Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe- Multitasking with Lemon, Ginger, and Chocolate

The other day I heard about this ginger, coconut milk, chocolate drink from my friend Ashley.  She'd had it in Asheville, NC and I thought, what better place to make that than here in Dominica where every ingredient can be local?   At the same time I was requested to make ginger lemonade.  I had to sweeten both drinks with a little something and since they both were to be flavored with ginger I thought- why not make some candied ginger and use the syrup?  I don't know quite where the sugar I used came from (although from the infamous past with sugar down here I could be fairly certain it is at least regional (the sugar is nice, it is processed very little and has a rich molasses taste) but everything else came from either the woods by beach or the farmer's market.

Candied Ginger

Take a few roots of the freshest ginger you can find (here it is is usually straight out of the dirt- I thought for the longest time that when ginger was woody it was just from an older plant.  I think I am coming to realize that it is has been sitting around longer above ground and more dried out- or maybe both are correct.  Either way, if the skin looks really thin and pale (almost watery) and when you break off a piece you don't see any tough fibers then you have the perfect hunk of candying ginger).  Peel the ginger with either a knife or a peeler- if it is rather twisty it is actually easier to use a paring knife.  Cut the ginger either into thinish slices or 1/4 inch chunks (I cut mine into chunks).  Dissolve sugar into an equal amount of water (I used a cup of each for about a cup of ginger- you want to ginger to be submerged but no more than that).  To dissolve the sugar heat over low heat- stirring.  If the water boils before the sugar is dissolved you are in big trouble so don't let that happen.  Once the sugar is dissolved add the ginger and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bubbles have turned from big to very fine and in little clusters.  If you get a little of the syrup on a spoon and let it drip off the drip should hang for a second in a nice syrup string.  Or you can drop a little bit into a cup of cold water.  If it forms into a ball when you move it around with your finger it is ready.  Don't stir too much now because the sugar will start to crystallize- you want it to stay a thick syrup.  Now you can either just leave the ginger in the syrup until you are ready to use it (it should get very thick as it cools) or do what I did.  I scooped all the ginger pieces out with a fork and tossed them in sugar and let them dry on a paper bag.  I saved the syrup (I watered it down a teeny bit) for...


There are these really great lemons here that are as big as oranges and look like they have some kind or horrible bumpy skin condition.  They look so funky and I was surprised when the farmer said it was a lemon.  I bought them and took them home and it's the honest truth- it really is a lemon...  I had also bought some sub-par tangerines (they are usually very juicy, sweet and seedy but these were just seedy and rather dry- not good for eating but the juice was very nice) and thought they would be good in this juice to add a little sweetness without sugar.

Squeeze three lemons and two tangerines.  Mix with water until it tastes right to you (I mixed it with about four cups of water)  Sweeten with ginger syrup to taste (it is always a little surprising how much sweet you need to make lemons less shockingly sour.  If you feel like you have used enough sugar but it's still not sweet enough, switch to honey). Serve over ice.  Don't forget to save a little of the ginger syrup for....

Chocolate Coconut Ginger Milk

At the market here you can buy sticks of chocolate- or coco, as they call it.  It is made simply from pounded cacao seeds that have been fermented, dried, and roasted.  I had a few pods awhile ago but just went as far as to get the nibs out and roast them (I made a coconut ginger coco nib candy- but although that sounds the same as this story, it's not).  Here all of it is just shaped into logs with no added sugar or other flavoring.   It is pretty astringent and the coco logs are very coarse but it works perfectly for an extremely stimulating cup of hot chocolate.   I recently found a man in the market who sells coco logs and vanilla.  There are a lot of women who have little bags of their hand ground coco but this was the first vanilla I've seen.  I used the seeds from my first bean in sugar cookies and threw the pod in a bottle of rum to be used later.... 

I make coconut milk myself from coconuts we gather down at the beach (either ones already on the ground or knocked down from the trees)-  that is also another story and I will tell it again sometime because since I last told it I have developed a new method (much easier of course)

- Two cups fresh coconut milk
- One cup finely grated unsweetened coco
- Half a cup of boiling water
- Ginger syrup

You can cook the coco in the coconut milk but I prefer to just steep it in the boiling water til cool (to melt the chocolate) to avoid the possibility of the milk curdling.   Whisk the two together and add syrup to taste.  It should be fairly sweet just from the coconut milk.  If it is sweet enough but you want more ginger, just grate a bit of fresh ginger into the mixture.  Be careful though- ginger is very strong and you don't want to be accused, as I have, of using it medicinally in everything (that means I overdo it)...  If you serve this right away it is fine just as it is.  If you prefer to chill it (I do) then put it in the blender before serving.  This breaks up any solidified coconut fat and also makes this amazing frothy head on the milk.  Serve as an afternoon pick-me-up or as a special treat at night if you are planning on staying up awhile.

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