Chat Leftovers: Peeling Ginger and "Lost" Cuisine
As is often the case, there are too many questions and not enough time to answer all the questions in the What's Cooking queue. Below, a few that grabbed my attention after this week's show.
Arlington, Va.: What's the deal with peeling ginger? Is it for aesthetic purposes? I usually take off any loose bits that I can find in under five seconds, but otherwise the skin is left intact. It doesn't have a texture, and as far as I can tell it doesn't have a taste, so why bother?
Although it may be flavorless, I don't entirely agree with your argument that ginger skin is without texture issues. Sometimes you get a thin-skinned piece, smooth and easy-going down the hatch; other times, luck fails and your hunky chunk is sealed with an impenetrable armor that requires an engineering degree for successful removal.
Those who grew up in places where ginger grows and/or figures prominently in the cuisine -- China, India, Indonesia, Japan, West Africa, West Indies -- are likely to be more accustomed to ginger, skin and all, particularly if it's finely chopped. However, when a recipe calls for mashed ginger -- accomplished by using a mortar and pestle -- the skin, which refuses to become pulverized, needs to come off.
In that case, we go back to the original question: What's the deal with peeling ginger? Or, as I like to think of it, how do I peel ginger effortlessly and efficiently?
Forget the vegetable peeler. This job calls for a teaspoon. Determine how much ginger you need and with a paring knife, slice off your hunk. Trim off any oversized nobs as well. Hold the hunk in the palm of your hand, then with your other hand, use the tip of the spoon to scrape away at the skin. You'll have a pristine hunk in mere seconds.
Silver Spring, Md.: I am having a small gathering of friends to watch the premiere of "Lost" next week. We are big fans of "themed" foods and I thought I would do a fish dish with some kind of tropical-fruit garnish. I was just told that a couple of the guests do not like tropical-fruit garnishes on their fish. I still would like to prepare fish, but am looking for a "tropical" way to prepare it that does not involve pineapples, mangoes, etc. Any thoughts?
I consulted "Lost" addict and celebritologist Liz Kelly for advice, as I stopped watching after the very first episode. (Plane crash, right?) Here's what she had to say:
I'd suggest something Hawaiian, since that's where "Lost" is filmed. There was also an episode in which beer figured prominently. Maybe there's a good Hawaiian beer? Hmmm... they also eat a lot of fish -- perhaps something available in Pacific waters?
Since Liz is a vegetarian, I'll take care of the fish part. If your friends are against tropical-fruit garnish, what about grilled fish kebabs instead? Fish caught from Pacific waters that are both kebab-friendly and environmentally sustainable (according to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program) include: steaky halibut, swordfish and mahi-mahi, the Hawaiian word for dorado and dolphinfish.
Line up your fish chunks on a skewer and marinate them in olive oil, a smidge of lime juice (not too much), cayenne, salt and a bit of ginger. You might want to insert bell pepper chunks or pearl onions between fish chunks to keep them separate and distinct.
Meanwhile, you can steam a pot of rice, made with half water and half coconut milk for a truly tropical twist (a garnish of chopped macadamias would be luscious). With regards to the pineapple, you can't NOT have pineapple at a Hawaiian-style gathering. Two of my favorite ways to eat this most precious fruit are a spicy, pungent salad, done Thai-style, and a Malaysian spiced pineapple pickle.
As for Hawaiian suds, anyone ever have Kona, a microbrew from Big Island?
Ideas welcome here, particularly if you've traveled to or hail from Hawaii.
And here's the last word from a reader who weighed in on the thread about handling frozen fruit in baked goods:
Kim, I don't question your expertise for a moment -- that's why you're here -- but my experience with baked goods using frozen fruit has been different from yours. Perhaps it depends on what you are baking. For pies, I use frozen fruit in its frozen state. Many packages (and a couple cookbooks I've consulted) recommend NOT thawing fruit for pies. I make blueberry pie in the winter b/c it is my dearest's fave -- I use frozen wild blueberries, tossed with the spices, sugar and tapioca while frozen. Comes out perfectly every time. The pie will be soggy if the berries are thawed first. The person who posted the question might want to read the packages, or a baking book, or experiment.
By Kim ODonnel |
January 23, 2008; 10:43 AM ET
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