Monday, April 2, 2007

Fun with Ginger and I Don't Mean Gilligan's Island

April 2

A few years ago a friend of mine offered ginger lemonade as an option for a lunch drink. Of course just the sound of it made us all choose it! She said Hilary had served it at book club -- everybody around here seems to be in a book club -- and since we all knew Hilary to be a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and sometime restaurant chef, it had the ring of success.

We all tried it at home, and it's become a staple at my parties for those who choose not to drink wine or mixed drinks. Something about that little kick of ginger at the end is reminiscent of an alcoholic slug.

It's easy to do and very useful to make for lots of occasions. I slice a knob of fresh ginger until I've got about a quarter of a cup and toss them into a pot of water, say, about four cups. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat and steep for as long as you like. All day is not too long. But if it's steeped for ten minutes or so, it's ginger tea and you can pour yourself a cup for a quick pick-me-up. (Add sugar and lemon to taste, or you could add a teabag.)

Make a simple syrup of half water, half sugar, by bringing the two together to a boil and removing from the heat.

Now juice about ten lemons. I have a juicer, which is a nice little appliance that makes this easier. This is not the big infomercial model. Any kind of reamer will do, but if you make a lot of lemonade or fresh orange juice -- and I recommend both -- it's a good small item to have.

When the ginger tea is cool and the simple syrup is cool, simply mix all the ingredients together to your taste. It will be roughly four parts ginger tea to one part lemon juice and 1/2 part sugar syrup. Taste all along the way, because some like it sweeter than others, some more lemony, etc. You get the idea. Don't make it weak because you are going to serve this over ice.

The mixture can also be made into a delicious granita by freezing to a soft slush, scraping with a fork into granules and returning briefly to the freezer. You may have to fork it again before serving. I've always thought this would be a dynamite-gourmet palate cleanser to serve mid-meal after a garlicky course and before the real dessert, but I don't know when I've ever had a dinner party like that.

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