Ginger (Recipe: ginger catfish)
Benjamin Moore CC-274.
Sherwin-Williams 6363. (Or 7157, if you want something more like gingerbread.)
Ginger -- the color you paint on your walls -- is hot.
And ginger -- the aromatic rhizome you grate or shred or pickle -- is hot, too. In fact, it's been hot for more than 3,000 years.
Cultivated in southern India, Jamaica, Fiji, Indonesia and China, and more recently in Australia, ginger (often called ginger root, though it's not a root) reportedly was a staple in the diet of Confucius, who, wise man that he was reputed to be, surely recognized ginger's properties as a healing food. Ginger tea helps alleviate symptoms of nausea, inflammation and gastrointestinal distress. Ginger also may provide a boost to the immune system.
On the culinary front, fresh ginger stars in the whole range of Asian cuisines, as well as the cooking of many Caribbean countries. (Dried powdered ginger, popular around the world in baked goods, is rarely used in these cuisines except for Indian masalas.) Look for rhizomes that are firm, plump, and heavy; inside, the flesh should be yellow, and not stringy. When the rhizome is young, you don't need to peel it. When you do peel, use a sharp paring knife or the edge of a spoon.
Called a hand, a large rhizome is broken down into fingers, though I've never written a recipe that calls for a finger! Usually recipes list the amount of ginger required in a variety of ways -- a two-inch piece, or a disk the size of a nickel. After all, how can you measure something that is gnarly and knobby and inconsistent?
Ginger keeps well in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for a week or more. If I think I'll have leftover ginger, I prefer to make and freeze ginger juice, rather than freezing the rhizomes.
Try fresh ginger with kale, bananas, beef, sea bass, chicken, carrots, shrimp, nectarines, sweet potatoes, sorbet and chocolate. Wash it all down with lemonade. Just as the color enhances any decor, ginger livens up most any food.
My dear friend Laura goes to yard sales every Saturday. Every so often, when I am very lucky, she appears at my door with cookbooks found on her rounds. Last week, much to my delight, she snagged a copy of The Elephant Walk Cookbook, by Longteine de Monteiro, who owned a restaurant of the same name in Boston, and Katherine Neustadt. The Elephant Walk was the first American fine-dining restaurant to highlight the cuisine of Cambodia, and it was an instant favorite from the day it opened. This recipe serves 4.
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups peeled, julienned ginger (about 1/2 lb)
1-1/2 lbs catfish fillets, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
3-1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp mushroom soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 bunch scallions, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until brown and crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the fish, stir gently until thoroughly mixed with the ginger, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt, and stir well. Stir in the onion and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the red pepper and scallions and cook for another 2 minutes, then serve.