In its many forms, ginger is a staple in my kitchen. The fresh, knobby rhizome sits right next to the garlic and onions in a painted bowl on my kitchen counter. Recently, I bought such a large piece that before I got to use it, one "finger" began to sprout. I cut it off, planted it in good, organic soil, and am happily (and patiently) watching it grow.
I try to buy fresh ginger in New York's Chinatown, where it's easy to find young specimens that are thin-skinned, juicy, and rarely fibrous. Even when I have an older, thick-skinned piece, I just trim off any nasty bits before grating it on my microplaner or mincing it finely. I never bother to peel ginger.
I use dried ginger only occasionally in baking, mostly in conjunction with other sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves. In truth, I find powdered ginger most useful as a home remedy for nausea. I always take ginger capsules on trips, and pop a few to settle my stomach when it expresses shock at the new food I’ve tried.
I love the tang and chew of crystallized ginger and use it often in baking instead of (or in additional to) raisins or dried cranberries. Recently, at a very fancy tea salon near Gramercy Park, I tossed some slices of crystallized ginger into my cup of black tea and found that the sugared coating added a most welcome ginger-scented sweetness. Edith Wharton wouldn’t have approved I’m sure, but after emptying my cup, I ate the softened slices with pleasure.
Lately I've taken to adding both fresh ginger and chopped, crystallized ginger to chicken other savory salads with fine results. If the idea intrigues you, try the recipe below.
You can turn this salad into a main dish by tossing in some diced, cooked chicken, brown rice or farro. Increase the dressing as needed.A few tablespoons of toasted pine nuts also make a fine addition.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim off the root end of the beets and scrub them. Wrap the beets in 2 or 3 packages of foil and set them on a baking tray. Roast until easily pierced with a skewer, about 1 1/4 hours.
When cool, rub off the peels if you wish. (Peeling is optional and purely aesthetic; I don't usually do it.) Dice the beets into bite-sized pieces. Set them in a bowl and add the crystallized ginger and scallion greens.
In a small jar or bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, grated ginger, and salt. Blend well. Pour the dressing over the beets and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.
Recipe copyright, Lorna Sass, 2008