The first Thanksgiving I didn’t travel home to see my family, a friend joined me to cook a meal. Neither of us knew much about cooking but she brought some store-prepared food and I think I managed to compose a salad. Mostly, we focused on feeling grown up and independent. This friend had just broken up with a Turkish boyfriend whose positive attribute was that he had taught her how to make ginger tea. Once we had finished our meal, she showed me his technique and we thought it was exotic and delicious. I have since fiddled with the very simple recipe and although I don’t make it on Thanksgiving anymore, I do make it whenever someone has a stuffy head or scratchy throat or needs warming from the inside out. It was perfect this week in New York when we had single digit temperatures. Add or subtract honey (I like it pretty sweet) or substitute agave or maple syrup, if it tastes better to you.
A big (3″) knob of ginger, (skin scraped off with a spoon so you don’t lose a lot of flesh) – about 1/2 cup packed
1/2 cup honey (I like raw wildflower here but any will do)
Juice from 1 – 2 lemons, depending on how juicy they are – about 1/4 cup
5 cups of water
Coarsely grate ginger into a saucepan and cover with the water. (If you are in a big hurry, you can simply slice the ginger but it won’t be as strong)
Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. (If your head is stuffy, cover your head with a towel over the pot and breathe in the steam once you turn off the burner – just don’t get too close or you will burn your nose!)
Add honey and stir to dissolve.
Stir in lemon juice and strain tea into cups.
Sip while steaming.
If you have some left and want to reheat it, don’t boil – just heat until it starts to move so you don’t overcook the honey and lemon. This tea stores well in a glass jar overnight in the refrigerator and tastes so good re-warmed in the morning. It is also delicious mixed into tea, especially green, about half ginger mixture and half tea, cold, as a bracing ginger lemonade or as a replacement in a mixed cocktail for ginger beer.
I gave up on electric drip coffee makers a long time ago. After a few uses, the coffee never tasted right, even after cleaning the machine with vinegar. I chalked it up to the plastic plumbing and parts. And then there is the pot sitting over an electric warming burner that leaves the coffee tasting burnt and reheated. Every time we were in Williams Sonoma, my husband and I would ogle the Technivorm, which heats the water to the perfect temperature but, alas, also has plastic tubing, costs too much and takes up way too much room on the counter. Perking coffee was out of the questing since boiling coffee creates a kind of nasty toxicity I didn’t want any part of and didn’t like the burnt flavor anyway. I liked the ease of a French press and I thought the coffee tasted good but when I read that it was healthier for coffee to run through a paper filter, I moved on. For years, I used either a Melitta drip cone, when it was just one or two of us drinking coffee or a glass Chemex when we were serving a tableful. One problem with the Melitta was that I didn’t like using a plastic cone, even if it was lined with paper (my personal paranoia). The other problem was that the coffee often got clogged up in the bottom and when I would stir to release it, the filter would tear and grinds would end up in my cup.
Last summer, my lovely husband did some research online and for my birthday bought me a Kalita Wave drip cone with filters. If you’ve never seen one, this is a gleaming stainless steel dripper that sits on a cup (or whatever you choose – we use a glass jar so we can make 2 cups). It uses fluted paper filters that look like a condensed mini version of a mr. coffee style filter.
The wave has a flat bottom with 3 holes through which the coffee drips – not just the single melitta hole. There are lots of reasons Kalita says this filter system works so well – the angle, flutes, 3 holes in a triangle, etc. The reasons I like it are also multiple – no plastic, cleans and stores super easily, and the coffee tastes great. Isn’t that what you want every morning?
While traveling recently, we ordered coffee in an upscale market hall at a cafe where they used a Kalita wave to make drip coffee. Watching the barista, I had to bite my lip not to laugh or make a snide remark at the fastidiousness of his process (I’m not a usually so snarky but this performance was like a parody you might see on SNL). First, he weighed out the beans. Then he ground the coffee and weighed it again, swiping out a few grains at a time until his measurement was perfect. A tap dispensed boiled water at the perfect temperature and he wet the filter and let the water flow through. Then he set the dripper on a cup, added the perfectly measured coffee, and wet the grounds with a splash of boiled water from one of those long spouted Japanese kettles. (I have eyed them in the stores as they are very beautiful but do I really need another pot in my kitchen?) Once the grounds were sufficiently saturated and had time to bubble and settle, he kept a slow but continuous trickle of hot water pouring into the coffee. A few minutes later, I had my cup. Was it amazing? Not in the least. Although you could weakly taste the flavor, I thought the coffee was swill – way too watery for my taste. But what do I know? Only what I like – a strong, bold, wake me up shot of coffee to get me going in the morning and this was not it.
Now we use the Kalita every morning (so should I be laughing at myself?), but in a simpler way. I do grind my coffee in a burr grinder (a Bodum Brooks found on sale in bright orange that cheers my morning), wet the filter (as per the instructions) and give the coffee a moment to “bloom” after the first pour of boiling water (as per the instructions), but I don’t weigh or measure and the water comes directly from my tea kettle. The whole process takes about 2 minutes.
How do I like my coffee? Smooth, full bodied and strong, not too acidic and never flavored but flavorful. I use the organic sumatra estate (medium roast but dark and smells amazing) coffee from BJ’s warehouse club – 2 1/2 pounds for $16 which lasts us about 4 – 5 weeks. Whatever coffee I make (sometimes I buy the organic Ethiopian or fair trade breakfast blend at Trader Joe’s), I always use more than the recommended amount. And I put a little cup hook under one of my kitchen cabinets so now the wave doesn’t even take up any room on my counter.
I can’t swear that the coffee made in the Kalita actually tastes better than when it is dripped other ways. But it is stainless steel, easy to use and clean, takes up almost no space, and makes delicious coffee – win win all around.
Here is a simple salad to make in the winter months when Fuyu persimmons (the small flat ones) are available. All you need to do is wash and dry the arugula, cut up the persimmons and toss with this very basic lemon dressing. Any of the add-ins will make it a fuller-bodied dish, especially the cheese, which can make this a very nice main-course salad, particularly if you are trying to lighten up a meal. And the orange and green are beautiful, especially mid-winter. We often make a double batch, refrigerate half and eat it again for lunch the next day – it holds up pretty well in a lunchbox, if you don’t overdo the dressing.
Arugula with Persimmons
For the salad:
- 1 bag of baby arugula leaves (about 8 cups), washed and spun or drained dry (If you don’t like arugula, use romaine or spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces)
- 2 firm Fuyu persimmons, cut in a large dice or halved and thinly sliced
- (If persimmons aren’t available, you can use orange or grapefruit segments, sliced mango or even halved grapes)
Add-in your choice of:
- A handful of grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
- A handful of pomegranate kernels
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- A handful of toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
- 1 or 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- A sprinkle of chia and/or hemp seeds
- A little grated lemon zest
For the dressing whisk together:
- Juice of ½ lemon and ½ orange (or all orange, for a sweeter salad)
- 2-3 TBs olive or nut oil
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
I don’t love raw radishes but I do love their color. So I eat them when they arrive in the spring, not only because I think variety is healthy but also since I’ve read repeatedly that radishes are good for digestion. Plus, they are low in calories and high in fiber. My problem is that I don’t love their sharp taste. On a positive note, I have found that I dislike them less when I salt them and as I get older (maybe my de-sensitized tastebuds?). Eating raw, salted thinly-sliced radishes on buttered bread, as the French do, is delicious, which may have more to do with the wonderful taste of butter and bread. So why bother, you wonder?
Radishes are a fine source of dietary minerals. And they can be quite beautiful, especially the pink and purple ones. The watermelon radish, my favorite, is available late summer and fall and stores well into the winter and even spring in the fridge. This is a mildly spicy variety, which is good in small pieces in a salad, adding crunch and color. And the color – wow! A thin white ring surrounds the gorgeous magenta interior and just under the skin lies a bright lime green layer. If you peel it very lightly, yes, it resembles a slice of watermelon. A few slices enliven a crudite platter or a salad, but my favorite way to eat it is lightly sautéed. You can roast radishes alongside your other winter veggies like parsnip, rutabaga, carrot and beet but a simple sauté leaves a slight crunch while losing the sharp bite. The color is enough to brighten a dark winter table!
Sautéed Watermelon Radish
Wash and gently peel two radishes so as not to lose all of the green flesh that lies just under the surface. Cut in a large dice or into small triangles like watermelon slices. Heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a wide frying pan and when shimmering, sauté 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add a sprinkle of salt, add the radishes and a big pinch of thyme and black pepper. Cook, stirring often until starting to brown and the radish pierces easily with a fork but is not soft. Add a little water if they start to stick to the pan. Taste to see if you want more seasoning and serve warm.