Americans can't get enough turmeric these days.
It's been one of the top-selling herbal dietary supplements for the past three years, according to the Austin-based American Botanical Council.
Turmeric was a pantry staple before golden milk became a big food trend, but once millions of people tried this vibrant yellow drink made with coconut milk, turmeric and other spices for the first time, turmeric leaped into another category of grocery fame.
It's landed on every food trend list for years, and this relative of ginger and cardamom became so popular that many stores are carrying fresh turmeric in addition to the dried powder in the spice aisle. Turmeric is probably already in your pantry, but if it's been there for more than a year or two, it won't have much flavor left.
To use fresh turmeric, wash and then grate the root with a microplane; you can mash it with a mortar and pestle or push it through a garlic press, too. Wear an apron: The shredded flesh will leave a touch of sunshine yellow on cutting boards, hands or your shirt.
Fresh turmeric is slightly less bitter than dried, and you’ll need three times as much, but no matter the form that you use, you can add turmeric to curries, soups, marinades, dressings, baked goods, smoothies, coffees, ice creams and anything else that could use a subtle, slightly bitter earthiness and a pop of color.
The source of that color, curcumin, is also what some researchers think could help make chemotherapy drugs more effective or ease the symptoms of major depressive disorder. None of the recent studies have reached any consensus that turmeric is a miracle spice, but that doesn’t take away from its long, deeply rooted history as such.
Rachel Musquiz, the owner of Curcuma, says that she learned about the healing properties of turmeric about five years ago from a roommate in California who offered her a taste of golden mylk. (It’s sometimes spelled with a Y because it is most often made with nondairy milks, or mylks.)
"Once I tasted that, immediately, my body had a response," she says. It was a feeling of nourishment that she hadn't felt often during her quest to clean up her eating habits and eat a plant-based diet. "When you taste something that is really good for your body, your body knows it," she says.
She started making golden mylk a nightly ritual in 2015, and by 2016 she was running a food truck selling drinks and some lunch and breakfast items made with turmeric and other superfoods.
The truck started on South First Street, and now it's on Cesar Chavez, where they still sell plenty of golden mylk, but also other lattes, teas, tonics and smoothies, all with an Ayurvedic or other health-conscious twist.
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In order for either fresh or dried turmeric to be “activated and bioavailable,” Musquiz says you have to consume it with black pepper and oil of some kind. She cooks the turmeric for her golden mylk paste with coconut oil and black pepper, and that paste goes into the hot and iced drinks and the savory dishes, including the kitchari bowl, which features quinoa, greens, mung beans and turmeric tahini dressing made with lemon juice and cayenne.
"It’s such a versatile product," she said last week, just before a private event in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park, where she was serving turmeric-roasted chickpeas on spinach with shredded beets, cilantro, pecans and lime juice and that tahini dressing that everybody loves from the food truck.
You can buy the golden paste at the 2207 E. Cesar Chavez St. location, the Mueller Farmers Market on Sundays, Farmhouse Delivery and, soon, Peoples RX. Even without the paste, turmeric is easy to incorporate into dishes you’re already making, or it might lead you to a new dessert, an eye-catching cocktail or new favorite weeknight dinner.
I’ve often proclaimed myself a tequila purist, and this is still true; sipping it neat in a small snifter accompanied by an orange wedge is how I typically enjoy the spirit. Lately, though, I’ve really been into margaritas and exploring different ingredients that highlight, not hide, the nuances of Mexico’s most emblematic drink. Tequila can be earthy, as is turmeric. And we know that tequila loves tart flavors like citrus, so I added pineapple juice to come up with a balanced cocktail that lets each element shine.
— Marcela Valladolid
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for the rim
1 tablespoon chili powder, for the rim
3 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 lime wedge
1/2 cup tequila blanco
2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 5 limes)
1/4 cup agave nectar, or to taste
4 fresh pineapple wedges and 8 pineapple leaves, for garnish
Combine the sugar, chili powder and 2 teaspoons of the turmeric on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a margarita or rocks glass with the lime wedge, then dip the rim in the chili-turmeric sugar. Wiggle the glass to cover the wet part of the rim completely. Repeat to rim three additional glasses.
Combine the tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave nectar and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty. Fill the rimmed glasses with ice and strain the margarita into them. Garnish each drink with a pineapple wedge and two pineapple leaves. Serves 4.
— From "Fiestas: Tidbits, Margaritas & More" by Marcela Valladolid (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99)
Ginger-Turmeric Frozen Yogurt
Combinations of ginger and turmeric have been on the scene lately for their reported health benefits, but we love the two simply because they taste great. To showcase them in a dessert on the cold side, we incorporated fresh and ground ginger as well as ground turmeric into a tangy frozen yogurt — like a frozen lassi. The key to dense creaminess was controlling the water in the base so that the number of large ice crystals that formed during freezing was minimized. We strained excess liquid from the yogurt and dissolved and heated a teaspoon of gelatin in a portion of it to prevent water molecules from joining and forming large crystals. We swapped in a few tablespoons of Lyle’s Golden Syrup for some of the granulated sugar; the syrup is 50 percent invert sugar whose molecules are better at depressing freezing point, so more water in the frozen yogurt stayed in the liquid state rather than crystallizing. We prefer richer-tasting Lyle’s Golden Syrup, but you can substitute light corn syrup. If you’re using a canister-style ice cream maker, be sure to freeze the empty canister for at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours before churning. For self-refrigerating ice cream makers, chill the canister by running the machine for 5 to 10 minutes before pouring in the yogurt.
— Editors of America's Test Kitchen
1 quart plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
Line colander or fine-mesh strainer with triple layer of cheesecloth and place over large bowl or measuring cup. Place yogurt in colander, cover with plastic wrap (plastic should not touch yogurt), and refrigerate until 1 1/4 cups whey has drained from yogurt, at least 8 hours or up to 12 hours. (If more than 1 1/4 cups whey drains from yogurt, stir extra back into yogurt.)
Discard 3/4 cup drained whey. Sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/2 cup whey in bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir fresh ginger, ground ginger and ground turmeric into mixture and let cool for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over large bowl, pressing on solids to extract all liquid; discard solids. Whisk drained yogurt, sugar, syrup and salt into cooled whey-gelatin mixture until sugar is completely dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until yogurt mixture registers 40 degrees or less, about 3 hours.
Churn yogurt mixture in ice cream maker until mixture resembles thick soft-serve frozen yogurt and registers about 21 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer frozen yogurt to airtight container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Serve. (Frozen yogurt can be stored in freezer for up to 5 days.) Makes 1 quart.
— From "Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking" by the editors of America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $29.99)
Ginger Turmeric Chickpeas With Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
I have been making this dish for years, and it is my daughter’s favorite Indian dish. She has been calling it "yellow balls" since I can remember. These chickpeas are unlike how we prepare them in North India, where they are almost always prepared with gravy and slowly cooked for hours. This particular version using canned chickpeas can be ready within 15 minutes. It is my perfect go-to meal when I am tired and want a quick meal that is healthy and heavenly in taste.
— Rakhee Yadav
For the tomatoes:
1 1/3 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the chickpeas:
3 cups canned chickpeas
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1-inch piece ginger, cut into strips
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the cherry tomatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 10 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Heat the oil in a pan on high heat. Once hot, add the onion and the ginger and cook until the onion begins to brown at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the chickpeas to the onions and ginger and stir to mix. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the turmeric and cumin. Stir the spices into the chickpeas, cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes on low heat. Add the salt and roasted cherry tomatoes and cook for another minute or two. Garnish with red onion and cilantro sprinkled on top. Serves 3 or 4.
— From "Heavenly Vegan Dals & Curries: Exciting New Dishes From an Indian Girl's Kitchen Abroad" by Rakhee Yadav (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)
Tandoori-Style Shrimp With Rice and Peas
Enough with the shrimp dishes that aren't so generous with the star ingredient. Here, a combination of spices that beats any supermarket garam masala is stirred into yogurt for a marinade that coats the seafood and keeps it moist, even under the broiler. The heat of cayenne pepper in that spice blend may intensify after a few bites, so if you are sensitive to it, start with 1/4 teaspoon instead of adding the full 1/2 teaspoon straight away. While the shrimp marinates, you make rice that's guaranteed not to be gummy or mushy. That's because you boil it, in lots of water, like you would pasta. Freshly grated carrot and frozen peas come to the right temperature once they are stirred into the just-cooked rice and allowed to sit for a few minutes, under cover.
— Bonnie S. Benwick
1 cup plain yogurt (regular or low-fat)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium or large carrot
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.
Whisk or stir together the yogurt, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and the turmeric in a mixing bowl. Discard or reserve the tails (shells) from the shrimp, as needed; you can save them in a freezer-safe zip-top bag for making shrimp stock, if desired. Stir in the shrimp to coat evenly. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the rice to the boiling water; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring a few times, until tender. The grains should look plumped.
Meanwhile, scrub the carrot well, then use the large-holed side of a box grater to shred it. Position an oven rack 4 inches from the broiling element; heat to broil.
Drain the rice and immediately return it to the pot (off the heat). Stir in the shredded carrot and peas until well distributed; cover to keep warm.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; arrange the shrimp on it with room between them. (If you use tongs to stand some of them on their curved backs, they will reward you with a greater proportion of charred edges.) Discard any excess marinade in the bowl. Season the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Broil for about 4 minutes, or just until opaque and slightly charred in spots. Serve hot, atop the rice, along with any pan juices. Serves 2 to 3.
— Adapted from a Real Simple recipe
Spiced Chicken Skewers
Chicken picks up a lot of flavor in this quick yogurt-based marinade, seasoned with spices you'll find in many Persian dishes. You'll be surprised what a 20-minute rest in this sunny mixture does for plain old chunks of chicken breast: It coats them, acting like a moisture lock so the meat stays juicy. That is no small feat for white-meat chicken under the broiler. You might have time during the prep for this recipe to soak a few bamboo skewers; if not, you'll need 4 medium-size metal skewers. I prefer using the latter, as there is no risk of stray wooden threads during the skewered-kebab dismount. In addition to flatbread, you can serve this with rice and/or a chopped salad.
— Bonnie S. Benwick
1/2 medium red onion
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, preferably full-fat
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch ground cardamom (up to 1/2 teaspoon)
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 to 1 whole lemon
Warm flatbread, for serving
Peel and coarsely chop the red onion and garlic. Place them both in a food processor, then add the yogurt, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Pulse just until the onion is finely chopped, then transfer to a mixing bowl.
Cut the chicken into 1 1/2-inch chunks (discarding any visible fat), seasoning them lightly with more salt. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture and stir to coat evenly; let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. (During this time, you could soak bamboo skewers in a shallow pan of water if you don't have metal skewers.)
Meanwhile, cut the lemon (half or whole; to taste) into wedges approximately the same size as the chicken pieces. Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Thread the coated chicken pieces and lemon wedges onto the skewers so the components are just touching each other. Place the skewers on the pan; broil for about 8 minutes, turning them once with tongs halfway through. The chicken and lemon should be lightly charred in spots.
Transfer to plates; pull the chicken and lemon off the skewers. Squeeze the broiled/lightly charred lemon wedges over the chicken while it's hot, and serve with flatbread. Serves 2 to 3.
— Adapted from "New Kitchen Basics: 10 Essential Ingredients, 120 Recipes: Revolutionize the Way You Cook, Every Day" by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, $35)
Technically, I realize, you can't make tandoori anything without one special piece of equipment — a tandoor — but you can take the same type of marinade with yogurt and spices such as garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. I like to slather it on cauliflower florets to make this simplified version of a popular North Indian street-food dish, tandoori gobi. I might even say that this is the cauliflower you should make for somebody who doesn't like, or doesn't think they like, cauliflower. The marinade, some of which you save to sauce the florets after roasting, is so tangy and fiery that at the very least it will distract them from what's underneath, and at the most it might make them realize that cauliflower itself is actually pretty neutral-tasting.
— Joe Yonan
1 1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (preferably full-fat, but may use low-fat or nonfat)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
2 teaspoons agave syrup (nectar)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 medium (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) cauliflower, cored and divided into florets
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the yogurt, oil, the sweet and smoked paprikas, garam masala, turmeric, salt, agave syrup and cayenne in a mixing bowl to form a smooth marinade. Transfer half of it to a small saucepan.
Add the cauliflower to the bowl with the remaining marinade and toss to coat thoroughly, then transfer those florets to a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast (middle rack) for 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Start checking at 20 minutes; when the cauliflower is almost done, place the saucepan with the remaining marinade over medium-low heat. Gently cook it until hot, being careful not to let it bubble up or boil. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
Pour the warm marinade over the roasted florets; taste, and season with more salt, as needed. Serve warm, garnished with cilantro, with rice or naan. Serves 4.
— From "Feasts of Veg: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes for Gatherings" by Nina Olsson (Kyle Books, $24.99)
Coconut Turmeric Sweet Bread
With its burnished orange, red-flecked crumb, this vegan quick bread is visually stunning. Yet its flavor is what will really win you over, with coconut and turmeric, as well as grace notes from the tahini used to grease the pan. You can use either refined or virgin coconut oil here, but the latter will yield a more pronounced coconut presence. Leave the pistachios off if you must, but the cake won't be as pretty without them.
— Becky Krystal
1 tablespoon tahini (well stirred), for the pan
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened nondairy milk such as soy, almond or coconut, slightly warmed
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquefied/melted
16 shelled, unsalted pistachios, for garnish (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with a thin layer of the tahini.
Combine the flour, baking powder, shredded coconut, sugar, turmeric and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together your choice of nondairy milk and the liquefied coconut oil in a large liquid measuring cup. Pour that mixture into the bowl, stirring just long enough to form a thick, evenly moistened batter.
Transfer to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly into the corners. Arrange the pistachios, if using, in a 4-by-4 grid; you are placing a nut at the center of what will be each baked piece. Bake (middle rack) for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. A few cracks on the top are okay.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then use a round-edged knife to loosen around the edges of the quick bread. Carefully invert to dislodge, then turn it right side up on a cutting board. Let it cool for a few more minutes, then cut into 16 equal portions.
Serve slightly warm or cool completely before storing.
— From "Tahini and Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics Made Irresistibly Vegan" by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $24.99)