The choicest ingredient for this month’s JFI event is Ginger, a great pick and event hosted by Rosie of What’s the recipe today Jim?
Ginger is an everyday ingredient in Indian cooking; a few juliennes of ginger in this, or a piece of crushed ginger in that or a squirt of grated ginger in something else is such a routine. It is used in eats, treats and remedies very widely. In my opinion this wonderful rhizome takes the place of a megastar among the spices, not only for the unbeatable taste and punch it imparts to the dish it is used in, but also for the added health benefits it bestows. The properties of Ginger that aid promotion of good health and its healing abilities make it a very widely used ingredient in Ayurveda, the science of health, well being and medicinal practice that is an age old tradition in India. Knowing very well that I would just be repeating myself by listing some of the ailments that are treated with ginger, here is a short list anyway: indigestion, joint pain, simple cold and cough, motion sickness, and even early stages of rheumatoid arthritis to just name a few.
To celebrate this wonderful ingredient, here is my lowly attempt to showcase its use in everyday Indian life. Below is spread of South Indian dishes, beverages etc. consumed during various times of the day. You will clearly see, that in order to avoid a super-over-dose of ginger (yes, you can have too much of good things too), not all of these are served on any single day! Everything in moderation is the rule to stick by, always!
At the crack of dawn, the day is kick started with a cup of hot tea or coffee infused with Ginger; black tea steeped or fresh coffee brewed and mixed with a few drops of ginger juice, milk and sugar. What a way to get that boost first thing in the morning for a long drawn day ahead! Then a typical South Indian breakfast like Idly or Dosa is served with coconut-ginger chutney; freshly grated coconut mixed with a piece of ginger, a few green chilies, a piece of tamarind all ground to a perfect delectable chutney.
At lunch you might see a serving of Ginger dal, yellow lentils cooked with tomatoes and ginger served with rice as a main dish or Ginger chutney as an accompaniment. Ginger chutney is made with pieces of fresh ginger sautéed in Ghee, mixed with various other spices and hand pounded for an unbelievable taste and texture. Various vegetables are also cooked with Ginger for creating delectable curries, dry or gravy based that make a perfect side dish.
Need to quench that thirst in the mid afternoon or evening? Why not indulge in some Ginger lemonade! Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice mixed with ginger juice and sugar or sometimes even served as a salty beverage with the addition of black salt or kala namak and some ground black pepper. Another unforgettable beverage which I still make it a point to get my share during my visit to India is freshly squeezed sugarcane juice infused with Ginger! The sweetness of fresh sugarcane is perfectly balanced with the pungent kick of ginger for an ambrosial taste. If you ever get to try this, grab a glassful with both hands for a delish experience of a lifetime!
For a light, simple dinner you might see Ginger rasam, served piping hot either to be eaten with steamed rice or just to drink it up as a light soup (the way I prefer it). Typically this rasam does not contain lentils and is made as watery as possible. You may also see buttermilk mixed with crushed ginger and curry leaves served with dinner or lunch or just as a beverage by itself.
Suffering with tummy troubles at bed time? Pop in a piece of Ginger candy (ginger cooked with jaggery/sugar) or a piece of pickled or salt cured ginger to rid yourself of such troubles! A wonderful childhood memory comes to mind when I think of salt cured ginger. My grandfather to this day, keeps an ample supply of “Bhavana Shunti”, pieces of salty ginger made and sold as an Ayurvedic medicine. I would sneak into his medicine chest to get my hands on a few of those salty pieces of ginger, tummy troubles or not!
If I had a hard time picking one single dish to send in as an entry to JFI Ginger, you can see why, with so many choices to choose from! After much deliberation, I completely went in a different direction; I just decided to go with what the taste buds felt like feasting on at that moment – a fresh mix of salad greens with a very ginger-y vinaigrette! I think this dressing does perfect justice in bringing out the punch of ginger to gently flavor a bed of fresh baby greens. I added slices of fresh strawberries and diced dried apricots to bring in some sweetness to the salad. All in all, this turned out to be one flavorful ginger-y salad; almost felt like summer!
To make the Ginger-Cilantro Vinaigrette, you’ll need:
- 2 inch piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 tbsp of chopped cilantro
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chopped ginger and cilantro in a blender
- Add in the vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper and blend until smooth
- With the blender on, slowly drizzle the olive oil until the vinaigrette reaches a smooth creamy consistency
- Serve with a mix of greens of your choice. Makes about 5-6 servings of dressing. Enjoy!