The Recipe: An easy vinaigrette, bright and vibrant, just fresh-squeezed orange and lemon combined with the earthy spice called cumin. Orange and cumin are a magical combination!
The Conversation: How do you pronounce "cumin"?
My book club is in the midst of a fascinating if-difficult-to-read book set in Afghanistan, interwoven stories of two women who for some while lived as men, one as a woman-man to guard the king's harem in the 1920s followed by a period of liberalization and another disguised as a boy to evade restrictions imposed on girls and women by the Taliban and tribal warlords post 9/11. Sound intriguing? Check out The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi. It's a riveting book, offering such perspective on women's education, the role of women in families, freedom many of us take for granted and think of as our "right".
I didn't "read" the book but "listened" to it on Audible on my phone while driving to-fro North Carolina again last week – naturally, noting all the food references, especially the use of cumin, my very favorite savory spice!
The narrator called it "CUM-in" – as in "Please, do come in."
I've always said "q-min" or "q-men" – research says this is the British pronunciation. Some times my Canadian heritage pops up in expected ways!
Others say "koo-min" – the typical American pronunciation.
And you? How do you pronounce cumin? And who finds the earthy, distinctive spice as captivating as I? Here's the evidence, everything from carrot fries to fruit salad to whole-grain pilafs to soup to broiled grapefruit. Anywhere and everywhere. Cumin!
Ha! I just realized that at this same time last year, my book club did another book about Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns by the author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, hmm, another pair of intertwined tales of two women whose lives are so different from anyone I've known. But! What an inspired move to experiment with Afghan recipes! Much to my surprise, I fell in love with two wonderful dishes that instantly became part of my kitchen repertoire. Be sure to check out Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole (Kabeli Palau) and Afghan Eggplant & Tomato Casserole (Borani Banjan). So good!
Other readers and book club people may be interested in my book club's reading list, see Red Wine Book Club. The list goes way back to 1994, that's when we first started reading together!
ORANGE & CUMIN VINAIGRETTE
Time to table: 10 minutes
Makes 1/2 cup
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt & pepper to taste
In a small bowl, use a fork or small whisk to combine the orange and lemon juice, honey and cumin. Whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the green onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
TO SERVE For a simple salad, drizzle over top of or "dress" fresh salad greens – bitter greens like arugula and baby spinach are especially good – and top with slices of fresh orange. For something more substantial, add red pepper, avocado, feta crumbles and Maple-Glazed Pecans. This salad is especially lovely served with a simple tart such as Asparagus Custard Tart.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS If you like, make the dressing a few hours before serving.
ALANNA's TIPS I rarely "measure" for this salad, just use the juice of an orange and the juice of a lemon. Don't skip the lemon, it contrasts with the sweetness of the orange, making this a savory vinaigrette instead of something quite sweet. For a vegan vinaigrette, substitute agave for honey.
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