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Ask Kirstin: Choosing Asparagus; Making Fresh Ginger Tea

asparagus

What is better, thick or thin asparagus? — Anandita S.

Both are best, it all depends on your own personal preferences. Do however get the freshest you can, as they lose their sweetness and start to toughen up after a few days. Pick the bunch whose tips (the tips become flowers if they are left on the plant) are still tightly budded, dry and not mushy. Asparagus should smell green and grassy, not like a wet dog (yup that is how the bad ones smell). And look at the stems, they should be plump without wrinkles and no yellowing.

When you get them home store them in the fridge like the flowers they are, in a vase with a little water at the bottom. Once you are ready to cook them snap off the bottoms, they will snap easily at the point they stop being fibrous. If they are very thick, peel the bottom with a vegetable peeler.

If you have kept the asparagus a little too long and need to restore their sweetness let them soak for an hour in ice-water with a teaspoon of sugar per cup of water.

Next time you see white or purple asparagus, give them a try as well. The white ones need to be treated gently, make sure they are completely fresh, they need to be peeled, then steam them and serve them simply with a little brown butter… they must be eaten with your hands, no forks allowed.

The purple ones are a treat, they have little or no fibers to toughen them and are beautiful raw in salads. Cooked they become green but are still perfectly delicious.

 

I sent my boyfriend to the grocery store to buy fresh ginger and he came home with a gigantic root, enough for a year! Can I freeze it whole? — L.T.

That is a pretty funny image. How did he fit it through the door? Yes absolutely, it actually becomes easier to grate when it is frozen. The flavor stays the same, the texture becomes a little odd and mushy, but it is not something you will notice if you are using it chopped or grated. So wrap it tightly and be happy that you have fresh ginger for stir-fries…and tea in the freezer for months.

Here’s a recipe for ginger tea. This feels like drinking the sun, bright, warm and awakening. Ginger tea has been used as a remedy against colds, nausea and indigestion for 1000′s of years.

You need

4 cups of water
2-inch fresh ginger piece unpeeled
A lemon slice and honey (optional, but honey is good for sore throats)

To make four cups

Slice the ginger. Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Add the slices of ginger into the boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the tea into cups, and add lemon and honey to taste. This is also great served icy on a hot summer day.

 

Baking recipes often call for “room temperature” eggs and butter, is that really necessary ? — Karl. C

Yup, when it comes to baking usually the recipe is the law, if you don’t follow it, you might be punished gravely. You know that time you made a cake batter and it ended up looking curdled, but you baked it anyway and the cake was short, doughy with holes in it? That was because your cold eggs did not emulsify with your cold butter. On the other hand when the recipe calls for cold butter (say for pie dough) it is serious about that as well, so listen to what your baking recipes say, usually they are pretty wise.

Cook’s tip: If you can’t bear to wait the hour it takes for butter and eggs to come to room temperature, cut butter into small pieces and then place in a bowl wrapped in a warm damp kitchen towel until soft. Or, place on a plate and microwave at 10 percent power for 1 minute, check, then continue to microwave until it is soft. To warm eggs just put them into a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes.

 

Want to “Ask Kirstin” for help in the kitchen? Send your questions to kirstin@thefamilydinnerbook.com. And check out the “Ask Kirstin” Archive.

 

 

Join the Discussion

  • http://www.kitchenssimply.co.uk/ Kitchen cabinets

    Great cooking tips. I definitely try this ginger tea. Hope that i get asparagus as well nearest to my town.

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