Showing posts with label ginger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ginger. Show all posts

Friday, November 3, 2017

Scallops with Ginger and Lemon Sauce

I may have mentioned that our town has acquired a new restaurant, The Charred Oak Tavern, in the large space that used to be a cooperative antiques center. It’s smack in the middle of town—where the town sorely needed a new restaurant.

We’ve actually eaten there more than once since it opened in July, with and without guests, because it’s a restaurant that’s pitched exactly right for its customers. It has a large and well-stocked bar (no, that’s not the most important thing) and a menu that is not too fancy for walk-ins, even those with children, but the recipes are carefully chosen and well-prepared. A hamburger there is not just a hamburger—it’s one you will remember and come back for again.

That’s where I ran into this dish. I have to point out that we’re not that far from the ocean here, and fresh scallops are easy to get. What impressed me, though, was that the sauce was not too heavy-handed. If you put citrus and fresh ginger in a dish like this, they can easily overwhelm the delicate flavors of seafood. Not in this case: everything worked together in harmony.

So of course I had to try it. And maybe I’ll have to go back to the restaurant to make sure I got it right, don’t you think? I want to make sure they stick around!

Scallops with Ginger and Lemon Sauce


1 pound large sea scallops
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp peanut oil
2 small shallots, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp soy sauce
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 tsp water
1 tsp cornstarch


Pat the scallops dry with paper towels (otherwise they will not brown) and salt lightly. 

Chop the shallots and mince (or grate) the fresh ginger.

Heat the sesame oil and peanut oil in a cast-iron or similar heavy skillet over high heat. Saute the scallops quickly in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Before . . .

and after

Add the chopped shallots to the pan and saute briefly until soft. Then add the ginger, wine, lemon juice and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about three minutes. Taste and add the red pepper if you like and adjust for salt.

Combine the water and the cornstarch, then stir into the sauce. Cook just until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the scallops to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce.

Serve with rice or rice noodles.

Note: I’ve seen several recipes for this dish that used orange juice rather than lemon juice. I find the orange flavor kind of overwhelming. The lemon juice is tart, but the scallops are a bit sweet, so they balance each other nicely.

In case I haven’t yelled it often enough, next Tuesday is the release day for the eleventh Orchard Mystery, A Late Frost. In honor of that I’m offering a copy of the book to one lucky person who comments—and tells me whether you like scallops.

In A Late Frost, the usually quiet town of Granford, Massachusetts, is even drowsier during the colder months. But this year it’s in for a jolt when Monica Whitman moves into town.

She’s a dynamo who wants to make friends fast in her new home, and she throws herself into community activities. She’s already sold the town board on a new, fun way to bring in visitors during the off-season: WinterFare, which will feature local foods (such as Meg’s apples) and crafts, as well as entertainment. 

Tragically, Monica falls ill and dies after the event in what looks like a case of food poisoning. When all the food served at WinterFare has been tested, including Meg’s apples, it becomes clear that there’s a more complicated explanation to the older woman’s sudden demise. 

Heirloom apples from my own
trees (and yes, they're supposed
to look blotchy like that!)
Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, September 22, 2017

How We Cook and Apple Ginger Cake

So I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to pry my eyes open and reading the paper, when I stumbled on a foodie article by Janelle Nanosin in the Boston Globe. Mainly it was about millennials and cookware, but she also commented on how millennials look at food and how they prepare it. What caught my eye was her statement, "The species [i.e., millennials] shop at Whole Foods and order meal kits from Blue Apron, scan for recipe ideas, and then document dishes on social media." 

We here at MLK probably have well over a century of cooking experience among us. I shop at Whole Foods when I'm near one, but I've never ordered a meal kit from anywhere, nor had I ever heard of (Okay, we do all talk about food on social media.) I'm more likely to look for ideas on Epicurious, which in comparison to Food52 seems kind of stodgy.

So I took a peek at Food52. Oh my--they promise nearly 3,000 apple recipes. The recipes overall are a bit edgier than those on Epicurious, with a broader range of ingredients and more foreign dishes. They certainly look interesting, but . . .  What? Are we stuck in the past with our mothers' cookbooks (guilty as charged--I've been known to give you recipes here that are a couple of centuries old)? Not that I'm against trying new ingredients and ways to combine them, but there were a few examples of Food52 that kind of pushed my limits. Polenta with sausage and apples? Quinoa salad with hazelnuts, apples and cranberries? Definitely a lot of creativity here, but I'm not sure I want to make them (I might try one if I saw it on a restaurant menu, though).

But my apple crop is at its peak and we're eating as many as we can straight off the tree, so I found a cake recipe that combines apples and ginger (powdered and fresh), both favorites. And of course I changed a few things, starting with the apple varieties. The original recipe called for a hearty dose of dark rum, which I don't happen to have, so I swapped in Irish whiskey.

The result? The cake worked (came out of the pan easily), and has a nice balance of flavors. I loved the buried layer of apples which peek out. It's a little more complicated than some apple cake recipes, but it's a bit more interesting. 

Apple Ginger Cake

3 large firm apples (or four smaller ones)

4 Tblsp turbinado sugar*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for 
     greasing the pan and sauteeing the apples

*A note about turbinado sugar: it’s raw sugar made from pure cane sugar extract. You can substitute demerara sugar, which is easier to find in markets–that's basically the same but with coarser but more uniform crystals.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (if you know yours leaks, wrap the bottom outside with foil).

Core and peel the apples and cut into thin slices. Melt about 2 Tblsp of butter in a saucepan and cook until it begins to brown. Add the apple slices to the pan and stir until all the slices are covered with butter. 

Sprinkle about 2 Tblsp of turbinado sugar over the apples and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tblsp lemon zest (1 medium lemon)
1 Tblsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp molasses
3 Tblsp Irish whiskey
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yoghurt

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Dry ingredients in my vintage sifter

In a stand mixer with the paddle blade, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the two eggs and beat. Then add the lemon zest, ground ginger, molasses, whiskey and vanilla (the mixture may look curdled, but don’t worry).

By hand, stir in the flour mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition. When the batter is smooth, fold in the milk and the yoghurt and combine thoroughly.

Scrape half the batter into the buttered pan. Cover with the apple slices, then spread the rest of the batter over the top. Smooth the top, then sprinkle with the rest of the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a racks, and run a knife around the edge to loosen. The open the springform ring and remove the cake. Let it cool on the rack. 

You can serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Less than two months until the release of A Late Frost! (Yes, the cover image looks just like my apple crop--well, almost.)

Available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Recipe from the Countess of Dudley

Not long ago I stumbled upon an old episode of Downton Abbey--the one where Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson return from their honeymoon, and the Family descends to the kitchens to welcome them home. The Dowager Dutchess (the magnificent Maggie Smith) says, "I don't think I've been to the kitchen in twenty years."

I think I've found the cookbook to go with that. When I was at the Skibbereen Farmers Market, I stopped by the booth of my favorite antiques dealer and came upon a marvelous cookbook: The Dudley Book of Cookery and Household Recipes, published in 1909 in London, and "Collected and Arranged by Georgiana, Countess of Dudley." You will notice that the title does not mention that the Countess actually cooked any of the recipes. In any case, it makes for delightful reading--and to modern cooks, it's unintentionally funny.

The lovely Georgina,
Countess of Dudley

The page the cookbook most often falls open to offers us the recipe "Leg of Mutton of Seven Hours," and it includes these useful instructions:

Choose a leg of mutton which has a short knuckle bone, leave it some days to tender (when killed with the wind in the north it preserves better) then take out the bone of the mutton to the knuckle bone and lard it inside in the way hams are larded with truffles, peppercorns and two anchovies..." After you've tied it up and braised it, "cover it with some slices of veal and the carcasses and remains of chickens. Sprinkle the whole with half a glass of dry white wine and an equal quantity of good hanillan [a substance that Google doesn't recognize]. After it is cooked (seven hours), and it ought to take place on a small fire, you untie and dress it on a large dish. Stewed lettuces should be served with it.

I shall not demonstrate this dish for your benefit, delightful though it sounds. Nor shall I offer the details of how to make Boiled Cheese or Oatmeal Ice Cream, or how to preserve eggs in water glass. Nor will I regale you with instructions for removing the taste of turnips from butter, or how to boil plovers' eggs (seen any plovers lately?). 

I had to search for a simple recipe suitable for viewing Downton Abbey reruns. There is, I am happy to report, an ample supply of sweets recipes of many sorts. Luckily most (but not all) are recognizable. I considered making Fadge because I love the name, but was a bit put off by the first instruction: "take eleven pounds of wheatmeal..." Add 2 ounces (?!) of butter, warm water, and a whole lot of baking powders. Sounds inedible.

Moving right along, I came upon Ginger Nuts, a kind of cookie, I gather. Two recipes, in fact: one a drop cookie, one rolled. The simpler of the two is called Mountblaisy Ginger Nuts [once again, Google failed me with Mountblaisy. Person? Place? We may never know. The only reference was a citation of this recipe-verbatim--in an Australian newspaper from 1945. Without attribution.]

Mountblaisy Ginger Nuts


1 pound flour

1/2 pound syrup
1 quarter pound butter
2 oz ground ginger
1/4 pound sugar


Note: this and all the other recipes in this book assume a familiarity with just about any cooking procedure, for the author does not bother with pesky details.

Mix together the above ingredients.

Moisten the mixture with milk [it took about half a cup].

Drop them on a baking sheet , and bake for 20 minutes (actually 17 minutes worked better).

Ready to bake
More questions than answers, alas:

--let us assume white flour

--salted or unsalted butter? (I'm going with salted, since there is none added later.)

--what the heck is syrup? (the recipe for the rolled version suggests 3/4 pound of golden syrup.) Golden syrup is also called light treacle (not the gooey black stuff), and it's not just sugar syrup--there's some complicated process involved. I've had some, but it seems mysteriously to have vanished (how could I possibly use up a tin of golden syrup?). But since these are ginger cookies, I will trust that treacle (which I do have, and which is created by a similar process) will suffice.

--Grease the baking sheet? I cheated and used parchment paper.

--No mention of oven temperature. I'm going to guess 350 degrees (the recipe for the rolled version recommends a "moderate" oven.)

And here we are:

I see now why they are called "nuts." I used a tablespoon for each, and they didn't change shape in the cooking, but the dough was stiff. I will guess that they last well. How do they taste? Not bad, but I should warn you that there's a lot of ginger in them, so they're spicy.

I might try the rolled version next. Or maybe scones, for which there are eight recipes. Tea, anyone?

And for a change of pace, Level Best Books has released an anthology of cooking-related short stories (including one of mine).

Noir at the Salad Bar, Culinary Tales with a Bite is a crime fiction anthology featuring gastronomic mysteries, dark and varied tales with a common theme of food and drink--and murder. The contributing writers represent a mix of bestselling authors, brand new voices, and seasoned professionals from the crime writing community. Bon Appétit! 

Find it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ginger Syrup Cookies

A few weeks ago I came up with a recipe for ginger lemonade, and I think for me it’s going to be a summer staple. If summer ever arrives, that is--my heat's still on.

I seemed to recall having a bottle of ginger syrup lurking in my pantry closet, but I couldn’t find it when I was making that recipe, so I gave directions for making it. It’s not hard, but it does take a bit of time and planning (and I hate peeling ginger).

But because temperatures where I live have been hovering around 50 degrees (yes, I know it’s June), I started thinking about making ginger cookies—but not the traditional molasses-based ones. I wanted all ginger! And guess what? That missing bottle of ginger syrup miraculously reappeared! An omen! (Of course I hurried to order more, before I forgot the name.) Then I hunted down a recipe, improvised a bit, and voila! Ginger cookies.


1 cup unsalted butter at room 
temperature1 cup sugar
1/2 cup ginger syrup
3-1/2 cups unbleached flour
2-1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
sugar for decorating (demerara sugar gives a nice crunch)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until they're light. Beat in the syrup. 

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add to the butter-sugar mixture and combine.

Add the eggs and beat. (Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.)

Using a tablespoon (I have a soup spoon that was my grandmother’s, which is the perfect size), scoop the dough into balls (about 1-1/2 inch in diameter). Roll in sugar.

Rolled in sugar
Place on the baking sheets, about 2-1/2 inches apart (they will spread a bit).

Bake for 10 minutes (they will still be soft and puffy). Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for about 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to finish cooling.

The recipe makes a lot of cookies--between 3 and 4 dozen. You could cut it down or share with neighbors!

The results? These are delightfully moist and chewy, and a bit lighter than the molasses variety. And they smell wonderful!

Books? You want books? Nothing new coming until November (A Late Frost, Orchard Mystery #11). But 2018 promises to be very busy, with a new County Cork Mystery in January (Many a Twist), a new series beginning in June, a new Relatively Dead mystery in the spring, and a new Orchard Mystery in the fall. Yikes! I'm exhausted just looking at the list.

They will be joining their friends:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ginger Lemonade

Recently I was at a bookstore with a nice café for a signing. Since I was supposed to read something and I was thirsty, I ordered a cold drink. I was in a daring mood and asked for a ginger lemonade, which I’d never tried. And I really liked it!

I’m trying to find alternatives to caffeinated drinks—I confess that I love coffee and tea and various forms of iced tea, but that can add up to a lot of caffeine. But I haven’t been impressed by the non-caffeine commercial varieties of drinks. This, however, fit the bill nicely.

So I went looking for recipes for ginger lemonade. (I admit that you can always go the easy route: buy a gallon plastic jug of supermarket lemonade and a bottle of ginger syrup (if you can find or order one), mix and pour over ice. Done.) But where’s the fun of that? And how many preservatives come along for the ride? Ginger lemonade is pretty simple to make.

I was surprised to find a range of possible recipes online, and no two were the same. although they all boil down (a pun!) to making some sort of ginger/lemon syrup.

Variations include: how to deal with the ginger (slice or grate), what ratio of lemon juice to water to use, whether or not to include lemon peel, and what kind of sweetener to use and how much. But no matter how you make it, it makes a great drink for a hot day. Me, I opted for simple (I hate to grate anything—I’m always sure I’ll grate my fingers).

Ginger Lemonade


That thing in the middle is my lemon squeezer
6 cups water
1-1/4 cup sugar
2 ounces of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
     (you should have about 1/3 cup of slices)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (three large lemons)

Sliced ginger


Steeped ginger and sugar
Combine one cup of water, the sugar and the sliced ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool (the longer it sits, the more intense the ginger flavor).

Juice from three lemons
Strain the mixture through a sieve into a pitcher. Add the remaining 5 cups of water and the lemon juice and stir. Serve over ice.

I was happy with the results. It might taste a bit sweet to some people at first, but if you add ice it will get diluted. I thought the juice:water ratio was just right. Feel free to experiment, especially on hot summer days!

One interesting point: I have a lot of vintage cookbooks, so I went looking in them to see if there was a ginger lemonade recipe from the past. I couldn’t find one. There are plenty of gingerbread or ginger cookie recipes, going back centuries, but nothing using fresh ginger. And then it hit me: it probably wasn’t available. Powdered ginger is easy to make and ship, but most ginger grows in exotic and distance places, and the fresh kind wouldn’t last over a long ocean voyage. So oddly enough, ginger lemonade seems to be a relatively modern recipe.

A note to my readers: I will be attending the Malice Domestic mystery conference in Maryland for a few days, along with many of my writer friends. If I don't respond to your comments immediately, that's my excuse! But I will read them when I return, I promise!

And if you're looking for summer reading and it's hot, try my County Cork series--the weather is pleasantly cool there all summer. The most recent book, Cruel Winter, takes place during a snowstorm!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pear and Ginger Crumble

What, no cake? Well, it's still a dessert. One must be careful of withdrawal symptoms.

I found this recipe in a recent newspaper, and immediately I started tweaking. Hmm, pears and ginger—that sounds promising. Kinda early in the year for juicy fresh pears, but whatever—there are plenty of pears in the market. I like ginger. I have plenty.

The original recipe called for chopped nuts. I'm not wild about nuts, and I didn't like the combination of nuts suggested with the pear and other flavors. Axe the nuts. I swapped in candied ginger, which I do like. Adds an interesting texture to the crumble on top.

The suggested oven setting of 375 degrees seemed a little high—the top gets brown long before the pears get soft. I cut it down to 350 degrees and baked it longer.

Pear-Ginger Crumble

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-square baking pan (or any pan which would hold the same amount—a ten-inch round pan would do).

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
5 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped into 1/4-inch bits

In a bowl, whisk the flour, granulated and brown sugars, salt, and nutmeg to blend them. Add the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the diced ginger and toss to combine.

Pear Filling

6 pears (enough to make about 
five cups of filling), peeled, quartered,
cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp honey
1 Tblsp grated fresh ginger

In a bowl, combine the pears, orange and lemon juices, honey, and ginger and toss. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the crumbs.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and the pears are tender. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sure and it's not Saint Paddy's day yet, but here at MLK we'll be havin' a guest on the day next week, and my book's comin' out on Tuesday next, so I'd better be offerin' the giveaway to yiz now. Tell me what's your favorite Irish dish in a comment (with your email, más é do thoil é--that'd be "please") and I'll be drawing the name of the lucky winner out of a hat!

"Move over, Agatha Christie: a pub owner in County Cork fancies herself a young Miss Marple... A fine read in the classic style."
Kirkus Reviews

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan's small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn't sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan's Pub. But now she's stranded in a bar full of patrons—and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder.

Maura's been in Ireland less than a year and hasn't heard about the decades-old unsolved crime that took place nearby, let alone the infamous suspect, Diane Caldwell. But the locals have, and they're not happy to be trapped with her. Diane, meanwhile, seeks to set the record straight, asserting her innocence after all this time. And since no one is going anywhere in the storm, Maura encourages Diane to share her side of the story, which she'd never had a chance to do in court.

Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan's reviews the facts and theories about the case—and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.