One of the more pleasant gastronomic practices that seems to have fallen aside in this day is the custom of providing diners with a palate cleanser. In earlier times, if a strong course, such as fish was served, a small dish of lemon sorbet would immediately follow it. The purpose, of course, was to clear the taste buds making them ready to experience the next bountiful dish without competition from lingering flavors.
This practice is still maintained in Japanese customs, using ginger. For instance, the Japanese serve paper-thin slices of pickled ginger with sushi and sashimi. The ginger acts to clean the palate, allowing each food to be tasted without contamination from other flavors.
It is a concept that should not be discarded in our hasty kitchens. A simple piece of ginger or citrus refreshes the entire body and perks up the mind. Just think how your body reacts when you cut into a lemon or lime. Or, rub your fingers across a freshly cut piece of ginger, then hold them to your nose. The aroma produces a warm but invigorating feeling. Indeed, the use of citrus and ginger in medicinal products is no accident, for they both are proven to have restorative properties.
Next time you serve a dinner with more than one course, try serving your guests a palate-cleanser. They will remark upon it to no end, for most people will find it a pleasantly surprising novelty. And, you will profit from having your dishes consumed under better tasting conditions, allowing the true flavors, which you have worked so hard to create, be fully realized and appreciated.
A palate cleanser can be made in many extraordinarily simple ways. I like to create "Ginger Kisses." You merely take a toothpick and skewer onto it a slice of pickled ginger and a piece (or pieces) of fresh fruit, such as grapefruit, pineapple, orange or even melon. Melon balls themselves can act as a palate cleanser, especially when garnished with a light sprinkling of fresh chopped mint. Or, for real convenience, keep small containers of Italian lemon ice, now available in grocery stores, on hand in your freezer. Serve mall scoops of the ice by itself, or add a small sliver of ginger or a mint to get an even greater crowd reaction.
Sliced, pickled ginger
Pineapple, cut into bite-size pieces
Fresh mint leaves
Using a toothpick, skewer a small slice of ginger in between a slice of pineapple and a mint leaf. The pieces should be small enough to comfortably eat in one bite. Serve in between courses, or after a particularly spicy meal.
You may also serve the pineapple in a small bowl, cut into bite-size pieces, sprinkled with chopped pickled ginger and chopped mint.
Copyright © 2000, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007
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