She is regularly invited to speak at chef's seminars and conventions. Her
most recent one was before 150 chef's from all over. She has now
graciously agreed to furnish us with some of her in sites into smells and
flavors of spices from all over the world.
In this column, Ann gets right to the flavor of the topic, so . . . . . take notes!
With no further adieu, we turn the mike to Ann. You're on Ann . . . . .
We all love a nutty flavor and we know this particular flavor so well that we have no need of other words to describe it. We find ourselves saying 'toasting couscous creates a nutty flavor" and we all understand what has been achieved and how it will taste. A nutty flavor is much to be desired.
In spite of this we "of European persuasion" seldom use sesame seeds as an ingredient for anything other than sprinkling on bread or crackers. Every child knows about sesame seeds because of the ad that proclaimed "all beef patties on a sesame seed bun". We don't think of these seeds as an ingredient for flavoring foods. This is definitely not the case in much of the world where sesame seeds appear in rubs and curries and other sauces as well as ground to a paste or turned into oil and used in everything from meat dishes to desserts. Sesame seeds grow wild in Africa and the Middle East where they are also cultivated. - They are cultivated, as well, in large parts of the Far East but most countries do not export these seeds because they make use of all they grow.
Sesame oil has been a primary cooking agent for much of the world for thousands years. Marco Polo first encountered se same oil in Persia where sesame oil instead of olive oil was used for cooking. They had no olives. He wrote that it was the best oil he had ever tasted. It is particularly good oil because it doesn't get rancid in the heat. It is so flavorful a little goes a long way. In China, 5,000 years ago sesame seed oil was being used for making ink-as well as for food. Only recently have some of us begun using sesame oil to season our Asian dishes.
Sesame seeds are available in several styles. This can cause some confusion. You may buy them natural or "in the hull", hulled (without hulls), toasted and black. Most bakeries use the natural seeds. Usually cooks prefer hulled. Pre-toasted seeds have a wonderful flavor but the flavor dissipates quickly. Black seeds are not as well known or as easily available but have a wonderful biting flavor. Either the white or the black seeds can, be toasted, dry roasted and popped in oil. Each method produces a different flavor. I particularly like the black seeds popped and added to salads.
The plants are attractive and easily cultivated. Harvesting is somewhat difficult. The plants need careful handling because the seeds scatter when touched. (Is this the inspiration for the magic words "open sesame" from the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves?) Recently, through genetic engineering the seeds have been altered to prevent them from scattering so easily. It is too early to tell whether this will change the availability or the price.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors learned early that a seed is a concentrated source of energy. Sesame seeds contain large amounts of protein, are a good source of iron, and are very high in calcium. They are a must for women and children. Seeds and nuts are tasty, versatile and good 'for you. What could be better
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Copyright © 2003, by:
Ann D. Wilder, President
VANN Spices, Ltd.
'World of Spices' is © by VANN Spices, Ltd.
who is solely responsible for its content.