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Ever noticed this when you cut into ginger: the exposed flesh, if left for as little as a couple of hours grows a thin layer. Leave it for a day and you have a thick, rough surface, almost as tough as the original skin. Ginger and her cousin Turmeric are members of the zingiberaceae family and grow in sub-tropical, volcanic soils in the southern hemispheres. The plant is thought to have originated in tropical Asia and is widely cultivated in the Caribbean and Africa. Chinese medicine has incorporated ginger in remedies for the digestive system for centuries and it is regularly used as a calmative for stomach upsets.

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Ginger is not confined to Asian cooking, it can be sliced into thin planks or julienne, chopped, grated, puréed, and minced, depending on what you need it for.

Ginger is a component of more than 50 percent of the traditional herbal remedies and has been used, over the centuries, to treat nausea, indigestion, fever and infection and to promote vitality and longevity. Jamaicans and early American settlers made beer from it; and today, natural ginger ales made with fresh ginger are available as a digestive tonic.

Ginger also gets things flowing and moving, warms you up and keeps mucous secretions thin. It works on sinus and bronchial infections among many other things. Its composition, to me, is like a Sibelius symphony, filled with wonders, vitamins and minerals all working together to give an amazing finale to any dish or concoction. A different kind of Ginger below! I'm sure you remember her.

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According to Paul Schullick's in 'Ginger, Common Spice or Wonder Drug', "trials in Denmark showed that more than three quarters of those tested experienced relief in pain and swelling". Other conditions associated with inflammation are asthma, painful menstruation and migraines. Ginger tea brewed from the fresh root has been used in India and China for centuries as an after meal drink to aid digestion. Ginger's enzymes catalyze protein digestion in the stomach quickly and leave little time for nausea. The effect for a normal plane or car traveler, especially children or pregnant women, is obvious.

Personally I stick some ginger into most of my cooking, like garlic. It makes its way into soups, stews, stir-fries, curries (lots of it, as with turmeric, another wondrous spice), salad dressings, cakes & cookies, ice-cream and tea. Any kind of tea, I just grate some into the cup, add a tea bag, boiled water and it's done. OK, let's get to the recipes.

Singapore Chicken Noodle Stir-fry:

this is for 4 to 6 persons (you can omit the chicken and it becomes a vegetarian dish or you can add shrimp instead, either way, it's all good!) 6 chicken breasts, sliced thinly, 1 packet of rice noodles (allow 2 ounces per person), 2 tbsp of toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp Madras curry, 1 tbsp turmeric, 6 to 8 peeled garlic cloves, the juice of 1 lemon, 6 spring onions, diced, a full ounce of freshly slivered ginger and a tbsp of ground ginger as well, 4 small bok choy, chopped, 1 cup of (dried) sliced Chinese black mushrooms, 1 cup of broccoli florets, and have your bottle of Tamari or a good soy sauce at the ready.

First place the noodles in a large bowl, cover them with warm water and leave them to soak for 10 minutes. Do the same with the Chinese mushrooms. When done, drain well and set aside.

In a large wok, over a medium to high flame, pour the sesame oil, add the spring onions, the garlic and the ginger. Cook for 30 seconds then add the chicken bits, stir well for 2 minutes, add the curry powder, turmeric and the ground ginger. Then add the bok choy, the broccoli and the mushrooms, followed by the lemon juice, keep stirring for another 2 minutes then add the noodles, stir, add 2 tbsp of Tamari or soy, stir one more time and you're done. You can add fresh chilies to this or cilantro or both. Note that in South Korea they have the same kind of dish but with potato noodles instead.

                                                                     
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One of the thing that I really like with ginger is spinach. Add some cooked lentils to this combo and you have a great snack (or serve as a vegetable side dish). Quick and easy, for 2: soak 1 cup of brown lentils, wash & dry a large bunch of young spinach leaves and julienne a large knob of ginger finely. Cook the lentils, drain & set aside. In a wok, over a medium flame pour a little sesame oil (or peanut, for those who are not allergic to it), add the ginger and cook for a minutes (you can add a teaspoon of brown sugar if you wish, to get to the caramelized state), drop the spinach and stir for another minute, add the lentils, stir, a drop of Tamari (or soy) and voila. Great either hot or cold. BTW, the pic below is of wild ginger flowers.

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How about a quick recipe for a foolproof loaf of gingerbread? Great for breakfast or a snack, anytime during the day. You can add grated carrot to it but I much prefer this simple recipe:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 full tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you can),1 cup buttermilk, chilled, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup dark molasses, 3 large free range eggs, a knob of melted butter, and if you like a topping, use some crushed walnuts mixed with a little brown sugar and the juice of half a lemon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour one 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses, melted butter and eggs and whisk until well blended. Add flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until nicely blended.  

Bake 60 minutes or until a needle (or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove your gingerbread from oven and let it cool about 15 minutes before adding the topping, or just some plain icing sugar.

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Candied Ginger & Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

By this I mean Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, not the Bourbon made in Kentucky! If you can buy candied ginger, great. If you can't, it's easy enough to make it yourself (and you know there will be no additives in it) Buy a large head of ginger, peel it and slice it as thinly as you can (remember the scene in Goodfellas with the garlic!) In a pot, put the ginger slices in it, cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain well and in the same pot add 1 cup of dark brown sugar, half a glass of water and add the ginger slices. Cook slowly for 1 hour or till syrupy but make sure it doesn't burn. Let it sit in its syrup till cooled. Drain (keep the syrup for the ice-cream), chop up finely and set the newly candied ginger aside.

For 6 to 8 serves of ice-cream you'll need 1 liter (or 2 pints) of full cream, 6 free-range egg yolks, a cup of granulated sugar and a Bourbon vanilla pod, cut in half. In a bowl whisk the yolks with the sugar and add the finely minced candied ginger and the ginger syrup to it. Bring the cream and the vanilla pod to a slow boil carefully, then pour into the yolks & ginger mixture and churn in a sorbetiere or ice-cream machine (if you don't have one, don't panic. Simply put the mixture into a hard plastic container and stick in the freezer, checking every 10 minutes with a fork to prevent crystals from forming. This should take a couple of hours)

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Ginger has a long history as both a food and a medicine throughout Asia and Europe going back 3000 years. Ginger is mentioned by Confucius (551-478 BC), and in the Koran, and those of Medieval Europe thought it came from the Garden of Eden. A 3rd century essay "Seeking the Root of Sapors" claims that Shang dynasty rulers (all the way back in the 8th to 12th centuries BC) had already pinpointed the place in the Sichuan region where the finest ginger in the world grew. Then, some 2500 years later in 13th century AD, Marco Polo recorded seeing vast plantations devoted to growing it in Northern China. Arabian traders took it to them by way of India and the Red Sea. By the 11th century AD, it was a common trade article from the East to Europe. Ginger was well-known to the Greeks and Romans, who used it extensively. It was assumed by them to be a product of southern Arabia, and was received by them by way of the Red Sea; in India it has also been known from a very remote period, the Greek and Latin names being derived from the Sanskrit. So frequent is the mention of ginger in similar lists during the middle ages, that it evidently constituted an important item in the commerce between Europe and the East. Ginger seems to have been well known in England even before the Norman Conquest in 1066--likely brought by Roman soldiers--and it grew in popularity so that by the 14th century it was put on wealthy dinner tables as an all-purpose seasoning. It was so highly coveted that a pound of it cost the same as a whole sheep. Shakespeare refers to it in dried formed as a "race" (from the Portuguese/Spanish 'raices', meaning root), whence our word "racy." It was very common in the 13th and 14th centuries, ranking next in value to pepper. The spice is said to have been introduced into America by Francisco de Mendoca, who took it from the East Indies to New Spain .

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BTW, two quick notes: first, you can freeze fresh ginger with impunity! Buy it when cheap and store, simple as that. And secondly, if you like to know the nutritional data of what's in your food, look no further than this site here. Bookmark it, you know you want to ;.)

Originally posted to Asinus Asinum Fricat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:59 PM PST.

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