Turmeric is the magic ingredient du jour, more so even than the last time “Seasonal Pantry” explored it in 2014. It is said to cure everything from the common cold and its annoying cough to arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and many types of cancer. Many people often those involved in selling the spice, claim that a beverage of milk and turmeric, known as golden milk, is said to have ancient roots.
None of these claims is entirely true. Turmeric is no panacea, and golden milk has not been enjoyed for millennia. However, it has been used in India and parts of Asia as both a spice and for its medicinal qualities. It contains curcumin, an acknowledged and effective anti-inflammatory.
Before turmeric became trendy, Americans were eating it in certain commercial foods. It is turmeric that gives such ballpark mustards as French’s its deep color. When you buy pickles, you’ll notice spices that have settled to the bottom of the jar. If there is a yellow hue, it’s turmeric. Enjoy a meal in an Indian restaurant and chances are, you’re ingesting turmeric.
Turmeric doesn’t have a strong flavor; it is earthy and mild and blends well with other spices used in Indian cooking, including ginger, cumin and cayenne. To enjoy its health benefits, there should be some black pepper in the dish or the meal, as it facilitates the absorption of the turmeric.
Recently, fresh turmeric root has been available at certain local markets, including Oliver’s Markets and most Asian markets. It is typically next to fresh ginger root and you’ll recognize it by it’s smaller size and bright orange flesh.
All of today’s recipes call for both ground turmeric and ground ginger. Feel free to use fresh instead, if you are comfortable doing so.
Serve this as an appetizer with hot flatbread and good whole milk yogurt alongside. It also makes an excellent side dish with roasted chicken. Vegetarians will enjoy it with oven-roasted asparagus that has been covered with a paste of clarified butter, turmeric, pepper, and salt.
Moroccan Chickpeas with Turmeric & Cilantro
Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer or side dish
3 tablespoons coconut oil or mild olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
— Kosher salt
1 14- or 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (see Note below)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
— Black pepper in a mill
— Small handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
— Small handful of fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1 lemon, cut in half
Put the oil into a small sauté pan set over medium heat, add the onion, and sauté gently until soft and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté one minute more. Season lightly with salt.
Add the chickpeas and just enough water to cover them. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the chickpeas are quite soft and the water is reduced by at least half.
Add the turmeric, ginger, and several turns of black pepper. Taste, correct for salt, and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the herbs and the juice of one half of the lemon. Tip into a serving bowl.