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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bella Capsicum Masala with Tandoori Eggplant

When I go Indian... I must make Thali.  I LOVE having several flavors and colors in my plate.
I do go overboard on quantities sometimes, which means I get to eat this several times during the week.
Who's complaining?
The new additions to my thali this time are the Tandoori Eggplant the Bella Pepper Curry.  The Sexy Dal and Red Cabbage Subzi are very common guests in my home.  I was looking for something veg but saucy enough to eat with rice.  When I found that Bells could be the main event, I swooned.
I may have swooned aloud around folks that had no idea why I was swooning.. but that's ok..
Borrowed from VegRecipesofIndia (as usual).
Serves 6 as a side
Ingredients
Paste:

2 large onions,  chopped
1 inch ginger, sliced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp peanuts
1 tbsp sesame seeds (I used black)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp concentrated tamarind or tightly packed seedless tamarind
½ to ⅔ cup water for grinding
Curry:
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
4-5 medium different colored bell peppers (capsicum), sliced
⅛ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
1 to 1.25 cups water
½ tsp powdered or grated jaggery or add as per taste
salt as required
chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions
Make the spice paste:

1.  Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the peanuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds and poppy seeds on a low flame for 3 to 4 minutes.
2.  Add the ginger and garlic and let cook for 1 minute before adding the onions.
3.  Cook, stirring until the onions turn translucent or a light brown, adding a pinch of salt.
4.  Add the coconut on low flame and continue to stir for 7 to 8 minutes, till the coconut turns golden. The whole mixture should turn light golden or golden.
5.  Let cool, then blend with the tamarind and enough water to make it into a paste.  Set aside.

Make the curry:

6.  Wipe down your pan and add oil on high.  Add the mustard seeds until they crackle, then add the fenugreek and curry leaves and cook for 1 minute.
7.  Add the chopped tomates and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the tomatoes soften.
8.  Add the sliced bells.  Cook stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes.
9.  Lower the flame and add the paste along with the turmeric and chili powder.  Cook stirring for about 2 minutes, making sure the paste does not stick to the pan.
10.  Add 1 to 1.25 cups water and stir until incorporated, then add the jaggery and garam masala and simmer on low for about 15 minutes for softened bells.
Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro. 
I served mine in a vegetarian Thali.
Yes that is tandoori eggplant... which is basically an eggplant halved lengthwise with criss-cross cuts into the flesh, slathered with lemon juice, tandoori spices, and olive oil.. then roasted until tender.
That was the Umami part of the fabulous evening.
Anything can be tandoorified (even endives!), making it shine in a very sexy light..

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Tandoori Endives with Madras Coconut Fish

A Desi Rani's meal with exotic fusions.
The exotic part of this meal is the totally French endives seasoned and grilled the North Indian way... tandoori style, of course!

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Marinated Grilled Quail Eggs with Sesame Salt

Here is something that might seem crazy.
Soft boil some quail eggs, marinate them in dark soy sauce, and then GRILL them before sprinkling with sesame seeds.
Yes!  Completely out of my mind craziness!
What happens is that the marinade really seeps into the whites without being too soy-ish or salty, the inside is perfectly creamy, and the outside is fun of sesame crunch.
It is an explosion of texture and flavor and it's naturally bite-sized, so perfect for a happy hour party!
From the brilliant mind of Yotam Ottolenghi.  I mostly respected the original recipe, which almost never happens around here.
Ingredients
20-24 fresh quail eggs
marinade:
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
topping:
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp black sesame seeds
2 tsp white sesame seeds
Directions
1.  Soft boil the quail eggs.  To do this, I placed them in my steamer basked and steamed on high heat for 3 minutes, then dunked them in ice water before peeling.  They were perfect.. not too liquid, but velvet cream style.
2.  Make the marinade by mixing the soy sauce and olive oil.  Place the peeled eggs in the marinade.  He says to do this for 30 minutes.  I left mine for 2 hours.
3.  Make the topping by dry roasting the sesame seeds on the stove top, then blitzing them with the salt in a blender or food processor.  You don't want to make a powder, you just want to lightly break some of those seeds.
4.  Get ready to grill.  I  used my stovetop griddle pan.  Drain the eggs from the marinade and place on the very hot griddle pan for about 1 minute, making sure to turn them at least once so they get the char marks on 2 sides.
Serve dipped in the sesame salt.

I absolutely LOVED this.  It is one of the most interesting things I've served for happy hour.  Not only is it healthy, but it's just so easy to pop into your mouth with a toothpick!
I'm starting to think this Yotam dude is sort of a genius...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Spicy Szechuan Chicken Noodle Soup

Oh hello there..
It's been a while.
It's not that I haven't been cooking.. I've been cooking like crazy!  It's just that I've been cooking variants of my already posted recipes and while I'm enjoying rediscovering ingredients, I missed you. .. a lot.
Since it is the Chinese or Lunar New Year, I had to make a Chinese dish at least once this week.. and when I say Chinese, I mean Sichuanese.  It's not that I don't appreciate other Chinese regional cuisines.. it's just that Szechuan just really really really rocks my boat.
This "soup" has a deep flavorful broth.  It is spicy, but it all really depends on the spiciness of your bean paste.  Weaklings stay away.
Welcome to the year of the Monkey!
Adapted from GourmetpersuAsian
Serves 4
Ingredients
2-3 large chicken legs with thighs, bone-in skin on
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
5 cups water
20 small Shiitake mushrooms
2 baby bok choy, leaves separated
1 large handful Chinese watercress leaves
juice from 1 lemon
lots of ground green peppercorns
3 knobs glass noodles (or egg noodles)
Seasoning:
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp sugar
3 star anise
2 tsp five-spice powder
1 inch chunk ginger, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
4 Tbsp Doubanjiang (Pixian spicy broadbean paste)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
Garnish:
4 soft boiled eggs (6 min steam)
chopped green onions
chopped cilantro
sesame oil
Directions
1.  Prepare the broth.  Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pot or dutch oven and add the chicken pieces.  Cook until lightly brown on all sides, then add the vinegar.  This part releases steam, so be prepared.
2.  Add the water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done (the meat comes off the bone).  While this is happening, steam your eggs and prepare, chop, and slice the rest of the ingredients.
3.  Remove the chicken and let cool.
4.  Prepare the seasoning.  In a separate saucepan, heat the 3 Tbsp oil on high and add the sugar and let become golden.
5.  Add the star anise and five-spice powder and let bubble for 30 seconds before adding the ginger and garlic slices.
6.  Stir, all while keeping on the heat for another 30 seconds.  Then comes the flavor.  Add the 4 Tbsp doubanjiang.  This will make it too spicy for the weak.  It was perfect for me.  If you're unsure, use only 2 Tbsp and add more later into your own bowl (although the effect isn't the same).  Let bubble for another 30 seconds.
7.  Remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce.  Pour this mixture into the broth along with the mushrooms, bok choy, and watercress.  Keep the broth at a simmer.
8.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and discard.  Put the meat back into the broth with its fellow citizens.  Add the lemon juice and grind some pepper in there.
9.  Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes to let the flavors infuse.
10.  Decide what to do with the noodles.  Depending on in you are going to finish everything in one sitting or will be having leftovers, you can decide to cook the noodles directly in the broth or separately.  I soaked mine separately because I knew I was going to have leftovers.
11.  Serve spooned over noodles garnished with 1 egg per person, the chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, and a few drops of sesame oil.
Eat with chopsticks for the optimum effect..
The greens in this are incredible.  I love how the bok choy whites stay crunchy while the leaves wilt into a heavenly stew partnership.
And slurp those noodles... don't dare cut them.  They symbolize a long and healthy life...

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Peppermint Beet Carpaccio with Feta

I went crazy the day I discovered Peppermint Beets.
I was about to roughly cut up vegetables and throw them into a roasting pan when I discovered that my lighter colored beets had exquisite candy cane stripes!  I let out a little squeal of joy, then tasted a piece.
Not as earthy as their dark red cousins, but a nice crunch and lighter pleasant taste nonetheless.
I went ahead with the roasting and many plans of better exposing their beauty in the future.  They taste much different roasted than regular beets.  I preferred the raw taste test.
The next day I bought more... excited about slicing them into rounds.  When I chopped them, they had lovely stripes but where not circular.  I wanted to make carpaccio.  Ooh yes!
So I just let myself wander, adding a bit of this, and a dash of that.. and being thankful I had a stash of cilantro to perfect it all.
This little gem was the result.  It didn't really take me any time.. (except the part where I almost sliced off my finger with the mandoline and had no bandaids in the house).  All the pieces just ended up in the right place while I let my senses guide me....
Serves 1
Ingredients
1 peppermint beet, peeled and sliced on the 1.5mm setting of the mandoline
1 small handful salad, washed
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
chunk of feta, chopped
few grinds black pepper
pinch of fleur de sel
pinch dried piment d'espelette
juice from 1/2 lime
hefty drizzle top quality olive oil
Directions
Plate it.
I first laid down the greens, then placed my beet slices slightly overlapping in a circle.
I sprinkled on the cilantro and feta, then added the pepper, fleur de sel,  and piment d'espelette.
The last thing I did was squeeze the lime juice all over the plate, and then douse it with olive oil.

This meal which is just a simple mixture of great quality ingredients, is the most rewarding meal to enjoy.
First, for its simplicity, next for it's swirls of beauty.. but most of all for its crisp and well seasoned morsels enhanced by the tang of lime and sharpness of feta.
It is something I've made again, and will continue making.
As an appetizer, it is just fine.
I've added poached or soft boiled eggs and made it a meal as well.
If I owned a restaurant, I would serve this and be proud of it!

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Hoppin' John

It is sort of a tradition in the US to eat Black-Eyed peas on New Year's day.  Having lived in the US all my life, I had never heard of this tradition until I started getting interested in cooking and blogging.  I don't really remember any specific tradition on New Year's day (besides detoxing from the night before).  This southern tradition adds to the long list of traditions from all over the world symbolizing good fortune.  I am keen to these little bits and pieces of knowledge, especially when sharing a tradition from one country in a totally different country.  It makes for a wonderful intro before starting the meal.
In many cultures, eating beans or lentils is said to bring good fortune because they are round.  All round things represent coins.  Beans and lentils tend to swell while they cook, representing the growing good fortune.  I usually do black-eyed peas around the New Year but I usually do it in the form of pakoras.
In the middle east, India, and Africa, I've read accounts such as this.  It's funny how in the end people from all parts of the world have common acts in the name of tradition.
Couldn't we all just get along?
In the US, collard greens are usually added to the bean tradition because the green represents bills.. and it couldn't hurt to wish a few Benjamins to someone in need for the new year.
Pork is also essential across the globe to bring "good luck" on New Year's day.  From Asia to Africa to Europe, and finally to the Americas.. pork is one of the main highlights of the day.  The reason, apparently, is that they search for food using their snout, always moving forward, which is a good way of moving through life.  Birds, on the other hand, scratch the Earth using a backward motion, so it is better not to eat birds on the first day of the year.
I usually steer clear of pork because it's not very nutritious.. but smoked pork belly is really a treat.. especially if it's only once a year..
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Ingredients
30cL (10 floz) dried black eyed peas, soaked overnight 
1 Tablespoon
 Butter
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
250g (8.8 oz) piece of top quality smoked pork belly with rind, sliced (or bacon)
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Diced
5 cups water or broth
1 tsp freshly ground black Pepper
2 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
Serve with:
cooked rice (the best is Carolina Gold if you can find it)
sauteed kale
garnish:
chopped green onions
Directions
1.  Heat the butter in a pan and sweat the onions.
2.  Add the pork belly slices and cook until the aroma is nice and smokey.. then add the garlic and bell pepper.
3.  Swish around for a few minutes, then transfer into a slow cooker with the black-eyed peas, bay leaves, water or broth, and black pepper.  Cook on low for 5-7 hours.
4.  Add the vinegar into the slow cooker.  Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.  Mine needed absolutely no salt.
5.  Remove the bay leaves and pork rind before serving.
I served over some leftover basmati and red thai rice with a hefty serving of sautéed kale, topped with green onions.

I put this on in the morning before going on my first hike of the year and discovering yet again what a beautiful place I live in.  I discovered canyons I can rock climb and waterfalls with wading pools with blue lagoon type of scenery.. right in my back yard.
So as I came home.. deep earthy aroma was a beckoning call to hungry souls.
Everybody licked their plates.. of course!
This will be my New Year's day tradition from now on as well...

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pomegranate & Ginger Flan Patissier

It was my turn to host NYE this year.  I had a spectacular feast of wasabi lump eggs, oysters on the half shell, shrimp, homemade egg rolls, crocodile steak in green coconut curry, and lovely French cheeses.  It was a fusion of cultures within each course.. a perfect representation of this year.  To top it off, I wanted something beautiful.. and no.. no Buche.  I'm not a buche type of girl.
After researching a bit on different traditions, I found that it brings good fortune to eat round things on NYE and New Year's Day.  In the dessert section, it is often round cakes.  Pie is round.. right?  I am a pie type of girl.. but what?
I finally settled on something simple.. a Parisian Flan.  Alone, it is an everyday type of dessert.. but I decided to lace it up in a ruby crusted corset to make it sexy enough for the occasion.
Round fruits are also signs of good fortune.. and pomegranate fits right into that category.  Plus, it makes me think of precious rubies scattered all over my plate.
I also learned that eating pomegranate seeds promotes fertility.. hmm... interesting.
One never knows what the year to come has in store for us.  I never in my life would have imagined living the events that happened in this past year.
Life is Beautiful
Serves 8-10
Ingredients
shortcrust:
100g (3.5oz) butter, cubed
100g (3.5oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) flour
pinch salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
5 cL (approx 2 floz) water
Use the method, then pre-bake for 10 minutes at 190°C

Filling:
75cL milk
20 cL cream
70g (2.5oz) cornstarch
4 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
90g (3.2oz) cane sugar
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g (1.1oz) butter butter
seeds from 1 pomegranate
handful chopped candied ginger

Topping:
seeds from 1 pomegranate
drizzle of pomegranate molasses

Directions
1.  In a mixing bowl, whisk part of the milk with the cornstarch until evenly dissolved, then beat the rest of the milk, eggs, sugar, fresh ginger, and salt until even without lumps.
2.  Pour the mixture into a pot and heat on medium high on the stovetop.  Whisk continually and the mixture will thicken.
3.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, pomegranate seeds, vanilla, and candied ginger.
4.  Pour the mixture into the pre-backed shortcrust and bake for 40 minutes at 180°C 350°F.
5.  Let cool!  This step is important.  You want it to be chilled or at room temperature.  The chilling can be done in the fridge.
To serve, cut a slice and spoon some fresh pomegranate seeds onto it.  I love the look of fresh pomegranate seeds.. it's studded with rubies!
Then to make it extra fancy, drizzle some of that sexy pomegranate molasses onto the plate.
My artistic father would be proud of this creation.

The result is a mixture of textures and tastes.. sweet, sour, crunchy, nutty, spicy.  It is the perfect jewel for a perfect end to the most incredible year I've lived since being in France.
Happy New Year to all!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chipotle Barbacoa Beef

As much as I love living and eating in France, there is seriously a lack of Mexicans and Tex-Mex items.  Please, Mexicans.. COME TO FRANCE!!  You will feel exotic and unique here!
I can easily find Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Thai products, but simple things like dried chiles and hominy are literally non existant with an exception once every 5 years.
Yes, you can find fresh chiles, but they are usually the red Thai or the green Moroccan.  No Jalapeños in sight.  When it comes to dried, you can find the spicy oiseau or cayenne ones, and in specialty stores you can find the red Indian ones.. but nowhere in site are chile de arboles, guajillo, moritas, puyas, pasilla, ancho.. or any of the other magnificent Mexican nectar.
For those who know me and travel, my "bring me this" list is always dried chiles and chipotles from a can... (and mango chile lollipops and Tapatio sauce).
Always.
So when I get my hands on some tortillas, I often dream about barbacoa beef.. but I had never really thought it was a possibility here.
Behold my very last can of chipotle chiles (family and friends.. this is a sign).. I have dedicated it to making my ultimate favorite fast/slow food burrito.. the Chipotle Barbacoa Beef burrito.
Just typing those words is making me salivate.
In college, I think I ate one of these at least once a week!
Serves 12 extra large burritos
Ingredients
1 kg (2 lbs) stew beef or chuck roast
1/6 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
juice from 1 lime
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (from a can)
3/8 cup vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
Directions
1.  Place the garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, cloves, salt, and chipotle chiles with sauce in a blender and mix into a smooth puree.
2.  Put the beef in your slow cooker and cover with the puree adding the broth, bay leaves, and lemon juice on top.
3.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  I did this overnight.. I had some really hot Chipotle dreams that night.
4.  Using 2 forks, separate the meat into shreds and let it sit for a little while to let let shreds absorb the juice.  I transferred to a baking dish and covered with foil to free my crockpot for black beans.
5.  Now your meat is ready.  If it has cooled down too much, it can be re-heated in the oven, covered, of course!
You can use this for a bowl, on corn tortillas as tacos, or in burritos.
(There are no real corn tortillas in France)

Here's what went into my big fat Chipotle burritos!
With all the fixings.. sautéed bells and onions, black beans, rice, pico de gallo salsa with corn, sour cream, shredded cabbage, avocado, shredded swiss.. mmmmm!
Then I rolled it and wrapped it up Chipotle style for practical eating purposes...
.. and topped each bite with a lovely squirt of lime..

Just heavenly spicy deliciousness.
These are the kind of cravings that make you orgasmic when you obtain them... especially when you realize you made it 10x better than the original version!

The upside?  I ate this for 3 days in a row.. and I froze half the meat for future cravings.
Oooh!

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Three-Ginger Pecan Pie

Pecan pie has been on my mind for a few years now.  I have some old Thanksgiving memories of a tooth-achingly sweet but absolutely fabulous pie with pecans forming a top crust and a gelatinous custard underneath I could never figure out.  Coming from the desert, I would joke that it was cockroach pie because the intact pecans reminded me of the local Palmetto roaches that like to hang out in the swamp coolers.  I know.. this is not a very appetizing intro.. but I used to refuse to eat dates as well for the same reason.  Once I got past that little though, bliss became me.
The only reason I hadn't made pecan pie until now is that almost every single recipe called for corn syrup and cornstarch.
I know it's psychological, but I cannot knowingly put corn syrup into one of my desserts.  Plus, I can't handle very very sweet desserts.. at least not as much as I could when I was younger.  It actually horrified me when I found out what that jiggly sweet stuff was under the pecan crust.
So, I completely stopped looking for pecan pie recipes.
It's funny because it's when you stop actively looking for love that it hits you in the face.  A recipe literally called out to me with the magic word: Ginger.
It has 3 types of ginger; fresh, powdered, and candied, maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and no corn starch.  Plus, I could cut out all the refined sugar if I wanted because it wouldn't dramatically change the texture.
This one was a winner.. and I'm very happy I decided to go through and make myself a new pecan pie memory..
Adapted from David Lebovitz.
Serves 8
Ingredients
Shortcrust:
100g (3.5oz) butter, cubed
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) flour
pinch salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
5 cL (approx 2 floz) water
Use the method, then pre-bake for 10 minutes at 190°C

Filling:
3 Tbsp butter
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
225g (7.9oz) pecans, toasted and chopped
50g (1.8oz) chopped candied ginger

Directions
1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk, maple syrup, lime, salt, fresh ginger, and powdered ginger.  Remove from heat, add the chopped pecans, and let infuse for about 10 minutes.
2.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well with the vanilla extract.
3.  Add the infused mixture into the beaten eggs along with the chopped candied ginger and mix well.
4.  Pour the filling into the pre-baked shortcrust.  Bake at 350°F 180°C for about 40 minutes.
The recipe says it should jiggle.. mine didn't really jiggle, but after cooling for about 1 hour, it was very easy to cut into slices.
It was the most fabulous tasting dessert I've ever made.
It is probably better to eat it in the afternoon with tea, for after a heavy meal it is a bit hard to go through with your desire to eat 2 slices.
Ginger is really getting a hold on me this season!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Nothing says "Holiday" like ginger and spice.  I've been putting it everywhere on everything.  It's the most addicting piece of nature out there.. and when mixed with cinnamon cloves, and nutmeg, it fills you with warmth and love.. and leaves you wanting more.
I usually just have one cookie when I make a batch and keep the rest on the counter to offer.. but I can't keep my hands off these ones...
Yield 3 dozen cookies
Ingredients
Dry:
100g (3.5oz) buckwheat flour
180g (6.3oz) whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp salt
Wet:
90g (3.2oz) room temperature butter
100g (3.5oz) sugar
130g (4.6oz) molasses
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 large egg
Topping:
Chopped candied ginger
Directions
1.  Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together, then whisk in the molasses.  It may be hard to stir.. molasses is a sticky caramelized licoricy mess.  But mmMmmMm!
3.  Whisk in the grated ginger.  When it is all well incorporated, whisk in the egg until nice and homogenous.
4.  Ditch the whisk and prepare your wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ones a little at a time.  It will be nice and stiff..hang in there.
5.  When all the dry ingredients are incorporated, preheat the oven to 350°F 180°C.
6.  Make tablespoon sized balls with the dough, dip into the chopped candied ginger, and press onto a cookie sheet.  make sure to space each cookie out at least 1 1/2 inches apart.  It is actually easier to handle if you chill the dough beforehand.
7.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  10 for chewy, 12 for crunchy.
8.  Remove onto a cooling rack and let cool at least 15 minutes!  Do not be too impatient..

The result is a light crispy chewy cookie full of ginger and spice and everything nice...
Ginger does make this world a happier place.

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