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Ginger: One Of The Most Useful Seasonings In Your Kitchen

Updated on June 30, 2010

Among the many qualities attributed to ginger is its ability to tame tigers. The hard part is getting the tiger to eat it. If your tiger won't touch the stuff (cats are finicky), make a quick exit. But don't leave the ginger behind - it's one of the most useful things you can have in your kitchen.

Today's botany lesson: Ginger isn't actually a root; it's a rhizome, or underground stem. What's the difference between a root and an underground stem? That's tomorrow's lesson.

Ginger probably originated in southeast Asia or India, and is an integral part of practically every Asian cuisine, from Thai to Japanese. Part of ginger's popularity is owed, no doubt, to its reputation of having medicinal properties. It's supposed to settle the stomach and ease digestion, and many studies have shown it to be effective in reducing motion sickness.

If you're taking ginger to combat nausea, it now comes in convenient little capsules. If you're cooking with it, however, it's found in many more serviceable forms. There's the gnarly root - uh, rhizome - but also powdered, pickled, and crystallized ginger, which are all useful in the kitchen.

Buy ginger that's firm and heavy for its size. In general, as it ages it gets more fibrous and becomes hotter tasting.

  • Try ginger for breakfast: Use a little of the powdered kind in batter for pancakes or waffles.
  • For a versatile Asian-style sauce or marinade, combine ginger with soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, scallions, garlic, and something hot - such as crushed red pepper or chili oil.
  • Throw in some crystallized ginger when you puree fruit for sauces, ices, and popsicles. It adds both sweetness and zing.
  • Borrow a tip from the Japanese and serve pickled ginger as an accompaniment to seafood.
  • Incorporate fresh or powdered ginger in carrot or squash soup.
  • Before you make tea, boil the water for 10 minutes with a few slices of fresh ginger.
  • Add ginger to a dessert where you wouldn't expect to find it, such as cheesecake, shortbread, or fruit pie.
  • Use fresh ginger instead of the powdered kind when making gingerbread or gingersnaps.

And make sure you save some for your tiger.

Ginger Carrot Soup

Preparing the vegetables for this soup takes barely ten minutes, but you can halve that time while adding to the nutritional value of the soup by using organic carrots left unpeeled. The ginger and basil combine to give the soup a mildly Asian note. The appealing texture, color, and flavor make this a family favorite. It keeps so well that I like to cook a double batch.

1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon tamari
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped basil, for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and ginger. Sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are very soft, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Transfer the carrots and liquid to a blender and process until the carrots are puréed. If the soup is too thick, blend in more vegetable broth or water. Blend in the tamari and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish with the chopped basil just before serving.

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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      What an opening - I am a tiger by the Chinese calendar! Love ginger. I enjoy pickled ginger as a palate cleanser and a tiny nibble. Yum!

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