Beyond the Snap

Ginger stars in 3 of our favorite recipes.

The widespread use of ginger in food originated in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, where the plant grows abundantly in tropical rainforests. The ginger root has been used for centuries, dating back to Roman Empire, and is lauded for having many health benefits, including acting as an anti-inflammatory, reducing motion sickness or nausea, improving circulation and digestion and lowering blood sugar. In Asia, ginger is traditionally used in teas, as well as sauces and gravies.

Closer to home, we enjoy ginger in many forms: pickled, candied, freshly-grated and ground into a powder to be integrated into recipes like these. Here, we offer three of our favorite recipes, in which ginger steals the show.

Duck Breast with Wild Rice Salad and Candied Ginger-lime Sauce

8 breasts Pekin duck
Salt and pepper to taste

In a cold skillet, place duck fat-side down in pan and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn breasts and cook 5 to 6 minutes more for medium-rare meat.

For the wild rice salad:
2 cups wild rice cooked in six cups salted water and drained
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, diced
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted then chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Season to taste with salt, pepper, olive oil and Pomegranate Champagne Vinegar (available at Fresh Market)

Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool and purée.

For candied ginger-lime sauce:
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice

Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool and purée.

Slice duck breasts and serve over rice salad. Top with candied ginger-lime sauce.

Pho Ga

2 yellow onions, unpeeled
1 four-inch piece ginger, unpeeled
3 ½-4 pound whole chicken
2 pounds chicken backs and necks
5 quarts water
1 ½ tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ounce rock sugar
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted
4 cloves
½ bunch cilantro plus ½ cup chopped
2 pounds yellow noodles
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Grill onions and ginger over open flame for 10-15 minutes. When cool, peel and discard blackened skin. Roughly chop remainders. Cover all chicken in water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse. Return to pot, cover all chicken in water again and bring to a boil, skimming impurities. Reduce heat to simmer and add yellow onions, ginger and spices. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove whole chicken, leaving backs and necks in broth in pot. Remove meat from legs and breast and thighs and reserve. Return carcass to broth. Add ½ bunch cilantro and cook for 1½ hours. Strain broth through cheesecloth and discard solids. Skim fat and adjust flavor with fish sauce, salt and sugar. Blanch noodles for 15-20 seconds. Divide noodles and chicken meat between bowls and cover with broth. Garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Serves 6

Spiced Asian Pear Cake

1 cup olive oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup candied ginger, diced
4 cups Asian pears, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a cake pan. Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat oil and eggs until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the pears and ginger by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Place pan on wire rack to cool. Serve with toasted pecans and whipped cream.

Serves 8 to 10

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