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Include Ginger for Health

Written on August 24th, 2010 by one shout

Last week, a friend asked if I liked the ginger she added to her rhubarb pie, a very unusual ingredient in any fruit pie. I loved her pie, especially with the ginger spice she added. As I discussed the ginger flavoring in Emma’s pie, I wondered if ginger were a spice, or an herb? Do you know?

In it’s natural form, fresh ginger looks like this. It’s very plentiful in Panama, but I’ve shied away from buying it fresh because I haven’t known how to prepare it.

So, I did some research and found that ginger has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It was one of the earliest spices (yes, it’s a spice) known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. It became so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper, and it was one of the spices used against the plague.

In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer — the origin of ginger ale.

These are just a few benefits claimed by researchers for using ginger:

1. Ginger can calm an upset stomach, providing relief of bloating and gas.
2. It helps quiet a cough and soothes your throat.
3. Ginger has been proven to treat feelings of nausea.
4. It contains anti-viral, anti-toxic, and anti-fungal properties.
5. Ginger acts as an antihistamine and aids in the treatment of allergies.
6. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat arthritis and various other muscular disorders.
7. Ginger aids in digestion and the prevention of stomach cramps.
8. It helps to protect against the development of ulcers.
9. Ginger has proven to help lower your cholesterol levels and prevent the formation of blood clots.
10. It is frequently used today in developing countries to treat diarrhea.

I also found that fresh ginger can be scraped or peeled, sliced, crushed or minced. The photo at the top is of a “hand” of fresh ginger, which is available in most supermarkets at very reasonable prices.

Powdered ginger is the buff-colored ground spice made from dried root. It’s my favorite way to use ginger, it’s reasonable, easy to use and it’s always on hand. Below is a photo of Ginger Crunch ready to eat.

You’ll find the recipe for Ginger Crunch in my new cookbook “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” picutred at the left. It’s available to La Reyna, Sugar & Spice Bakery and El Cacique Souvenirs in Boquete, as well as at The Book Mark in Dolega and Felipe Motta Wine Store in David.

Preserved or ‘stem’ ginger is made from fresh young roots, peeled and sliced, then cooked in a heavy sugar syrup. The ginger pieces and syrup are bottled together, making it always ready to use. This form is extremely hot and spicy, so don’t use much at one time.

Crystallized ginger is also cooked in sugar syrup, then air dried and rolled in sugar. This is very easy to make. I buy lots of fresh ginger, scrape off the peel with a small knife, cut it into strips and boil the strips in simple syrup until clear, tender and the syrup is cooked away. After they are laid out on foil to cool, shake them in a plastic bag filled with granulated sugar and set aside to dry. Keep the candied ginger in a tightly-sealed container. I use crystallized ginger in fruit salads, as a garnish, and it makes a nice treat eaten alone.

Pickled ginger is another way to prepare fresh ginger. Slice the root paper-thin and pickle it in a vinegar solution. This pickle is known in Japan as “gari” , which often accompanies sushi, and is served to refresh the palate between courses. This is even easier to make than candied ginger.

Getting back to Emma’s pie, if you have the opportunity to include ginger to add a gourmet touch to any of your dishes, and please do it for health!

City of David is Going “Gourmet”!

Written on April 27th, 2010 by no shouts

Forty-five minutes south of Boquete is the City of David, the provincial capital of Chiriqui, Panama. The city is sprawled out for miles, with streets going every direction inside the “U” of the Pan-American Highway. Whichever way you drive, you’ll end up at this wide Highway, it’s very confusing. Until recently, there were no traffic lights of any kind, anywhere in Chiriqui, but now there are 3! There were no “5-star” hotels, large department stores, mega supermarkets or an International airport. But, that has all changed.

It was fun to arrange for 30 “recent” residents of Boquete to tour some of the new and developing areas in David, which we did last week. Touted as the “Gourmet Tour of David” was quite surprising, especially when being deprived of anything “gourmet” west of Panama City for years.

Ely’s Bakery isn’t exactly “new”, they have been supplying supermarkets in David and Boquete with fine baked goods for years. What was surprising, were all the varieties of breads and fancy cakes that are made in such close quarters, so quickly and so tasty. Owner, Danilo and Pastry Chef, Chomp, gave everyone a close-up tour of the facilities, including a giant, walk-in oven and each of us took home a loaf of his specialty bread. We’ll all be back for some of Ely’s delicate, gourmet pastries, and more.

We toured the Cuidad de David Hotel and inspected some of the beautifully decorated, “high-end” rooms and suites. One had a sunken whirl-pool tub, elegant fixtures and “5-star” amenities.

Chef, Jose Valdes, showed us some of his world-class cooking skills and everyone enjoyed a full “dinner” for lunch, including 3 delightful desserts presented by Swiss-trained Chef, Nicole. Thanks to Idu and staff for such a fine afternoon in this gorgeous, world-class hotel.

Another surprise was the huge housewares department on the 3rd floor of the new Conway Department Store. Thanks to managers, Mr. Taylor, clerks Roberto and Viedna, I was able to arrange 4 of the housewares department’s displays to depict French, Spanish, Italian and Asian cuisines, including recipes from each country. This is a photo of the Asian display, complete with a stone place mat. Everyone enjoyed seeing the extensive inventory of “gourmet” cooking items now available in David.

The final event of the day was a wine tasting at the new Felipe Motta Wine Store, located in the same shopping area as the Conway store.

Manager, Gina, provided the wine room of the store and 5 interesting wines for us to taste. The plum saki seemed to garner the most raves, but when Gina asked which was my favorite wine, she presented me with a bottle of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2007 from France. What a delightful way to end the perfect day in the upcoming City of David.

I can’t wait until David and I have a nice, fresh salad, a filete of beef to grill, and twice-baked potatoes for a candle-light dinner some evening soon. Of course, the star will be my “Bordeaux” wine from Felipe Motta. Talk about “gourmet”!


Come on a Gourmet Tour to David

Written on April 6th, 2010 by no shouts

On Thursday, April 22, 2010, a large, air-conditioned Coaster bus will leave Alto Boquete for a “Gourmet Tour of David”. This “gourmet adventure”, all-inclusive tour, will leave the high school parking at 9:00am and will make 4 very interesting stops in David throughout the day, all relating to fine dining, gourmet cooking, and fine wines.

This 7-hour tour will begin with a stop at Danilo’s, Ely Commercial Bakery, where we’ll be treated to a cup of boutique coffee, a personal tour of the bakery facilities, and a take-home loaf of Danilo’s specialty bread. This is a very popular bakery, one that bakes most of the breads and fancy cakes for large local supermarkets, both in David and Boquete. Ely’s distinctive truck may look familiar to you.

The second stop will be at the new Cuidad de David Hotel, for a private tour of the guest rooms, Business Center, Fitness Center and Stylo Restaurant. While visiting the Cuidad de David, Executive Chef, Jose Valdes, will conduct a tour of the hotel’s two kitchens, and present a special cooking demonstration for us.

We’ll enjoy a full-course lunch, with a large soup and salad bar, hot entree of the day, non-alcoholic drink, and 3 desserts.

I would rate this hotel for service, quality of food and elegant atmosphere, among the top hotels in the world. Their stated goal is to “offer you an exceptional experience with hospitality, friendly service and high technology”, and they are meeting that goal every day at the Cuidad de David Hotel.

We’ll continue traveling to David’s newest mega-store, Conway Department Store. While there, we’ll browse the new house wares department and collect recipes and ideas for preparing gourmet meals at home. Four International cuisines will be featured there.

Our final stop will be at the new Felipe Motta Wine Store, where we will be tasting wines from 4 different wine-making regions. This wine store is so new that they will bring in wines from Panama City just for our tasting.

We plan to load the bus about 3:00pm for the return trip to Boquete, scheduled to arrive at the high school a bit before 4:00pm.

The day will be one of adventure, learning about facilities available in David we may not have known before, enjoying world-class dining, exploring new International cuisines and the wines that match them, as well as improving our culinary skills.

The cost of this full-day “Gourmet Adventure Tour” is $35, including everything mentioned above, plus a travel bag and souvenir wine glass. There are only 20 seats remaining, so make your reservations now at, call me at 6614-9514, or comment on this blog.

Hope you can join us,

Chocolate Truffles with Wine!

Written on March 16th, 2010 by no shouts

These truffles are extraordinary, make them and you’ll see why. The first thing to do is to buy really fine chocolate.

At the new Felipe Motta Wine Store that just opened in David, I was able to find Villars 72% cocoa chocolate. One hundred grams of this delectable chocolate was $5.50, compared to Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate, half the price at El Rey at $2.49. The richer the chocolate, the higher the price.

I will buy both chocolates to see which is the very best, the one I will use for “Crazy for Chocolate” cooking class on April 7. See a recent blog for more details.

The recipe is something really special, one that I developed over the years using the finest chocolate I can find. Now, I call it “Boquete Gourmet Chocolate Truffles”. The sommelier at Felipe Motta Wine Store in David will pair my truffles with just the right wine for the upcoming chocolate class.

Boquete Gourmet Chocolate Truffles

2 100-gram bars good-quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Abuelo rum, 12 year old
cocoa powder

Chop the chocolate into small bits, about 1/8″ or finer and place into a heatproof bowl. Set aside.
Combine cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to keep the butter moving and to prevent the cream from boiling.
When butter is melted and cream forms bubbles around the surface, almost scalding, pour hot mixture over the chocolate. Cover with GladWrap and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until all chocolate is fully melted and the ganache is smooth and fully combined, about 2 to 3 minutes and blend in the rum. Cover tightly with GladWrap and refrigerate 8 – 12 hours or overnight.

When ready to make truffles, put cocoa powder in a small plastic bag and line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop out bite-sized amounts of the filling and roll into balls between your palms. If they’re not perfectly round, egg-shaped will work fine. Carefully drop the balls, one at a time, into the bag and roll to coat truffle.
Lift truffle out with fingers slightly spread and transfer to waxed paper. Cover and chill truffles at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Truffles can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 2 months. If I made a mistake in this recipe, it was making the truffles too big, they are so decadent!

To learn more about the art of chocolate, stop by Sugar & Spice Bakery on the Main Street of Boquete. Pastry Chef, Richard Meyer will be sharing his recipes using chocolate as the main ingredient in his cooking class on April 7, and Felipe Motta will share their wines paired with Richard’s creations.

Love that chocolate!

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