Ginger The Spice with Snap Hot stuff: Ginger adds a little spice to dishes from entrees to desserts.

January 17, 1996|By Judith Blake | Judith Blake,SEATTLE TIMES

Talk about leading a spicy life and getting around: Ginger does it all.

Making the scene from main dish to dessert, from Singapore to Seattle, ginger is always hot stuff.

Hardly high fashion in the looks department, ginger is a knobby, brown root, or more accurately, a rhizome. You can buy it that way, or as a ground spice, or even in a candied or crystallized form.

But if ginger's appearance is plain, its personality is not. Add ginger's spicy-hot flavor to a dish, and your taste buds will sit up and take notice.

Cooks have been doing just that for a few thousand years in southern Asia, where ginger got its start. Ginger turns up in Indian curries, chutneys and meat seasonings, Chinese stir-fries, Japanese marinades and many other incarnations.

Ginger was a hit in medieval Europe. And Queen Elizabeth I supposedly invented the gingerbread man by ordering ginger-flavored cakes baked in the shape of her friends.

Since then, in Europe and America, ginger has been a popular spice in treats from cookies to puddings to pumpkin pie.

All of which points up this spice's talent for traveling easily from entree to dessert, as the following recipes illustrate. Among them you'll find plum-orange glazed chicken; stir-fried vegetables in black-bean sauce; and spiced ginger cake with candied ginger cream -- all brightened with ginger's lively taste.

After peeling fresh ginger root, you can mince, slice or grate it, depending on the recipe. If you don't need the entire root for a recipe, slice off and peel the amount you need.

Store unpeeled ginger root in sherry. You can experiment with freezing ginger root, wrapped in foil, but success may depend on conditions in your refrigerator's freezing compartment. In some, the ginger stays firm, but in others it turns mushy.

Plum-orange glazed chicken

4 servings

1/3 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons Chinese plum sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves

1 teaspoon oil

Stir together the orange juice, plum sauce, mustard, ginger, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Put the chicken into a glass pan and add the marinade. Turn to coat the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add chicken. Cook 5 minutes and baste with marinade. Turn chicken and continue cooking 4 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink when cut.

Per serving: 182 calories; 27 g protein; 4 g fat; 7 g carbohydrates; 102 mg sodium; 73 mg cholesterol.

This is adapted from "Asian Vegetarian Feast" by Ken Hom.

Ginger-basil pesto

Makes about 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped ginger root

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor combine ginger, garlic, coriander and basil. Add oils, salt and pepper, processing to a paste. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before using.

Note: Use pesto on fine pasta, such as vermicelli or angel hair, or spread on fish before baking. Or stir into hot, cooked white rice.

Per 2 tablespoon serving: 148 calories; 1 g protein; 15 g fat; 3 g carbohydrates; 224 mg sodium; no cholesterol.

This recipe is from "Turn It Up!" by Janet Hazen.

Spiced ginger cake with candied ginger cream

12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 1/2 teaspoons ground mace

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots

1 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger root

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

CREAM:

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup finely chopped candied (sugared) ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with vegetable cooking spray, or grease and flour pan. For cake, sift together first seven ingredients.

With an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and oil until pale and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in carrots and fresh ginger.

Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Transfer the batter to prepared pan and bake on the middle rack about 40 minutes, or until cake tests done in center. Cool on a rack.

For cream, with electric mixer, beat cream on high until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until it holds its shape. Stir in candied ginger.

Serve the cake with a dollop of candied ginger cream on the side.

Per serving: 686 calories; 7 g protein; 46 g fat; 64 g carbohydrates; 368 mg sodium; 98 mg cholesterol.

This recipe is from "Pacific Flavors" by Hugh Carpenter.

Thai shrimp with mango dressing

Serves 4

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