Monday, January 24, 2011

Kitchen Medicine at Your Fingertips: Ginger

Ginger or Zingiber officinale is a wonderful culinary and medicinal herb that has been used for centuries in India and Asia as both a flavorful spice and a therapeutic kitchen remedy.  This fresh rhizome grows under the earth and is harvested 5 months after planting.  It has been touted for its ability to stave off a cold or flu and keep the digestive fires burning.  So the next time you’re feeling under the weather, try sipping a hot cup of ginger tea (see recipe below).  Or, simply add ginger to your recipes this winter to keep your digestion and immune system strong and stay ahead of this years cold and flu season.  See below for all the details you ever wanted to know about ginger and enjoy.        

Flavor Profile:
Ginger has a pungent bite that is hot and tangy, as well as subtle citrus undertones.  

Food Energetic Properties:
This culinary herb is wonderful for the colder winter months because it is “warming.”

Pairs Well With:
Garlic, lemon grass, coconut, lime juice, soy sauce, cardamom, clove and cinnamon.  

Culinary Uses:
Ginger adds pizzazz to both sweet and savory dishes.  You can slice ¼-inch chunks and add it to marinades.  Or, peel the pale tan skin with a small spoon and grate the yellow flesh using a micro plane.  Then, add the grated ginger to salad dressings, marinades, chutneys, salsas, soups, cookies, cakes or stir fries.   

Store the fresh rhizome in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  It has a shelf life of about a week to twelve days. 

Medicinal Uses:
Ginger seems to be a powerful remedy for calming nausea, motion sickness and headaches.  It also boosts digestion.  Chew on a chunk of fresh ginger if you feel any of these symptoms.  But, watch out; ginger’s been known to bite!  Don’t believe me?  Give it a try, and I guarantee its powerful flavor will be a sure sign of its medicinal strength.  For those of you who can’t handle the spice, try chewing on crystallized ginger instead.  I personally never leave my house without some ginger stashed in my purse. 

Tea Recipe:           
For every cup of water, slice a 1-inch chunk of ginger.  Add it to a sauce pan, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.  Remove ginger, stir in honey, sip and enjoy!  Drink this tea at the first signs of a cold or flu or before a meal to aid digestion. 

Home-Made Ginger Ale Recipe:
After peeling and grating a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger with a micro plane, take the grated ginger, bunch it up in your hand (or put it in some cheese cloth), and give it a good squeeze to retrieve some fresh ginger juice.  You can discard the leftover fibers in this case.  Then, add the juice to some sparkling water with a fresh squeeze of lemon and enjoy this home-made ginger ale.

Who knew you had medicine in your own kitchen, right?  Add some ginger to your menu this week and let me know how it turns out.

Yours In Cooking & In Health,
Siona Sammartino J

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