Candied Ginger

candiedginger_1There have been a few very fortuitous things happening for me recently – not in actual life, but here on Kathy Can Cook. First, my sister offered to write me a guest post on ginger, which I jumped at of course! Second, Jess asked me to help her make a cocktail with candied ginger in it. Third, I was invited to A Spoonful of Ginger at the MFA to help benefit the Joslin Center for Diabetes Research. So, obviously, there was a need for a BLOG SERIES.

candiedginger_2 So, candied ginger. Candied ginger is a perfect snack or palate cleanser, it’s a moment of sharp heat and sweetness when you need it most. It’s great in cookies, cocktails, and on it’s own. It’s basically magic (the ginger syrup that you get as a byproduct is pretty awesome as well). My sister had a couple of good comments on candied ginger on her post about ginger too – go read up on it!

candiedginger_3 I ended up making this because I just needed to. I read the recipe that Jess had chosen (she posted the full cocktail on her blog) to highlight, essentially a dark and stormy – but infinitely better. So I read the recipe and noted that there was A LOT of fresh ginger being used – two large hands is nothing to sneeze at. But I did it, peeled and chopped two hands of ginger, and got roughly a quart of peeled ginger that was BEAUTIFUL, bright yellow, and lovely.

candiedginger_4 I don’t know that I will buy premade candied ginger again – because here’s the thing, this was perfect. It tasted fresh and gingery, it had that sharp ginger flavor without a weird old ginger aftertaste and I totally could have made a small amount. I also loved that I didn’t have to coat it in sugar, and make it candy sweet, if I didn’t want to.

Candied Ginger
Note: This recipe is adapted from a recipe that Jess got for a Goslings Rum and Ginger Cocktail, created by Ming Tsai. I am sharing only the recipe for candied ginger, because it was AWESOME, you can see the cocktail over on Jess’s blog.

  • 2 cups ginger, roughly two medium hands or one large one
  • 4 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2-2 cups for sugaring
  • 2 cups water
  • Peel and cut your ginger. I find ginger is easiest to peel with a spoon, you can run the tip of a spoon right over the skin and it’ll fall off, this also works for those little nubbins and nooks where a peeler or knife wouldn’t fit.
  • To cut the ginger cut it unto 1/8 inch thick rounds or strips, either will work one way you’ll see the fibrous ends of the ginger and it’ll be a little bit rougher and with the grain you’ll get smoother pieces but they’ll be tougher.
  • Combine the chopped ginger, 4 cups of sugar, and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring this to a simmer.
  • Reduce the heat to low and allow the ginger syrup to simmer for 10-15 mins, until it is about 1/3 reduced
  • Preheat the oven to 200 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the syrup into a heatproof bowl. Reserve this syrup, it’s great in club soda as homemade ginger ale.
  • Combine the strained ginger and the rest of your sugar in a large bowl – gently toss the ginger with the sugar until it’s sparkly with sugar and mostly separate pieces. I found that a pair of gloves would be ideal here.
  • Spread the ginger in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet and put it on a middle rack in the oven.
  • Bake the ginger for 3 1/2-4 hours, rotating it occasionally. The ginger will be mostly dried out after this.
  • Allow the ginger to cool completely before touching it. MOLTEN SUGAR IS HOT. I left mine in the cooling oven overnight, and it was perfect the next day.
  • Break the ginger apart gently, this is easily done using a gentle pressure and pinching the piece of ginger between your fingertips – they should fall right apart.
  • Enjoy! I love to add a touch of the syrup and a couple slices of the candied ginger to lemon tea, or club soda (with a splash of rum).

Guest Post: The Seventh Sphinx talks Ginger

Ginger is such a great flavor. I know many people who are head-over-heels for it.  Next Monday I will be eating my weight in Ginger while I support a good cause: the Joslin Diabetes Center at Spoonful of Ginger – their annual benefit at the MFA to support the Asian-American Diabetes Initiative. I love to help out places like Joslin because Diabetes research is SUCH AN IMPORTANT CAUSE. We all know someone affected by either type 1 or type 2 Diabetes and it’s becoming more of a problem all the time. So go, get a ticket, eat some delicious ginger infused dishes and help Joslin find a cure.

My big sister, who you’ve heard me talk about here in the past, has recently started her own blog, called donatio olfaciendi causa - a lifestyle blog, she writes on style, perfume, makeup, books, and other miscellany. She and I share a very similar palate so when she was talking about writing a post on ginger as a condiment and flavor I suggested she do it as a guest post for me. I love it almost as much as she does! 

Ginger1

I like ginger a lot.

A relative of turmeric, cardamom and galangal, this spicy rhizome can play for both the sweet and savory sides. Compelling and versatile, it is available in many forms, most of which I have in my life.

Here are some favorite incarnations:

raw: The spice impact is at its best. Peel it with a spoon and then: steep it to make tea, put matchsticks in your stir fry or curry (or salad!), add peelings to mixed drinks…and pretty much anywhere you add garlic, just add ginger, too. Ginger is good for you.

ginger juice: A great way to add a touch of ginger to beverages and soups.

minced ginger: The tough fibers make it kind of difficult to puree ginger yourself, and I find I’m more likely to use it if I have something ready to go. I like the Ginger People brand for being organic and having really powerful spicy flavor across their range, but I’ll take anything I can get.

ginger2

pickled ginger: This is the classic sushi accompaniment but I could eat it anytime, anywhere. I maintain that it plays well with any combination of rice and soy, and is a wonderful palette cleanser as well. It’s not too difficult to make yourself, either. The only difficult part is cutting the ginger thin enough, a job for a mandoline.

powdered ginger: Get high quality and it will show in your baking. I like Penzey’s best so far.

[powdered galangal: Galangal is a relative of ginger but more powerful, spicier, entirely distinct. It comes up in Asian cuisine, and is for me associated predominantly with Thai notes. Substitute for ginger sometime and see what happens.]

tea: Great when you’re sick, a good alternative to lemon for a toddy, and just…good. Provided you like ginger. Especially with honey. Straight or blended, I like. Can also be added to certain soup stocks (think ramen, or chicken soup) for a great, diffused flavor.

cookies: There are snaps, of course, which I love, but lately I gravitate toward these Ginger Thins from Trader Joe’s. Dead ringers for Anna’s ginger thins. These are what made me realize what great friends ginger and cheese can be. On a slightly unrelated note, the Coconut Thins are also extremely good.

crystallized: Snack on them or chop them up and put them in cookies.

jam: you know, jam… (mix it with a berry jam to make things in the world of toast more interesting)

lip balm: If you like ginger or mango, this lip balm is the one: Kiss My Face Ginger Mango lip balm 

fragrance: Ginger is, sadly, not the most popular perfume note. I don’t know why, though. It’s spicy and fresh at once, unisex, akin to citrus but more interesting, on account of not being citrus… Have found one I like, this Marc Jacobs Cocktail Splash. Dominant notes of ginger, citrus, and rhubarb (Rhubarb! Really! Go smell it.). Unfortunately only sold in this enormous bottle. I am testing out a lot of other supposed ginger fragrances, some of which have potential, but this is the only one I own so far. Origins also do a ginger line (perfume, lotion, etc), though I say it is too sweet, and not gingery enough. That said, this Paul Mitchell wild ginger line smells just like the Origins ginger perfume, and I am loving it. [Finding great smelling hair products is a bit more difficult, I think, so my standards are lower.]

And of course there is ginger ale, ginger beer, ginger chews, ginger liqueur, ginger essential oil, ginger soap, ginger syrup…

ginger3

Look for my follow-up post next week where I’ll share my recipe fro candied ginger! So good!

Maine Sourced Granola

This is a celebratory post. It is it my hundredth post here – I feel like it should have shown up sooner and there should be a greater fanfare, but I’ve been busy. I worked really hard and threw an epic beer fest with some absolutely fantastic people, I started a new job (more on that later), and I’ve just been sort of lazy. I know I’m not supposed to admit that here – where I show you pretty pictures of food and make you think I eat like that all the time – but I don’t. Most nights I eat pasta with butter and Parmesan on it or instant mac and cheese. I have plenty of knowledge but a low threshold for motivation. Occasionally that comes out here. This post is about the awesome though, this is a celebration of this little blog – this corner of the internet I have claimed as mine and proudly declared to be KATHY CAN COOK. I’ve covered it in 8-bit sprites, I’ve met some amazing people, and I’ve eaten SO.MUCH.GOOD.FOOD.
This is not me signing off – please don’t think that as I wax nostalgic about how great keeping this blog has been. I’m not giving up on it, at least not yet, I’m not even taking a break. I’m just sharing how loved this makes me feel – and how great it is to have made friends, actual friends, through blogging. That’s what this recipe is – new to me comfort food that is a little bit of home and a whole bunch of love. I made it with my big sister on a Monday afternoon that she’d taken off to hang out with my kid brother and I. It was a perfect leisure activity.
This granola is made with rolled oats sourced from Aurora Mills in Maine, and alone they are great and nutty oats – in granola they have just the right flavor and give while still being chewy and filling. This is not-too sweet granola either, it’s maple-y without being in your face and it holds its own against the tang of Greek yogurt.
I say this granola is home because it is. I feel a special connection to pretty much anything sourced from Maine and even now, when I don’t live in Maine anymore I still refer to myself as a “Maine kid” it gives me a sense of identity and place. I love it – so this granola is a perfect example of blogging for me – it’s new, my first homemade granola (win) paired with some old (a few Maine oats to make me feel like I’m home).

Home-Made Granola

Note: This recipe is loosely based on one from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook in that I looked at that cookbook for ideas of what ratios to use and what temperature to cook my granola at. Please consider this a broad guideline to create your own granola recipe though, it’s totally adjustable I used the flavors and textures I really liked when I made this, as such you should adjust in your own way. It does make a lot of granola though, so be prepared to share!

  • 3 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats – small batch rolled oats will be nuttier and more flavorful
  • 2/3 cup Pepitas, hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds. raw
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 2/3 cup nuts (I used pecans and they were AWESOME)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt (I use coarse kosher, but go with your preference)
  • 1/3 cup high heat oil (I used peanut, but you can use safflower, sunflower or whatever else too)
  • 2/3 cup Real Maple Syrup (The corn syrup stuff will not work here)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Honey (the honey/maple syrup ratio is really forgiving and can be modified to what you have)
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut
  • 1 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries, tart cherries, and candied ginger)
  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees farenheit.
  • In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients (oats, nuts, and seeds) and mix until evenly distributed.
  • In a small pan combine the oil, honey, vanilla, and syrup. Heat them over low heat until the liquids are fluid and easily mixed.
  • Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly coated
  • Put the granola in a large pan (I use my turkey roaster) and spread it out evenly so it is an even layer (mine was about 3/4 inch thick).
  • Toast the granola in the oven for about an hour – stirring every 10 to 15 mins to prevent large clumping. THe granola will be golden brown and fragrant when it is done.
  • Allow the granola to cool completely, for at least an hour.
  • Mix the toasted coconut and dried fruit into the toasted granola.
  • Eat over your favorite yogurt or by the handful!

Barrio is Popping Up

I know, I know it’s a cheesy title.  But it’s true!  Last Thursday I had the privilege of attending a dinner at Barrio.  Barrio is Chef Wheeler del Torro’s vegan-Cuban street food pop-up that is set to soon descend on the Boston area.  I went into this pop-up a little warily, if you read this blog much you know how great my affinity for all things butter and (in general) not vegan.  I found the idea hard to grasp.  I shouldn’t have worried.

The dinner was awesome, though.  From our secret meeting place (shhh, you’ll know if you go!) to the fantastic champagne to the world class dessert (I can’t tell that either, it’ll give too much away) I was in love. Check out my awesome visual recap! If you want to go, you should probably go put your name on the email list!

Getting to chop up a pineapple and play in the kitchen with a chef! #dreamsihavehad

The wild blueberry, goat cheese Ice cream.  Megan would have died for this!

The plantains – how is it I have gone 27 years with eating so few plantains????

The pork taco (made by a chef friend of Wheeler’s), it was juicy and delicious

Perfect champagne. A great end to a great evening.

Discalimer: I attended this pop-up dinner (my first, and definitely not last) for free, but all opinions posted here are my own.

Thai-Peanut and Black Bean Chili

I went to college in a minuscule town in Western Maine.  While school was in session it felt like there was a town of about 15k when school was not in session there were about 3000 people in the town.  My school was wonderful with small classes and professors who knew your first name it was the place you wanted to go after going to high school in an even smaller town, a stepping stone toward more.  But it was the town I was most enchanted with.  There was a cafe where I worked for a brief period, there were the brick structures of campus covered in English Ivy, there was the river I rode a giant blowup dinosaur named Lottie down one summer day - meandering slowly on it’s way somewhere I never went (Mexico, ME maybe?), and there was Soup For You.

In my senior year of college I took most of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in class until 4:15 or so on Thursday and then later that evening from 6-9.  So in that little interim period from 4-6 I always walked downtown to Soup For You, ordered one of the daily soups (there are always 6 – 3 vegetarian options and 3 omnivorous options) and a coffee and sat in a booth and read, or chatted with friends there.  It was one of my favorite semesters, and I always hoped for this soup to be on the menu, especially on warm spring days.

Maybe I loved Soup For You because it was charming - with hand painted tiles and quirky-ness everywhere, or because they knew that I loathed soup-spoons so always gave me one of the miniature ones they held behind the counter for little kids, but I think the biggest reason I loved it is that it was introduced to me by a community.  That community was full of some of the strongest women I’ve ever met, and I am still close with several of them now.  They were my coworkers in the Women’s and Gender Studies Center, a work study job that is by far the best job I’ve ever had.  We held potlucks together, went to lunch, stayed well past or scheduled times just to hang out, published a literary journal called Ripple that focused on women in writing, we wrote poetry and we read.  I associate this soup with those girls. 

My first day in the Women’s and Gender Studies Center saw me, terrified (as usual) meeting everyone and trooping around the grand (read 2 or 3 streets) downtown of our little college town when one of the girls piped up that there was Thai Peanut and Black Bean Chili and Soup for You and they probably still had Corn Muffins.  So we stopped.  We all ordered the same thing 8oz of the chili and a corn muffin, then we sat down.  The warm spring sunshine on our backs and excited about our upcoming events and the new issue of Ripple.  So this soup is camaraderie for me, it’s comfort somewhere new, and it’s friends and mentors.  It’s my history.  It’s also a Soup for You specialty and totally made the internet fail me.  So this is as close an approximation as I can get.  Eat it with friends and a corn muffin.

Soup For You inspired Thai-Peanut and Black Bean Chili
Note: I love this soup and would eat it every day if I could.  It’s also quite close to Soup For You’s version, which is so exciting to me, since I can’t find anything half as good in Boston.

Olive oil
1 Medium white onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Ginger Juice, or 2Tbs fresh grated ginger (I LOVE GINGER, you may not so go lighter on this if it’s not your flavor)
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
2-3 medium carrots, sliced thinly into coins
1 can full fat coconut milk
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 lemon
2 cans of black beans, 1 drained and 1 with liquid
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (use more, less, or none depending on the heat you like)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts
handful of cilantro (optional)

In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, carrot, and if you are using fresh ginger add that too and allow them to soften, stirring occasionally - this should take about 5 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and the zests and stir to combine.  Make sure you get everything in the pot evenly distributed throughout the coconut milk and allow the whole pot to come to a gentle simmer.  Add the black beans and red pepper flakes then allow the pot to come back up to a simmer, allow it to simmer like this for 10-15 mins.  Add the peanut butter and allow the chili to come to another simmer.  If you think your chili is a little thin you can add more peanut butter, but that is up to you, regardless stir the peanut butter in well – it s the star flavor here.  Add the dry roasted peanuts and let them cook for 10 minutes or so – you want them to be warm but still have crunch.  Serve the chili with a corn muffin on the side and a sprinkling of cilantro on top.  Don’t ever look back.  Its vegan and delicious.  Win.