I love receiving packages. We have a PO box, so, as I bike, or drive, or walk to our ufficio postale (post office), I have time to try and imagine what I will find when I get there. A few days ago, in our little box (casella postale) I found an envelope coming da molto lontano (from far away) that packed a lot of flavor.
Let me backstep a second. Last month, Katie of Thyme for Cooking and Lindsay of Country Girl City Living launched their Seasoned Eatings event. I could not resist the offer of sending and receiving a surprise package. The most amazing thing is that when I opened what I received, it contained a spice I had been meaning to get for a while. I call this simple serendipity (serendipità pura e semplice).
As you may have already guessed from the title, my surprise package contained cardamom, pods of green cardamom, to be precise (baccelli di cardamomo verde), sent to me by Wendy of A Wee Bit of Cooking, who lives in Scotland. She also sent me a delicious recipe for White Chocolate Cardamom Mousse, which I am planning to make after I come back from my Holiday travels. Grazie mille, Wendy (thank you so much, Wendy): you made me really happy with your gift.
Before moving to California, I had never tasted cardamom and only heard about it. In his "On Food and Cooking" Harold McGee provides some interesting pieces of information about cardamom, "the world's third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla." The cardamom plant, which belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), "is indigenous to the mountains of southwest India, and was grown only there until around 1900. German immigrants then brought it to Guatemala, which is now the largest producer." The seeds I received come, indeed, from Guatemala, a fact that, on opening the envelope, I had immediately noticed. The seed-carrying capsules (capsule) are harvested by hand. On this page, I read that, although it is possible to buy cardamom seeds (semi) and ground cardamom, "it's preferable to use the pods, either removing the seeds and grinding them or grinding the whole pod - quickly done with a pestle and mortar."
Since I really wanted to try and use my newly-received gift (regalo), I decided to make a recipe I had encountered while hosting Weekend Herb blogging #112: Carrot and Cardamom Mash presented by Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. To crush the cardamom pods, I used my recently-purchased mortar and pestle (mortaio e pestello). The result was much appreciated at the dinner table.