Dec 20, 2017

The Ginger Jar

Antique 19th Century Chinese Ginger Jar
The jade green glazed ginger jar shown above was originally made in the Chinese Guangdong province, and was used to store food supplies like salt, herbs, oil and ginger (rare spices at that time). Hexagonal in form, with 6 floral panels; the Shiwan lead green glaze ranged from forest green to light teal.

What I find most interesting is that these ‘1-pound’ terra cotta jars were also used by migrant Chinese workers as the working-man's lunchbox while building the Canadian Pacific Railway and working the gold fields in British Columbia during the 1880s. Most of the first Chinese immigrants coming to Hawaii arrived in the mid-to-late 19th century, when 46,000 people immigrated to the islands to work as laborers on sugarcane plantations. I suppose it is possible that this ginger jar came with them.

I purchased this beautiful jar at a rummage sale here on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i for $3.

Crystallized Ginger
Crystalized Ginger
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Have you ever wondered why the Chinese and Japanese frequently add ginger to their food? It helps digestion, facilitates absorption, helps with flatulence, and helps prevent nausea. A delicious way to enjoy ginger is to crystallize it. You can buy ginger already crystallized, but it can be hard to find, and is sometimes expensive. I like to make my own, it's very easy to do, here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra sugar for coating
1 cup fresh young ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

Combine water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ginger, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer ginger to a wire rack, set over a pan, and dehydrate in a very low 170˚F convection oven for 1 hour, or dehydrator until dry, and then cut into smaller 1/4 inch pieces. Roll the small pieces of ginger in additional sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to three months. Use in recipes, or just pop a couple of pieces in your mouth every day.

Honey & Spice Oranges
This simple recipe makes a refreshingly delicious, and elegant light dessert after a heavy meal. The crystallized ginger adds a hot tropical flavor mixed with the honey and vanilla.

6 large Navel oranges, peeled and sliced into sections
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 teaspoons crystallized ginger, minced very fine
6 mint sprigs for garnish

Peel the oranges and slice sections into a bowl. Combine the honey with the vanilla and drizzle over the orange sections. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Serve in martini glasses, sprinkled with crystallized ginger, then garnish with mint sprigs and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Dec 15, 2017

A Show Stopper Holiday Dessert!

Star Fruit Upside-Down Cake
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Star Fruit Upside-Down Cake
This recipe is a show stopper during the holiday season, and is a nice change from pineapple upside-down cake. Star fruit are easy to find here in Hawaii, especially in the winter when they're usually available in farmers markets. Not only are they beautiful and delicious, but they are packed with antioxidants, potassium and Vitamin C, which can help ward off winter colds and flu. They are also a good source of fiber with only about 30 calories per fruit.

While this cake looks heavy like a fruit cake, it really isn't. The starfruit has a distinctive sweet flavor, and adds visually to the presentation. The cake is very light with a slight citrus flavor due to the lime zest and juice added.

Fresh Star Fruit
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1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 to 6 star fruit, depending on how large they are
   (I usually buy a couple extra just in case)
1/2 cup pecan halves
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rinse the star fruit. Holding the fruit in the palm of your hand, using a potato peeler, remove the tip of the five ridges (or “star points”), discarding the brownish outer edge. Trim off the ends of the star fruit and discard. Slice the fruit about 1/4 inch-thick. Repeat this process until you have enough stars to cover the top of the cake.

Using the tip of your knife, remove and discard any seeds you find in the sliced stars.

Melt butter in a 8-inch, cast-iron skillet (or high sided cake pan) on medium heat (watch carefully so the butter doesn't burn). Remove from burner. Evenly sprinkle in the dark brown sugar mashing lumps with a fork. Arrange the star fruit slices on top of the sugar, fill in spaces between stars with pecans halves (remember to turn the pecan halves so the top of each half faces down).

In large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk and oil. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Add egg, lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla. Beat just until well combined.

Carefully pour batter evenly over star fruit in skillet. Bake in preheated 350˚F oven until tester (toothpick) inserted into centre of cake comes out clean and top of cake is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

This is the hard part, have a serving plate ready as this hot cake needs to be inverted onto it the minute it leaves the oven, otherwise the fruit and nuts may stick to the bottom of the skillet. Simply turn the serving plate upside-down on top of the cake pan. Then hold onto both with a kitchen towel and give it a shake so the cake releases onto the plate. carefully lift the skillet strait up. If any of the fruit or nuts stick to the bottom of the skillet, don't panic, carefully slip a fork under the runaways and press them back on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Dec 7, 2017

Santa's Favorite Christmas Cookie

I have tried hundreds of Christmas cookies over the years and I have to say that this cookie would be the one that I would leave for Santa, with a big glass of milk. The combination of spices in this recipe makes for a taste that your family and friends will always remember. Ginger bread and ginger snaps all wrapped up in one!

Ginger & Spice Cookies
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Ginger & Spice Cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Combine the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy for 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses. Sift the flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt together into a bowl. Add the butter mixture, beating just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a pie plate. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls then roll in the sugar to coat. Arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets and sprinkle the tops of the cookie dough with a little more sugar. bake until cracked and dry but still soft, about 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cool on wire racks.

Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.