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Things To Make Cooking Easier, I'll start with fresh ginger...

Caroline1 Jan 24, 2011 07:37 PM

As I was whipping up some chicken teriyaki tonight (I'm addicted!), it occurred to me that it might be worth sharing how I keep fresh ginger fresh and at the ready for instant use, no waste. When I get it home, I wash it, trim off any particularly ugly parts, then slip it into a zip lock freezer bag and tuck it in the freezer. As I need fresh ginger, I microplane off as much as I need and stick the ginger back into the freezer for next time. So easy, no peeling required. If I need "ginger juice," there are two options: cut off a chunk and juice it with my garlic press, OR grate some into enough water to moisten. Either way works.

Got any kitchen tricks that work particularly well for you? Thanks!

  1. o
    oldunc Aug 23, 2011 07:56 AM

    I usually freeze some basil cubes in the summer, when it's basically free- run them through the blender with as little water as I can get away with and freeze in ice cube trays. This is far from ideal, but works at least as well as the alternatives- salt, oil, bought stuff in tubes, bought winter basil (which is badly overpriced, grown under poor conditions and inevitably bolted) or dried (completely useless). If you use plastic trays, they're the very devil to get clean.
    I love the tubed tomato paste- one of the tubes is a good 2 month supply for me- I pretty much just use it in small quantities in vegetable dishes and quick pan sauces.

    1. I used to know how to cook... Jan 26, 2011 10:17 AM

      Parsley - I rinse the whole bunch, cut off the bottom of the stems, put it in a jelly jar of water, cover it with a plastic bag and stash it in the fridge. Then, when I want to use it, I don't have to rinse and dry it. And it stays fresh for weeks. Parsley can also be minced ahead and frozen. I spread it out on a cookie sheet and after it's frozen I store it in a covered glass dish, in the freezer.

      Lasagna/manicotti - Assemble the dish using uncooked pasta. Directions are generally on the pasta box. Basically involves adding extra water to the tomato sauce. Saves the whole mess of boiling the pasta and keeping it from breaking during assembly. (Trader Joe's Marinara is another big time, mess and energy-saver in this department.)

      Lucy

      1. LindaWhit Jan 25, 2011 12:41 PM

        I just grate a good bit of the fresh ginger root (usually at least a half cup) and store it in a jar in the fridge with dry sherry covering it. When I'm almost done, the sherry gets used in stir-frys. The rest of the fingers of ginger gets wrapped in Saran Wrap and then stored in a freezer ziplock bag until I need it. OR I grate the entire thing and another container of pre-grated goes into the freezer.

        I roast garlic several heads at a time, squish it out of the paper coverings, and store it in Tupperware 2 Tbsp. "midget" containers. You can defrost part of it in the microwave, take out what you need if you're not using the entire 2 Tbsp., and refreeze.

        Leftover tomato paste (from cans) also go in those 2 Tbsp. Midget containers.

        My freezer door is filled with those little containers. :-)

        4 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit
          nomadchowwoman Jan 25, 2011 01:49 PM

          So many good tips in this thread!

          LW--Do you store those wrapped and ziplocked ginger fingers in the freezer?

          1. re: nomadchowwoman
            LindaWhit Jan 25, 2011 04:41 PM

            Yes. After defrosting, they grate just fine.

            1. re: nomadchowwoman
              darklyglimmer Jan 26, 2011 07:42 AM

              I actually grate my ginger frozen. It leads to a slightly more powdery end result, so I'm a bit more careful about measuring, but seems to work fine.

              1. re: darklyglimmer
                HillJ Jan 26, 2011 07:58 AM

                Did so this morning into a pot of soup and it worked great!

          2. g
            goodeatsgal Jan 25, 2011 11:40 AM

            Thanks for the tip. Question - when you microplane off the ginger, you also get the skin, don't you? Do you pick that out before using?

            4 Replies
            1. re: goodeatsgal
              darklyglimmer Jan 25, 2011 12:11 PM

              I asked a very similar question here not long ago after seeing a TV chef remark on how she never bothered peeling her ginger; the consensus on CH was that in big pieces, the peel would probably be a bit tough, but in small amounts it was unnoticeable. I haven't peeled my ginger since, fresh or frozen, and haven't noticed a difference.

              1. re: goodeatsgal
                Caroline1 Jan 25, 2011 12:30 PM

                I use the microplane zester for ginger. There’s no discernable peel in the results other than maybe an occasional darker fleck. I suppose if you used a ribbon microplane or something that produces larger results than the zester it might be a problem, but I truly doubt that. I’ve used peel-on sliced ginger in stir fries with no problem. The actual skin on ginger isn’t very thick or tough, though it sometimes has a rather fibrous layer under it.

                1. re: Caroline1
                  darklyglimmer Jan 26, 2011 07:49 AM

                  I use the microplane, as well.

                  1. re: darklyglimmer
                    nomadchowwoman Jan 26, 2011 03:57 PM

                    The microplane is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

              2. f
                fantasyjoker Jan 25, 2011 10:38 AM

                I really want to keep chopped garlic on hand since I go through so much of it, but is it safe? I remember reading something about not keeping chopped garlic in oil 'cause of botulism. Is this still true? Does it apply to chopped garlic that you put in a jar without oil to use it for the week? I feel so stupid sometimes <sigh>.

                BTW, I use the blender for ginger when I'm making my winter cold formula. I just chuck the whole thing in there with a little water.

                5 Replies
                1. re: fantasyjoker
                  l
                  LJS Jan 25, 2011 11:23 AM

                  Hope this garlic answer comes in, I need this info, too. I bought a jar of garlic for emergencies just the other day. And, danged if one of those garlic emergencies didn't come along the next week...opened a new bulb and it had gone all mouldy throughout.

                  So I turned to my little jar. The only thing was, it was not a good experience. I don't mean it was 'off''. It just did not smell good as it cooked up in the butter. I did not get my usual visits to the kitchen from family members keen to know what was cookin'.

                  So is there a solution to be found in a freezer store of frozen pre-smashed garlic? or should I just always buy 3 bulbs at a time?

                  1. re: LJS
                    darklyglimmer Jan 26, 2011 07:49 AM

                    Believe me, if there's a workable shortcut, I'll take it, but I've never found jarred garlic to be workable. Maybe in things like chili or stew, but not for sauteeing purposes. It just isn't the same.

                    See my post above about the frozen stuff; I buy mine at the store, but I don't see why you couldn't do it at home. Here's a page which covers the botulism issue as well as freezing:

                    http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/p...

                    1. re: darklyglimmer
                      f
                      fantasyjoker Jan 27, 2011 08:30 AM

                      The site you mentioned was informative, but it only sorta answered my question. So, storing garlic in oil for more than a week could possibly cause botulism. Okay, but what about garlic that you chop yourself and just store in a jar without oil? Cuz I'm thinking of just processing a head or two and then putting it in a mason jar in the fridge to use throughout a week or two.

                      I know that garlic has all these antifungal and antibacterial properties, so I just wanna be sure that it's not going to grow legs and walk out of my fridge because it's gone bad.
                      I wonder how native Italians store their garlic for quick use.

                      1. re: fantasyjoker
                        darklyglimmer Jan 27, 2011 09:19 AM

                        >what about garlic that you chop yourself and just store in a jar without oil?

                        No idea. As I've said, I'd stick it in the freezer, but I don't know if that would affect its non-culinary uses. It doesn't seem to affect the flavor, and frozen garlic sautees well.

                  2. re: fantasyjoker
                    t
                    TDEL Aug 23, 2011 04:17 AM

                    I like to freeze garlic already chopped. I blanched and peel it , whiz it in food processor with a little oil and salt, put it in container with a little oil on top and freeze, when I need some I just take a chunk of it, it's nice to have it all ready. I just finish doing all my garlic that I had growing, I'm ready for the winter.

                  3. alliegator Jan 25, 2011 10:28 AM

                    I cook a great deal of asian food. Chopping lemongrass is a huge pain! So I do it all at once, freeze it in this tiny ice cube tray for cocktail cubes with just enough water, and it's ready for a stir fry or marinade anytime.

                    1. meatn3 Jan 25, 2011 07:38 AM

                      I usually roast a big batch of mixed vegetable each week. During the week I choose the variety I need to add to quick soups, stuffed peppers, side dishes, burritos, anything!

                      I've also started to make my stock in a crock pot. The long simmer no longer requires me to be around. I can quickly reduce it at my convenience.

                      1. darklyglimmer Jan 25, 2011 07:36 AM

                        Frozen chopped garlic. Oh, the time saved, not to mention the fact that I loathe chopping garlic. I must admit, I buy mine, but I've read here on CH that you can do the same thing yourself; some users advocate a little vegetable oil to keep them separate, others just freeze. (The brand I buy, btw, is misted with just a bit of veg oil.)

                        I've been doing the ginger thing in the freezer as well -- works beautifully. When I remember/have time, I also freeze lemon zest.

                        1. k
                          Krislady Jan 25, 2011 02:10 AM

                          I have all sorts of interesting / weird stuff in my freezer.

                          I found these neat little ice cube trays with silicone bottoms - they hold about a tablespoon. I fill them with tomato paste (don't you hate opening a can of tomato paste for 1 tablespoon?) grated ginger (I do it all at once and freeze it already grated), pureed chopotles en adobo, lemon juice. . . anything I'd typically need just a little bit of.

                          Also - 1/2 cups of stock frozen in muffin tins, popped out and put in a freezer bag.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Krislady
                            HillJ Jan 25, 2011 06:45 AM

                            Like Kislady I'm a big ice cube tray user. I freeze leftover coffee, fresh veg & fruit juice, broth, sauces, garlic, ginger, herbs, small amts. of puree. I also freeze "pretty" cubes with edible flowers or sliced fruits/single herb leaves suspended in water for cocktails. And I freeze prepared butters in cubed portions.

                            1. re: Krislady
                              Niblet Jan 25, 2011 07:03 AM

                              I use a tube rather than cans of tomato paste -- I doubt I'll ever buy a can of tomato paste again -- same with anchovy paste, and I keep them in the fridge.

                              I'm all about freezing cubes of stock, but I've found that if I freeze too many unusual things, before long it's out of control and I'm trying to dig through an overpacked freezer.

                              1. re: Niblet
                                greygarious Jan 25, 2011 07:27 AM

                                You pay a HUGE premium for the convenience of the tube of tomato paste. Freezing leftover canned paste is far more economical. Besides the cubes or small freezer containers, there is flattening it in a freezer bag from which you then break off chunks.

                                I freeze sauteed and caramelized onions, which because of the oil do not freeze solid so it's easy to fork out what you need. I also slice/chop and freeze raw onions when they are on sale. Because freezing bursts cell walls, the onions cook faster from frozen than freshly-prepped ones do.

                                1. re: greygarious
                                  s
                                  sedimental Jan 26, 2011 09:45 AM

                                  I do this too. I typically freeze onions in a zip -bag pressed flat- to break off what I need. Recently, I froze caramelized onions (no oil) in muffin tins. Now I have "hockey pucks" of caramelized onions!

                                2. re: Niblet
                                  l
                                  LJS Jan 25, 2011 07:45 AM

                                  I am with you, Niblet, on both counts. That tube of tomato paste is incredibly useful and well worth the premium price.

                                  And, I also think that the frozen cube approach is over-rated. In fact, one of my first attempts was with red wine. The idea was that the tray of cubes would lead to not having to open a bottle of wine (and why is that a problem, she asked?). Instead it lead to red-wine-slushy all over the bottom of my freezer.

                                  1. re: LJS
                                    g
                                    gembellina Jan 25, 2011 07:52 AM

                                    I found an ice-cube tray with a clip-lock top which solved that problem! I use it for leftover coconut milk, I should get another one to do it for wine too.

                                  2. re: Niblet
                                    Caroline1 Jan 25, 2011 08:09 AM

                                    When I open a can of tomato paste, after using as much as I need I put the rest in a zip lock sandwich bag, squeeze the air out, zip shut, smush flat and draw an "X" in it with my finger and freeze. The frozen quarters average out to about a Tbsp each, they're thin so they melt or dissolve easily, and when it's all used up, nothing to clean! And it's cheap.

                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                      l
                                      LJS Jan 25, 2011 08:19 AM

                                      Oh, Iike that idea! Thank you very much! I once preached a sermon on how hard it is to clean out the jar of tomato paste for proper re-cycling (the point was it is, like many ethical things, both difficult and worthwhile). I had more reaction to that (and more sympathy than just about anything else I have ever spoken about!)

                                  3. re: Krislady
                                    m
                                    Mestralle Jan 25, 2011 07:14 AM

                                    Thanks for the tip about the stock. I never really thought about it before, but I think I'm going to start freezing it in 1/2 cup portions.

                                    With tomato paste, I usually keep a tube of the double-concentrate in the fridge. I also keep cans in the pantry when I need a large amount, as the tube is a bit more expensive, but the tube keeps pretty much indefinitely and is great for small applications. (I've also been known to squeeze it on breadsticks or crackers or sometimes just squeeze a bit in my mouth. I think it's my crack.)

                                    1. re: Krislady
                                      c oliver Jan 25, 2011 07:31 AM

                                      I just put tablespoon scoops of tomato paste on a baking sheet and freeze. They stay separate enough to pull off one or more from a zipping bag.

                                    2. nomadchowwoman Jan 24, 2011 08:21 PM

                                      Thanks. I'll have to try this as I am constantly throwing out moldy ginger.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                        w
                                        wineos Jan 25, 2011 03:48 PM

                                        I buy ginger fresh, peel it, chunk it and chop it in my food processor. I keep it in a little tupperware and defrost as needed. It is wonderful!

                                        1. re: wineos
                                          jmcarthur8 Jan 26, 2011 01:51 PM

                                          Years ago, I read a hint to store fresh ginger in a jar of sherry in the fridge, then as you use the ginger up, you can use the flavored sherry in your recipes as well.
                                          I did it that way for years, but I just haven't had sherry sitting around lately, so I have been using white wine to keep the ginger. No mold, never had any problems with spoilage, and the flavor it gives to the wine is delicate and lovely.

                                          1. re: jmcarthur8
                                            HillJ Jan 26, 2011 01:52 PM

                                            Believe it or not it works great with ginger ale too!

                                            1. re: HillJ
                                              I used to know how to cook... Jan 26, 2011 02:04 PM

                                              You can also plant the unused ginger root in a pot of potting mix. It will grow. Not a bad house plant at all!

                                              When you want some, pull out the plant, whack off a piece and replant it.

                                              Caveat: When you buy your fresh root, look for one that has little sprout 'bumps' (for lack of a better word) on it.

                                              Lucy

                                              1. re: HillJ
                                                jmcarthur8 Jan 26, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                I like that!

                                        2. e
                                          escondido123 Jan 24, 2011 08:14 PM

                                          I just found chopped ginger in a jar---now there's easy!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: escondido123
                                            m
                                            Mestralle Jan 25, 2011 07:08 AM

                                            I use that, too. I'm sure the purists would scoff, but I think it's great.

                                            1. re: escondido123
                                              i
                                              Isolda Jan 25, 2011 11:00 AM

                                              Yep, I use that, too. I would never use garlic in a jar, but this stuff is pretty good, and it keeps a long time.

                                            2. s
                                              sedimental Jan 24, 2011 07:47 PM

                                              I do that too!

                                              My freezer is an "instant chefs" toolbox.
                                              I also always have 3 or 4 jars of preserved lemons and
                                              fresh herbs in the freezer (tarragon, basil, chives, etc).

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                nomadchowwoman Jan 24, 2011 08:20 PM

                                                Lemons preserved in salt? Interesting. It would never have occurred to me to freeze them. Do you have to defrost the whole thing to use them?

                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                                  s
                                                  sedimental Jan 26, 2011 09:41 AM

                                                  Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean I froze the preserved lemons (they are a pantry item).

                                                  1. re: sedimental
                                                    nomadchowwoman Jan 26, 2011 03:55 PM

                                                    OK, you really had me curious about that!
                                                    I always have preserved lemons, too, and need to figure out more ways to use them.

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