Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is celebrating the two year anniversary of everybody's favorite food event: Weekend Herb Blogging. Congratulations, Kalyn! Check with Kalyn's site from Monday on to see the round-up of all the wonderful herby and veggie dishes from around the world.
Her celebration coincided with my personal celebration of 1) having friends in from St. Louis and Woonsocket, RI that I haven't seen in --forever!--and 2) my one day shopping spree. I've really been working on my spending habits this year, as in, trying to reign my spending habits in and I've been pretty successful so far. It feels good to feel more in control of the whole instant gratification thing, if you know what I mean. But I did allow myself one day at one store with my friends to go a little nuts. That one store was The Amish Country Store in Branson where they have my all time favorite aisles of spices. The Amish Country Store is a family owned business that stocks furniture and food products produced by local Missouri Amish families, along with a variety of about 150 fresh spices brought in weekly in bulk and repackaged into smaller containers. Usually I stock up on fresh home-bottled (canned in glass jars) goods and Mrs. Miller's noodles but on this trip I concentrated on refilling my spice cabinet. Here's my haul:
From top left to right: ground annatto, dried celery flakes, dried red and green bell pepper (I like having those on hand for when I need seasoning but the crisper is bare), red popcorn and coconut oil (I was weak), dried lavender, dried chamomile flowers, star anise, Hungarian paprika, cardamom, lentil and pasta soup mix, and Tupelo honey. You'll be seeing a lot of these things in the coming weeks.
My featured spice for today is: Annatto
According to Wikipedia, Annatto is made from the pulp surrounding the seeds of the achiote tree found in Latin America and the Caribbean. The spice is reminiscent of both nutmeg and pepper, giving it a spicy sweet taste, and is used as both a flavoring and coloring agent. Annatto is also referred to as "poor man's saffron". I'd agree with that. The taste it added to the beans and rice made the dish more three dimensional than I've ever had in the cajun version and the broth came out a gorgeously bright orangey-red hue.
(Photo from Wikipedia.com)
Not only is annatto used as a spice, it's also a natural dye that's used in everything from cheddar and edam cheeses to butter to cosmetics. The Mayan Indians used it as the dye base for body paint. For that reason, the achiote tree is sometimes called the "lipstick" tree. Reading that fact, of course, made me want to go dip into the annato and see how Gene likes kissing me with REAL "war paint".
Glenna's Beans & Rice with Zucchini and Annato
recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse
1 cup brown rice cooked in chicken or vegetable stock (Makes 2 cups cooked)
1 15 oz can kidney, red, or pink beans, undrained
1 medium zuchinni or butternut squash, chunked
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red or green pepper, diced
1/2 chili or jalapeno pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried cilantro or 6 fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano or 1 tsp minced fresh oregano
2 tsp ground annatto
1/2 tsp salt
1. Cook 1 cup rice in 2 cups stock by bringing stock to a boil, stir in rice, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then turn heat off and allow rice to steam until all of the stock is absorbed. Rice may be a little on the underdone side but that's okay. It will be simmered more at the end of the dish.
2. In a dutch oven, saute' onion, mild and hot peppers, and garlic in olive oil until tender.
3. Stir in seasonings to coat. Add tomatoes, beans with liquid, and rice. Simmer for 15 minutes to combine flavor.
4. Mix in zucchini chunks. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes to steam zucchini. Do not simmer with the rest of ingredients or squash will disintegrate.
Makes about 6 cups.