Spiced Up and Looking

Right now, the garden is fattening up my spice cabinet. Along with more poppy seed than I can imagine using this year, I'm reaping all kinds of good goodies. But I don't know what to do with them all. Help!

Coriander Seed

I love cilantro for many reasons, not the least of which are its sweet, citrus-y, wine-y dried fruits that make the spice we call coriander. So, this winter, I planted tons of cilantro, and now I have fields of coriander to harvest. I use coriander in lots of ways; it adds a bright note to curries, it spices up the grapefruit bitters I made this winter, it adds complexity to the pickled garlic I put up last week, and it intensifies roasted tomatoes (a la Orangette, an oft-used recipe, I tell ya). But this year, I have more coriander seed than ever before, and I'm starting to explore some options I've never considered. I've read about coriander lemon jelly and coriander-orange bread, coriander gelato and coriander cookies. I already have several cups of dry coriander harvested, so I have plenty to use in a variety of applications. What are some of your favorite ways to use coriander?

Fennel Seed

Fresh fennel flowers taste like root beer barrel candies to me—yum. I've been grazing on some of the flowers, leaving plenty of seed to ripen for harvest later in the summer. Unlike my husband, I'm a fennel lover, and especially love fennel seed in tomato sauces. In fact, when I can't think of anything else to make, more often than not, I toss a chopped onion in some olive oil to begin to brown, add a generous shake of fennel seed, some hot pepper flakes, and plenty of minced garlic to cook just until super-fragrant. I stir in a generous spoonful of homemade tomato paste, then add a can of tomatoes. I let this cook down, spike it with some vodka, swirl in a smidge of cream, salt to taste, and man, it never disappoints when tossed with good pasta. Even ECG loves this dish. And with pork, fennel seed sings opera. But I want more ways to use it rather than just making my Italian food delicious. How do other cultures use fennel seed? Guide me, o wise readers.

Nigella Seed (aka kalonji, black cumin, etc)

Just like when learning a new word, when learning a new spice, one finds it popping up in unexpected corners. Before growing it, I knew that nigella showed up frequently in Indian food, but I didn't expect it in the string cheese from the deli at our neighborhood ethnic market (and when I say ethnic, I pretty much mean all ethnicities—groceries here range from Panamanian to Bulgarian to Lebanese to Thai to Peruvian and everything in between). Labeled "regular flavor," the cheese with the nigella has a nutty, earthy, slightly cumin-like taste. I've gathered over a cup of nigella already, and I still have lots of harvest to go. I plan to use the nigella seeds sprinkled on homemade naan and in other baked goods; how do you imagine it put to use?

If you would like to see what others are harvesting this time of year, head on over to Daphne's Dandelions for her Harvest Monday roundup.


Sarah Heller said…
I love your blog... but of course I hate cilantro! HA! Always have... BUT don't you use coriander in rye bread? I am going through a total reuben phase.
Anonymous said…
I don’t grow any of these herbs, so I can’t help you. I know that all of them are used as some kind of medicine. Fennel seed for better digestion, Black cumin seed for all kind of stuff - it’s made into oil.
Angela said…
Toasted or raw ground coriander can be used just like you describe using the fennel, in the soffritto used as a base for any kind of stew, braise or slow cooked dish.

Fennel is great in cookies and other sweets. Also with fish, great with fish, actually. Fennel gelato?

Those suggestions are basic, not particularly imaginative, but versatile, so you can use your bounty.
pam said…
I've tried planting cilantro, but it just goes to seed almost immediately here. Now, I see that is not such a bad thing!
Anonymous said…
Chili lime cashews, garlic, toasted sesame oil, coconut milk & cilantro put in food processer makes a terrific pesto!
Jenn C. said…
I've had ice cream at indian restaurants that have coriander mixed into a vanilla ice cream base, along with pistachios. awesome.
Coriander (cilantro in the USA) is the perfect herb for carrots, it's used in carrot and coriander soup, obviously, but baked carrots, sprinkled with cracked black pepper and coriander, can also be delicious. I've used in a salsa too, with mint and onion, when it is very good with oily fish.
Djuna said…
All of these spices go wonderfully in curries, of course.

I use fennel, mashed in a mortar and pestle, in many places I use cumin seed - with okra and tomatoes, or in soups. As long as I leave cumin as the more dominant spice, I've never regretted adding it alongside. Fennel seed is also great just plain as a fun thing to chew or breath freshener.
Christina said…
Sarah Heller: Reuuuuuuuuuuuuubens. Ah, I haven't had a good reuben since I left DC. I miss the buggers. I'll look into coriander in rye--I know caraway often flavors it.

vrtlarica: Interesting--black cumin oil. I've never heard of it and now I'll go look it up!

Angela: Yummmm. I love fennel and fish, but it is always a struggle to convince my husband about that combination; I think I'll have to wait until he's out of town to make it for myself. Fennel in cookies? That sounds yummy too--I'll have to explore that option. Right now, based on your coriander suggestion, I'm imagining braised chicken thighs with lots of toasted coriander seed, garlic, a little chile, and beer as the liquid. Yum.

Pam: It is impossible to keep cilantro from bolting, especially if it is warm. That's why I only grow it in the cooler months here. I cheat when it is warm and pick it up at the farmers' markets.

Anonymous: That does sound like a good pesto.

Jenn C.: Coriander pistachio ice cream? DROOL!

Allotment blogger: Of course I use the leafy greens of cilantro in salsa--it isn't salsa without it! Salsa = yum. Sprinkling the toasted seed on carrots sounds yummy and like something that will be happening in dinner tonight, in fact.

Djuna: Fennel with cumin sounds like a fascinating combination. I can imagine the fennel sweetening up the nutty cumin. Thanks for the inspiration!
Daphne Gould said…
I've never known that nigella seeds are also an herb. Hmm maybe I'll have to try them. I grow coriander all the time. It self seed readily in my garden so that is good. Well my old garden at any rate. I'll have to get the new garden all set up to self seed for that and dill.
Jenny said…
I love your spicy post. Makes me want to run out and start flinging coriander all over my garden! Found your blog via the Seed Savers Exchange and am enjoying reading your gardening/cooking adventures.

Cilantro/coriander seems to race with the arugula to see who can bolt first in our garden. Last few years I'm growing a variety called Delphino that has an attractive lacy leaf.

My husband is also an avowed fennel hater but last week he handed me a recipe from the NYT for Bulgar and Cherry Pilaf that has a whopping teaspoon of ground fennel, so now I feel I have license to pull out the fennel seed jar and give it a whirl.

Is the culinary NIgella the same as the flower Love in a Mist? I've been wondering about that lately when I collect seed from my flowers. I use the store-bought type on top of bagels and sourdough loaves, usually in combination with white sesame and caraway.

Thanks for a good read! Keep it coming.
michelle said…
I once made a fennel ice cream that my MIL is still talking about, it was paired with poached pears.

And this is another Italian take on fennel seeds but oh so good - sizzle about 4 tbs fennel seeds in 4 tbs olive oil in a large frying pan, lay 1/2-inch thick tuna steaks (1 1/4 lb) on top, salt and pepper, turn after 5 minutes, another 3 minutes. Put tuna on a heated platter, add a splash of dry white wine to the pan, reduce, pour over the tuna and serve. Simple and fantastic.

My poppy pods are ready to harvest!
Lucy said…
Lucky you.

Coriander seeds: I use it in dukkah - Claudia Roden's recipe in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food uses a whopping 1/2 lb (or so) of the stuff and it's uses are many. (I'll send you the recipe if you like)

Fennel: In almost everything, but I know it's an acquired thing...

Nigella: Best cucumber salad, ever: http://vegeyum.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/massagingcucumbers/

What I do is pop nigella seeds (as you would sesame) in a hot pan then sub them for Ganga's poppy seeds. They sizzle as they hit the dressing. So good. So good.
GS said…
Fennel and harisa seeds go well in harisa. I tend to make a bigger batch and then cover with oil and keep i the fridge. I make a very basic harisa paste - http://confessionsofafoodnazi.blogspot.com/2009/03/another-tagine-of-sorts.html

It's great in tagines but I've also used it as the spice component of chilli beans (I do a vego version, but am sure it would work in a carnivorous version too). But my all time favourite is using it as a rub/marinade for prawns. They are always spectacular but so easy to make.
Soilman said…
Coriander's my favourite herb (Brits call the plant coriander as well as its seeds). It makes any salad better, but it's unimprovably delicious with mussels cooked in green Thai broth made with coconut milk. A squeeze of lime juice adds the final, orgasmic touch...
Petrea Burchard said…
Hi Christina, this is a bit off-topic and I hope you won't mind: I'd like to email you about a blog day many of us are doing about the proposed soccer fields in Hahamongna. I don't have your email address. If you'd like to know about it, please email me at pb (at) petreaburchard (dot) com. Thanks!
Christina said…
Daphne: The garden-variety nigella (nigella damascena) is not the same as the spice nigella (nigella sativa). They both have interesting seed pods, though the spice nigella is much slimmer and more antler-y. I hope your new garden is up and running at a satisfying clip soon!

Jenny: Ooooh, that bulgar and cherry pilaf sounds yummy. I'll have to investigate. No, Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena) is not the same as the spice nigella (Nigella sativa). I did try nibbling on Love-in-a-Mist seeds once--they tasted oddly artificial-graph flavored. Weird.

Michelle: Oh my, that fennel ice cream with poached pears sounds right up my ally. ECG can eat the pears alone while I eat them with the ice cream--delicious! And that tuna idea is brilliant!

Lucy: Thanks for the fabulous ideas, and yes, I'd like the dukkah recipe, please. I'm on the cucumber recipe, stat. It sounds delicious!

AOF: For some crazy reason, I hadn't even thought about making my own harisa. But now, you've inspired me! Thank you for being a culinary muse.

Soilman: God, I love green curry. It is one reason why I wish cilantro/coriander didn't bolt so fast. I never have enough of the leaf to do all that I want with it, so I purchase it all summer long. I think I'm going to have to have Thai for lunch today, thanks to you.
Soilman said…
Something I meant to ask about fennel. I noticed lots of what looked like wild fennel growing in California. Is this indeed fennel... And if so, can you harvest and eat the root like Florence fennel? Or is it non-edible?
Christina said…
Hi Soilman. Yes, it is fennel you see all over the roadsides. It grows prolifically here in California. It isn't Florence fennel, but more like the wild fennel you can find along the roadsides in Italy. I found the same fennel growing in the Roman ruins. It doesn't grow a fat base like Florence fennel, but the young shoots taste delicious prepared similarly to Florence fennel, the more mature stalks are great for flavoring stocks, and the seeds are sweet and delicious. I've heard of some people adding dried stalks of it to barbecues to flavor the smoke. Sigh. I'm making myself hungry.
I'll second what Angela said about fennel seed in cookies. There's a recipe in my Park's Success with Herbs book that I have used many times. My mother baked these cookies too. If you'd like the recipe I can send it to you.

I've got Nigella seed myself that I don't know what to do with. I need to harvest some so it doesn't self-sow all over the place!
Julie said…
Meat eating friends happily slurp down plates of my vegetarian spaghetti. i think the secret is fennel. A spoonful is all, sauteed alongside the onions. i never use it for anything else.

Coriander i like best when the berries are still green. Try pounding them into a spicy paste with garlic and white peppercorns and small red chiles. Fry it up with shrimp, thick,meaty tomatoes, fish sauce and lime leaves. You won't have enough ; )
Ginko said…
I just pulled out my cilantro--all gone to seed. Next time, I'm saving some coriander. I've still got the fennel though and I'm going out to chew on a rootbeer barrel.
Nice to meet you the other night. I can't add much to the dialog here. I grow weeds. The mustard is edible but the squirrels beat me to the peaches, citrus and walnuts
Unknown said…
I must learn about harvesting spices! I grew fennel but never thought to harvest the blooms after it went to seed!! Yikes!

We use coriander mucho in bbq rubs!

I am on vacation so am behind on following my fave blogs...but yours is always one that I love to visit!!
Christina said…
Villager: Yes, I'd love the fennel cookie recipe, thank you!

Gingko: I hope you enjoyed it. Fennel makes me smile--it's such a joy to have in the garden.

Mel: There are so many spices to grow in the garden; not all of them need to be imported from far away. It's fun to stock not only the larder from the garden, but the spice cabinet as well. Plus, it is SO MUCH CHEAPER! Spices are expensive.
Ginko said…
I recently had some goat cheese in No Calif with lavender blossoms and fennel pollen. Lovely and delicate.
GS said…
Now it's seed season on the other side of the world. Thanks to your post I've let my coriander go to seed and am now harvesting the bounty. Used the crushed fresh green seed in a kedgeree last night, amazing flavour!

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