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Volume 40 Issue 7 • June 17-23, 2010
now in our 40th season

Ginger

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

Ginger is one of my favorite ingredients to work with.  It has many medicinal qualities and gives such a unique flavor to a variety of sweet and savory foods.  When dried it is intense in flavor, but has sweeter and less pungent qualities.  When it is fresh, it is lemony and pungent to the point of being spicy.  Either way, it is delicious.  Since dried and fresh ginger are so different in flavor, they cannot always be used interchangeably in recipes, but I will often add fresh ginger in addition to dried in desserts and sweets for an added layer of flavor. 

When buying fresh ginger, look for knobs or hands of ginger that are firm, with no cracks or peeling paper.  Really fresh young ginger has a yellowish hue and skin that is smooth and less papery than older ginger.  Smelling ginger is also important when purchasing — I know it looks goofy to be smelling stuff in the middle of the produce department, but quality ingredients make cooking good food all that much easier. 

When using fresh ginger, it does not need to be peeled unless it is old or the recipe specifies it.  I like to use a spoon to peel ginger, there is less waste than with a peeler or knife.  The scrapings can be tossed into boiling water for a nice tea, or added to your chicken stock pot for tasty Asian broth.  I also like juicing ginger for recipes; it adds a last minute boost of flavor without altering the recipe too much.  The juice is usually good for several days.  Ginger is also great infused into vodka or oil.  I love to use ginger vodka for baking (just like vanilla extract), as well as drinking.

Ginger is often used grated or minced in recipes.  A normal box grater can be used for this or a micro plane works wonderfully.  I also like to use a very sharp knife to slice it thinly and then julienne it.  A Chinese chef I worked with was adamant that ginger should always be cut with lots of care and respect.  It should look like blades of grass when cut properly.  To this day it is my favorite way to prepare ginger.  I love the ritual of carefully shaving the sweet little knobs then carefully arranging the slices and finely slicing them into little slivers.  It is a form of therapy for me, I find it very meditative and the fragrance can resurrect me from even the foulest of moods.

Reported medicinal qualities of ginger include use as an analgesic (painkiller), sedative (relaxant), antibacterial, antipyretic (fever reducer), gastro-intestinal relief, anti nausea, and in many studies slows (perhaps even stopping) the growth of cancer cells.  On the flip side, some people have allergic reactions or sensitivities to ginger, but it is generally recognized as “safe,” since most reactions are in the form of skin rashes, or gastro intestinal discomfort (not typically anaphylactic shock).  Most of these positive qualities come from the oils in ginger, as does the pungent taste and citrusy aroma.  Ginger is also related to cardamom, turmeric, and galangal, other spices with similar aromatic qualities. 

Ginger is an essential ingredient to most Asian cuisine, which happens to be one of my favorites to cook.  Most “Chinese” food starts with garlic, ginger, and scallions — every time.  In most Indian kitchens a mixture or puree of ginger and garlic is kept on hand at all times.  In the Caribbean, ginger is used in a multitude of dishes from jerk chicken to spicy ginger beer, and is valued for its medicinal qualities as well as for seasoning.

Here is a refreshing salad for summer, I enjoy it served on lettuce, but it makes a nice sandwich filling also. 

Ginger Chicken Salad

  • 1 cup real mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, partially zested, and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated or minced
  • One half teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken, cooked and medium to small diced
  • One half cup celery, small diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • Black pepper to taste
  • One half cup grapes, halved (optional)
  • Toasted almond slices (optional)

Mix first four ingredients together.  Add the rest of the ingredients to it, and toss together.  Best when chilled for a couple hours to let flavors combine.  Serves 4-6

Ginger and Pear Crisp

Crisp: 

  • One half cup all purpose flour
  • One half cup dark brown sugar
  • One half teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • One half teaspoon ground ginger
  • One quarter teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt or kosher)
  • One half cup butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • One quarter cup crystallized ginger
  • One quarter cup pecans, chopped

Filling:

  • One half cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • One quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • One quarter teaspoon ground ginger
    One quarter teaspoon ground clove
  • 4 pounds ripe pears, peeled and cored, and sliced
  • (should be about 5 and a half to 6 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oil or butter a 12 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish (or equivalent size). 

Make the topping by mixing together the first five ingredients together.  Add butter and rub into the flour mixture quickly, the butter should not get to warm or soft; and should still be a little clumpy.  Stir in oats, pecans and crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate while preparing filling.

Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Add pears and toss together.  Transfer to oiled baking dish.  Sprinkle crisp topping over the pears.  Bake until the topping is crisp, golden brown and the pear juices are bubbling and hot (about 45-50 minutes).  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  Serves 6-8

Ginger and Cranberry Punch

Ginger syrup:

  • 4 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
  • One half cup sugar
  • One and one half cups water

Drink:

  • 2 limes
  • 2 cups gin
  • 2 cups cranberry juice (not cocktail)
  • 1 cup club soda or ginger ale
  • One half cup frozen cranberries (optional)

For the syrup simmer syrup ingredients together for about 20 minutes, strain out ginger pieces and discard.

For the cocktail, juice one lime, and cut second lime into wedges or slices.  Mix together lime juice, ginger syrup, gin, cranberry juice and club soda.  Add crushed frozen cranberries and lime slices to the pitcher for garnish.  Serve as a cocktail over crushed ice.  Serves 8

 

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