Mustard would look more like mayonnaise without an infusion of the powdered root of the turmeric plant. The spice also gives yellow curries their characteristic hue and doubles as a saffron substitute. Although it's related to ginger, turmeric lacks ginger's stinging heat. Instead of fire, turmeric brings a pungent, earthy quality to a dish. The yellow spice's astringent flavor, combined with its overtones of nutty, woody and bitter tastes, makes it mild enough to serve as a base for complex flavors.
Shake at least a few sprinkles of turmeric into any curry to give it a more flavor. The mild spice is a primary ingredient in Thai-style yellow curries, Indonesian rendang -- a coconut-infused beef stew -- and many northern Indian curries. Without turmeric, a curry is missing one of its fundamental elements.
Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric to tomato-based sauces to give them a more complex flavor. Turmeric's earthy bitterness creates a contrast to the sweet tanginess of tomatoes, while the brilliant hue of tomato sauce blends with the vivid yellow of turmeric to produce a beautiful orange-tinged red.
Replace the saffron in a paella with turmeric if you lack saffron or dislike its flavor. Turmeric will tint the dish a bright yellow that looks like saffron, but its flavor remains milder.
Mix a pinch or two of turmeric into a tablespoon of water and drizzle it over brown rice. Toss the rice after a few minutes. You'll have a variegated bowl of rice that ranges from beige to ochre. The turmeric in the rice adds more color than flavor, so it makes a more visually appealing, yet still familiar side dish on the plate.
Sift 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric over cubed, lightly oiled potatoes before roasting them. Turmeric's flavor is mild enough that it doesn't overwhelm the taste of the potatoes. Its appealing yellow hue also makes the finished dish attractive.
Turmeric ranges from a pale sunny yellow to a deep gold that borders on orange. The color indicates differences in flavor as well. Try different types of turmeric to see which you like best.
Turmeric stains so well that it's considered a dye as well as a spice. Wear gloves if you're handling powdered turmeric with damp hands to avoid staining your fingers yellow.