Other Names: Black caraway; charnushka (Russian); cheveux de Vénus, nigelle, or poivrette (French); cominho-preto or nigela (Portuguese); çörek oto or siyah kimyon (Turkish); grano nero (Italian); habba sauda or sanouz (Arabic); jinten hitam (Indonesian); kalonji or munga reala (Hindi); ketzah (Hebrew); neguilla or pasionara (Spanish); nutmeg flower; onion seed; Roman coriander; schwarzkümmel or zwiebelsame (German); siah daneh (Farsi); tikur azmud (Amharic).
General Description: Nigella (Nigella sativa) has small, matte black, hard, sharp-cornered seeds with an oregano-like scent; they’re used for their hauntingly aromatic, acrid, smoky flavor. Nigella probably originated in western Asia but today is cultivated from Egypt to India. Though it’s sometimes called black cumin, it’s unrelated to cumin; the black cumin mentioned in the Old Testament may actually be nigella, which has been found in the Giza pyramid and in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Confusingly, nigella is also known as onion (or wild onion) seed because the two look similar, although only nigella is used as a spice. In eastern Europe, nigella tops Russian black and Jewish rye breads. Turkish and Indian naan are frequently sprinkled with the seed. It enhances Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian, and Indian vegetable dishes, pickles, chutneys, and breads. An Arab proverb says, “Nigella seed is a remedy for every disease except death.”
Purchase and Avoid: Whole nigella seeds should be jet-black. Poor quality seeds will have bits of husk mixed in with the seeds.
Serving Suggestions: Spread whole-grain mustard on rolled-out pizza dough, spread with caramelized onions, and sprinkle with nigella seeds before baking. Sprinkle nigella seeds over bread doughs before baking.
Food Affinities: Allspice, black-eyed peas, black bread, chickpeas, cilantro, coriander, cumin, eggplant, fenugreek, ginger, lemon, string cheese, turmeric, white beans.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com