I’ve been playing around a lot with ginger these days. This spicy root gives an energetic kick to food and has many health-giving properties besides.
But first, some basic facts. Although it is normally referred to as a root, the portion of the plant we eat is actually the stem or rhizome. Originally cultivated in Southern Asia, ginger is a key ingredient in Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Malaysian and other Asian cuisines. Over time, the plant spread west, moving into Africa and the Caribbean, where ginger remains a popular flavor in a variety of foods, as well as an herbal remedy for numerous ailments.
Ginger is purported to boost bone health, strengthen the immune system, reduce arthritis, calm the digestive system, reduce menstrual disorders, and help with cold and flu symptoms.
Be that as it may, ginger also happens to be delicious, and I’ve been enjoying it with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Here are a few tasty preparations to integrate this flavorful rhizome into your diet.
The beauty of this dish is that you can totally customize it to your taste. Serve it warm on a chilly morning or cold if that suits your mood. Swap ingredients according to your preference and your pantry. And double, triple and quadruple it according to the crowd around your breakfast table.
It can be made ahead, but the oats will become mushy as they absorb the liquid. If this texture is an issue, you can assemble the dry ingredients ahead of time and add the liquid immediately before serving. This version is my basic go-to, but the possibilities are nearly endless; see suggested variations below.
⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
¼ cup chopped apple
A scant handful of unsalted, raw almonds
A scant handful of raisins
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Generous sprinkle of cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or more to taste — a little goes a long way)
½ cup skim milk
Mix all ingredients and enjoy.
Variations: Use honey, molasses or agave to sweeten in place of the syrup. Use plain yogurt, nut, soy or coconut milk instead of the skim milk. Swap the almonds for another nut, the raisins for another dried fruit — sour cherries are one of my favorites. Sprinkle generously with shredded, unsweetened coconut. Add any fresh fruit desired such as bananas, pears or berries. Omit the cinnamon and use nutmeg, cardamom or ground cloves.
Ginger Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves four to six
As autumn’s harvest appears in markets across the region, root veggies take center stage. I am a fan of roasting them; their natural sweetness emerges, and their velvety texture is just wonderful. Ginger adds a unique kick of spice without being overly dominant. If you have any left, these are delightful cut up and tossed into a green salad the next day.
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4-6 parsnips, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
In a large baking dish, toss all the ingredients.
Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes two to three dozen cookies, depending on size.
These ginger snaps are a family-friendly crowd pleaser. They are simple, so young children can certainly help make them, and the relatively mild ginger flavor won’t bother more timid palates. Being pareve, they are also easy to serve at any time.
¾ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
2¼ cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Approximately ½ cup white sugar for coating dough
Heat your oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together the shortening, brown sugar, molasses and egg.
In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, and then gradually pour them into the wet mixture and blend well.
Using two teaspoons, form the balls with dough and roll them in sugar.
Place the dough balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake nine to 11 minutes until done.
Makes one drink
Ginger-infused vodka is pretty fabulous. But if you are not a fan of ginger, just use regular vodka and shake up the refreshing beverage. You’ll be glad you did.
2 ounces ginger-infused vodka (recipe follows)
2 ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup (recipe follows)
3 basil leaves
Muddle the basil leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.
Add the vodka and lemon juice and muddle again.
Add the ice and simple syrup; shake well and strain into a martini glass.
For ginger-infused vodka: Chop 4 tablespoons of fresh ginger. Add to 2 cups of high-quality vodka. Allow the ginger to soak for several hours. Strain and enjoy.
For simple syrup: Mix ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water. Heat in a small saucepan until melted. Cool and use as desired.
For more cocktails, see jewishexponent.com/category/lifestyle/philacatessen/.
I can personally attest to the nausea calming benefits of ginger. As someone who suffered mightily from morning sickness during pregnancy, I am living proof that ginger tea has a beneficial effect on troubled tummies.
It seems counterintuitive given the strong flavor and spicy kick that ginger brings but, assuming you can get it down, it soothes the stomach. This brew is also great for colds, sore throats and flu.
But don’t limit this drink to medicinal consumption; I enjoy this after dinner on a cold evening in place of dessert or a night cap.
Makes one serving
1 teaspoon chopped or grated fresh ginger
1 cup boiling water
Honey to taste
In a mug or teapot, mix the ginger with boiling water. Allow it to steep for about three to five minutes. Strain if desired. Add honey to taste. Sip slowly and feel better.