Monday, September 3, 2012

Cooking with Turmeric

Grid green

Flora in Jolly Auntie’s Yard

In Kerala, every vantage point is awash with color. From the sandy coastline to the towering mountains, the earth gives birth to the full spectrum of green. Peppercorn vines ravel around straight-backed shade trees. Moss inhabits even the finest cracks. Airy coconut palms hover over tangles of yellow-green grass, low-growing rice plants, and glossy tea leaves that blanket the ground. Hibiscus and ripe bananas fight for attention alongside yellow-capped rickshaws and ruby red buses proclaiming “Jesus is Lord.”  

Grid 3

Turning Potatoes and Cabbage into Gold

As if not to be outdone, turmeric brings a golden glow to the table. It is native to Kerala, and during my last trip to there, I yanked a huge hunk of the underground stem from my cousin’s yard. At first glance, turmeric can be mistaken for ginger, but beneath its drab brown skin, lies crunchy, carrot-colored flesh that blends the freshness of dill with the earthiness of black pepper.  
Traditionally, turmeric has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes in India. When I was bitten by a perturbed ant during my vacation, my cousin quickly prepared a turmeric paste to help reduce the swelling. A significant number of studies have found that curcumin, the powerful antioxidant present in turmeric, helps to guard against inflammation linked to type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.  

Grid - banana chips

Banana Chips, K.K. Road, Kottayam

I grew up eating turmeric in the South Indian dishes my Mom prepared, day in and day out, and I include it in nearly every savory dish that I cook up, Indian or not. I prefer to use fresh turmeric, which can be prepped just like ginger, with one exception. The juice from turmeric stains everything it touches – cutting boards, counters, fingers! Some people prefer to wear gloves to keep their hands protected from its highlighter yellow. I also always have dried turmeric on hand, which wins the prize when it comes to ease of use. It has an earthier, slightly bitter flavor and, in general, a little goes a long way. 


Making Spicy Fried Potato Balls (Bonda)

Fish curry - 4_edited-1

Seasoning Mild Fish Curry (Mappas)
Another thing to consider when cooking with turmeric is that curcumin, the powerful antioxidant I mentioned earlier, isn’t easily absorbed by the body. The good news is that you can change that by pairing turmeric with black pepper and oil and heating it up. Here are ten simple ways to combine all three and increase the bioavailability of curcumin:
-   Coat chicken with turmeric, olive oil, and ground black pepper before baking it
-   Coat vegetables with turmeric, olive oil, and ground black pepper before roasting them
-   Add turmeric and ground black pepper to the vegetables you sauté for chili
-   Add turmeric and ground black pepper to the vegetables you sauté for pasta sauce
- Add turmeric and ground black pepper to the vegetables you sauté for omelets.
-   Add turmeric and ground black pepper to the vegetables you sauté for soup
-   Add turmeric and ground pepper to your favorite stir-fry
-   Include turmeric and ground pepper when you blacken catfish
-   Include turmeric, ground pepper, and a little olive oil when you bake salmon 
-   Include turmeric and ground pepper in marinades.

Advance purchase required!
Book your Chicago Food Tour today!
buy tickets at zerve
or call Zerve at (800) 979-3370

1 comment:

  1. I grow turmeric in my garden in NYC. That is I grow it outside from mid-April to late fall, when I cut down the turmeric plants and store the rhizomes in a paper bag at home. This year I got so much new turmeric to take home that I am cooking with it and am glad to see your article with suggestions for using it in recipes. I've been putting it in soups and stews. It's such an important medicinal and has an interesting flavor. It's easy to peel when fresh and skins are thinner. Next spring I'll just plant the remaining rhizomes outside again.


Share your thoughts!