With the arrival of the cold-and-cough season, you may be thinking about cooking up a big batch of chicken soup as a cure for what ails us. I love the stuff, too, but I suggest you stock up on some fresh gingerroot instead. Ginger, of course, is one of the many flavors to be found in a stir-fry Asian dish or Indian curry. But used in larger quantities than specified for those recipes, it can become quite spicy. Of all the home remedies out there, I have found tea, prepared with fresh ginger, to be the most effective.
Ginger Tea is easy to make (and is much cheaper than chicken soup). Essentially, there's nothing to do but chop up some fresh gingerroot, combine it with water and let it simmer. When you're done, you're looking at a potent, clean-out-your-sinuses beverage that's ready to sip. I've provided a recipe below, but there's no need to be so formal. You can wing it and you'll be fine.
When making the tea, you might imagine that the first task would be to peel that gnarly gingerroot. In fact, it's not necessary. Just rinse it well and slice off any bruised spots, then chop it and pile all the chunks into a small saucepan. The more finely it's chopped, the better — but half-inch chunks are good enough. Cover the gingerroot with 1 inch of cold water, then bring the tea to a boil. (Starting with cold water pulls out more of the ginger flavor than starting with hot water.) The longer you simmer it, the stronger it becomes. So take a sip after 15 minutes or so and, if you approve, strain out the liquid. You can drink it straight up or embellished with honey and lemon — or even a pinch of cayenne.
If one potful of the tea doesn't entirely vanquish your cold, you can return the chunks to the saucepan, add fresh water and repeat the process. A single crop of chopped ginger can keep a pot going all day.
Start to finish: 25 minutes (10 hands-on)
4 ounces fresh gingerroot
1 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided, or to taste
4 lemon wedges
Rinse the ginger, cut off any bruised spots and cut it into (roughly) 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium saucepan, combine the ginger with 4 cups cold water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover partially and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste, and if strong enough, strain and pour into mugs. Add 1 teaspoon honey or more if desired to each portion and serve with a wedge of lemon.
Nutrition information per serving: 47 calories; 2 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 4 mg sodium; 12 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."