Now-trendy turmeric is anything but new: It's been traced back as far as 600 B.C. See how this ancient root can spice up your favorite dishes while providing attractive health benefits.

By Carrie Boyd and Carson Downing
August 06, 2019
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Turmeric, a nubby root closely related to ginger, adds an herbaceous, peppery note and a rich, buttery color to everything it touches. Thanks to the root's rising popularity on the health and wellness scene, you increasingly can find fresh turmeric in grocery stores. But what to do with it once you get the rhizome home?

We asked Nik Sharma to guide us. Nik is the author and photographer behind the award-winning book Season and the blog A Brown Table. Born and raised in present-day Mumbai, Nik immigrated to the Midwest for grad school and worked as a molecular geneticist in Washington, D.C., before moving to the Bay Area and pursuing food full-time.  The cookbook author and blogger's recipes invigorate doable dishes—grilled pork, chicken soup, granola—with flavors drawn from unlikely inspirations.

Credit: Carson Downing

Pork Skewers with Couscous Salad

These marinated skewers are worth rolling out the grill for a victory lap before the end of grilling season. Serve them over a turmeric-scented couscous salad.

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Turmeric-Pineapple Sipper

Fresh turmeric simple syrup meets fruit juice and sparkling water in this tropical mocktail. (A splash of gin or vodka pushes the drink squarely into happy hour territory.) Leftover turmeric syrup? Nik suggests adding fresh fruit juice and a squeeze of lime then freezing it into granita or ice pops.

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Toasted Naan and Chicken Soup

"If Indians had a version of chicken tortilla soup, this would be it," Nik says. Spice up the familiar with cardamom, cloves, turmeric, and garam masala (a spice blend that varies region to region—even cook to cook—in India).

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Turmeric, Ginger & Honey Affogato

"As a kid, whenever I got a cold, my dad would recommend a glass of hot milk with turmeric and honey," Nik says. "This is a playful take on those flavors—in ice cream form." A traditional affogato involves pouring espresso over ice cream or gelato, but Nik recommends coffee to avoid overwhelming the ice cream flavors.

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Spice Papaya-Cranberry Granola

Leave the purchased granola on the shelf. Nik's version includes two kinds of dried fruit, nuts, and a splash of apple cider vinegar for a zip you can't quite put your finger on.

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Credit: Carson Downing

Turmeric Tips

High levels of the antioxidant compound curcumin give the root its sunny color and its reputation as a magic bullet for inflammation. Although many of its health claims are unsubstantiated as of yet, we'd argue the flavorful perks of including turmeric in your cooking repertoire are undeniable. Here's where to start:

Buying Fresh: Look for fresh turmeric in large grocery stores near the fresh ginger and garlic or in specialty stores and Indian markets.

Storing It: Refrigerate fresh roots, unpeeled, for up to two weeks. Keep the ground spice in a cool, dark cabinet for up to six months.

Prepping the Roots: To peel fresh turmeric, scrape away its thin, tender skin using a vegetable scrubber or small metal spoon.

Fighting Stains: "Turmeric binds to alkaline ingredients, such as baking soda," Nik says. "Try mixing baking soda and soap to scrub out stains." Nik also suggests treating wood spoons and utensils with mineral oil to seal the wood.


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