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July 2014

Food for Thought

Cooking Gingerly
By Lorinda

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Add a bit of zing to your cup of tea with a homemade Ginger Drops.

 

Until recently, all I really knew about ginger was that I loved the flavor and it was supposed to be good for a queasy stomach. Oh, and that I fail miserably at growing it. (That's not really my fault; ginger is a tropical plant, after all . . . and I definitely don't live in the tropics.)

I tend to go through binges, and my latest one has been eating ginger . . . specifically, ginger chews. Luckily I've found that ginger is really good for you, with studies indicating that small, regular helpings of ginger may help alleviate symptoms of arthritis and morning sickness. Even more exciting are the encouraging findings regarding ginger's effect on certain cancers. Ginger may help inhibit the growth of colon cancer, and it has been shown to actually kill ovarian tumor cells.

Here are some websites with more information about the health benefits of ginger:

Fresh ginger root (though it's not actually a root—it's a rhizome) is easily found in most grocery stores and is surprisingly affordable. Unpeeled, it can be wrapped and frozen for up to 6 months. I juice most of my ginger and freeze it in small freezer bags, breaking off small amounts to add to beverages, sauces, dressings, and baked goods. At this moment I am once again attempting to grow some in a pot on the back porch, but I'm not holding my breath.

Juicing ginger is easy, but I have to caution you to take a couple of safety precautions. Treat ginger just as you would hot peppers, and either wear eye protection (the stuff has a way of aiming for your eyes while you're grating or pressing it) or squint while you're working with it. I'm lazy and can't be bothered to go find my reading glasses, so I just squint. And I'm not naming names, but SOMEONE I know decided to take a shortcut and just squeezed the juice out of the pulverized ginger with bare hands. I'm telling you right now, that's not a good idea. At least wear disposable gloves. My hands burned for hours.

To juice ginger, you can either remove the skin and grate it or run it through a food processor without removing the skin. If you're using a food processor, just chunk it up and toss it in there. Process it on high until it is finely chopped. If you prefer to grate it, scrape the skin off with the back of a spoon first.

The next step is to press the juice out of the prepared ginger. If you're processing a lot of ginger, use a strainer over a bowl. Press well with a wooden spoon and then let it sit for a few minutes. Stir and press it again. It keeps producing juice as it rests, and you will be amazed by how much that little chunk of rhizome was holding! If you are sporting those disposable gloves, you can grab handfuls of ginger and squeeze. A garlic press works beautifully if you are only processing a small amount of ginger.

 


Scrape skin off of the ginger root with a spoon.

 


To begin juicing, add chunks of ginger to a food processor
(removing skin first is optional).

 


Process the chunks until they are finely chopped.

 


Strain the ginger juice.

 


For a small amount of ginger, use a garlic press.

 

If you're wondering how much ginger root to buy to have enough juice for a particular recipe, that's hard to say. According to my calculations, about 1 ounce of ginger will make approximately 1 tablespoon of juice. If there isn't a scale handy, you can guess that an inch of a fat piece is about 1 ounce. I find it much easier to juice a large quantity and freeze it to use as needed.

 


This piece of ginger is about 5 inches long and
will produce about 5 tablespoons of juice.

 

Ginger pairs well with citrus, Asian foods, and dairy. It can be surprisingly powerful, which is another reason I like to juice or grate my ginger; biting into a piece unexpectedly can really give you a shock. When I was growing up, we had a foreign student from Hong Kong who lived with us for years while he went to college. He taught me to make ginger beef (my favorite dish whenever we went out for Chinese food), and he always put sliced ginger in it. I'm going to give you that recipe, but with grated ginger instead!

 


Ginger Beef

 

If you are a fan of sorbets, you must try this Ginger Citrus Sorbet. I don't have many opportunities to host elegant dinner parties, but if you like to entertain, offer little cups of this sorbet as a palate cleanser between the salad and the main course. Your guests will be pleasantly surprised, and it will stall for a little time if you have to fuss in the kitchen. Our secret.

 


Ginger Citrus Sorbet

 

A scoop of Ginger Citrus Sorbet can also be used to create a lovely non-alcoholic fizzy ginger drink aptly called "Ginger Fizz," one of my favorite cold, refreshing summer beverages. Drop a generous spoonful into a champagne flute, allow it to melt for a few minutes (to reduce foam), and fill the glass with sparkling water and an ice cube. If you happen to add a little champagne instead of the sparkling water, or even a shot of gin, it's nobody's business but your own!

 


Ginger Fizz with ginger-enhanced ice cubes

 

To add a touch of elegance to your Ginger Fizz, or to jazz up a glass of iced tea or lemonade, you can make these simple ice cubes by dropping rose petals and slices of ginger and lemon into ice cube trays half filled with water. Freeze until solid, and then add water to fill the trays. You can also add a dash of ginger juice to each cube if you wish. Freeze and serve.

 


Lemon rind, rose petals, and ginger add color and flavor to ice cubes.

 


Ginger ice cubes

 

We eat a lot of salads in the heat of the summer, and I love to try different dressings. Here is one featuring (you guessed it) ginger. It's tangy, sweet, and spicy . . . a perfect addition to a bed of greens.

 


Ginger Sesame Dressing
on salad

 

Even though I make most of my baked goods from scratch, there are a couple of store-bought cookies that I find irresistible, and gingersnaps are one of them. I haven't been able make cookies that crunchy, but I think mine have a better flavor. There are a couple of strange ingredients in this recipe—definitely not commonly used in cookies, but you'll just have to trust me on this. Give my Snappy Ginger Cookies a try, and see what you think.

 


Snappy Ginger Cookies

 

I have one last idea for you. I created this recipe the way I did so many of my favorites . . . as a mistake. I was trying to make ginger chews and my first attempt turned into hard candy. I did eventually manage to make a chewy candy, but I liked these, too. And since they contain as much sugar as the chews, and take much longer to eat, just one of these satisfies a sweet craving. Best of all, drop one of these in a cup of tea to sweeten it and add a hint of soothing ginger. Ideal for a cuppa!

 


Ginger Drops

 

To your health!

 

Contact Lorinda at mamakinnon@aol.com

Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Also enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.

 

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