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Tantalizing turmeric is getting some fresh buzz

| Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

If you've got ancient ground turmeric in a dusty jar in your spice cabinet, toss it.

Instead, join the rage over fresh turmeric root. It's a hot spice — hot as in buzz-worthy, though subtle rather than searing on the palate. With a warm peppery flavor profile, it perks up dishes without the underlying bitterness of the powdered form.

Turmeric delivers legendary health benefits — high in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory rich and a stimulant. Even more, proponents claim its medicinal properties include everything from an anti-bacterial and a cardiovascular aid to a cure for acne and wrinkles.

Not incidentally, turmeric colors food a beautiful golden hue — thus its designation as “Indian saffron” or “poor man's saffron.” Note that it can strongly stain your hands, utensils and clothes the same bright orange.

One look at these roots (or more accurately rhizomes) testifies to a relationship to ginger — though turmeric is less strident and smaller: finger-sized, about 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. The exterior skin is beige with some orange streaks, the interior a loud, vibrant orange.

Preparation includes scrubbing away the dirt, then slicing, mincing, grating or crushing bits in a garlic press. It's not necessary to peel it, though some do. Then use sparingly in rice, vegetables, chutneys, pickles, main dishes, soups, stews and drinks.

Store as you would ginger: Store in a cool dry place (one week), in the refrigerator (three weeks) or in the freezer for multiple months. Another possibility: Pack into a glass jar, fill with vodka and refrigerate for one year.

A traditional ingredient in curries, Turmeric was once available mainly in small ethnic markets catering to South Asian, especially Indian, communities. Today you'll find it in supermarket produce departments across the country, or order online. Details:

Ann Haigh is co-host with husband Peter of and a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

The Turmerictini

This concoction comes from Peter Haigh.

7-8 wafer thin slices of fresh turmeric root

1 12 ounces English Dry Gin (preferably artisanal: Langley's No. 8, Sipsmith, Opihr)

Medium-sized ice cubes

In a martini glass, combine turmeric slices and gin. Add ice cubes, stir and allow 5 minutes for the turmeric to infuse. The liquid will take on an orange tint. Drink up, then eat the turmeric for a healthful anti-oxidant kick.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Marinated Chicken

2 pounds chicken thighs, skinless and boneless

For the marinade:

1 cup whole-fat Greek yogurt

14 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon turmeric root, minced

1 teaspoon grated gingerroot

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

12 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large glass bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients. Add chicken and mix to coat. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Transfer to a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until done.

Makes 4 servings.

Golden Cauliflower

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

1 cup walnuts, broken into medium pieces

13 cup extra-virgin olive oil�

23 cup turmeric root, medium dice

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large glass bowl, mix together all ingredients. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer cauliflower mixture to a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Roast till golden and tender, for about 25 minutes, taking care not to scorch.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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