Lemon Grass

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A reed-like grass with a scallion-type base that is used as a flavoring in food dishes, providing a sharp lemony taste. It is the heart or bulb within the base that is used as an ingredient for Southeast Asian recipes. Lemon Grass is used to add a citrus-like aroma and fresh ginger-like flavor to marinades for poultry and fish or as a flavoring for soups, stews, salads, and food dressings such as curries or marinades. Unless the Lemon Grass is minced and mixed into the food dish, it is best to add larger strips to the dish and then remove before serving, since it does not break up and disappear when cooking.

When preparing Lemon Grass, cut off the root and over half of the upper stalk. Then remove the outer layers of the base remaining to expose the tender inner heart. Lemon Grass can be sliced into thin, small disks or minced or crushed to be added to salads and stir fries. When preparing soups, stews and some sauces, cut the stalk into short pieces, several inches in length and cook with other ingredients until done, then remove the Lemon Grass. When adding as a seasoning to sauces and marinades, Lemon Grass can be cut into small bits and then minced or ground into a paste to be added into the other ingredients. Lemon Grass can also be crushed and placed in the bottom of foil food wrappings on the grill or roasting pans with the food placed directly on the Lemon Grass. When fresh Lemon Grass cannot be found, substitute dried Lemon Grass or thin strips of lemon peel. For each 8 inch fresh stalk that is required, substitute 1 tablespoon of dried Lemon Grass or several long strips of lemon peel. If a recipe requires the heart of the Lemon Grass, take only the bottom 4 to 6 inches of the stalk and peel off the outer leaves until the inner purple ring is exposed.

Lemon Grass is found in Asian markets and some grocery stores that stock specialty items. Select stalks that are greenish-white in color and firm feeling. The top of the stalk should be fresh to slightly dry in appearance while the base should be somewhat heavy and moist. Lemon Grass can be stored in the freezer for 6 months or a few weeks if refrigerated, but should be wrapped in plastic if stored.

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