Superfoods TM_IN_TURM_FI_006

It could easily be mistaken for a knob of ginger, or maybe even a bug. Inside, it exudes an orange hue brighter than any carrot. Its aromas are so pungent that they linger in your kitchen well after it’s gone. It stains everything it comes in contact with. And it’s quickly becoming the next golden ingredient.

Turmeric, a rhizome best known in its orange-yellow powdered form, has lately been breaking away from its secondary role as a component of curry powder and making a solo debut. It has long been valued as a coloring agent, but turmeric can do more than turn food yellow.

Yes, turmeric is one of those so-called “superfoods,” packed full of an abundance of attractive nutrients and health benefits. The superstar of spices, turmeric has been used in holistic healing to reduce symptoms of arthritis and aid digestive relief for years. Its powerful active ingredient, curcumin, has proven effective as an antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties as well.

Still, even in all of its golden dietary glory, turmeric doesn’t get much attention in the American kitchen. Rarely does it make its way onto our plates. Occasionally, the raw root is used to make a cold-pressed cleansing juice or the powdered spice is sprinkled on top of eggs. Beyond that and traditional Indian dishes, not many American home cooks have any idea what to do with it. MORE

Ingredient TM_IN_CHOCDIN_FI_001

Who says you can’t have chocolate for dinner? I don’t mean devouring half a dozen Twix bars and counting it as a meal. Polishing off an entire carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream by yourself doesn’t count either. I’m talking about using chocolate as an element in a savory dish. Yes, chocolate playing the role of something besides sweet.

When we think about chocolate, we almost always think of desserts. But chocolate, in its raw form, is anything but sweet. And utilizing it as a savory ingredient is anything but new. Over 2,000 years ago, before it was ever combined with sugar to make the confection we’re most familiar with today, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chocolate in the form of a thick, bitter drink. Cacao beans were fermented, roasted, and then mixed with water and spices to make xocoatl, from which chocolate originally got its name. Chocolate has been, and can be, more than just a candy or dessert.

Incorporating chocolate into your dinner meal isn’t as challenging as you’d imagine. Plenty of savory foods have a natural affinity for cocoa-based flavors. Consider the classic pairing of chocolate with spices and chilies in a Mexican mole sauce. Or take gamey meats like lamb and venison, which marry well with cocoa-driven richness. Often times, the bitter notes in dark chocolate work to highlight hidden flavors and assert depth in a dish that was otherwise missing it.
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The Whole Chicken Project TM_WC_CURRY_FI_002

The curry of my childhood was chicken legs, onions, carrots, potatoes, and a few raisins in a highly spiced, tomato-based sauce. We ate it over steamed brown rice to sop up the juices and with plenty of garnishes like yogurt, diced apple, and fresh cilantro leaves.

It wasn’t until I was well into my second decade of life that I discovered that our curry wasn’t the only version. Throughout my teens and twenties, I took great pleasure in exploring the curries of the world and tried every one I could.

These days, though I appreciate and enjoy the many disparate versions of curries out there in the world, I find that this time of year, when there’s a chill in the air and it’s dark out by 6 PM, I want nothing more than a bowl of the curry my mom always made.
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Ingredient TM_IN_SWPOT_FI_003

The great American sweet potato. We all recognize it as a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, and see sweet potato fries now offered as a healthier alternative to white potato ones at almost every restaurant. They’re even showing up more often as a substitute in traditional potato salad recipes. But though the orange-fleshed vegetable is an occasional visitor for lunch and dinner, we almost never see it on our plates before noon.
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Thanksgiving, The Larder

Side Projects

A trio of takes on the Thanksgiving sweet potato

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When it comes to Thanksgiving menu items, my family is the type that prefers tradition to experimentation. Throughout my childhood years, we ate nearly the same meal. A turkey, prepared and stuffed with seasoned bread cubes from Pepperidge Farms. Mashed russet potatoes with butter. Hubbard squash, steamed, drained of extra liquid and creamed with butter, salt, and freshly grated ginger. Briefly blanched green beans, dressed with more butter and toasted almond shards. Canned cranberry sauce. And two pies (apple and pumpkin) with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

It’s a fairly traditional spread, with just one glaring omission. There are no sweet potatoes to be found. My mom, unimpressed with the classic casserole constructed of canned potatoes, brown sugar and marshmallows she had been forced to eat as a child, banned orange tubers from her holiday table. MORE

The Larder TM_TL_RSOUP_FI_001

During the summer months, I’m not particularly interested in soup. I am happy to eat my weight in salads, quick pasta sauces and other fresh, crunchy things, but bowls of warm, creamy things have no appeal. Since the cooler days of fall have arrived, my home soup operation is in full swing once again.

Right now, I’m most in love with root vegetable soups. They are quick to make, incredibly filling and quite cheap. Paired with a few whole grain crackers or a hunk of bread, they make such a good lunch. For dinner, I add a salad for a bit of extra greenery.

There’s a basic formula to root vegetable soups. Once you master it, you can easily transform whatever roots your garden, CSA share or local farmers’ market provide into batches of creamy soup (you can also apply these same techniques to winter squash, should you feel so moved). MORE