Cardamom is a sneaky spice

Cardamom is one of the staples of our kitchen. Right now, we have three containers of it because I never remember to check our supplies and I’ll pick up a new one because I think we have run out.

We have the same problem with cocktail sauce:

“Don’t we have some in the fridge door?”

“I don’t know. It was there when we had shrimp last month. But I think we used it all.”

“Did we?”

“Oh, just buy some, it’s $2….”

Anyway, cardamom is nothing like cocktail sauce.

It is a pungent, sweet-spicy flavor that we love in desserts and add to cinnamon toast, oatmeal, and beans.

Yep, beans.

You know how Greeks like to add a pinch of nutmeg to spinach dishes? The spice and the earthy greens compliment each other.

Well, cardamom works the same way with dried beans. Just a pinch in simmering black beans or kidney beans adds a certain depth to the dish.

But it is best used in split pea soup. It works its magic without announcing its presence. We tried making the soup without it. Nope. Like watching the British show, “Coupling” after Jeff left – the sparkle was gone.

The great thing about split pea soup is you don’t have to pre-treat the beans. Just rinse them, pick out anything that looks like a stone and plop them in the pot.

Split Pea and Barley Soup

1 cup dried split peas

3 cups water

2 cups chopped onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup carrots, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp. cardamom

2 cups vegetable stock

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup cooked barley

Rinse the split peas and put them in the soup pot with the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 50 minutes, until peas are very tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onions, garlic and carrots in the olive oil over low heat.

When onions are translucent, add cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and cardamom.

Saute 10 minutes more and stir frequently to prevent burning.  Set aside.

When split peas are cooked, quickly reheat the onion mixture, then add to the pot.  Use a little of the vegetable stock to deglaze the pan and pour that into the pot. Add the remaining vegetable stock and simmer on low heat 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and barley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with shaved parmesan or shredded cheddar.

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