Like the Disney character, the spice is shrouded in a black shell, wrinkled and gnarled, intimidating at first glance and even at first sniff. Unlike green cardamom's sweet perfume of flowers, pine and lemon, the scent of black cardamom is intense, rooted in smoke, camphor and resin.
Like Maleficent, who apparently only turned to the dark side once her wings were clipped (If the Angelina Jolie film is to be believed!), I like to think that black cardamom was once a happy flowery little pod before being dried over open flames licking at her husks and turning her dark, funky and smoky.
This little missy isn't an inferior version of the queen of spices, as I've heard some people assert. She's her own personality, thank you very much.
Since black cardamom is such an assertive spice, a little goes a long way. And it works especially well in long-cooking preparations, where the full nuance of the little pod can express itself. In India, it is used to flavour aromatic curries and some versions of a warm spice mix called garam masala. It's also found in Chinese cooking and in one of the most famous dishes of Vietnam, pho.
In your everyday cooking, you could add a pod to your chili, stew or pot roast. Grind up the seeds and add to a flank steak marinade of cumin, cinnamon, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Saute a pod in some ghee or butter before adding rice to make a quick aromatic pilaf.
Or, in a highly unorthodox (but nevertheless tasty!) sweet preparation, pair it with some orange juice, cinnamon and chocolate in this gorgeous flourless chocolate cake, a heady way to end your Passover seder.
BLACK CARDAMOM-ORANGE FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes active), plus cooling
1 1/4 cups raw whole almonds (with skins)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 black cardamom pods
7 green cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cocoa powder
Juice and zest of 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice and 2 teaspoons zest)
6 large eggs, separated
Powdered sugar, to dust
Heat the oven to 350 F. Rub an even coating of coconut oil over the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place the pan on baking sheet and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Process until fine. Add the chocolate, then continue to process until a finely milled powder forms.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound both varieties of cardamom pods until the husks open. Remove and discard the husks, then pound the seeds to a fine powder. Pour into a small bowl. Whisk in the cinnamon, cocoa powder, and the orange juice and zest until smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until significantly thickened. Stir in the cocoa mixture and the almond-chocolate mixture.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
Working in 3 batches, fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan, then place the sheet pan in the middle of the oven. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Cool to room temperature, then run a paring knife around the perimeter of the cake and release the sides of the pan. If desired, dust the cake with powdered sugar, then cut into thin slices and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories; 140 calories from fat (54 per cent of total calories); 16 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 21 g sugar; 7 g protein; 55 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Network star Aarti Sequeira is the author of "Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul." She blogs at http://www.AartiPaarti.com .