Crystallized Ginger

Several years ago my daughter told me about an amazing restaurant experience where she was served Crystallized Ginger as the grand finale. It sounded intriguing enough that I ran out and found some, but I was nraw ginger croppedot impressed with it and it sat in my cupboard forever. Later I came across a recipe from Cooks Illustrated on how to make your own. I tried it and was hooked. So are the culinary students in my class who love the little crystals and the sharp, sweet flavor.

  But, that flavor really depends upon the ginger you start with. If it is fresh, the flavor will be mellow and smooth. Ginger that is woody and a little older will have a stronger more pronounced bite to it.  My students from Vietnam say they never peel ginger. The papery thin layer is usually not on purchased Crystallized Ginger, but I have done it both ways. I hate to waste ginger by peeling but it does look a little mSONY DSCore like crystals when peeled. It usually comes down to how much fresh ginger I have. Today I found a huge bag of it at an Asian Market. It was a great find and I am feeling like I don’t have to hoard my ginger. I adapted this recipe for the microwave which does a great job of super-saturating the sugar and water.

As the ginger cools in the super saturated mixture, it absorbs sugar.

I toss the ginger with additional sugar to give it the look I want.

Both the liquidGinger crystals left behind and the sugar that is used to coat the ginger have a wonderful flavor, so save it for baking.

 

Crystallized Ginger can be used in cakes, cookies, or muffins.  I am saving my ginger crystals to top scones for company this weekend.

Crystallized Ginger

1 pound fresh ginger root
1 cup water
1 cup sugar, plus more for tossing with ginger


Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place into a 2-quart microwave-safe dish with the water and 1 cup of sugar.  Microwave on High for 4 to 5 minutes or until ginger is tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring twice.  Let stand for 30 minutes to allow ginger to absorb sugar.

 

 

Tiny Yam Muffins

I love tea parties, and these tiny delectable bites remind me to slow down enough to have a few tea parties. When the girls were little we would dress in old fashioned dresses, fill some fine tea cups, and have a party.

The flavor of these little gems is dependent upon the ingredients that are used. I find  fresh yams with a dark flesh, microwave them for about 7 minutes per pound, scoop out the pulp, and smash them in the food processor for a few seconds for the best flavor. I also bring out some great flavor with whole nutmeg that I grate with a zester and homemade vanilla (see my vanilla blog for that recipe).

Tiny Yam Muffins

 ½ cup butter, softened

 1 ¼ cups sugar

 2 eggs

 1 cup milk

 1 ¼ cups mashed yams or sweet potatoes

 1 ½ cups flour

 1 teaspoon baking powder

 ¼ teaspoon baking soda

 ½ teaspoon salt

 2 teaspoons cinnamon

 ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 ¾ cup chopped, toasted pecans

I just put the cooked sweet potatoes in the food processor and process until smooth. I add all the other ingredients (except the pecans) and process for just 20 seconds or until combined, being careful to not process too long. Fold in the pecans. Spoon into tiny muffin pans and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes. Remove muffins from the tins and allow to cool before putting in freezer bags. Freeze any muffins that won’t be consumed in a day or two.

Here, Carson is enjoying his Tiny Yam Muffins, a fist full at a time. Definitely more “manly” than a tea party. with sweet potato muffin

Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

This is a dressing that I used at my daughter’s wedding and other events I have catered. It is light with a hint of sweetness.  If your raspberries are still frozen, put them in the microwave for a minute or two until the juice runs easily. The secret is to pop the mustard seeds before adding to the dressing. Just about any grain or seed can be popped like popcorn. The flavor is enhanced and adds depth to the dressing. Taste the dressing before serving and add more sweetness or lemon juice to match your preference.

2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon popped mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

Squeeze all the liquid from raspberries, using a cheesecloth or  jelly bag, into a jar with a tight lid. Add remaining ingredients and shake well.  (To pop mustard seeds, place in a small glass dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes or until you can hear the seeds popping.)

Thyme Infused Leek Soup

If you find yourself in the woods this spring, look for the red colored ramps which can be used in this recipe.  When we backpack in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, we always look for ramps and put them in whatever soup, stew, or main dish is on the menu.  They can be sauteed or cut up and added raw, which is much easier over a campfire.   The entire “Ramp” plant can be  used in this recipe, or substituted for leeks in just about any recipe.  If using ramps, use just a small amount at first as the flavor is much stronger and more pungent. Try fresh Thyme and either leeks or a touch of ramps to your next soup to add a wonderful smooth flavor.  Soup over a campfire is great just about any time of year because even the summer evenings are cool in the mountains. If I am not cooking over a campfire, my second favorite way to cook a soup is in the microwave.

 

Making soups in the microwave is almost hands-off cooking once all the ingredients are in the pot. It is a matter of starting the microwave and letting the soup simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Most potato soups remove the peel from the potatoes but I think the peelings in this soup adds a really nice texture and color when red potatoes are used. Yukon gold or other potatoes can be used and while the red color will be missing, the potatoes themselves lend a velvety golden goodness to the soup. At the last minute add just a little milk so the soup has the consistency you want. I like mine with just enough body to hold its shape on my spoon. An extra cup of skim milk was just the right amount. If the soup cools too much, just place it back in the microwave for a minute or two. Infusing the soup with thyme gives it a subtle flavor. The stem of the fresh thyme can be removed, but scrape down the stem to keep the tiny bits of leaves in the soup for added color and flavor.

Thyme Infused Potato Leek Soup 

 

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (about a pound)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup butter

4 cups water

¼ cup dry white wine

3 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable base

6 potatoes, cubed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup skim milk (optional)

Combine leeks, garlic, and butter in a 2-quart microwave safe dish. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high 10 to 12 minutes, or until leeks are tender and start to turn color. Add remaining ingredients except milk. Microwave on high 15 to 16 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove thyme stems, leaving the leaves in the soup. Puree ½ of soup in blender, food processor or with an emersion blender. Stir in enough milk to make desired consistency.

 

 

Court Bouillon

I knew my article was on page 23 of  the Cooking Light Magazine, but it took  a friend to point out that it was my recipe on the cover! Wow, that is my recipe isn’t it?  How I had missed this little detail is beyond me.  It is a little like the time a journalist showed up at a cooking show I was doing. I always try to make a connection with my audience and I started a little small talk with her. She told me she was a food columnist from the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. I started to gush effusively  about how amazing that was and I told her what an honor it was to meet her and I loved the her latest column and what a coincidence to meet her here and on and on and that I also was a food columnist  for the paper . She rolled her eyes at my naiveté and said, “I know, I am here to cover your cooking show.” Ooops there goes my cover as a VIP, culinary extraordinaire or food snob. I wouldn’t mind being one of those, but I can never quite pull it off. As a Food Science Professor, I rub shoulders with all kinds of elite and wanna-be elite. Within the first couple days of starting my university job I was asked about my favorite food in the area. I could have talked about some exotic dish or earthy organic food but instead I innocently answered the truth, my favorite thing to do is prepare foods that my family likes. She gave me a look like “that was totally un-inspiring” and walked away. That was  an ah ha moment for me. I realized that, no matter what, I will always be a farm girl at heart and my family will always be my favorite people to cook for.  And lucky for me, my family loves all kinds of different foods, including this Court Bouillon. Coulter loves to catch anything wild and ever since he was little we always made a habit of cooking his catch. So whatever fish or seafood he has found, I add it to this Court Bouillon.  It has evolved since I developed it for Cooking Light Magazine but it was developed as a microwave recipe and I can’t imagine any better method.

When my students made this in class, they were a little freaked out by the shells left on the shrimp. I tried to convince them that this is how it would traditionally be served because the shells really do add flavor.   This recipe might look like a serious list of ingredients, but it goes together quick and is done in less than 15 minutes.

Court Bouillon

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped bell pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons chicken-flavored base

6 cups water

1 tablespoon, minced thyme leaves

2 tablespoons, minced basil leaves

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like green Tabasco)

1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning (see below for recipe)

½ cup chopped green onion

2 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ½ cup water

1  or 2 fish filets  (I like redfish but any firm fish will work)

1 cup lobster meat

8 frozen shrimp

 

Sauté onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes in the microwave on high. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch, fish and shrimp.  Bring mixture to a boil (Microwave 8 to 10 minutes on high), stir in cornstarch. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir in fish, lobster and shrimp. Let stand 5 minutes to allow fish and seafood to cook. If mixture cools too much, microwave until heated.

Makes 8 servings