Posts Tagged ‘ginger’

Rhubarb Revamped

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

I think rhubarb is one of the most beautiful vegetables around (that’s right – it’s a vegetable). Varying from deep ruby red to pale carnation pink on the outside, the insides of the stalks are a surprisingly vivid green when cut open. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Gingered Rhubarb Chutney I was intrigued. I imagined a jar full of majestic chunks of crimson swimming in a thick, lustrous sauce. It would be such a striking accompaniment for grilled pork or chicken or a lovely sauce for roasted vegetables. Even a stunning accessory for a cheese plate.

So I picked up a bunch of freshly picked rhubarb from our local farmer’s market and headed over to my friend Caitlin’s house for an afternoon of culinary experimentation. We were baking my favorite muffins as well as a new recipe for a healthy banana coconut version. And we agreed that the rhubarb chutney recipe sounded like a winner – so why not try it. I figured that it was meant to be when I noticed that the jaunty letters she has splayed above her kitchen matched the ruby red of the rhubarb stalks poking out of my bag…

I suppose I should have read the recipe a little closer. I was initially focused, however, on the baking. While I was elbow deep in muffins, Caitlin carefully measured all the Chutney ingredients into her lovely orange Le Creuset French oven. When I finally turned my attention to the simmering pot I was mildly surprised to note its dark brown appearance. I hadn’t realized that the balsamic vinegar would dominate the contents to such a degree. I was, admittedly, a bit dismayed – thinking that the visually appealing jars of ruby red chutney I had hoped to dole out as gifts were not meant to be.  But Caitlin was encouraging so we let the pot do its thing.

What resulted when all was said and done was a densely flavored chutney featuring a strong acidic hit from the rhubarb and vinegar, balanced by the sweetness of the currants. The various spices – the ginger, cardamom and jalapeño – all melded together to give it an unexpected dimension. And when Caitlin’s dear husband (another true foodie) tasted it, his only response was, “Word.” Which translates to “yum.” They assured me the chutney would be an excellent accompaniment to all the grilled meats they prepare. And I agree that it’s a keeper.

So – lesson learned. We started out with a stunningly gorgeous vegetable – one that I gaze at adoringly in its natural state.  And it turned into something I hesitated to photograph for this post. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving.  

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Gingered Rhubarb Chutney

(Adopted from a Cooking Light recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups finely chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about a half hour or until it thickens.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This can be stored in jars in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Sauced

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Like many people here in the great Pacific Northwest, I was under the illusion a week ago that spring was here to stay. Sunshine and weather in the 60s. Out came the flip flops and t-shirts and sunglasses. Heck, I even got a pedicure. Then Mother Nature reminded us that, yes, it is still winter. Back came the cold. Snow fell on cherry blossoms. Hail covered the highway with a blanket of white.

We have less than a week until spring is here. More specifically, “Saturday, March 20, at approximately midnight is the official first day of spring for 2010 in the Northern Hemisphere.” Not that I’m counting the days or anything. And despite this promise of spring and the fact that the sun is, indeed, shining outside my window right now, I have come to terms with the fact that Mother Nature is fickle. So I am not anticipating eating light, delicate salads on my deck any time soon. No, I need to continue to embrace our cold-weather produce for a while longer.  But that doesn’t mean meal time has to be bleak like our dark, frosty mornings.

Thankfully, I have people in my life like my friend Sonya who just sent along some delicious ideas for spirited sauces that will liven up cabbages and root vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli. Her email came just in the nick of time as I pondered what to do with the mountain of winter vegetables I recently purchased.

The best thing about these sauce recipes is how easy they make it to prepare quick and simple meals throughout the week. Imagine spending a few minutes in the kitchen producing a ginger and cilantro-infused sauce that can be spooned over roasted green beans and served with protein-rich quinoa one day and drizzled over freshly grilled shrimp the next. And another night just mix some curried peanut sauce into shredded, grilled chicken for a flavorful chicken salad. You can even freeze them for later use – for instance the lemon tahini sauce can be quickly defrosted and then drizzled over a plate of roasted asparagus and broiled salmon. Their uses and applications are virtually endless.  And until our northwest weather heats up for the long haul – I’m hoping these savory sauces help liven things up in the kitchen.

Some quick tips for roasting vegetables like those pictured here. To make it easy, just preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Prepare your vegetables (washing, trimming, cutting into bite-sized pieces) and line a baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with olive oil cooking spray. Toss your vegetables onto the pan and spray with some more cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. As a general rule of thumb, cook broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots for 15 minutes. Asparagus and green beans take only ten minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeezey (or so say the British).

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Lemon Tahini Sauce

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Zest and juice of two small lemons
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey

Instructions

Crush garlic and finely chop cilantro and place in small bowl. Zest the lemons and add zest and juice to garlic and cilantro. Before adding the tahini, make sure to stir it well – incorporating the oil and separated sesame paste – this is key to ensuring the tahini mixes well with the other ingredients. Stir in all remaining ingredients until combined well.

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Ginger Cilantro Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 small bunches of cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger (about 3 inches of the root)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Instructions

Cut thick stems from cilantro. Peel your ginger and slice thinly. Place all ingredients into a blender and puree until well-blended.

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Curried Peanut Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

 Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil 
  • 1 small red onion, minced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger 
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder 
  • 4 teaspoons cumin 
  • 1  can coconut milk (you can use the light version)
  • 5 tablespoons peanut butter 
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced 
  • 5 teaspoons soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • zest and juice of one lime 
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

Heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and ginger for about five minutes or until soft. Add curry powder, red chili flakes and cumin and sauté over low heat for two minutes. Add coconut milk and stir, making sure all bits of onion mixture are scraped off the bottom of the pan. Add peanut butter, cilantro, soy sauce, honey, lime zest and juice, and water. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Julie Andrews is welcome to her raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… I’ll take roasted garlic and a good balsamic reduction any day.

The unvarnished, fresh-from-the-vine truth? As you may have already guessed, I am head over heels for fresh produce – AKA ‘plants’. But this wasn’t always the case. For much of my life, I subsisted on a typical ‘Western diet’ – meaning all manner of foods processed and refined. Happily, a while back I began approaching my daily sustenance with a lot more attention paid to health and well-being. Fast forward to today – Sunday strolls through the farmer’s market are an essential weekend highlight (highly recommended – enjoy rows upon rows of vibrant produce, and informative chats with friendly local farmers). The ‘Western-diet-me’ wouldn’t believe what I now consider kitchen staples – it’s enough to make her head spin.

Fruits and vegetables are now at center stage – the star performers of my diet. On their own, many can be amazingly delicious. But if you’re a little wary of embracing them ‘au natural’, here are a few tricks that I use to add quick, healthy hits of flavor to just about anything.

balsamic reductionBalsamic Vinegar Reduction – Pour a large bottle of Balsamic vinegar (Costo Balsamic was made for this) into a sauce pan and heat over medium high, bringing to a low boil. Next, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about half an hour – until it reduces to approximately 1/3 its volume. Keep an eye on it – it can thicken quickly towards the end of the cooking time. (Think molasses thick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Once you’ve reached the desired consistency – you’ll want it just thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon – take it off the heat and allow it to cool. Use a funnel to pour the reduction into a kitchen squeeze bottle. Refrigerate.

**I keep a squeeze bottle of this rich, syrupy ‘nectar of the gods’ on hand at all times. Pairs marvelously with roasted meats and every vegetable I’ve ever poured it on.

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Fresh Ginger – Use a microplane zester to grate it over steamed or sautéed veggies. (No peeling necessary.)

**Little muss, no fuss and plenty of flavor. I always keep some of this knobby yellow root on hand – fresh, and with a couple extra in the freezer for emergencies. (In a freezer-safe bag. I know I’ve said it already, but freezer burn just destroys great flavor.)

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lemon zestFresh Citrus – Grate fresh lemon or orange zest directly over sautéed chard or spinach. Substitute fresh lime or grapefruit juice for vinegar to lighten up homemade salad dressings.

**Don’t be afraid to try any kind of citrus. Even consider slicing kumquats into salads. A little dash of these tarty-sweet gems can brighten up even the darkest days of winter.

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Roasted Garlic - closeupRoasted Garlic – Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel off the outer layers of the entire garlic bulb – leaving the cloves intact. I like to use Elephant garlic – much more volume and a bit easier to handle. Cut off about 1/4 inch from the top of the cloves. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle each bulb with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes – removing the foil after 20 minutes. The cloves will be ready when they are soft when pressed. You can use them immediately – or squeeze out individual cloves, blend up and place a dollop of the mixture into handy little compartments of ice cube trays and freeze. (If you choose to freeze, remove from trays when frozen and store in a freezer-safe bag.)

**A simply amazing addition to mashed potatoes, soups and sauces.

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Basil & Garlic Cubes – Blend a large bunch of chopped fresh basil with 1/2 cup olive oil and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Pour into an ice cube tray to freeze. Once frozen, save individual cubes in a freezer-safe bag.

**Throw unfrosted cubes into warm sauces or soups. Or defrost and drizzle directly over vegetables.

 

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