I like fresh ginger in my cooking. Problem is, I cook for two, and I only use ginger once a week or so. So I don’t go through a lot. And all too often I have to toss a rancid piece of ginger buried in the vegetable tray.

A few weeks ago I was (somewhere) online and ran across a solution. What you do is peel the ginger and cut it into chunks. Then freeze it in a baggie or small container.

Next time you want some ginger for that stir fry or this wonderful Baked Cod With Crunchy Miso-Butter Bread Crumbs on the NY Times website, grab that frozen ginger. Grate up a bit while it’s still frozen, and you have it! I find that grating it while still frozen makes the ginger finer than it turns out if you grate it fresh and unfrozen.

Ingredients: Malt syrup and powders

Malt is the flavor in delights like Whoppers and Ovaltine and malted milk shakes. This flavoring is derived from malted, or sprouted, grains. Malted grains have been used since ancient times in beer brewering, whiskey, and cooking.

I recently re-discovered barley malt extract as an ingredient in breadmaking. I had to learn about the different ways I can currently get malt flavor and benefits into my cooking and I am sharing what I learned!

Malt syrup (or “extract”, made from barley)

Barley Malt Syrup

Common malt syrup is made from sprouted barley. (Other grains can also be malted.) Malt syrup adds color and flavor and shelf life when used in baked goods, especially yeast breads. You might find it in a local supermarket or homebrew supply, or you can purchase it online from King Arthur Flour. Malt syrup is very sticky and thick. I find it a lot easier to weigh out an amount of malt syrup than to use a measuring spoon: 1 tablespoon = 21 grams.

You can read more about malt syrup in my post, Blue Ribbon Malt Extract cookbook.

Malt powder

Malt powder is a dried version of malt syrup. It is definitely an easier product to use than malt syrup! I don’t think it adds the same color to a recipe as the syrup, nor does it give an extra moistness to a loaf of bread. I use it in bagel boiling liquid and sometimes in the bagels themselves.

Diastatic vs non-diastatic

King Arthur Flour sells both diastatic and non-diastatic malt powder. What’s the difference?

“Diastatic” means that the product contains active enzymes. The malting/sprouting process of barley develops several different enzymes that break starches into simple, fermentable sugars. The malting process can be halted at different times, leading to different ratios of enzyme to sugars in the resultant malts. The activity of these enzymes can be measured and is called the diastatic power.

Brewers usually want a diastatic malt and the higher the diastatic power the better (usually).

Diastatic malt powder is good for bread making. It helps the bread rise because it adds active enzymes (trust me! I’ve tried it!), improves the texture, lends a subtle rich flavor, and gives loaves a browner crust. It’s available as diastatic malt powder from King Arthur Flour. The company does not specify the diastatic power of their preparations.

The malt syrup on the King Arthur site is touted for improved bread flavor and shelf life. They do not specify if the syrup is diastatic or non-diastatic.

Non-diastic malt powder is also available from King Arthur Flour. This is a malt without active enzymes. They suggest to use it in bagels, both in the dough and in the boiling water.

malt powder

Malted milk powder

Years ago malted milk powder was popular and readily available. You could make your own milk shakes! Malted milk powder contains malt powder AND milk powder.

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

My Chicken Tagine calls for Preserved Lemons. They are really easy to make and keep at room temperature for a year. And they look pretty!

I took a Mediterranean Cooking Workshop at the Culinary School of the Rockies (now Escoffier). That’s where I got the recipe below. They in turn credit Joanne Weir’s book, From Tapas to Meze, and her recipe can be found online. I am re-writing this in my own words.

Preserved Lemons

  • 6-10 Meyer lemons (or smallish regular lemons)
  • 1/2 cup salt, preferably kosher
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves

Take each lemon and cut from the top to within one-half inch of the bottom, then do again, so that you are have four pieces still joined at the bottom. (This is the traditional way of making preserved lemons.)

Place a tablespoon of the salt in the bottom of a very clean 1-quart canning jar. Pick up each cut lemon, sprinkle the inside with a generous amount of salt, then put it in the jar. Continue sprinkling with salt and packing the lemons into the jar. After you have a few lemons in the jar, add the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves, tucking them between the lemons.

Pack as many lemons as possible in the jar. The juice should squish out and fill all the spaces. If the jar is packed with lemons but the juice isn’t at the top, add some fresh lemon juice so that the juice level is almost to the top of the jar.

Cap the jar with a lid. This recipe does not call for sterilization of the jar or the cap or the preserved lemons.

Store the jar at least 3 weeks before you use the preserved lemons. They do not need to be refrigerated and keep a year at room temperature, according to the original author of this recipe.

Using preserved lemons

Remove a lemon from the brine and discard the pulp, so that you are left only with the peel. Rinse the peel before use. Chop into fine dice and use in tagines, salads, or anything that calls for lemon zest.

I found Meyer lemons at two different stores. One store sold large ones that almost looked like oranges, while the other store sold small yellow ones. I used some of each when I made this batch of preserved lemons; I like the contrast of the colors in the jar. Meyer lemons are less tart than regular lemons. I was once given a present of preserved lemons made from regular lemons and they added a more tangy taste to my dishes. But the Meyer lemons are so pretty, I couldn’t resist them.

Meyer lemons

Flours and yeast


On this page:

Gluten flour

Vital wheat gluten, or what I usually call simply “gluten flour”, is a product made from the protein found in wheat. It improves yeast loaves by adding elasticity to the dough and bulk to the loaves. It looks like flour and is sold by companies like Arrowhead Mills, Bob’s Red Mill, and King Arthur Flour. Currently (2012), I find it in the bulk section of Safeway but not at Whole Foods. I found this bag at our local natural grocery store, Steamboat Mountain, in Lyons, Colorado. This great small store is packed with a great variety of natural foods.

wheat gluten packageIf you are using white flour sold as “bread flour”, it will already have a high gluten content and you do not need to use wheat gluten in a recipe. But if you are using whole grain flour, I strongly suggest adding gluten flour to the loaf. I’ve mixed some wheat gluten in all of my yeast loaves since the 1970s. Back then, I could not find unbleached bread flour, so I used unbleached all-purpose flour and substituted some of the flour with vital wheat gluten. Today I include a third of a cup of wheat gluten per standard loaf of any yeast bread. It looks like any type of white flour, but it sure adds a lot to a loaf.

gluten flour

If you have never kneaded a loaf of bread, I suggest you start with making a loaf from vital wheat gluten. It quickly forms a springy and elastic dough! The loaf bakes up pretty bland, but it’s good kneading practice. It’s like doing a laboratory experiment. And the result is low-carb/high-protein.

Gluten Bread

From Beard on Bread.

  • 1 pkg yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the 2 tablespoons warm water. When it starts to bubble (“proof”), combine it with the additional cup of water. Stir in the flour and salt and knead thoroughly for 10-15 minutes. Roll the dough out and form into a loaf. Place in a greased or buttered 8x4x2-inch loaf pan and allow it to rise until doubled in bulk. This is a great low-carb/high protein bread. If you make 10 slices from a loaf, each slice has 110 calories, 20 g protein/slice, 6 g carb/slice. The recipe for gluten bred is below.

Bake at 350˚ for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned. Cool before slicing.

White whole wheat flour

White whole wheat flour is a product offered by King Arthur Flours. I’m not sure any other company sells this particular type of whole wheat flour. They claim that it is 100% whole wheat, just a different variety of wheat that is lighter in color and flavor than traditional whole wheat. I have found that it bakes up into a great, light-textured wheat loaf, even if you use it as the sole source of flour in the recipe (including the 1/3 cup gluten flour, of course).

white whole wheat flourIn general, whole grains make a loaf of yeast bread heavy and dense. The “whole” little grains are sharp particles that cut into and burst the bubbles that yeast forms in a rising loaf of bread. White whole wheat flour is great in that it doesn’t seem to pop as many of the bubbles as traditional whole wheat flour, thus lending to a light loaf of bread.


It is important that you know how your yeast will work in a recipe. This is especially important if you use a bread machine to knead and bake your loaves—something I rarely do, but still, I like to know my yeast. In my opinion, it’s best to buy a large quantity of yeast and “get to know it”. That is one reason not to purchase yeast in those little packets.

Another reason for me not to buy yeast in packets cost. I use a lot of yeast, and those packets get pretty pricey. Even by the jar, yeast is expensive. Over the years, the price kept creeping up, then one day I discovered that they sold yeast in one pound packages. I heard from someone that you could freeze yeast. So now, I buy a large package, put some in a small jar that I keep in the refrigerator, then I store the rest in a ziplock-type bag in the freezer. There came a time when I could no longer find the large packages in my local stores, so now I purchase 2-pound packages online for about $10.


Note: Each packet of yeast is about 2 1/2 teaspoons, or a little under a tablespoon.

Sea scallops


“Sea” scallops are the big-sized scallops, as opposed to “bay” scallops. They are usually pretty expensive.

Sea scallops can be purchased “wet” or “dry”, and dry is preferred because they don’t splatter (and shrink) while cooking, and also because they don’t have chemical additives. They are not labeled wet or dry on the package, although if you read the ingredients you might figure it out. But if you buy them at a seafood counter, the counter-person usually won’t be able to tell you much about the wet or dry thing. If you pay a lot, you probably are getting dry scallops, but you can’t be sure.

In 2012 I came upon a Cooks Illustrated discussion of how to tell whether you have purchased wet or dry scallops. Take one scallop and put it on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave on high for 15 seconds. If the paper towel has a lot of water on it, they are wet; if not, they are dry. (You can go ahead and use the zapped scallop in a recipe.)

If you have wet scallops, all is not lost. According to Cooks Illustrated: “soak them in a solution of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes.”

Asian condiments


Banana sauce is a Phillipine condiment made from sugar, banana, salt, and spices. It’s a lot like ketchup but has a nice little kick. According to Wikipedia, Filipinos use it on about everything. They also state “banana ketchup was made when there was a shortage of tomato ketchup during World War II, due to lack of tomatoes and a comparatively high production of bananas.” The banana sauce I bought tastes like a zingy ketchup.

banana sauceBean sauce is made from soy beans, sugar, salt, wheat flour, and sesame seed oil. According to the Cook’s Thesaurus, it is also known as bean sauce, bean paste, or brown bean paste.

bean sauceHoisin sauce is a bean sauce that is both sweet and garlicky. I can find hoisin sauce in just about any large market in Colorado. Like American ketchup, each brand tastes a little different. I have a feeling that the versions I buy are quite Americanized. But pick some up sometime, and try it in my Moo Shoo Turkey, or add it to barbeque sauce, use it on steaks, add to a stir fry. (See the Cook’s Thesaurus too.)

hoisin sauceHot bean paste, an Asian ingredient, can be hard to find. I looked for it at Safeway and Whole Foods but could not find it. I saw hot chile paste and black bean garlic paste. Finally I went to the local Asian market and found a large can of hot bean sauce:

hot bean sauceI bought it and brought it home (it cost $2.79). But I worried that it was not the correct ingredient. Luckily, The Cook’s Thesaurus has put up a great page explaining the different Asian condiments. Accessed 2012, this quote:

“chile bean paste = chili bean paste = chili bean sauce = chilli bean sauce = bean paste with chili = hot bean paste  Notes:  This reddish-brown sauce is made from fermented soybeans and hot chilies.  It’s very hot.”

From that great equivalents list, I feel confident that I found the right ingredient.

Red curry paste is listed as “red curry paste = nam prik kaeng daeng” on the same Cook’s Thesaurus web page. I found it recently (2012) at either Safeway or Whole Foods in a small jar.

red curry paste

Years ago I found it in bulk at an Asian market in Denver. That was right after I took the “Thai One On” cooking class. In class, we made this paste, but that recipe has 16 ingredients, including possibly hard-to-find lemongrass, galangal, coriander root, kaffir lime zest, and shrimp paste. I’m happy with the little jar above!

Sweet and Sour Sauce is a condiment that all Americans who have ever visited a Chinese restaurant are familiar with. The flavors of this sauce vary a lot depending on the brand you purchase. Or you can make it yourself using one of many recipes available on the internet (for instance, this one on the site.)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Plum Sauce is also known as Chinese duck sauce, Chinese plum sauce, or duck sauce. According to the label, it is made from salted plums, sugar, vinegar, and peppers. You can make it at home using the Recipe Source’s recipe – that recipe uses both plums and apricots.

Plum Sauce