When I was a child, looking into my mother’s spice cabinet was like dreaming in black and white. Salt and pepper were the dominant seasonings, with maybe a handful of others. I recall some garlic powder, onion flakes, cinnamon-sugar for my favorite toast, and the same old jar of paprika that had been there for decades, mainly to garnish deviled eggs for parties.
It wasn’t until I grew up that I discovered the glorious, vast array of spices out there and began to see food and flavor in brilliant Technicolor. I remember the first time I had smoked paprika, served on potatoes in a Spanish restaurant. I ran to the market to buy my own jar the next day. (It was tough to find back then; now it’s everywhere.) My first attempt at chili from scratch brought cumin, coriander, and ancho chile powder into my life. And while sugary cinnamon toast is still one of my ultimate comfort foods, learning how cinnamon can transform savory dishes came as a revelation.
Spices continue to surprise and impress me, since the latest research reveals their immense antioxidant power. Astoundingly, a half-teaspoon of that good old cinnamon has more antioxidants than a serving of raspberries; a half-teaspoon of ground turmeric, more than a serving of broccoli. Ground ginger, curry powder, and paprika are also top antioxidant scorers. All of this translates into big potential healing power. For example, studies link cinnamon with blood sugar regulation, turmeric with cancer prevention, and ginger with reducing inflammation. To think I’ve loved these spices simply for their flavor.
Given the health benefits, there’s even more reason to spice things up in the kitchen. Thinking about how to combine several antioxidant powerhouses—turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne—in one delicious dish led me straight to this vegetable curry. Here, the spices marry in a rich, flavorful sauce that has a comforting, belly-warming appeal and brings out the complex flavors in the vegetables. They’re everyday vegetables made extraordinary and even more healthful—thanks to my Technicolor spice cabinet.
South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry
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|Photo: Scott Phillips|