Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spices that Heal

According to Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor in the department of experimental therapeutics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston certain spices contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as well as essential phytochemicals.

Among the most healthy spices are turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon. Spices become even more powerful when combined together, so experimentation with spices is important. Curry powder can be created by combining spices together and is very healing.

4 Tablespoons ground coriander
2 Tablespoons ground black peppercorns
1 Teaspoon ground cloves
6 Tablespoons ground turmeric
2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste, after cooking

Combine all ingredients in a cast-iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until powder is just fragrant and beginning to brown, almost 4 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Remove from heat, allow to cool and store in an airtight jar. Yield: 14 Tablespoons.

(Recipe courtesy of Natural Health Magazine)

Turmeric is a root that is dried and ground into a powder. It has a bittersweet flavor and is very good for you. According to Aggarwal, it is an anti-inflammatory and possibly an anti-carcinogen and suggests eating 1 to 2 teaspoons every day to maintain optimal health. Tumeric can be added to a number of dishes, but it's more commonly used in Indian, Thai, and Moroccan recipes. Tumeric tastes great in our starchy foods such as potatoes and rice. My mom uses it with firm tofu to create a "tofu scramble" in the morning for breakfast. She adds potatoes, onions, and peppers and with the tumeric to give it a yellow color, it is very difficult to distinguish between scrambled egg and her scrambled tofu. Perhaps she will share her recipe with us!

Cumin is a seed from a flowering plant found in Europe, Middle East, South America, North Africa, and India. Cumin is used all over the world for a variety of ailments. It is used to treat the common cold when mixed with milk and also sipped as a tea to treat stomach discomfort. It tastes great in a lot of dishes, particularly Mexican, Indian, or Moroccan dishes. One of my very favorite recipes calls for cumin...I love it and often crave it:

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew (Aida Mollenkamp)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I use soy butter)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound butternut squash, large dice
  • 3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • Pinch saffron threads, optional
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup brined green olives (recommend: Cerignola)
  • Steamed couscous, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
  • Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish
  • Plain yogurt, for garnish (I use tofu sour cream)


Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with cilantro, almonds, and yogurt. 

Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree and is often dried and ground. Cinnamon has been known to lower cholesterol, help treat type II diabetes, and maintain cardiovascular health. It's good to have 1/2 teaspoon every day. Cinnamon can be added to many recipes, such as pancakes, oatmeal, French toast, and again to many Indian and Moroccan adds such a warm, sweet flavor. 

Cayenne Pepper is dried, ground red chili peppers. It has been linked to relieving pain, weight loss, and heart health. For obvious reasons, a little Cayenne added to foods will go a long way. It's great in Mexican dishes, tomato sauces, soups, and stews. 

Ginger is the root of a plant and is sold either as the fresh root itself, or as a dried, ground powder. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to assist with healing other ailments as well...check out the International Journal of Cancer. Ginger is a popular spice in Asian foods and pairs nicely with citrus fruits, agave nectar, and honey.

So...why not experiment with these wonderful flavors!! You will not only add some amazing flavors to your recipes, but you will be contributing to your health to boot. I am anxious to hear about some of your recipes using these amazing spices. Let's work together to add some "spice" to our lives!!


No comments: