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Ring in 2013 with a fusion of flavors, including farm-fresh ginger

ETTRICK—If you’re tired of serving the same old appetizers during the holidays, mix them up a little.

Some Virginia farmers are growing ginger in greenhouses or hoop houses, and the flavorful rhizome adds zest to many dishes.

The tropical plant is a high-value crop that until recently was imported from outside the United States, said Dr. Reza Rafie, a Virginia Cooperative Extension horticulture specialist at Virginia State University. He is helping some Virginia farmers grow ginger in high tunnels.

“It’s a considerable niche market opportunity,” Rafie said.

Food writer Kendra Bailey Morris uses Virginia-grown ginger in a tuna tartar that she pairs with plantains and fresh guacamole. “It’s a fusion dish,” Morris said. “It’s a little Hispanic and a little Asian.”

The tuna tartar is a take on traditional Hawaiian poke, a marinated tuna dish. Morris layers it with fresh guacamole on twice-fried plantains, a Cuban specialty called tostones. Green plantains work best, and Morris warned not to use bananas, which are much sweeter.

Twice-Fried Plantains Topped with Gingered Tuna Tartar and Guacamole

Ingredients for tartar
1 pound sushi-grade tuna, cut into ¼" cubes
3 tablespoons soy sauce or Japanese shoyu sauce
3 tablespoons minced green onions
3 tablespoons diced sweet onion
1½ tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
dash of garlic chili sauce, optional
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Ingredients for guacamole
2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
juice of half a small lime
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
½ teaspoon (or to taste) finely minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon minced cilantro, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the avocados, leaving a few chunks here and there. Add the rest of the ingredients, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with additional fresh lime juice, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ingredients for plantains
3 to 4 large unripe (green) or barely ripe (slightly yellow) plantains, sliced thick
2 cups peanut or canola oil for frying

With a sharp, small knife, cut the ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through the skin. Peel away and discard the skin, and cut plantains crosswise into 1½"-thick pieces.

In a 12" nonstick skillet over moderate heat, warm ½" of oil until it is just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs, transfer the plantains to paper towels to drain.

Remove skillet from heat, and reserve the oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula, flatten plantains to ¼" thick and about 3" in diameter. Heat the reserved oil until hot but not smoking. Fry the flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs, transfer the plantains onto paper towels to drain. Season them lightly with salt, if desired. Keep plantains warm in the oven until ready to top with the tuna and guacamole.

To serve, top each plantain with a spoonful of the tuna tartar and then a dollop of guacamole. Serve immediately on a platter garnished with cilantro and lime slices.

Contact Rafie at 804-524-5840 or Morris at 804-370-3642.
Posted in: Ginger


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