals. Combined adobo is mixed in many different ways and can include parsley flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin powder, achiote powder from annatto seed and lemon or lemon pepper.
◦ Chipotle spice is a mixture of spices used for seasoning fajitas, tacos or meats such as poultry or pork. It is a combination of chili powder, dried cilantro, cumin, Mexican oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme and crushed chipotle pepper. This spice can also be mixed into salsa for a more mild, earthy condiment.
◦ Otherwise known as Mexican saffron, azafran possesses a pleasantly bitter flavor, and most dishes require only a small amount. To use, dissolve first by crumbling a small amount in hot water. Frontier European saffron is an excellent substitute in dishes that call for azafran.
◦ The dried seeds of the coriander plant yield a different taste than coriander (cilantro) leaves. Ground coriander seed is used in breads, cakes, and other desserts, as well as in savory dishes such as soups and stews (especially chili), and with meat and game. The whole seeds are also used; dry roast them to enhance their flavor.
◦ Cinnamon was first introduced to Mexican cooking by the Spanish, and it’s most often used in beverages (such as chocolate drinks). You’ll also find cinnamon in rice pudding and chorizo sausages. Mexican cooks use both the sticks and ground cinnamon, (Remove the sticks before serving.)
◦ Cilantro, although an herb, is used to spice many Tex Mex dishes. With its fresh, pungent flavor, cilantro’s green leaves are a key ingredient when making salsa and Tex Mex vinaigrette salad dressings.
◦ Different from Greek or Italian oregano, the flavor of Mexican oregano is somewhat more savory-like, instead of the piney hint of rosemary flavor in “regular” oregano. The flavor complements many dishes including pinto beans and soups. **Oregano leaf is more desirable than powdered oregano, and in some recipes, the directions call for lightly toasting the oregano leaf before adding to dishes.
◦ Thyme has a dry, fresh, pungent flavor that complements the heat in many Mexican dishes. You’ll find it in Mexican soups and sauces, salads and dressings.