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Three Pantry Staples for Flavorful Cuisine

February 20, 2010

SoupAddict is obsessed. This is nothing new. SoupAddict’s nature is to be obsessive. (And lazy. She’s not sure how those two traits can mix in the same person, but until she figures it out, she’ll make sure to work them both into this post. Just to keep the universe balanced.)

During the course of SoupAddict’s largely-unblogged-about Indian cooking adventures, she has come to realize that there are three particular ingredients she can’t live without: garlic, ginger, butter. And that’s not hyperbole. “Would die for the lack of,” is not that far of a stretch. The heart wants what the heart wants, is SoupAddict’s philosophy (even if the heart is being strong-armed by the stomach at the time). Now, SoupAddict has no issues with these ingredients in their fresh-from-the-store form. But when she read about these versions in her favorite Indian cookbook, she immediately made them all. And fell into obsession.

SoupAddict only recently discovered the magic of ghee, and only even more recently made her first home-made batch. At $8.00 per 1 lb jar, the price of store-bought ghee is a bit too steep for SoupAddict’s liking. But a $4.00 pound of Land ‘o Lakes butter made into ghee is completely within SoupAddict’s parameters of acceptance. The wonderfully, nutty brilliance of ghee is addictive. Not that SoupAddict ever gets addicted. No sir.

The remaining two ingredients are old, dear friends of SoupAddict’s, but in a different form: ginger paste and garlic paste. Pureed fresh with water, ginger and garlic can be stored in the fridge for a short time, or long term in the freezer (straight up garlic and ginger cannot be frozen). These home-made pastes are fresh and delicious, and always available. Just the way SoupAddict likes loves it.

Supplies needed: butter (not margarine … please … SoupAddict forbids you to even think the word. In fact, go back to the beginning of this sentence, read it again, and close your eyes and skip ahead whenever you reach the word “margarine”), a strainer, some cheesecloth or a coffee filter, an airtight jar, and a heavy-bottomed pan (not to be confused with a heavy-bottomed Pam, because SoupAddict doesn’t think any self-respecting Pam should spend 20 minutes on a hot burner. So, just avoid the mix-up right at the beginning, and you’ll be fine).

(Surely you will have noticed the $3.99 price tag on this 1/2 lb brick of Lurpak butter, which completely invalidates SoupAddict’s grumpiness at spending $8.00 for a pound of ghee. SoupAddict knows this and merely shrugs. She’s a pair a ducks. And a bad speller.)

Mmmmm … butter … buttahbuttahbuttah.
Mmmmm … melting butter … buttahbuttahbuttah.
As the buttahbuttahbuttah gently simmers, it begins to separate. Milk solids sink to the bottom. Water and fats rise to the surface and foam. The golden goodness in between will be the ghee.
Lurpak is a high-end butter and does not give off much of anything that is not glorious, golden butter. Other brands might foam more. No worries. Goodness will prevail in the end.
If you look closely at the translucent, golden areas of the butter, you can see the light-colored milk solids collecting at the bottom.
After 20 minutes or so, the butter will be separated and will have acquired a nutty flavor and aroma. Line the strainer with the cheesecloth and pour the contents of the pan into it.
Discard the stuff in the cheesecloth. You won’t miss it.
Golden perfection. This, peeps, is ghee.
Because the milk solids were filtered out, there’s no need to refrigerate ghee. You can, of course, but there’s no need, and room temperature ghee melts faster than cold butter. When cooled from its simmering state, ghee will solidify into a creamy paste.
Now on to the ginger. This crazy-delicious root is sold just like this at the grocery store: all gnarly and tangled. Break off what you need; the produce police will not press charges. And the looks they’re giving you and your choice of shoes are all in your head.
If the ginger is super-fresh, you don’t need to peel it. Alas, in SoupAddict’s neck o’ the woods, the ginger always arrives with a papery, sometimes woody, skin. If yours in the same condition, just peel it. It’s all good.
SoupAddict loves the spicy-hot citrusy goodness of ginger. This is about 8oz.

Add 1/2 cup of water into a blender.

Slice the ginger into 1″ cubes and add to the water.

Action photo goodness! Puree until the ginger is completely broken down.

SoupAddict loves the ice cube tray trick. Spoon one tablespoon amounts in each ice cube cell. Then freeze. Pop them out and store them in bags, and the next time you need ginger, you just reach into your freezer. And, you know, get the ginger cube out of the bag. Not the Haagen Dazs, people.

Or maybe the ginger and the Haagen Dazs — have you ever had ginger ice cream? It’s really good.

Um, yeah, where were we? Ghee … ginger … ice cream. Oh, right, garlic. (SoupAddict is queen of the smooth segues.)

SoupAddict slaved over the cutting board peeling these 48 cloves of garlic.
Psych! You should know better. SoupAddict knows where to shop for super-duper lazy girl finds. 48 peeled cloves of garlic for less than a dollar.

(SoupAddict just made the tzick tzick sound while doing the finger pistol gesture. If only she had made of video of that, you could see how hip she really is.)

Repeat the blender hokey-pokey with a 1/2 cup of water and the 50ish cloves of garlic.
Garlic paste can also be frozen. SoupAddict likes to keep a few tablespoons each of garlic paste and ginger paste in the fridge to use right away. Just because.
SoupAddict loves these cubes of paste, because she knows that rich deliciousness is always within reach. And lazy girls like it when they don’t have spend too much energy reaching for things.

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9 Comments
  1. PhyllisRyan permalink
    February 20, 2010 8:29 am

    Let me assure you that butter, in fact rolled Amish butter, is all that is in my kitchen. I do not cook Indian dishes, but the frozen GARLIC got my attention. I try to buy fresh heads, but somehow the litle things always seem to sprout. I do keep minced in oil in the fridge, but I did not know that there was another easy solution. Thank you thank you.

  2. February 20, 2010 8:36 am

    I’ve often seen ghee jars in ethnic food stores and always wondered how on earth they could keep out of the fridge. Now I know, thank you 🙂

  3. SoupAddict permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:33 pm

    Phyllis: You know, it’s odd – I don’t live that far away from Ohio Amish country, but I just don’t come across Amish butter. It reminds me, though, that I should check out this little produce place that sometimes carries Amish goods. I’d love to get some butter…. About the garlic, the paste works great – but just be careful when you’re working with oil over high heat, like stir fries. The water in the paste will splatter. I forgot, and completely re-spotted the stove top I had just meticulously shined this afternoon. [Sigh.]

    Marcella: Yeah, it’s those creamy milk solids. They go rancid at room temperature. Although, I still marvel at the mysterious workings of the butter bell….

  4. February 22, 2010 9:59 am

    I love Indian Food, but have to drive miles and miles to get to a good Indian Restaurant here in the mountains. A few posts on Indian food might be a good thing? I’m just saying…..

    therockymountainwoman.com

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 23, 2010 11:38 am

      I’ve got some posts in the works. The food is great, but my favorite part has been all the peripheral stuff – like the ghee, and spices. I’ve been forced to grind my own spice combinations, and the accidental discovery that fresh ground is soooo much better than jarred has got me addicted to grinding everything fresh. Stay tuned! 🙂

  5. February 23, 2010 1:36 pm

    I agree. I think cooking for me is more about learning and discovering than anything else. It’s an adventure!

  6. PhyllisRyan permalink
    February 25, 2010 4:57 pm

    Regarding the Amish Butter. It is made by Troyer Cheese, Inc. They are located in Millersburg Ohio. They also have a wonderful Butter Cheese.

    • SoupAddict permalink
      February 26, 2010 4:54 pm

      Phyllis: thanks for the info, I appreciate it! If I get out that way, I may have to stop in their market store – looks fabulous.

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