Getting to know turmeric

Posted 02/18/2014 | By HealthCorps

It’s also called Curcuma longe, and it is the unique ingredient found in mustards.  It’s considered an earthy spice and it’s used prominently in Indian dishes.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which may offer a number of health benefits that researchers are currently examining, including a positive impact on cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, allergies and some other chronic diseases.

Many chefs use the raw rather than dried powder form but home chefs  – be careful – it can easily stain your skin when you work with it.  It offers a mild, peppery – warm, bitter flavor to your food creations.

One way to flavor up garbanzo beans is to rinse and dry about two cans worth, and set aside.  Then mix 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon each of smoked paprika, curry and turmeric.  Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk well.  Pour in a glass bowl and fold in the beans, making sure to toss and coat them well.  Lay out the beans in one layer on a baking sheet (or 2) lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes.  They are ready when they have turned a darker brown, with crunchy coating on the outside.  Great as a garnish on soups or salads, you can also grab a handful to enjoy as a high protein snack.

And here is a soup recipe that will keep you warm on a cold winter day, from Get Your Family Eating Right by Lynn Fredericks and Mercedes Sanchez.

Thai Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes   Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Additional cooking equipment: Mortar and pestle

When Lynn prepares this soup, her family and friends can’t get enough of it. We make it pretty spicy, so it really clears out the sinuses—it’s especially welcome on a cold day.

2 cups (475 ml) chicken broth

1 can (13 or15 ounces, or (364 or 420 g) coconut milk (full fat, not “lite”)

1 large shallot

1 long lemongrass

5 to 6 (minimum) tiny Thai chile peppers, or 1 or 2 jalapeños

3 to 4 cilantro roots

3 boneless chicken thighs

1/3 pound (152 g) each of at least 3 types of colorful vegetables (yellow pepper, mushrooms, snap peas, Thai or other eggplants, cabbage)*

2-inch (5-cm) piece frozen galangal (optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) fish sauce (for salt)

Juice of 2 limes

1 to 3 teaspoons (4 to 12 g) sugar

Leaves from 3-4 sprigs of Thai (or Italian) basil

Leaves from 3-4 sprigs of mint

The following preparation instructions will help you to involve even young children:

(Note: Children should use plastic or table knives for all child steps that require cutting or chopping).

Adult) Bring the broth and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

(Adult) Slice the shallot, lemongrass, chilies, and cilantro roots.

(Adult & Child) Using a mortar and pestle, bruise and crush the sliced ingredients to release their flavor and oils.

(Adutl & Child) Add to the boiling liquid and let simmer 5 minutes.

(Adult) Meanwhile, cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add to the broth. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is almost cooked through.

(Adult) Cut the colorful vegetables into slices.

(Child) Help cut the vegetable slices into bite-size pieces. Add to the broth.

(Adult) Slice the galangal, if using, and add to broth.

(Adult & Child) Using tasting spoons, add fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar a little at a time and taste until a satisfying balance is achieved.

(Child) Remove leaves from the mint and basil stems and chop. Add a handful to each bowl before the hot soup is ladled in.

(Adult) Serve hot with more lime and chilies (available for people who desire more heat).

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