Turmeric is all the rage for its purported health benefits, but also deserves a place in your pantry for its unique flavor profile.
Turmeric has a warm, earthy, slightly bitter flavor with notes of ginger and mustard. Combined with other ingredients, it lends a background note, though as you grow to love its gentle flavor, you may double or triple the suggested quantities in most recipes.
Turmeric loves sugar, and it gives color and subtle warmth to pastry cream, sugar cookies and birthday cakes. Add a dash of it to scrambled eggs, salad dressing, mashed potatoes, matzo balls, deviled eggs, roasted cauliflower, lentils, oatmeal, hummus, or anything involving carrots, winter squash or sweet potatoes.
Fresh turmeric is becoming more widely available. It’s less bitter and earthy than the dried variety, with a brighter flavor. Substitute fresh for dried turmeric in a 3-to-1 ratio.
Use fresh turmeric just like ginger: Cut away any tough skin (or scrape with the edge of a teaspoon), then mince finely or grate it. If using dried turmeric, try to use it within six months.
Have some leftover turmeric? Try it in this cocktail. (Seriously.)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 3 tablespoons minced or grated fresh turmeric (or 1 tablespoon dried turmeric)
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- 4 large garlic cloves
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
In a food processor, combine first 8 ingredients (plus cayenne, if desired). Blend until smooth. Transfer marinade to large mixing bowl, and set aside.
With a mallet, pound chicken thighs with meat mallet individually between sheets of plastic wrap until 1/4-inch thick.
Add chicken to mixing bowl and coat with marinade. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 6–24 hours.
In a clean bowl, whisk yogurt until smooth. Grate cucumber and squeeze liquid from it. Discard liquid, then add cucumber to yogurt. Set aside.
Remove chicken from marinade, and pat dry. Reserve remaining marinade. Heat grill, grill pan or heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Coat lightly with oil. Add chicken in single layer (cook in batches, if necessary). Cook 4-5 minutes until bottom is browned, flip and continue cooking until meat reaches 165°F,
Remove chicken and allow to rest. If using sauté pan, wipe burned bits from pan and reduce heat to medium-low. If grilling chicken, place small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add 4 tablespoons leftover marinade and simmer, stirring often, until it’s a dark-orange paste, about 3–5 minutes. Stir into yogurt mixture until color is uniform. If desired, add salt and/or honey to taste.
Pass chicken and tzatziki separately, or divide chicken among plates with a large dollop of tzatziki. Serves 4.
This recipe also makes great turmeric chicken kebabs—just cut the thighs into chunks instead of pounding, and grill.
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