I was just visiting J in Berkeley and because she knows what I like, she took me to the newly opened Berkeley Bowl. Wow! Everything you could imagine in a grocery store, and more. At first I was dazzled by the intensity of the colors.
I wanted to bring home some of everything, but that was a little impractical with my carry-on luggage. So I settled for 2 colors of quinoa that I hadn't seen before, and some fresh turmeric.
I got yellow, of course (what's the point of white?). I've always thought of turmeric as a powder, but never considered where it came from. Turns out it's related to ginger. And fresh turmeric is an adventure in tasting that you will never get from the powder! (Think of the difference between fresh and dried basil.)
Turmeric appears as a stubby little thing that looks like ginger. Peel it and an Illini orange flesh appears. It's a really intense color, so beautiful! I shredded it in the finest grater I have and was relieved to find that, unlike ginger, it is not at all stringy. When I took a taste, it gave a tingly kick, kind of like ginger, but milder, more citrusy and only a hint of what dried turmeric tastes like. So delicious! Of course, I hadn't thought to read about it before I used it, I just relied on the old rule of thumb to gauge my measurements -- about 3x as much fresh as dried. It was subtle in the soup, but definitely present. Next time I'll use more ... if I can find fresh turmeric in town!
Here's the recipe for the soup. I have always called it Ethiopian Soup because I made it in imitation of J and V's favorite dish at the Blue Nile restaurant in Ann Arbor. It's a comfort soup with a pleasant surprise from the fresh turmeric.
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups water
1-1/2 cups yellow split peas (not green split peas -- they taste very different!)
2 medium potatoes, in 1/2” cubes
2 tsp vegetable broth powder (or vegetable bouillon cubes)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp dried turmeric or 1+ Tbsp fresh turmeric, finely grated
1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and carrots and saute, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn brown. Add the garlic and heat for a minute longer.
2. Add the water, yellow split peas, and potatoes. Bring to a low boil and skim off the foam that rises. Add the remaining ingredients.
3. Reduce heat to medium, cover (with just a little bit uncovered) and simmer, stirring every now and then, for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Soup is ready when peas are getting mushy and broth thickens. (You will need to add water to reheat the leftovers.)
And if you'd like to read more about fresh turmeric, I found this article in the New York Times. Note the date -- it was published the day after 9/11.