The Pueblo West View

‘Holy herb’ makes way to dinner table

Hierba Santa. Literally translated, the name means “holy herb,” and in Mexico it is thought to have many medicinal benefits, including the treatment of bronchial conditions.

This broad flat leaf brings a special quality to green and yellow moles, and like most fresh herbs whose flavors are water based, benefits from being added during the last few moments of cooking.

Although it is becoming more common in some markets, it can still be quite difficult to find.

Try substituting equal parts fresh basil and tarragon, though you will need substantially less (about half as much by volume).

Vibrant turmeric and range of other spices are blended in to make aromatic masalas, of which curry powder is a relative. In Middle Eastern countries, pistachios, sesame seeds, and almonds are ground with aromatics to yield zaatars, which coat fish and chicken wonderfully.

In Texas, they have been slathering ribs, whole pigs, and sides of beef with hedonistic chile molido and cayenne-based rubs since the dawn of the cattle drive.

Of course, cooks everywhere are constantly looking for ways to add flavor and texture to foods without adding calories.

Spice rubs are a good way to crust lean meats that have been trimmed of all their fat, and they also allow for sauteing without oil.

Rubs and pastes can easily become an indispenable fixture in your pantry, since they enhance and flavor foods without the need for a sauce or much further embellishment.

Here is where buying whole spices such as cumin and coriander seeds and grinding them yourself pays the highest dividend. The nutty rich flavors and aromas are worth the small effort required.

If you don’t have a spice or coffee grinder, you can grind large amounts in a good blender.

1. Measure all ingredients carefully.

Toast any dried herbs and spices.

Otherwise, Stir all ingredients together in a bowl. For pastes, grind and blend all of the dried spices first, then transfer the mixture to a bowl, pour in the liquid, and mix well.

2. Small pieces of food such as chicken breasts and pork chops can be dusted or rubbed up to one hour ahead of time. Large cuts of meat such as leg of lamb and prime rib should be coated from 12 to 24 hours in advance.

Cecilia and Dennis Moody are Pueblo West residents who own and operate “Southwest Flavors,” a gourmet food story with a spicy emphasis. The Moody’s will share recipes on this page from homemade remedies to those shared by friends and family. They can be reached at 547-4649 or 369-9710.

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