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GOOD COOKING

Thinking Outside the Wok With Lively Fresh Ginger

It's not just for stir-fries. Try it in pancakes.

April 18, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Once relegated to stir-fries, fresh ginger has amazing versatility, adding pungent spice and punch to all sorts of dishes.

Just consider this quick-roasted ginger chicken: After a harried workday, rub the chicken (rinsed and blotted dry) with the cut side of the ginger (it should be a juicy piece), season generously with salt and pepper, toss several slices of unpeeled ginger into the cavity, place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan and pop it into a 400-degree oven for an hour. It's the base of a good dinner, and it's delicious in leftover chicken salad or sandwiches.

In these simple recipes, ginger adds a spicy, peppery accent that can't be duplicated by any other ingredient. Always available in produce sections, ginger root has a knobby appearance and tan skin. It should feel firm to the touch, without a wrinkled or dry-looking surface, and have a fresh, spicy fragrance. Buy judiciously (it's easy enough to snap off a knob if that's all you need), as it keeps only a week despite all the methods often prescribed. Store it, unwrapped, in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.

Creamy Cucumber Slices With Ginger

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 4 hours chilling

1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup light sour cream

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced ginger root

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 pickling cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced

Combine the onion, sour cream, vinegar, ginger, sugar, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl until well blended. Add the cucumbers. Stir until combined. Cover airtight and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.

To serve, toss the salad until well mixed. Drain off any excess liquid. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve chilled.

3 to 4 servings. Each of 4 servings: 69 calories; 309 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.81 gram fiber.

Ginger Chili Cocktail Sauce

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus 30 minutes chilling

This sauce is great with shrimp, served cold or stir-fried. Use it also as a sauce with grilled fish or as a sandwich spread with chicken, pork and grilled vegetables.

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons red chile oil

1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon snipped chives

Combine the mayonnaise, chile oil, chili sauce, ginger and chives in a small dish. (This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight.) Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes; serve chilled.

12 to 16 servings. Each of 16 servings: 30 calories; 85 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

Ginger Oatmeal Pancakes

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes

These pancakes are also great with currants, chopped walnuts or apples stirred into the batter.

1 1/4 cups buttermilk, shaken well

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

2 teaspoons molasses

1 egg

1 cup cake flour

1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Butter, for cooking

Warm maple syrup, for serving

Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, ginger, molasses and egg in a bowl until well combined.

Combine the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl, then pour it into the buttermilk mixture. Stir just until smooth. (The batter can be cooked immediately or refrigerated overnight. Stir before using. If the batter is too thick, stir in the buttermilk or water until desired consistency.)

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. When it's hot, lightly coat the surface with butter. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle in 3-inch rounds. Cook until the pancakes bubble and brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to turn cakes to brown the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes more. (These can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven while remaining pancakes are cooked.) Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve hot with warm maple syrup passed separately.

3 to 4 servings. Each of 4 servings: 310 calories; 598 mg sodium; 70 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 46 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 2.67 grams fiber.

*

Mandel is a cookbook author.

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