Food Friday: Turmeric
I keep seeing the medicinal qualities of Turmeric in the news. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines, as well as foods all over Asia. The most widely studied compound in turmeric, Curicumin, has been shown to have anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammation properties.
Will it cure you of cancer? No. The actual research does not support the breathless “miracle food” tone many publications use when speaking of turmeric. However there are enough promising results to warrant adding this tasty spice to your diet.
But if you are like me, growing up in the Midwestern US, you have no idea how to incorporate turmeric into your diet. The most exotic spice I grew up with was pumpkin spice mix at the holidays. What does “pumpkin spice” even mean? What about the rest of the year? Hint: It doesn’t contain pumpkin OR turmeric.
I have always enjoyed cooking and becoming a vegetarian 7 years ago pushed my food love to a whole new level. I had to be creative about what I ate. I found food from other countries were more vegetarian friendly than the US diet and I quickly fell in love with spices and how to use them. Besides the health benefits, they add an infinite variety of flavors to staple foods. Below are simple ways I use turmeric, other than the traditional Indian and Thai curries.
What is your favorite way to incorporate turmeric into your diet? List it in the comments.
Turmeric tea is an amazingly simple way to add it to your diet. It is naturally caffeine free and as simple to brew as regular tea. Brew it in water or in milk and add a teaspoon of your favorite sweetener. I use soy milk instead of cows milk and add a teaspoon of coconut oil once it is warm. Dissolving the turmeric in oil (either cows milk or other oil) boosts the bodies absorption since it is fat soluble.
Roasting potatoes in the oven is simple and tasty. I love to chop them up, smother them in olive oil, salt, pepper, sprinkle turmeric on top, then bake them till done. Thats it! This also works well with cauliflower, beets, or sweet potatoes and yams. Add chopped onions, garlic, or fennel bulb before baking if you want more variations.
Lentils, turmeric, and cumin are my comfort food, especially on a cold winter day. First I boil the lentils with a cube of vegetable stock till they are a creamy thick mush. Mung Beans are my favorite and cook as quickly as lentils. When over-boiled to mush they are light and fluffy, not grainy or sandy like yellow or green lentils sometimes are.
In a separate pan I gently heat the turmeric and cumin in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, as well as any other spices I feel like (garlic!). Gently heating them in oil brings out more of their flavors. The amount of spice to add depends on the amount of lentils cooked and your preference on intensity. I love intensity, so I usually have one teaspoon of turmeric and one tablespoon of cumin for every 2 cups of lentils.
Once I can smell the spices I ladle a half cup of the lentils into them to deglaze the pan, then pour this back into the lentils and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes a great main dish, side dish, or basis for stews if you add vegetable or chicken stock.
Not into cooking? You can still reap the benefits with turmeric capsules. My mother uses them and swears by their benefits. I know, anecdotal evidence, but she’s my mom. It is still recommended that you take the capsules with a meal containing fat to increase the spices absorption.