Updated January 2012.
Ginger Rogers (remember Top Hat?).
Ginger Baker (remember Cream?).
Ginger Grant (remember her???).
Trader Joe's triple-ginger cookies.
What do they all have to do with powdered ginger?
Well, in their own way each is or was a little bit over-the-top, like the zing my cooking gets from good quality powdered ginger, a staple ingredient in the cuisines of Asia, North Africa, Europe, the West Indies and Caribbean — and a staple in The Perfect Pantry.
Depending on the country (and climate) of origin, powdered ginger can be pale or vibrant, mild or pungent, lemony or peppery. The main producing countries are Jamaica, India, China, Nigeria and, more recently, Australia. Penzeys powdered ginger has warm, lemon overtones, and plenty of bite. I like the balance.
Ginger to be dried is harvested 9-10 months after planting, when it is fibrous and more sharp-tasting. After the rhizomes are sun-dried, the skin is scraped off, and sometimes the pieces are boiled or bleached. Stored in an airtight container, dried pieces or powdered ginger will keep for six months on your spice rack, or up to a year in the freezer.
Powdered ginger is a must in curry and masala blends, five-spice powder, and quatre épices. It pairs well with carrots, pumpkin, squash and sweet potato, and imparts warmth and depth to baked goods. Powdered ginger tastes very different than fresh, and one should never be substituted for the other.
In English pubs, bartenders used to set out small containers of powdered ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer — the origin of ginger ale. In order to gee up (encourage) a lazy horse, English farmers apply a pinch of ginger to the animal’s backside. I'm not sure how that works, exactly....
Spicy peanut noodles
The owners of Moka, a restaurant in Boston's Back Bay in the 1990s, shared this recipe with readers of my newspaper column. It's great hot or cold.
Serves 6 as an appetizer or light lunch.
2 cups peanut butter
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 lb cooked angel-hair pasta, or any pasta (I use udon noodles)
Optional garnishes: shredded carrots, scallions, red peppers, cucumbers
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except pasta, and mix well. Add pasta, toss, and garnish as colorfully as you wish.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Spicy whole wheat sesame noodles, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Thai peanut noodles, from Iowa Girl Eats
Cold noodles with chicken and peanut sauce, from David Lebovitz
Five spice pork and veggies with udon noodles, from Poor Girl Eats Well
Five spice chicken with peanut noodles, from Anticiplate
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