Saturday, May 26, 2012

Joys of Ginger

Practical person that I am (well, perhaps obsessive-compulsive is the more accurate descriptor...), I used to avoid recipes that called for ginger seeing as it's highly perishable and impossible to buy in small quantities.  After just 2 days in the fridge, all those knobs of ginger purchased in order to obtain the one measly tablespoon of the freshly grated stuff would be soggy, stringy, and discolored.  But those dark days are behind me, ever since I found Marc Matsumoto's delightfully simple solution to my ginger-itis: how to make fresh ginger last.  Peel it, submerge it in vodka (or your tasteless, odorless, colorless ethanol of choice) and presto, you're stocked up with fresh, ready-to-use ginger for days - weeks, even!

Obviously, this revelation has led to a 500% increase in my use of ginger and that's good news, since ginger happens to be one of those handy foods that not only makes everything infinitely more delicious but also delivers a load of health benefits: it is said to settle the stomach, reduce pain and inflammation, prevent cold and flu symptoms, and it even works as a heartburn remedy.

Here are a couple of tasty ways I've used my arsenal of ginger lately:

Ginger Chicken (adapted from Marc Matsumoto's recipe)
Makes 4 servings

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, white and green separated, thinly chopped
sesame seeds for garnish

Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Combine the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a bowl and toss with chicken.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer, leaving space between each piece (you may need to cook it in batches).  Regulate the temperature so that the marinade doesn't burn (too high) yet the chicken doesn't leech water (too low) - you want it just right to get that nice crust dark brown crust.  Fry one side of the thighs, then flip and fry the other.  Remove to a plate.

Wipe the burnt bits out of the pan and add the rest of the marinade and the white part of the chopped scallion, returning the pan to medium-high heat.  Bring the marinade to a boil and return the chicken to the pan.  Turn the chicken pieces as the sauce reduces, until you have a nice glaze that's sticking to the chicken.  Serve garnished with green scallion and sesame seeds, over rice.

Homemade Ginger Ale
Makes about 8 cups

4 big knobs ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup honey, or to taste
1 liter seltzer
Lemon slices for garnish

Combine the ginger and 4 cups water in a pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer about 40 minutes.  Strain out the ginger and mix in the honey, stirring until it's totally dissolved.  Transfer to a container and chill.

When ready to serve, mix 1 part seltzer to 1 part ginger brew in each glass, with a slice of lemon and a few ice cubes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Quickest Quiche

Yesterday, I had a revelation: I could make quiche crust out of Saltines!  A quick internet search revealed that I wasn't, in fact, the pioneer I had thought myself to be.  But no matter, I'm still claiming this as an invention of my own culinary mind, cooked up in isolation on this beautiful Spring weekend that I've shared exclusively with Dan, who is currently recovering from surgery he had this past week. (He's feeling better every day and recovering splendidly, by the way!)

Lily brought me a bag of beautiful fiddlehead ferns from the Union Square Greenmarket, but you could swap them out for any green vegetable - spinach, asparagus, kale, fresh herbs, broccoli - on and on.  Just make it green, because it's the middle of May and we're surrounded by it!

Easy Fiddlehead Quiche with Saltines Crust
makes 8 servings

35 Saltine crackers, crumbled
4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 oz. Pecorino Romano, shaved
1 cup fiddleheads, blanched
6 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper

Grease a 9-inch pie pan and preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.  Combine the Saltine crumbs and melted butter and press evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.  Pre-bake the crust for 5 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and start building the rest of the quiche: arrange a layer of Pecorino shavings, then the fiddleheads, then pour in the eggs, seasoned with salt (not much - the cheese is salty) and pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the egg is set.  Remove and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tea Eggs Time!

My dear friend Kat, whom I love to feed because she, like me, cultivates an ongoing love affair with the edible stuff of life (remember chicken bread?!?), spent much of our senior year of college feeding me and, in great part, I attribute my proclivity for experimental cooking to her.  One of my favorites back at the dorm were her tea eggs, hard cooked eggs steeped for many hours (there really is no such thing as too long) in a salty-pungent concoction of black tea, star anise, soy sauce, and just a spoonful of sugar (cue the Mary Poppins).

These are as addictive as potato chips, but arguably more healthful, and I love the way the cracks in the shell absorb the tea, creating an intricate spiderweb design (as you can see).  Beautiful to behold - even more so to devour!

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs
Makes 6

6 eggs
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tablespoons black tea or 2 tea bags (I used Black Chai)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

In a medium-size saucepan, place the eggs and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, leaving the water in the pot, and allow to cool under running cold water.  Using the back of a teaspoon, gently tap the eggshell to create a network of cracks all over, being careful to leave the shell intact.
Return the eggs to the pot and add the remaining ingredients.  Return to a boil and turn the heat back to low.  Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, then cover and let the eggs steep for a few hours or overnight.  The longer, the better!
Drain the eggs from the tea, peel, and enjoy!