Ginger up your life for vitality and flavor.

The Cook loves ginger and is on the list of culinary must haves.

     Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. That’s a mouthful of botanist lingo. Let us lay-persons just call it a root stalk and move on. My horticulturist partner informs me that ginger, cardamom, and turmeric are all related. No wonder that the Cook uses those spices regularly as well.

    Ginger is most often cultivated in China and South Asia but recently Africa and the Caribbean, Jamaica in particular, have been producing the plant as well. It is used as a perennial landscaping plant in warmer climates because of the aesthetic appeal of its yellow flowers. The culinary uses of ginger are numerous, and considered a quintessential flavouring in Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Southeast Asian cuisines.

    There have been numerous claims of medicinal uses and cures using ginger. The Cook cannot elaborate on this other than to have the readers do research into these uses. So… let us return to the tasty, but sometimes hot, Cooks culinary uses for this versatile root.

     Stir-frying with ginger first comes to mind. Fish, meats, poultry, and vegetables all lend themselves well to cooking with ginger. But… the Cook loves a more liquid state to the use of ginger and there is not a better formula for ginger syrup than Chef Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger – ginger syrup.  (See: http://www.ming.com)

     When purchasing ginger, look for young ginger. Young ginger will give you a softer and slightly less hot taste and is preferred by the Cook. Look for stalks that have nice smooth skin – no wrinkles. If you are making infused drinks with ginger, then the mature older stalks, with wrinkles usually, are just fine as they will yield a more intense flavor.

    The Cook loves ginger syrup for flavouring drinks, smoothies, frappes, and as a topping for numerous desserts. Vanilla, lemon, or berry gelato or ice cream with a drizzle of ginger syrup is both simple and elegant and will finish off any type of meal. Try it, you will love it too.

    Another great dessert is a plain custard or tapioca topped with your favorite in-season berries and a light pour of ginger syrup. If you are a fan of Tofu, try the ginger syrup on a square of tofu and garnish with a few finely chopped roasted peanuts. This a dessert found in Thailand, where the tofu is scooped out and layered with a hot ginger sauce poured over and served with roasted sesame seeds.

    Since the Cook has been instructed to keep things short, the Cook will leave you with a recipe for a mild version of ginger syrup but encourages you to check out Ming Tsai’s version. It is super!

Use your imagination with this versatile root. Ginger will reward and awaken your culinary palate.

 Thanks for reading and see you next time.

 The Cupboard Cook.

 Simple Thai Ginger Syrup

¾ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup of water
2-3 tablespoons of thin sliced or 1/8 inch diced peeled ginger

     In a medium sauce pan, bring the water, ginger, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by one-half. The liquid should look syrupy and if drizzled onto a plate, it should hold a ribbon. Cool to room temperature or use warm if the recipe calls for it. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator for a few days but it is best when used fresh.

 Ginger Lemonade

 32 ounces of your favorite lemonade mix
½ cup of ginger syrup
Sparkling water or club soda to taste

     The Cook uses fresh squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemons preferred), but you can use your favorite ready mix and prepare as directed on the package. To this, add the ginger syrup and about 1 cup of sparkling water. You could also use your favorite ginger ale.

    For another taste, try brewing you favorite tea and mix ¼ cup of the lemonade to the tea and add ice.

Cheese—“Cheese its good!” (A famous “Tool Time” saying)

     The Chinese have a saying that a meal without tea is like cooking without rice. For the Cook, a meal without cheese is, well… just not a meal. Cheese is great for the antipasto, the first dish, the second dish, and dessert.

 Disclaimer: Cheeses can be high in saturated fats (not a good fat) therefore; some restraint and moderation should be practiced when eating cheeses.

     There are numerous cheeses produced around the world, ranging from the mild fresh cheeses to the hard grating cheeses. Each cheese will exhibit its own flavour and characteristics depending upon the milk used as the base. Cheeses are made most predominately from the milk of goats, sheep, and cows. The process is centuries old and involves adding to milk, a starter. This can be an enzymatic rennet or an acid which causes the milk to coagulate into curds. The liquid that remains after this process is called the whey…oh, remember that old curds and whey saying? Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and way. Along came a spider (politically correct: arachnoid) well, you remember the rest. The curds then are used as fresh cheeses or are pressed, formed, sometimes injected with a mold, and then aged.

     Natural cheeses are living and have a certain lifespan like all living things. Once cheese has over-ripened, it is done. (More about storing and using cheese later.)

 Types of Cheese:

 Fresh:  include cottage, feta, mascarpone, mozzarella, and ricotta. Most of the fresh cheeses will have a mild and tangy taste. Some of the fresh cheeses can be used in cooking, such as pizza and pasta but these really shine when used fresh.

 Soft: brie, camembert, pont-l Eveque (French classic “stinky cheese”)  present  a variety of flavours but all are soft and creamy cheeses. Most have edible surface molds or skins. Shelf life is from 1 day to 1 week. If the cheese develops a discoloured rind or smells like ammonia, it is gone. Discard it!

 Semisoft: edam, morbier, muenster, fontina, taleggio, and port salut. These are firmer than the soft cheeses and do not grate. Many varieties have a wax coating which helps to preserve the cheese. Most semisofts are mild in flavour and have a bit of an elastic texture. These can last up to 6 weeks with proper storage.

 Tip: do not eat the wax coating. It will not hurt you but gives one that dreaded red goo stuck between the teeth look, considered to be bad diner party form!

 Hard & Grating: cheddars, gloucester, emmenthaler (swiss), provolone, asiago, romano, and perhaps best known… parmigiano. The Cook combined these two classes for simplicity but the grating cheese have a tendency towards being crumbly or grana (grain). They do not slice well, whereas the hard cheeses will slice well. The Cook could devote a whole article on parmigiano and may do so in the future.

     If the Cook had only one cheese to choose, it would be parmigiano-reggiano, a parmigiano that is made only in the Emila-Romagna and a small part of the Lombardy districts of Italy. Parmigian style cheeses are made in many other parts of the world but they are not all the same as Reggiano. The hard cheeses will last up to 6 weeks.

Blues:  No…not singing the blues, although many people sing the blues after eating this very strong and pungent blue veined cheese. Roquefort and gorganzola are the most common varieties. Blue cheeses can be grainy or smooth and creamy. This family of cheese is made by the injection of special mold cultures into the cheese before the ripening (aging) process. This is what gives the cheese the distinctive blue veins. Tip: The Cook likes to use these blues to stuff a lamb burger! You can try it with your favorite meat burger.

      The Cook has been told not to make these bits too long so the Cook will leave you with a few ideas on preserving your cheeses.

 Store cheeses in perforated cheese papers or, if it is a stinky cheese, in an air tight container. Keep them in the coolest part of your frig and away from any strong smelling foods. Cheese has an affinity to absorb flavours. Do not rewrap your cheeses in the packaging that it came to you. This can prematurely age the cheese and promote bacterial growth. Use fresh wrap each time.

Is cheese that comes in a can really cheese?

The Cook is a snob! The Cook only uses canned cheese for shooting practice!!!!

 

Thanks for reading and see ya next time.

 The Cook

Budino  –  An Italian Pudding

    This classic Italian dessert is made with fresh mascarpone cheese and is the perfect finale to a summer’s night patio diner party menu.        Serves 8

¾ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone
3 teaspoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
4 tablespoons Sumbuca or any anise flavoured liqueur
cocoa powder or shaved bittersweet chocolate for topping.

      In a medium bowl, beat together the cream and sugar until thickened and soft peaks form.

      In a separate medium bowl, beat together the mascarpone, milk, and vanilla paste until  smooth.

      With a spatula, fold in the whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone. Then gently stir in  the espresso powder and Sambuca. Do not over mix at this point.

      Spoon into 8 dessert cups, or espresso mugs and top as desired.

      Serve immediately but the dessert can be held up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

 “Squisito!  Tante grazie.”