Monday, April 15, 2013

Black cumin: It's not black magic

Posted By on 04.15.13 at 02:30 PM

roasted carrots with nigella seeds
There's something about taking an ordinary food and attaching the word "black" to it that is irresistible to me, because I'm helplessly attracted to the seductive powers of the Dark Arts. Whether it's black garlic, black salt, black pudding, or black noodles, if I see it, I'll eat it. So when I came across a package of black cumin at Harvestime Foods in the spot where urfa biber was supposed to be, I twirled my mustache, rubbed my hairy palms together, and whispered a prayer to C'thulu.

black cumin, aka nigella seeds

As it happens, black cumin is a frequent misnomer for nigella seeds, which are used a lot in Indian cooking, particularly sprinkled on top of naan. Like almost everything edible ever, apart from Doritos, they are believed by some to have homeopathic properties (antiparasitic, antimicrobial, etc), and the Egyptians supposedly buried them with the pharaohs to ward off evil spirits. So much for the Outer Gods. You couldn't summon a cockroach with them.

Instead, I used them to season some carrots grown and stored over the winter by a Wisconsin farm that I have a feeling you'll be hearing about this summer if you eat out often (more on that another day). My nigella seeds, which come from Turkey, have a slightly bitter, nutty taste that was boosted by a brief toast in a skillet and then a grind with mortar and pestle. I applied them to the peeled carrots, along with olive oil, salt, and actual cumin, and roasted them at 350 degrees until the roots shriveled, and their natural sweetness concentrated and contrasted with the smokiness of the seasoning.

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.

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