Recipe: Currying Flavor

Spices in curry protect brain cells against many kinds of damage.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on May 3, 2011 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Curry is the collective term for a huge variety of stews popular in India. There is no one invariable ingredient, but the spice most common to curry is turmeric, a bright yellow powder ground from the dried root of a ginger-type plant native to Southeast Asia. The most distinctive component of turmeric is the powerful polyphenol antioxidant curcumin; it’s thought to explain why India has an unusually low rate of Alzheimer’s disease. Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and is now the subject of research for its ability to fight cancer, limit stroke damage in neurons, and generally safeguard the brain. Many labs are turning out synthetic variants of curcumin to enhance its biological availability. Recently scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, created a synthetic derivative that actually reverses the effects of ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury at the behavioral as well as molecular level in animals. Researchers report that it maintains cell-signaling pathways required for nerve cell survival, and reverses movement and memory deficits following brain injury by conserving neural connections. In normal animals, it actually enhances memory. Makes you want to hurry to get some curry.

Image of a bowl of curry

Cauliflower Cheers

Servings: Four

■ TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes

There are many blends of prepared curry powder; all contain some turmeric and varying proportions of cumin, coriander, cayenne or other pepper, ground mustard, ground ginger, even cinnamon.


2 Tbsp canola or olive oil

1 ½ cup yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 Tbsp curry powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small cauliflower, separated into florets

1 cup canned tomatoes in puree, crushed

½ to 1 cup water

salt to taste

¼ cup chopped cilantro, optional


  • Heat oil in large, heavy pan over medium high heat.
  • Add onion and ginger and cook for 3 minutes.

  • Add curry powder and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.

  • Add cauliflower and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until florets begin to soften.

  • Add tomatoes, ½ cup of water, and salt.

  • Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to see whether remaining water is needed.

  • Add cilantro, if desired, and cook 2 more minutes.