Ginger Recipes: Savory, Sweet, and Unexpected

By Melissa Schneider December 27, 2012 No Comments

Ginger is one of those holiday flavors, in the company of pie essentials like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and such, that I historically haven’t used much post-December.  Put the knobby, fresh stuff in my hands, and I was even less likely to put it to good use.  Lately, though, I have become mildly obsessed with the Masala Tea (a.k.a. Chai Tea) at our favorite little Indian joint, and since ginger is a key component in that cup o’ deliciousness, it got me thinking:

What is ginger good for anyway, and what sorts of ginger recipes could I be enjoying?

First off, I’ll tackle the health questions. Ginger falls into the “health food nut” category in my mind, meaning that people seem to liberally link it with medical benefits, all willy-nilly like, claiming it’s everything from a natural analgesic to a miracle cure for diabetes. If you weed past the hyperbole, though, there are some hard and impressive facts at the bottom: fresh ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be used to treat nausea, motion sickness, gas, bloating, and digestive complaints.  In short, it’s a great thing to combine with holiday feasting, and to eat for months to come.

Now for the good part — great ginger recipes! I’ll share the secrets of my new favorite Masala Tea, an awesome (and easy) Overnight Ginger-Honey Baked Chicken, and a slow-cooked Gingery-Pineapple Compote. A little tip for using fresh ginger — peel the root when you bring it home, cut into disks or teaspoon-sized chunks, and pop them in a Ziplock in the freezer.  It will keep for months, which you want, because fresh is so much tastier than ground!

Masala Chai Tea
This classic Indian preparation (with a little twist) calls for some whole spices that you might not have on hand. Never fear, a simple run through the bulk spice aisle, or an Indian grocery, should leave you stocked and ready to brew. (If you still feel daunted, try a Simple Ginger Tea instead.)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tsp tea leaves (or a tea bag — decaf or regular is up to you)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 black (or white) peppercorns
  • Pinch of sugar

Method: Boil the water (preferably in a tea kettle with a built-in strainer for loose-leaf tea), then add all of the ingredients except the tea, milk and sugar. Boil for 3 minutes, then add the tea, and boil for an additional 30 seconds. Turn off heat and let pot cool for 1 minute. Meanwhile, in a separate small pot, heat the milk on low, not allowing it to boil. Strain the tea into cups, then add warm milk and sugar to taste, and serve immediately. (Inspired by Indobase).

Overnight Ginger-Honey Baked Chicken 
This marinade couldn’t be easier and the punchy flavor in this one-pot dish is sure to impress!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (or replace first 2 items with 3/4 cup of Captain Spongefoot’s Honey Sriracha)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
  • 1.5-2 pound chicken, quartered, with back removed (or 3 large chicken breasts)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed thyme
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 8 wedges

Method
Day 1: Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a rimmed baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.  Turn once the next morning.

Day 2: Thirty minutes before baking, take the pan out of the fridge to come to room temperature and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Chop the onion  into wedges, then remove foil from the chicken dish and loosely stir the onion in with the chicken pieces, coating them with the marinade. Flip the chicken pieces so all are skin-side down, then sprinkle dish with the thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cover the pan in foil again and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, give the potatoes and onions one more stir. You can also baste sauce to redistribute. Raise the temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking for 20-30 more minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown. If your chicken hasn’t come to a nice golden brown, switch to low broil for a few minutes at the end, but watch it closely! Serve immediately with a nice side dish of vegetables and enjoy! (Inspired by the Food Network).

Gingery-Pineapple Compote for the Slow-Cooker
Here’s a tasty dessert involving fresh pineapple and ginger — delicious over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium pineapples (2.5 pounds/8 cups, sliced)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 (6-inch) piece fresh ginger (about 5 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Dash nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • Optional:  dash of cayenne (for a curious kick)
  • Vanilla Bean ice cream for serving

Method: If using whole pineapple: Peel, quarter, and cut away the core from the pineapple. Discard the core. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise then slice 1/4-inch thick slices crosswise. Stir the pineapple together with the sugar, ginger, and cinnamon in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours, until the pineapple is very tender and slightly sweet. Serve warm over ice cream, if desired. If you want to make ahead, this compote keeps for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.  (Inspired by the Food Network).

Now you can enjoy ginger all year — I hope you do!

A Little Ginger Advisory: While ground ginger is safe for most people, according to MedlinePlus, people who are taking prescription blood thinners should avoid eating more than 4 grams of dried ginger, or a little less than a teaspoon, lest bleeding/bruising problems arise. Also, there is some controversy over whether ginger can harm unborn fetuses, but MedlinePlus concludes it is generally safe for pregnant women.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user FotoosVanRobin.

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