Chile powder is used in almost every Mexican dish. This common spice is usually a mixture of many different chilies. Chipotle is one kind of seasoning you may find. It is made from dried smoked jalapeno peppers. Ancho peppers, on the other hand, give food a more sweet, fruity flavor. Many commercial chile powders that you find at the market are actually a combination of oregano, coriander, cumin, garlic, salt, and chilies.
Epazote is a green herb that grows fairly tall. Also known as, Mexican tea, this herb is used in bean dishes to add flavor and relieve digestive problems that beans may cause. Epazote is potent and should only be used in small quantities. Large quantities can be toxic. Just add a couple of leaves to your bean dish as it cooks.
Annatto seeds are used to color food and give it a distinct flavor. This spice is most often used in rice recipes or sauces. The seeds are soaked in water for at least an hour before using. They are usually crushed after soaking. Some recipes use the leftover water that the seeds were soaked in and other recipes use the seeds themselves. They are a common ingredient in marinades.
You see cilantro at a lot of Mexican restaurants used as garnish or added to tacos and salads. It looks a lot like flat leaf parsley. Cilantro is what they call the leaves of the coriander plant. It should always be used when fresh. Cilantro has a tangy, pungent flavor that it imparts easily to salsa, rice, moles, beans, soups, and stews. It has a way of brightening up a dish.
The seeds of the cumin plant are often used in Mexican cooking. Cumin seeds can be used ground into powder or whole. It is often used with chile powder to create a nice balance in the flavors. Soups, stews and many other dishes are better after you add cumin. Azafran, also known as safflower or Mexican saffron, adds flavor and color to a dish, making it a beautiful yellow. This spice is used sparingly because it can be bitter. It is frequently added to rice or seafood.
If you are looking for free traditional Mexican recipes you will find that you need many of these spices as well as thyme and oregano. Mexican oregano is very different from Italian oregano. It has an earthy quality that really adds a lot to the food. Unless you live in an area with a large Mexican population, it may be difficult to find. You can sometimes find it in the grocery store or in specialty herb catalogs.
Take time to learn the familiar flavors of Mexico by paying attention to the spices and herbs they use every day. An authentic Mexican taste is impossible without them. Make the most out of your Mexican cooking by learning the correct way to use these spices. Your meals will be amazingly good once you learn the secrets of these seasonings.
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Article Added on Saturday, March 13, 2010
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