Monday, July 30, 2012

Crystallized ginger and ginger simple syrup

Who knew that you could make fantastic ginger simple syrup from the left overs after making crystallized ginger? Further, who knew that making crystallized ginger at home is a royal PITA?!
However, I wanted a lot of crystallized ginger for some jam making, so had to make it. After trolling through the web, I came across Alton Brown's version on The Cooking Channel. His stuff is usually reliable, so I simply followed it. I reproduce the recipe from memory here, but all credit really belongs to him.

Ingredients (Crystallized Ginger)

1lb fresh ginger peeled
5 cups water
1lb granulated sugar


Spray a cooling rack with Pam or other cooking spray. Set on top of a baking sheet lined with freezer paper or parchment paper.
Peel the ginger and slice thinly - preferably using a mandolin or V-slicer. The slices should be less than 1/4 inches thick.
Place the ginger and water into a saucepot and simmer for at least 40 minutes - until the ginger is soft.
Drain and strain the water into 2 containers. The first container will hold 1/2 cup of liquid. The second, whatever is left over - around 4 cups in my case. 
Weigh the ginger, and use the same weight of sugar. Add the 1/2 cup water and sugar to the ginger back in sauce pot. Cook stirring frequently to start with and constantly at the end until the pot is dry. The ginger will then be coated nicely with the sugar, and the sugar will have penetrated a bit. Be REALLY CAREFUL here, the pan goes from nice and bubbly to dark brown napalm in the blink of an eye. And then you have to figure out how to clean it. But that's another story!
Once the ginger is dry, lay it out to cool on the wire rack. Once cooled, store in a plastic bag. 

Ingredients (ginger simple syrup)

4 cups granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups of ginger water (left over from the crystallized ginger above)


Mix the sugar and ginger water in a saucepot and bring to the boil over medium heat. Boil for 30 seconds, then allow to cool

Monday, July 23, 2012

Watermelon and feta salad

This goes nicely with grilled meat. We just happened to have some on Friday night - done on the big green egg (I told you I would become an egg bore).


6 cups watermelon cut into 3/4" cubes. Drained
7 oz crumbled Feta (use the real Greek, sheep's milk Feta) 
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
salt/pepper to taste.

Put the watermelon and crumbled feta into a salad bowl. Whisk the lime juice and oil, add the mint and pour over the feta/watermelon. Toss (hands are best) gently until the melon is coated. Add the sunflower seeds. Toss again. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt/pepper as necessary.

I am going to become a big green egg bore!

After many years, we finally succumbed and bought a big green egg (a kind of kamado grill). The idea is that these large ceramic lined cookers will allow you to smoke/cook at pretty low temperature and get it rocking hot for pizza etc.
The thing arrived assembled (wrongly as it turns out), but being in the software business, I test and test, then test again! So no harm done.
I burnt it in by leaving it with charcoal all day at 350F. Didn't cook anything the first day. Then I made bread on it. Wow was that spectacular. Nothing like a charcoal/wood fire for bread cookery. And then more bread.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to do some meat. So I found the pickiest eaters I know (my next door neighbors). And invited them to be guinea pigs. Actually this happens quite often, so they now introduce themselves as Guinea and Pig!
The dinner was simple - steaks. So I hied me off to my local Costco - where they actually sell some USDA prime beef. There were some prime rib eyes (Costco does not seem to sell bone in beef though :-( ). They were 1 1/2" thick.
Did the obvious things. let 'em rest out of the fridge for a couple of hours - salted. Wiped dry then more salt/pepper.
Grill really hot - around 700f. I also had the gas grill next door with one burner lit so I could finish the cooking to a controlled temp. (125 for some 130 for others).
Unbelievably good. I am sold!
I promise not to become too boring about the egg. There are so many accessories, so much of a cult around it. I will not get sucked in......

Monday, July 9, 2012

Two in a bowl

We did a dinner from some very close friends on Friday the 6th. This was part of the cunning master plan to get them to move back here after they had been in the Arizona wilderness for 6 years.  I just hope it worked.
The first course was a pair of chilled soups (it was, after all really hot that day). One of the soups was the green goddess soup that we did a couple of years back. The other was a chilled cucumber soup whose recipe we weasled out of our next door neighbors. Of course the cucumber soup wasn't identical to the one they gave us, but it was pretty close - and tasted delicious. Why 2 in a bowl? Because when we poured the soups, we poured them at the same time so they divided the bowls in half.

Ingredients - cucumber soup

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped coarsely
1 cup buttermilk
8 oz sour cream (full fat)
3 oz cream cheese (full fat)
3 small hot chile peppers - minced finely (red peppers, to taste. Because of all the dairy you may need more)
some finely chopped dill
salt/pepper to taste


Place the cucumbers, buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese and chile peppers into the blender and blend for a couple of minutes - until very smooth indeed. Note the blender does a better job than the food processor. Adjust the heat by blending in more chiles if desired. Adjust the seasoning. Chill for at least an hour - preferably 2 in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, stir in finely chopped dill. Serve in ice cold bowls.