Serious Entertaining: Comfort Me With Ginger

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

Autumn is my favorite season. There's the beauty of the natural world as it prepares for hibernation, and then there's the fact that it's just so darn comfortable to be outside. For the next couple of months I'll be drinking warm apple cider when a slight, smoky fall breeze comes into the air and snuggling into a warm sweater without the hassle of a jacket.

Of all the spices, ginger makes me think of early fall. It's warm and a little spicy. It pairs well with summer's final vegetables, and it elevates desserts that don't have fresh fruit. When there is a chill in the air, I like to drink ginger tea or make a big bowl of this spicy ginger soup.

Spicy Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

This noodle soup will cure what ails you. First, chicken broth is flavored with slices of fresh ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, and just enough chili paste to clear your nose. Slices of chicken and shiitake mushrooms add body while slivers of red peppers and whole sugar snap peas add brightness and crunch. For extra flavor, the soup is garnished with cilantro and scallions.

I like to crack my kitchen window to let in a bit of cool autumn air then sit, face planted in the broth, slurping up long strands of noodles while my tongue tingles with chilis.

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Ginger Brown Rice Pudding

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There is something inherently comforting about rice pudding, and this one is no exception. Warm, sweet custard is flavored with ginger and cinnamon and baked over rice and raisins.

At the same time, this isn't your grandma's rice pudding. Fresh grated ginger imparts a strong, spicy flavor to this dessert, making it a dish more suited for people who tend to devour the side of pickled ginger that adorns a plate of sushi, rather than people who will occasionally order a ginger snap cookie.

A note: I used short grained brown rice for its nutty flavor and body, but if white rice is all you have on hand, it can be substituted in equal parts.

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