Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spice It UP!!! Ginger

I never really used ginger before culinary school.  Now I always keep some in my fridge.  It really brightens up dishes and adds another dimension of flavor.  Let's explore ginger and then get to the recipes (the good part!).

Ginger is classified as an herb, but it technically the root system of the plant.  The flesh can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.  Fresh ginger has vessels running through it, just like the ribs of the celery.  Ginger has been proven to provide gastrointestinal relief (mainly nausea and vomiting), has anti-inflammatory properties, and boosts immunity.  (source)

{Fresh ginger}

Side note--Whenever I get sick, I get this horrible, hacking, wet cough.  Honestly, it's gross.  I remember I got sick while living with my grandparents, and they had me suck on crystallized ginger.  It wasn't as horrible as the anise-flavored cough drops my mom fed me so I stuck with it.  Now when I get sick, I drink tea with lemon, honey, and ginger.

{Minced ginger that can be found in the produce section of Kroger}

Ginger is native to India and China, and it has grown to be one of the most popular spices in the world especially in tropical regions like the Caribbean and Africa.  Fresh ginger has a sharp smell with a hint of lemon.  Ginger can come fresh, dried, ground, pickled, preserved, candied, and crystallized.  Ginger is popular in stir-fry and curry dishes, and it can be used in marinades and sauces.  Pickled ginger is typically served with sushi.  Fresh and ground ginger is used in Western baked goods like gingerbread, cakes, and cookies.  (Cooking Ingredients by Christine Ingram)

{Minced ginger that I get at my local health food store (much cheaper than at the grocery store!)}

Fresh ginger is typically sold in the produce section of the supermarket while ground ginger is found in the spice isle.  Candied, crystallized and preserved are typically found at health food stores (I've not seen them at my local Kroger).  When choosing fresh ginger, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold.  Fresh, uncut ginger can be stored in the fridge for 3 weeks while cut ginger can be frozen for up to 6 months.  (source)

I'll be honest here--fresh ginger is a PAIN in the hind end to minced/chop yourself so unless you need whole ginger slices for something, I recommend finding a pre-chopped ginger at your local health-food store. 

On to the best part!  Recipes!  The easiest way to incorporate ginger is to add it to your stir-fry meals.  Another way?  Try the Lemon Ginger Cookies--delicious!!!

Aloo Palak (Indian Potatoes and Spinach)
Beef Curry
Chana Masala
Chicken Vindaloo
Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew
Garam Masala Chicken
Ginger Ale
Jerk Chicken
Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread)
Lemon Ginger Cookies
Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Sauce
Roasted Apple Spice Cupcakes
Tikka Masala

Have you ever used ginger to cook?

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