I love turmeric. It is an integral part of my cooking repertoire. People who love salt “salt” their salt; I would “turmeric” my turmeric. (Read: Add more, usually.) Here’s why you should care about this lovely golden powder:  the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that a diet high in curry (which typically includes turmeric) may help the aging brain. As reported by Reuters, “Curry is used widely by people in India and ‘interestingly,’ the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease among India’s elderly ranks is fourfold less than that seen in the United States.” Think about it — fourfold! This year, Professor Murali Doraiswamy, director of the Mental Fitness Laboratory at Duke University told the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Liverpool, “Turmeric has been studied not just in Alzheimer’s research but for a variety of conditions, such as cancer and arthritis. Turmeric is often referred to as the spice of life in ancient Indian medical lore.”

Photo dried turmeric root at a spice market in Delhi, India –

Rebecca Katz, a senior chef-in-residence at one of the country’s leading cancer wellness centers and author of  “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” (Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press, 2009) shares my love of ground turmeric, “I love the earthiness of turmeric, and the golden yellow color.  However, I’m fascinated by the ancient spice’s healing properties. No other food has such a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the human body.  That’s why I make a conscious effort to cook with this spice regularly.”

What exactly is turmeric?  Listen in to find out… I was on The Kojo Show a few weeks ago discussing the usage of this spice along with Dr. Aarthi Narayanan who discussed the science behind the amazing properties of this spice.

GIVEAWAY: Enter a comment here to tell us how you would use this spice! MySpicesage.com and I are teaming up again and have created a giveaway consisting of turmeric and pepper (why pepper? To gain the benefits of turmeric, it is said that it should be used along with a pinch of pepper).

So – do leave a comment, tell friends and family about this contest on FB, Twitter, word of mouth or email and come back and check on Oct 15th to see if you have won!! Thanks so much for entering. Open to US residents only. Winner chosen at random.

Monica’s Fish Curry: Everyone has a signature dish, something that they are really proud of and this one is mine. I have been cooking it for as long as I can remember. It is a favorite with adults and kids alike. My dad once told me it was his favorite. I cannot tell you how happy I was since he has such discerning tastes. He made it for me once, and it was quite interesting. “I won’t add the mustard seeds, since I don’t like mustard. I don’t have any curry leaves so they won’t go in either. I will sauté some onions first, and then add tomatoes and I prefer ground coriander, so I will add that. But you know, I do add the coconut milk, so it is just like yours!”

This recipe is from my book Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

The photo credit is the amazing and talented Stephanie Stiavetti.

Serves 4
Cook Time: 40 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Serrano green chile, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 pound catfish pieces
Salt to taste
1/2 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk (such as Taste of Thai brand)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
2. Add the mustard seeds; as soon as they crackle add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and green chiles. Sauté for a few seconds and then add the tomato.
3. Sauté gently for 10-12 minutes or until the tomato is soft and the oil begins to leave the side of the mixture. You can add some water if the tomato begins to stick. (I sometimes add a quarter cup of water and cover the pan for 5-6 minutes. This helps cook the tomatoes faster. Then I uncover it and continue to cook until all the water evaporates.)
4. Add the chili powder, turmeric, and salt; cook for 1 minute.
5. Stir in the fish and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add the coconut milk. Let the mixture come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fish is tender. Serve immediately.

Turmeric photo: istock

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