One of the most versatile and ancient spices is turmeric. From time immemorial turmeric has been used in Asia as a dye, a flavoring, a ritual and ceremonial item, a medicine and an antiseptic. The English name for the spice is thought to come from the Latin terra merita, which means worthy or meritorious earth – and the name is well deserved, for turmeric is truly a wonder spice!
For thousand of years, spices have played an important role in Indian, Chinese and Indonesian medicine. Of all the spices, none was more important than turmeric. It was used to treat gastrointestinal and pulmonary disorders, diabetes, atherosclerosis, bacterial infections, gum disease, skin diseases. Even today, South Asians apply a paste of turmeric and water as an antiseptic to cuts and strains, take a teaspoon in warm milk or yogurt after a meal as an aid to digestion or to relieve the symptoms of a fever, and breathe steam infused with turmeric to relieve congestion.
Health food manufacturers have jumped on the turmeric bandwagon by producing expensive supplements. But it’s just as easy and more pleasing to the palate, to incorporate turmeric in one's diet on a regular basis.
My new e-book, Turmeric: The Wonder Spice, coauthored with Helen Saberi, will show readers how to do this by offering recipes that are delicious and nutritious, easily adding wonderful flavor to any meal while also promoting lifelong healthy habits. You can order copies on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites.
Here’s a couple of recipe to try at home.
Five-Minute Fish with Salsa
This very easy to make dish, developed by one of the author’s husbands, is perfect for emergencies, such as the arrival of unexpected guests. It also has the advantage of being fat free.
4 firm-fleshed fillets of fish (c. 4 – 6 oz/110 – 175 g each) such as red snapper or lemon sole
½ teaspoon salt
½ - 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
¼ cup (60 ml) thick ready-made tomato salsa
½ teaspoon ginger chutney (available at Indian grocery stores) or 1/2 tsp crushed ginger
Mix the salt and turmeric, then rub a generous amount over the fillets. Place them in a micro-safe plastic bag and add the salsa. Seal the bag and cook in a microwave at full power for 2 minutes. Test for doneness and cook for an additional 30 seconds if necessary.
Shake the fish and salsa into a micro-safe serving bowl or plate. Add the ginger chutney or crushed ginger and return the bowl to the microwave, uncovered, and heat for 30 seconds to release the aroma of the ginger.
Serve with rice.
Cumin, Fennel and Turmeric Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Makes 4 - 6 servings
This recipe, which we have adapted slightly, has been given to us by Chef Joe Randall, an award-winning chef and proprietor of the famous Savannah Cooking School in Georgia.
2 pork tenderloins (12 oz, 350 g each), trimmed
2 tablespoons fennel seed, ground
2 tablespoons cumin, ground
½ tablespoon turmeric ground
4 tablespoons olive oil
¼ - ½ tablespoon kosher salt
1 – 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Trim the pork tenderloins. Combine the fennel, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Coat the tenderloins with olive oil and season heavily with the spices, patting them into the oil as much as possible.
Pan sear all sides of the pork tenderloin in a hot oiled skillet. Finish in a pre-heated oven at 3750 F (1900C, Gas mark 5) for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to rest, carve and serve with fresh vegetables of your choice.
Street Food around the World
Monday, 07 October 2013 17:52
Street Food around the World: An Encylopaedia of Food and Culture, ed. Bruce Kraig and Colleen Taylor Sen.
(ABC Clio, 2013; http://www.abc-clio.com/product.aspx?isbn=9781598849547). Retail price: $100. Available on Walmart.com for $60.
An estimated 250 million people eat street food every day, and for many, street food is their main source of nutrition. Once associated mainly with developing countries, street food is making inroads into the developed world, especially in North America with the advent of food trucks in major cities. Not to be outdone, top chefs have opened restaurants specializing in street food, and items such as hot dogs, bhelpuri, and tacos have been reincarnated as gourmet items on the menus of upscale restaurants. Television programs, even entire series, are devoted to exploring the culinary delights of the street. Street food is one of the centerpieces of culinary tourism for people in pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.
This encyclopedia is the first book of its scope devoted to this important, endlessly fascinating culinary realm. It surveys the popular street foods of around 100 countries and regions of the world, showing how these ‘fast foods of the common people’ fit into the economy, history, and environment. It covers not only such street food superstars as India, China, Thailand, and Mexico but countries where street food plays a less important role, such as those in northern Europe. Our reasoning was that travelers to these countries might also be search of a street food experience, which may be somewhat harder to find.
Contributors include some of the world’s leading food historians, academics, and journalists who are specialists in their countries. A chapter of recipes lets you taste international dishes at home.
2-3 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying 1 medium white onion, cut into thin rings 2 cans chick peas, rinsed and drained (or the same amount of freshly boiled chick peas) 1 red bird chili, finely chopped (or substitute chili powder to taste) 1 teaspoon ground cumin 2 teaspoon ground coriander salt to taste, if needed
1. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. 2. Fry the onions until lightly browned. 3. Add the drained chick peas and stir-fry briefly. 4. Add the chili and spices and continue to stir-fry for a minute or two. 5. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Canned chick peas are usually salty enough. 6. Serve warm or at room temperature as a snack, with optional readymade West Indian pepper sauce if you like your food very spicy. (Mexican habanero sauce is also good.)
CHAPLI KEBAB (Afghanistan) (Makes 12) From Helen Saberi
1 pound finely chopped lamb or beef 12 ounces green onions, finely chopped 4 ounces white flour ½ sweet bell pepper (green or red), de-seeded and finely chopped 4 hot green chilies, de-seeded and finely chopped (use less if a milder version is preferred) 3-4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped 2 teaspoons ground cilantro seed Salt to taste ½ cup vegetable oil for frying ¼ cup extra fresh cilantro for garnishing 12 lemon wedges
1.Place the meat, scallions, flour, both kinds of pepper, fresh and ground cilantro and salt to taste in a bowl and mix and knead thoroughly until the mixture is smooth and sticky. Shape the mixture into around 12 flat oblongs about 6” by 4” and ¼” thick.
2.Heat enough vegetable oil in a frying-pan to fry the kebabs (which should be almost covered by the oil), and fry over a medium to high heat until they are brown on both sides and cooked through (about 10 minutes).
Serve with a tomato and onion salad and chapati or naan. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lemon wedges.
Bitter Melon, Sweet Potential
Monday, 19 September 2011 16:23
All summer I watched the vine with its delicate leaves and lovely little yellow flowers grow up the iron banister of my stairs at the rate of several inches a day. planted the seeds in June but had given up hope of any harvest. Then, this morning, I saw them, two little pale green ribbed cucumbers with warts: baby bitter melons. This weird-looking vegetable — called karela in Hindi and Bengali, fuk wa in Cantonese, ampalaya in the Philippines, nigai uri in Japanese, and bitter melon, bitter gourd, or balsam pear in English — is highly valued in many Asian cuisines for its interesting flavor, appetite-stimulating properties, and health benefits.
In winter, Gujaratis prepare certain sweets considered to have healthful heating properties. One is gundar pak (the light brown spheres in the photograph) which is made from wheat flour, sugar, ghee, ginger, ganthoda (valerian), and gundar (an edible gum made from the resin of the axle tree). Another is salam pak (the dark squares) which contains over 30 ingredients, including cloves, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds, pistachios, Indian ginseng, and a whole host of ayurvedic herbs. It has a wonderfully complex, piquant flavor. In Chicago, you can find these and other Gujarati specialties at Sukhadia’s Sweets on Devon Avenue. Owner Jayant Sukhadia comes from a family who has been in the sweetmaking business in India for 130 years. In May, the culinary Historians of Chicago held a program at the store that was broadcast on WBEZ. http://www.wbez.org/story/learn-all-about-indian-sweets-and-snacks-86862
Chicago’s Kerala Community Celebrates Onam with a Delicious Feast
Monday, 05 September 2011 00:00
On Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful Onam feast at a reception organized by the Illinois Malayali Association. (People from Kerala are called Malayali or Keralites). It was held at a local high school and prepared by Malabar Catering.
Onam is the national festival of Kerala, a state in southwest India, that is celebrated by all communities in this religiously diverse state. Originally a harvest festival, it honors the memory of an ancient king Mahabali whose rule was a golden age and is believed to return to Kerala every year at this time for one day.