Ginger root has beige skin and hard, fibrous, pale-yellow flesh. Fresh ginger is sweet, aromatic, and pungent, whereas dried ginger powder has a completely different taste—much more spicy. I use both often, but they are so different they cannot usually replace each other in recipes. Fresh ginger tends to have a superior taste and has more health benefits. It can be found year-round in the produce section of markets, but make sure it is firm and free of mold (I see this surprisingly often). The skin should be smooth and shiny rather than wrinkly. The tough skin of fresh ginger must be peeled, which can be done easily by scraping with the edge of a spoon. It is then usually sliced thinly crosswise to cut the stringy fibers as small as possible, and can then be further minced. I nearly always have a fresh ginger root handy, as they are very good in a number of both sweet and savory dishes (such as bashed neeps, pudla besan, and blueberry orange compote). If there's any leftover that might go bad, I chop it up and steep it in hot water to make fresh ginger tea. Tea made this way is delicious and very different than the ginger tea-bag type; it has a very sweet and almost fruity flavor, somehow reminiscent of lemon drops. Ginger stays good on the counter for about a week (depending on the freshness upon purchase), but can also last in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.
Blanch almonds have their skins removed. You can buy them pre-blanched from the store, usually in the form of slivered almonds, though these tend to be more expensive. Or you can blanch them yourself.
Total time: 15 minutes
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Put the almonds in the water and reduce the heat, boiling them for no longer than a minute, or they will get soft and soggy. Strain out the water then put the almonds in a bowl of cold water to arrest the cooking process. Once completely cooled, strain them again. To remove the skins, hold the almond between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze. Their skins should come of very easily, so if they are stubborn the almonds probably weren't cooked long enough or haven't cooled long enough. If this is the case, either start over or just use the almonds with the skins; its not worth trying to scrape off each skin. The almonds will probably shoot everywhere when you remove the skins, so I recommend doing this in a large bowl, pointing the almonds down so they will not end up all over your counter.