What’s That You’re Holding There: Lemongrass?

7a8a61a4dd4711e293c522000a9f4d92_7Jessica and I go way back. She was an intern on her way to the West Coast to finish her MBA, and I had just moved from Europe to work in NYC. We discovered our shared fondness for food – and each other – and had many discussions reviewing new restaurants, speciality food stores and weekend farmers markets. So it comes to no surprise that today, over a decade later, our work, life and passion still revolves around food. Having a friend like Jessica means that you don’t even bat an eye when she shows up to a coffee meeting with a plump purple kohlrabi and a fresh stalk of what?  Lemongrass! Well, the kohlrabi was easy to deal with, but what to do with the lemongrass? Read on to find out. Come and cook with us!

Lemongrass is a quintessential ingredient in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking. As the name would suggest, it has a strong lemony flavor that is released when the stalk is lightly bruised. What makes lemongrass so interesting, is that it is known to have numerous health benefits, especially when used in combination with other spices such as garlic, fresh chillies and coriander. More specifically, my research also revealed that lemongrass has been used since ancient times in Chinese medicine for fighting flus and colds, fevers, headaches, abdominal pains and other stomach conditions, as well as arthritis and fungal conditions.

When buying lemongrass, look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk near the bulb. You can store them in the fridge or the freezer. The best (and fastest) way to release the flavor from the stalks is by cutting them into sections that are each two to three inches long. Using a knife, “bruise” them by scratching the stalks superficially or bending them several times to release the flavor. Alternatively, if you want to add some more fiber to your dish, slice and mince the stalks in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle (which will require a fair amount of elbow grease).

My favorite lemongrass recipe is from my friend Bettina, an accomplished architect but even better baker and chef from South Tyrol. Her dish features shrimp, ginger and coconut milk. If Thai food is not your thing, add finely minced lemongrass to your meat and fish marinades (as in lemongrass teriyaki) and vegetable soups or brew a simple tea with bruised lemongrass, a few slices of fresh ginger and a cinnamon stalk. Let it cool overnight in the fridge and sip throughout the day for a fragrant, refreshing and invigorating drink. Come and cook lemongrass with us!

Spicy Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup

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