A centuries-old staple of South Asian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has seen a recent spike in mainstream popularity. From tonics and golden milk lattes to snacks and herbal supplements, the growing market for “superfoods” has inspired new varieties of trendy turmeric products. Why? This rust-colored rhizome has purported antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among many other touted benefits.
Wellness aside, turmeric’s taste is hard to match. Peppery and slightly sharp, this robust little root packs a punch of earthy flavor. It’s used, too, to impart a brilliant burst of gold to any dish (it’s what gives yellow mustard its iconic color). Paired with cheese, turmeric’s pungent flavor and aroma lends a balancing bitterness that rounds out any wedge or wheel.
If you’re new to turmeric, yellow rice makes for an easy introduction: Simply stir turmeric into the cooking broth or water for white rice, and proceed as usual. The turmeric imparts a mild savoriness to the rice without being overwhelming. Using powdered turmeric adds ease, but using a bit of the grated root will add a fresher, creamier flavor. Cheese lends a nice richness to the mild rice—stir in a wedge that’s full-flavored but not too intense.
Consider a shrub. These sour sippers are made using vinegar-based syrup infused with juice, herbs, or spices. When turmeric is added to shrub, it lends a savory note that offsets the sharp sourness. Charlie Berkinshaw of Virginia-based Element Shrub recommends Parmigiano Reggiano with their pineapple-turmeric shrub: Parmigiano’s deep umami notes stand up to the biting acidity of vinegar and pineapple, while turmeric adds a balanced creaminess. But if sour’s not for you, try a lighter version of this pairing: turmeric juice—often sold as “elixir” or “tonic”—with a hard English cheddar.
If you love the punchy flavor of pickled vegetables, don’t sleep on achaar, a style of pickle that hails from South Asia. Many varieties exist, but the basic principle is a mix of fruits and vegetables—mango and lime are popular—marinated in brine or oil, as well as a flavor-packed blend of spices that often includes turmeric.
Typically, achaar is added to meals of rice and dal as a condiment, but its bold flavor suits almost anything: Add it to eggs, noodles, grilled meats, or mix into soups or mayo for dipping. Chitra Agrawal of Brooklyn Delhi, an achaar producer, uses turmeric in all of her achaar. She recommends a grilled cheese made with her tomato version and a sharp cheddar that’s just as intense as the tangy, sweet achaar. Or, mix roasted garlic achaar into tomato sauce and plop it onto smoked mozzarella pizza to accentuate the achaar’s roasted notes.
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