Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Spoonful of Ginger

A Spoonful of Ginger : Irresistible Health-Giving Recipes from Asian Kitchens has been a wonderful resource in my kitchen for years. I first came across it years ago on my first trip to Seattle and...more first trip to Sur La Table. The book is a winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award. I've mentioned it many times over at Once Upon a Feast and shared a number of recipes (I'll link to some of them at the bottom of this post), but I realized today that I haven't ever really explained why I love it so much.

First, the photos are stunning...beautiful presentations of the dishes and lovely snapshots to accompany the stories that are peppered throughout the book. The photos and, frankly the word "Ginger" on the cover captured my attention. Ginger is one of my favorite seasonings. I never realized how good it was for me until the book. I just lived blindly enjoying it in every form. Best chocolate gift anyone can get me...dark chocolate covered candied ginger!

But I digress. The book is filled with healthful Asian recipes. In fact, the subtitle is "Irresistible, health-giving recipes from Asian kitchens". Apparently the inspiration for the book came when on a trip to Taipei. Nina had a stomachache and consulted a doctor who was trained in both Chinese and Western medicines. His diagnosis...her diet was out of balance...but she tells the story better than I. There's actually a short section that helps you figure out whether you're Yin or Yang. Suffice to say she needed more "Yang" with heat...and the rest is ...frankly...magic and one of my very favorite books.

There is a very helpful guide for those not familiar with Asian, preparation, presentation and menu ideas, plus a chapter called "The Kitchen Clinic and Herbal Tonics".

But for's all about the glorious dishes and her example:

Scallion Ginger Rice (I love it with the Chile Chicken with Cashews)
Intro remarks:
"Drawing inspiration from Cantonese cooks, who make a famous scallion-ginger noodle dish, I do the same with rice. This is delicious as an accompaniment to grilled, steamed, or stir-fried seafood. The rice is stir-fried until it's just heated through. Add a simple stir fried or steamed green vegetable and you have a veritable feast"
And after every recipe there's a little yin/yang symbol to let you know where the dish lies on the cool/hot spectrum. This dish...
"Rice is normally a neutral food, but with the addition of scallions and fresh ginger, the overall effect is warming."

The chapters are traditional in presentation...soups, seafood, poultry, meat, vegetables, soybeans & tofu, sweet flavors and a more unusual chapter that combines rice, breads and noodles. But every recipe has some interesting notation. It is an exceptional book that's filled with easy to make and easy to adapt recipes. Here's a couple of my favorite takes:

Ginger & Black Mushroom Soup

(check out her absolutely fabulous chicken broth at the bottom of the post)

Ginger Beef with Crispy Noodles

and my latest adaptation: Shrimp, Chinese Sausages & Shitake Stir Fry

If you want a taste of how awesome Nina Simonds is...check out her website
It's a wonderful resource.

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