Your Best Ginger Recipe Can Be Shaken Or Stirred

If you're a fan of ginger, then you're in luck. We asked listeners to send us their best and most creative ginger-inspired recipes. After scouring through more than 200 submissions from all over the country, NPR food essayist Bonny Wolf picked three finalists.

The entire Weekend Edition staff descended on Wolf's house to taste the three dishes, but suddenly a dark-horse candidate emerged. A fourth recipe, included originally just to accompany the finalists, took the spotlight. Host Liane Hansen declared the ginger candied martini her favorite, and so it became our winner.

But you can judge all four recipes — soup, salad, dessert and cocktail — for yourself.

Ginger-Orange Pickled Beets

Ginger-Orange Pickled Beets i i
Thomas Pierce/NPR
Ginger-Orange Pickled Beets
Thomas Pierce/NPR

Ingredients

  • 6 medium to large fresh beets, trimmed of green tops and taproots
  • 1 1/2-inch fresh ginger root, sliced very thin (a potato peeler works well)
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, but not white vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Salt plus a couple of good grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, or use 2 rounded tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/3 large Walla Walla or other sweet onion, sliced into rings

These go quickly once people give them a taste. They also go well with sushi (don't ask — just try it!).

Directions

Wash beets, removing dirt and rough peel around top and stems. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop beets in whole and turn the heat down to medium. Let cook for about 25 minutes. Remove beets from water, cool then peel. Slice into rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place into nonreactive pot (glass, stainless steel or enamel-lined, but not aluminum).

Add remaining ingredients to the beets and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer about 15 minutes until tender. The beet slices should be mostly covered by the pickling solution. If the liquid reduces too much, add a little water, white wine vinegar or more orange juice.

Place the beets with their juice in a covered glass dish or disposable/reusable storage containers, which won't stain. Refrigerate at least three hours before serving.

The beets will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. Beware of midnight refrigerator raids because of the likelihood of beet stains on your pajamas!

Pear And Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Correction: An earlier version of this recipe we posted contained the wrong amounts of flour and butter. These amounts have now been corrected.

Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake i i
Thomas Pierce/NPR
Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake
Thomas Pierce/NPR

Ingredients

Whiskey Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, preferably raw or demerara
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon whiskey, infused with crystallized ginger*

*I like to pour out 1/2 cup Makers Mark or Knob Hill whiskey and infuse 1 1/2 tablespoons crystallized ginger for 2 hours or overnight.

Caramelized Pears

  • 3 medium Bosc pears, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Batter

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and grated (make sure it is very fresh)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, preferably raw or demerara
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make Whiskey Whipped Cream:

Beat the cream with the sugar, infused whiskey and vanilla until soft peaks form. Chill.

Caramelize The Pears:

Peel pears, split lengthwise and core. Dip cut sides into sugar.

Melt butter in a seasoned, heavy 10-inch cast iron skillet over low to moderate heat on the stovetop until it stops foaming. Arrange pears, symmetrically, sugar side down on the skillet until the sugar begins to caramelize to a golden color. At that point, remove the skillet from the cooktop and sprinkle with the crystallized ginger.

Make The Cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg and salt. Beat the butter, sugar and ginger in a bowl with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and beat until well-combined. Add flour mixture and milk, alternating. Mix at low speed until just combined.

Pour the batter over the slightly cooled caramelized pears. Reposition them if they shift. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top looks golden and a wooden tester comes out clean the first time.

Cool the cake for 5-10 minutes. Loosen the cake with a thin knife around the edge of the skillet. Put a plate on the skillet and quickly invert it to tip the cake onto the plate.

Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature with chilled whipped cream.

Butternut Squash Ginger Soup

Butternut Squash Soup i i
Davar Ardalan/NPR
Butternut Squash Soup
Davar Ardalan/NPR

Ingredients

Soup

  • 1 medium-size butternut squash
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoon finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon orange oil (or 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice)

Zest

  • 1 orange and 1 2-inch piece of ginger
  • Canola oil for frying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Brush cut side with olive oil and roast on baking sheet for 20 minutes, cut side down. Turn over. Finish roasting another 25 minutes or until tender. Remove meat of squash from skins. Put in food processor with remaining soup ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour into sauce pan and heat through until simmering.

While soup is simmering, heat up canola oil (enough to cover bottom of pan) and zest orange and peeled ginger in long, continual strips. (This can be done with a zester or vegetable peeler and knife combination.) Pat strips dry on paper towels. Toss strips in flour, just to cover and fry briefly in oil, approximately 30 seconds, until just starting to lightly brown. Drain on paper towel.

Mix creme fraiche and orange oil (or orange juice) together.

Serve soup in bowl with creme fraiche swizzle on top with a few strands of zest.

Ginger Candied Martini

Ginger Candied Martini i i
Davar Ardalan/NPR
Ginger Candied Martini
Davar Ardalan/NPR

I am a bartender at a sushi bar here in Chicago called Mizu. I've been informed by a few customers that I should submit my ginger martini recipe for your ginger contest, because it's simply amazing.

We use:

  • 1 ounce fresh-squeezed ginger juice
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 3 ounces Grey Goose vodka
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce Rose's lime juice

Please drink responsibly!

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