Treat Yourself Gingerly in the New Year
By Susie Younkle
Though New Year’s resolutions are a popular topic in late December, I don’t believe in them. If I want to make a change, I like to do it straight away—not wait until January 1. Still, like many people, I do consciously focus on healthiness in the new year. After the inevitable excesses of the holiday season, during my first shopping foray in January, I tend to load up on whole grains, beans and lean protein instead of the eggnog, rum and sweets that I frequently enjoy in December.
Ginger is one of those miracle foods worth incorporating into your diet in the new year. Many of us were children when we first tasted ginger, in the form of ginger ale, a beverage often given to children when they feel under the weather. It’s not just a myth that ginger ale will alleviate nausea; the medicinal properties of ginger have been appreciated for thousands of years. Of particular relevance to boaters is ginger’s effectiveness as a natural antidote to seasickness.
Botanically speaking, ginger is classified as a rhizome—the underground stem of the ginger plant. There are two main types of fresh ginger at the market: young ginger, with a mild flavor, thin skin and delicate flesh; or the more common mature ginger with stronger flavour, thicker skin and fibrous flesh. Buy ginger that is heavy for its size and has smooth skin, as wrinkled skin indicates that the ginger is old and dried out.
Ginger’s culinary versatility and delicious flavour make it a popular ingredient in food and beverages through the Caribbean. Aromatic and spicy ginger is regularly featured in numerous dishes in my kitchen, including baked goods, marinades, stir frys and soups. Delicately spiced carrot ginger soup is a staple in my household in the winter and an ideal winter meal.
If you’ve been imbibing too heartily at holiday parties, mix up a batch of fiery ginger beer, one of the most popular drinks in the Caribbean. Despite its name, this beverage is decidedly nonalcoholic. Many traditional ginger beer recipes require yeast and one or more days to allow the beverage to ferment. I choose a quicker and easier method, especially on a boat. This slightly astringent beverage is a wonderfully refreshing drink for a hot day on the water. Pour yourself a glass of ginger beer, top with club soda for some effervescence and make a toast to your health in 2011.
Easy Ginger Beer
10 C water
1/2 lb fresh ginger, coarsely chopped (unpeeled)
1/2 C or more demerara sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
Club soda (optional)
In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the ginger and sugar, stirring well. Cover the pot and let sit for 1 hour. Strain the ginger out of the liquid, using a fine mesh strainer and pressing the ginger solids with a spoon. Add the lime juice to the ginger beer. Chill well. To serve, top with club soda if desired.
Carrot Ginger Soup
1 Tbsp butter
1 C chopped onion
2/3 C chopped celery
2 Tbsp peeled minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb carrots, roughly chopped
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 C half and half
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery to the pot and cook for four minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and carrots to the pot and cook until the carrots start to soften, about eight or nine minutes. Add the stock and seasonings to the vegetables. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup (in batches) in a blender until smooth. Return soup to the pot and add the half and half. Makes about five cups.