It must be fall because Pumpkin Spice Latte is now available at Starbucks. Fall also brings cooler weather which prompts us to spend more time in the kitchen making comfort foods like cookies, cakes, and hearty stews.
Spices like ginger impart a hot and tangy flavor to sweet and savory dishes and drinks in a wide range of global cuisines.
Fresh ginger or ginger root, as it is often called, is not a root but the rhizome, or underground stem, of a plant that comes from the same family as turmeric and cardamom.
When buying fresh ginger, look for a heavy lump with smooth brown skin that is free of wrinkles and mildew. Fresh ginger is tough and breaks cleanly in the blink of an eye. If you see any parts with fibers sticking out at the break, it is an old part.
It should be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks wrapped in a paper towel. It can also be wrapped in foil and stored in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. It will lose its crunchiness but can still be used to add flavor to dishes.
If I have too much ginger on hand, I grate it often, add enough water to make a paste, and freeze it in an ice cube tray. I can then add it easily to stir-fries or other dishes.
To prepare the ginger, scrape the brown skin with a spoon (or leave it on), then chop, slice or puree the flesh using a Microplane grater, or even mash it in a garlic press.
In Chinese cuisine, ginger is julienned, chopped or crushed and added to vegetable, fish and meat dishes. In Japanese dishes, it is grated, grated or marinated, then served in thin slices with sushi. Indian chefs prefer it in curries and rice dishes.
We often think of ginger as an Asian ingredient, but it’s found in almost every kitchen around the world. You might find it in German Pfeffernusse cookies, Australian marmalades, Moroccan tagines, or American cranberry relish.
Ground ginger gives a spicy note to cookies (ginger snaps), jams, quick breads (gingerbread) and drinks (ginger ale). This is, of course, part of the spice blend we love – pumpkin pie spice.
Ginger does more than improve the taste, it’s also good for you. Traditionally, it has been used to relieve problems with digestion or nausea, including motion sickness.
Soba Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
This recipe is adapted from “Once Upon a Chef: Weeknight / Weekend” by Jennifer Segal. Clarkson Potter / Publishers ($ 32.50).
A light to medium-bodied dry or semi-dry white wine is generally a good choice with Asian cuisine. Psagot Viognier (vee-oh-NYAY) 2019 ($ 27.99) from Israel with its floral notes of anise, apricot, honey and lemon provides a nice contrast to the crisp ginger and salty flavors and sweetness of the dish.
Segal advises, “Note that the dressing will have a sour and salty taste before mixing it with the noodles – because the noodles will absorb the flavor quickly, you need to over-season the dressing slightly. Feel free to prepare the dressing in advance, but cook and prepare the noodles at the last minute so that they don’t get soggy.
FOR THE SALAD
10 ounces of soba (buckwheat) noodles (available in Asian markets and on Amazon)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 green onions (light and green parts), thinly sliced
½ cup chopped salted peanuts
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
FOR THE DRESSING
6 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of peanut oil
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1½ tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of sugar
Start the salad: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick. Drain and rinse well under cold water.
Prepare the dressing: Meanwhile, in a small food processor or blender, combine soy sauce, vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, peanut butter, garlic, ginger and sugar; Blend until smooth.
Finish the salad: In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the grated chicken, bell pepper, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, sesame seeds and dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Use immediately.
Yield: for 4 people