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FOOD FILES: How to prepare fresh ginger

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Dear Lisa: I have a recipe that calls for using fresh ginger. What should I look for in the grocery store? How does it need to be prepared to use it? Thanks. -- Cynthia, College Station

Dear Cynthia: You'll find fresh ginger near other root vegetables in the produce section.

It's distinguishable by its pale silvery skin and knobby fingers. In fact, a piece of fresh ginger is called a "hand" because it resembles one. Kind of.

Look for plump and firm pieces with smooth and shiny skin.

Some advise gently peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler, but it is not really necessary. Just grate off the amount you need after washing it.

It's best to grate "across the grain," as the long, coarse fibers that run the length of the root will produce stringy chunks.

The heat of fresh ginger can sometimes be too harsh for some dishes. If you wish to diminish the heat, soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes before squeezing it dry and grating.

Wrapped in plastic, fresh ginger will keep for weeks in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer.

Lisa Fritz, a longtime Bryan food and nutrition educator, answers readers' questions about food, cooking and recipes. Her email address is cheflisa525@yahoo.com.

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