Thursday, October 19, 2017

Two problems + one solution = ginger snow

Problem #1 You bought more ginger than you needed (or the market made it difficult for you to tailor your purchase) and now it's lurking in your vege-lator all dried and shriveled . . . and/or moldy. 

Problem #2 You love ginger tea and a) you just ran out of your favorite teabags or b) you thought you had fresh ginger, but refer to Problem #1.

The solution:
Put the surplus ginger in the freezer while it's still plump and tight-skinned (ah, reminds me of sixth grade). You can peel or not. It's just a matter of aesthetics, not flavor.

When the ginger tea mood strikes, just grate the ginger on a Microplane into a mug. Add just-boiled water (and honey and lemon, perchance). Ginger tea. You can just drink the snowy ginger. 

And of course the finely grated ginger works in any recipe where you want ginger (though not if you're looking for the ginger to provide some kind of texture). Give the ginger snow about 2 seconds at room temperature and it melts into an absolutely superb, fiber-free ginger paste.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cake, Kuchen, Koek, Kake, Kolač, Cacen, Keke, Kage, Kuko*, Keyk

When my niece Emily was little, she couldn't manage my name (Kate) and instead called me Cake. In spite of the fact that I don't like actual cake (I wish I had been Aunt Pie or Aunt Lemon Square), I liked the moniker.

So, what's in the name? Where does the word cake come from. It has a connection to the Old Norse word kaka (phew, dodged a bullet with that linguistic evolution...unless you live in modernday Sweden). But I can't help but feel that somewhere, far up in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) branches there is a connection to the verb cook.**

I'm picturing early man, pre-fire, making a "batter" of ground up roots and water and eating it two-finger style (like poi).

Then, fire. Same mixture + hot stone = a cooked thing. Let's call it a cook....or koek or kaka.

Then, iron. Same mixture + hot pan = cook/koek/cake in a pan. Let's call it a pan cake.

Then, leaveners. Same mixture + leavener + hot pan = pan cake but taller

Now we've got the hang of it. Let's make a small version. Let's call it a cookie.

And now, let's bake that cookie not once but twice (because now we have an oven, yo). Let's call it a biscuit, biscotto, or zweiback.

Actually, near as I can tell (or near as the brains behind the OED can tell), the process went the other way around. The original cake was a hard little twice-cooked hockey puck suitable for nomads and other journeyers. (Oh, P.S., johnnycakes, journeycakes.) But I like my story better.

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*Esperanto. As in "Shut your kuko-hole."
**For you linguistic pedants out there, I am aware that the original connection to the Latin verb coquere has been discredited. But that brings me to one of the Latin words for cake, which is placenta.