Around Christmastime, when you search for recipes with “ginger,” you get exclusively sweet things: gingerbread, gingersnaps, ginger cake, ginger donuts, ginger biscotti, ginger muffins. But ginger is so much more. It’s one of the four or five ingredients that I am never, ever without. I would like to share with you my One Weird Trick for using ginger in a foolproof and easy way.
Nearly everything I cook starts with the same process: Get out a pan, put some oil in it, and saute some combination of chopped plants; on Top Chef this is referred to as “building flavor,” or sometimes as creating a base. Onion is pretty much a given. Garlic, usually. Also common are celery, carrot, and peppers. (Depending on which specific ingredients you use and the various subtleties of how you use them, these base ingredients are sometimes called mirepoix, or soffritto—or, confusingly, sofrito, which is not the same thing; soffritto is Italian, sofrito is Spanish/Latin American, with slightly different ingredients depending on even which Latin American country you’re talking about.) Ginger is a key ingredient in a flavor base for so, so many cuisines—Indian, Chinese, Thai, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Filipino—so it should be as present in your cooking as garlic or onion, and you should have it on hand at all times. This can be difficult, because though it is fairly hardy, it will dry out after a while, and what if you have a stretch where you’re only cooking French or Italian food? Your ginger will go bad.
Except it won’t, because you should freeze your ginger.
The problem with the pear is the same problem that afflicts the apricot and the cantaloupe. When ripe, and fresh, and of good quality, it is spectacular, but it is a low-percentage fruit, its ripeness difficult to divine and often misjudged. I would wager there are literally millions of pear-eaters who have never had a good pear.
And that is unfortunate, because it is really an excellent fruit. Cheap, easily available, some varieties fairly hardy, with a wide variety of textures and flavors and uses, pears may not be quite as easy and foolproof as apples, but can make a fine walking-around fruit in addition to the more adjustment-friendly methods you might put them to in the kitchen.
There are dozens of varieties of pear, but in the States it is damnably difficult to find most of the weirder heirloom varieties. Still, a trip to an fancy grocery store or farmers market in the late autumn will yield a few different types. What they have in common, aside from all being pears, are called sclereids, or stone cells. These are plant tissue with a distinct hard exterior, hence their name, and are responsible for the “gritty” texture of pears. I think some people do not like this texture; it can get stuck in your teeth. But that is merely a symbol of the inherent toughness of the pear! Pear trees can live for over a hundred years, their wood is so fine and hard that it’s often used for woodwind instruments, and in some parts of Chinese mythology it’s a symbol of immortality! This concludes the Fun Facts section of today’s Crop Chef.
Here are the most common varieties of pear in the US and how to tell if they’re ripe. It’s tricky because the majority of pears never ripen on the tree; they can only ripen when picked. To speed up ripening, you can stick a banana in the fruit bowl, and to slow down ripening, you can put the pear in the fridge. But how do you know when it’s ripe in the first place?
Is Amazon good enough for your baby’s ass? Called Amazon Elements, the diapers and baby wipes will only be available to customers who belong to the Amazon Prime membership program, adding another item to the growing list of membership perks. By working directly with a manufacturer, Amazon will be able to price the brand aggressively, with a 40-count package of diapers starting at $7.99. That works out to about 19 cents a diaper, compared to competitor prices that mostly range from 24 cents to 34 cents.
This will sound strange to people who don’t live as nodes in Amazon’s worldwide logistics experiment, but a little less strange to Prime members who do: Amazon already makes, or at least brands, a wide and strange assortment of things. Diapers are just one of its first attempts to move from things into the lucrative market for stuff.
Amazon’s feints at physical retail are focused on Kindles, tablets and phones: These are the tier-one Amazon products, in terms of visibility. They’re thing things Amazon makes to compete with Apple and Google. They get their own advertising campaigns, they’re purported to be in some way “innovative,” etc.
Tier two is made of products that are adjacent to the tier-one products. They’re electronics, or electronics accessories, that don’t really get much advertising, unless you count how easily they’re discovered when shopping Amazon for other stuff. These are the best-known of the “Amazon Basics” products. They’re HDMI cables and adapters. They’re cheap things, things that only have to function, usually in a single way, to be satisfactory; they’re also, perhaps not coincidentally, things that physical electronics stores, which Amazon would like to destroy, tend to mark up.