My Dear Readers,
Yesterday’s post was a bit bland, thanks for reading through it if you did! Here’s one that’s a bit spicier! ( And longer–I’ll work on that!)
The knobby roots, pale brown with smooth skin, sat stacked on one of the first tables I passed. Priced at just R$4 for a package (about $1.25), they practically begged me to take them home.
They sat out on my counter for hours while I completed some chores, and each time I passed them I daydreamed about all the possible dishes they will soon be finding their way into.
Ginger has a uniquely stringent and spicy flavor, adds a tangy bite to many dishes, and works really well in sweet foods as well, so I’m looking forward to playing with this in many variations.
For each recipe that popped into my mind, I was lacking other key ingredients for those dishes, so I knew I was going to need to come up with some ways to preserve the ginger while it was still real fresh. I haven’t cooked with ginger much, but I have eaten many things with it and have seen it prepared a few tim
es, so I knew to use a spoon to peel off the skin. The round edge of the soon helps get around the bulbs and into the crevices of this oddly shaped root. However, having never personally done the peeling before, it took me a little while before I felt comfortable doing it. I started with it on the cutting board but realized I prefered to hold it in my hand to have better control of it. I also realized I was applying too much pressure at first and taking off a thicker layer than necessary, so I decided to make the shavings into tea instead of letting it go to waste.
Doing something for the first time feels a little strange. Using muscles in a new way that your body is not familiar with requires your mind to form new pathways as it navigates the new experience. It can be equally exhausting as it is rewarding. It also is in these times that we find inspiration, and something about doing this particular task made me think about something to do with my classes this week, so I jogged out of the kitchen to get on my laptop to write something down. As my hand pivoted above the keyboard in between thoughts, my right hand began shaking uncontrollably. I realized after a few moments that the muscles in my hand were strained from the unfamiliar position in which I’d been holding it. Just halfway through the peeling process I considered taking a break, but a recent conversation I had about being ambidextrous popped into my head and I decided this would be a good motor skill to practice with my non-dominant hand–as balance and strength in my body and mind is something I’ve been much more conscious about building lately. I used my left hand on most of the third knotty root before it was tired, and by then my right hand felt strong enough to continue.
Sorry if that seems like an off-topic rant, but I include it for a reason. So many times in life we have the option to stop what is challenging for us and revert back to what we are comfortable with. When I saw my shaking hand, my gut reaction was to think that something was wrong–I quickly assessed my day so far: I hadn’t drunk an insane amount of caffeine or gone without eating, and I wasn’t extremely nervous about anything–all things which have caused my hands to shake in the past–so after eliminating the possible negative factors, I realized that what was causing this jarring physical reaction was actually in response to a good thing: doing something new. We cannot improve ourselves without challenges in life. And when we look for the good, even if it’s only once we’ve filtered out “the bad,” we can find it. Although it appeared to be bad, it was good my hand was shaking. It meant I was using my muscles in a new way. And I know next time I do this, I will be stronger, and my hand(s) won’t become so tired so quickly.
Four knobs of ginger is really quite a bit, and I am just one person here, so I didn’t want to prepare it all in the same way. You already know I’m making the skin and scraps into tea; I love pickled ginger so I decided to pickle about half of it after reading a recipe and deciding I had enough close-enough ingredients to make it work; and while perusing the internet I saw a recipe for a Thai-carrot ginger soup. I don’t have many Asian ingredients yet, like curry, so I saved that recipe for another time, but I remembered eating a delicious (boxed) carrot, ginger soup when I lived in the U.S., so I decided just to mince the rest of the ginger to use in recipes like soups and stir-fries.
As you can see, once I got it all peeled I used the vegetable peeler–remember, I used a spoon to actually peel the skin off–to cut the root into thin sliced. This was not the easiest thing, and of course would have been easier with a mandolin, but I’m not just all about what’s easy anymore–or I wouldn’t be living in a country where I don’t speak the language! I persevered and got through two entire chunks of root this way–this is going to make A LOT of pickled ginger!
I found this nifty thing in my drawer once I was done shaving the roots–it looks like a mini-mandolin, but I learned quickly that it didn’t work worth a damn, so…oh well! I started slicing the remaining roots by hand, thicker than the slicer, to mince, but I realized I had a blender, and decided to give that a try. It wasn’t perfect, and I’m going to look for a good ol’ cheese grater next time I’m out and about, but it worked well enough. You can see here that I got 6 generously-portioned tablespoons out of what I minced (after having to throw some out due to unforeseen plastic shrapnel that got into one blender-batch after I misused a blender accessory–or at least what I thought was a blender accessory!) I knew I wasn’t going to use them all right away, so I scooped them out onto this little cutting board and threw it in the freezer, then tossed them into a ziplock baggie once they were frozen solid.
For the tea:
Well, for starters, you’ll need water. I didn’t know really how much I would need for what I had since this was the first time I’ve made ginger tea, but I filled a pot up with about 6 cups of water I’d say. Now, I have a handy water-filter in my kitchen–you can’t drink the water out of the faucet here–but it runs pretty slowly, so while I fill up large containers of water, I’ve come accustomed to using this time to work on my calves–yup! I do calf-raises, or side-leg-lifts while I stand there waiting for my water. My big sis always made fun of my for my mini-workouts, like squats while brushing my teeth–but I swear, even those little moments of exercise help! I’ve been here for a month eating endlessly, and I haven’t gained any weight–at least my clothes aren’t fitting any tighter–I don’t have a scale and haven’t weighed myself in a month–also a new thing for me.
OK, back to the ginger tea:
6 cups of water
About 2 cups of ginger peel and scraps
1 Tbsp honey
Boil it for a while until it turns a light brown, like maybe 30 minutes on a low boil, then shut the burner off and do other things while it cools and steeps a bit, then strain it….this came out pretty strong, so I diluted it with about 4 more cups of water, and I’m keeping it in my fridge, but it’s sort of a lot, so I’m going to see about freezing it. I’ll keep you posted!
For my pickling brine:
1 cup distilled vinegar (most recipes call for rice vinegar)
2 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
That’s it. I boiled these ingredients until the sugar and salt were dissolved, then poured it over my sliced ginger. Once it cooled some I moved it into the airtight container and placed it in the fridge. It’s still pickling away in there now. I tasted it when I got home from work today, after about 24 hours of pickling, and it’s coming along nicely. Should be a little less harsh while still having a nice kick by tomorrow when I get home.
I also turned out some pretty decent carrot ginger soup today.
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, rough dice
Carrots….what I had in the fridge…roughly diced–about 3 cups or a little more
3 tomatoes, with the seeds taken out, roughly diced (it’s all going in the blender eventually)
1.5 Tbsp ginger (from the freezer, set out about half an hour before I used it)
1.5 Tbsp minced garlic
3 of these little red peppers–thought they were going to be REALLY spicy when I found them at the farmer’s market–they are PRETTY spicy. In fact, each one was spicy to a different degree….fun!)
1 lemon–zest the skin then save the fruit to add juice at the end
Red pepper flakes (IF you want the extra spice!)
Chicken stock cubes to make about 3 cups of stock (I can’t find actual liquid chicken stock here, so I will be making my own in the future, but these are handy–I heated up water while I was prepping the ingredients so the stock would be ready when I needed it)
(*I was planning on using what’s in the white jar–what I think to be sour cream–just a dollop on top once it was done, but I didn’t figure out how to open it until I already ate my bowl for the night–I’ll update tomorrow.)
*I also considered using coconut milk, but I didn’t think it was so spicy that I needed it. Once I actually sat down to eat it, I could see that the spice built up, so next time I might use coconut milk)
Steps: Melt the butter in a pot. Saute the onions for a few minutes, add some salt and pepper (you should season each layer as you cook–don’t just throw in salt and pepper at the end), until they start to caramelize. Add the ginger and garlic, and brown. Then add the carrots, tomatoes, lemon zest (and more salt and pepper).
I threw the peppers in in big pieces in case the soup was too spicy. (I wanted to be able to easily pick them out before I blended it all together so I could control the spice. I blended all of the remaining ingredients first before blending those and adding them at the end.) Let the carrots get a little color on them before you add the brother–about 3 cups–I honestly didn’t measure–sorry, I’ll work on that!…..Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, cover most of the way, and let it cook for about…20 minutes or so? Ha! Just let the carrots cook until they are pretty soft. I then let the pot cool for a while before putting in the blender.
I actually cleaned up at this point. I washed all the dishes that I could fit in my small drying rack, walked the trash down 10 flights of stairs, then walked back up, washed my hands, and got to blending! I am all about maximizing my time and being as productive as possible these days, and it makes me feels so good!
Like I said, I pulled the peppers out at first while I scooped the veggie chunks into the blender–I blended it all in 4 batches, pouring each one into a big bowl as the big chunks and broth were still in the pot, tasted it, blended the peppers, added those, then sent it all back through the blender one more time to make it more smooth. It was pretty thick still at this point, so I added about another 2 cups of water (broth would have been preferred for richer flavor.) I also added the juice of the lemon and a PINCH, ok, two small pinches, of red-pepper flakes.
Made about 6-8 servings, I’d say. I’ve only had one so far. And it looked like this. And it was good.
Whew! That’s it for now. Enjoy!
Veggie and calamari stir-fry coming later this week (with ginger, of course!)