Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Food Horoscope: Pisces

Happy birth-month, Pisceans!


Pisces, the fishes (February 19 to March 20)

Now, I'm merely a cook, and not an astrologer, but here's my advice for your foodcast:

This is probably a good year to let food help you develop your relationships.

I've got something in mind that I think will help you do this in two ways.

The sourdough loaf, leavened by naturally occurring wild yeasts, comes to us through a very ancient tradition that requires patience and consistent care... powerful virtues in an era that tends to pay more attention to haste and impermanence. Some sourdough starters have been carefully tended and passed down from baker to baker for tens or hundreds of years.

The practice of patience and consistency helps ensure that your sourdough starter survives, but these skills also helpful things to remember in tending one's friendships.

And both the starter and the products it makes are ideal for sharing, another powerful relationship builder. When you think back on some of your favorite meals, you're likely to find they were spent with people you love. As long as there have been people, people have shared their food, so this is a pretty old concept.

So my thought is this: a new friend to break bread, or gather together a group of old friends to join you for brunch. Conspire to launch projects and solve problems.

I'd post the sourdough particulars here, but Sharon Vail's supremely cool recipes and story here at NPR sum up just about everything I'd want to say on the topic. She uses her starter in pancakes, biscuits, loaves and even chocolate cake.

On the other hand, the impatient among you might consider purchasing a little sourdough community to get your starter started right.

So with that thought in mind, enjoy your birthday and happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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Day 21: A Festive Frybread

This post marks Day 21 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Since today marks the first day of Hanukkah (as well as the shortest day of the year), I thought it'd be appropriate to commemorate the miracle of the oil with a frybread recipe... a treat for anyone, really.

It's interesting to note that just about any culture that eats bread has its own version of frybread.

The classic Donut. Southern Hushpuppies. South American Sopaipillas. Spanish Churros. Indian Poori. Japanese Tenkasu. Chinese Youtiao. Eastern European Pirozhki. Kazakh baursak. Israeli Sufganiyot... and so on.

Frybread and Wojapi

I'm assuming that the universality of the method has to do with:
1.) accessibility — not everyone has an oven.
2.) ease — whip it up in minutes; all you need is a pot of hot oil.
3.) tastiness — just about anything tastes good when fried.

Since I grew up attending a lot of powwows and rodeos, frybread was always a part of my cultural landscape.

Frybread tacos. Frybread and honey. Frybread and cinnamon sugar. Frybread and wojapi (see below for more on that).

After all, it's the official state bread of my people. (Not to mention the source of some controversy.) While it's certainly not an everyday food, frybread is most definitely a tasty special occasion food.

My favorite recipe for frybread (sometimes called bannock) is a Chippewa version that's made with meat drippings... mmm! It's really best when it features that savory angle, but if you can't take the meat, I've got a reliable (albeit less umami-filled) substitution.

Wojapi (WHOA-jza-pee) is a delicious dark berry sauce that's sometimes served as a dipping sauce with frybread.

The stuff I ate as a kid was almost always made with wild chokecherries, but you could easily use little wild plums or blueberries or blackberries or whatever dark fruits you happen to have around.
Very Basic Wojapi (Makes about 1 pint)
2 cups of dark fruit/berries
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/8 cup water

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine fruit, sugar or honey and water.
2. Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. Serve immediately or, if using cherries or plums, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before removing any pits or seeds. Then rewarm to serve with hot frybread.
I like to use canola oil for frying because it doesn't smoke as readily as many other oils, but use what you have and try to monitor the heat so your oil doesn't burn.
Savory Frybread (Serves 4-6)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp meat drippings (or substitute 4 Tbsp milk + 1/2 tsp salt + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil)
3/4 cup water
Extra flour (for kneading)
Melted lard (preferably) or Canola oil (for frying)

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. Add the meat drippings (or milk/salt/oil) and water. Mix well.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly.
4. Pat the dough out into a 1/2" layer and slice into 2" strips or squares. If you're making tacos, cut larger pieces and puncture each piece in its center for ventilation.
5. Pour the frying oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed pot so that it reaches 3/4" to 1" up the side of the pan, and set a paper towel-covered wire rack on a baking sheet (for cooling the hot frybread).
6. Heat the pot/pan until the oil is between 350°F and 375°F — at this point, a small dough ball dropped into the oil will immediately begin to bubble and cook, but the oil won't be smoking. Maintain this temperature throughout frying.
7. Carefully drop the dough into the oil with metal tongs, one or two pieces at a time.
8. Cook dough 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Move cooked frybread to the prepared cooling rack while you fry the rest. Serve warm with honey, cinnamon sugar, wojapi sauce or traditional taco fillings.

If you don't have the time (or the berries) to make wojapi, you can thin down some berry preserves with water and adjust the flavor with a little lemon juice to give the sauce a balance of sweetness and tartness, to your taste.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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Day 7: Superb English Tea Scones

This post marks Day 7 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Somehow, we Americans tend to fixate on the Victorian era, particularly in London, as the point on the time-space continuum for maximum holiday revelry. I think we can blame Dickens for this.

These days, we don't travel in open sleighs, we don't open the shutters and throw up the sash to spy St. Nick on the lawn, and you won't catch us wearing furry beaver muffs or lighting lanterns around our homes unless it's for reasons of historical romance, but these visions all somehow seem holiday-appropriate to us.

Ice skating at 72nd Street Lake, Central Park, 1894, (from NYC Parks & Rec)

I won't argue with this oddity, but I'll offer that even though the classic English Tea Scone is not in any way fixed on the holidays, it certainly seems to be an appropriately festive addition to the landscape.
Superb English Tea Scones (Makes 10-12)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup currants (optional)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk or cream
Additional milk or cream (for brushing)
Sugar (for sprinkling)

1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a long-tined fork until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
3. Whisk together the egg and half & half.
4. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients just until they hold together. Form a ball with your hands and turn the ball onto a floured work surface.
5. Heat oven to 400°F and lightly roll the dough into a 1/2" thick disc.
6. Cut disc into 10-12 wedges, and move the wedges to an ungreased baking sheet, 1" to 2" apart.
7. Brush each wedge with milk or half & half, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.

Serve the warm scones alongside your favorite preserves and Devonshire cream, if you can get it. (If not, you can fake up a faux Devonshire cream by whipping 3 oz cream cheese, 1 tsp powdered sugar and 1 cup cream until thick and smooth. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.)

You'll want to gather some friends, iron your grandmother's linens and brew up a nice hot pot of tea to serve with your scones, of course. Coffee just seems... improper.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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FoodLink Roundup: 11.24.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located inside the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Crunch these numbers before munching on turkey
Rusty on your arithmetic? Brush up on basic calculations for the holiday.

Wylie, Eggs, Chihuahuas
Studio 360 is all about food arts and sciences this week. Worth a listen.

Bagels (girda nan) a hot commodity in China too
On the ancient bagel-like girda nan and the quiet invasion of Jewish-style bagels in China.

Kitchen Essentials: 10 versatile pantry items
Not your grandma's list of staples. Ten ingredients for the intermediate to advanced home cook.

Jerusalem artichokes with manouri and basil oil
You kind of can't go wrong with roasted veg and some tasty fats...

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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Food Quote Friday: Christine Rhein

Wild Parking Lot Raspberries

if we could hear bread rising, dew forming, the budding
of raspberries, the tear of a cocoon, a minnow's pulse,
our own cells growing, dying."

Christine Rhein from "Tuning"

More dewy, pulsing food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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Pumpkin-Spice Breakfast Bread

Call it squash seduction. Call it the autumnal chill. I don't know what you want to call it, but the pumpkins in the farmers' market have been calling to me.

Of course, I've been too lazy (or maybe just too busy) as of late to turn one of those tempting gourds into a pie.

Luckily, I'm told that few palates can actually discern the difference between fresh-made pumpkin puree and the pumpkin puree that's conveniently canned.

Pumpkins at the Market

With that thought in mind, I whipped up a pumpkin spice bread for brekkie. I wanted something a bit lower in sugar and higher in whole grain flour than a lot of recipes I've seen. I also wanted to experiment in baking with the ginger liqueur I mentioned last week.

This little loaf fit the bill and was quite nice both sliced and slathered with cream cheese and also toasted and kissed with butter.
Pumpkin-Spice Breakfast Bread — Makes One Loaf

6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus a bit of butter for the pan
8 oz (1 cup) pumpkin puree (cans are typically 16 oz)
1 Tbsp ginger liqueur (optional)
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus a bit more for the pan
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter and flour one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (6-cup) loaf pan, and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, blend the sugar, pumpkin, melted butter and eggs.
3. In a different bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
4. Add the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Pour the batter into the greased pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
6. Let the loaf cool 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest overnight. Slice and eat the next morning — toasted, if you like.

Bon appetit!

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FoodLink Roundup: 10.13.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was shopping and dining at the Brooklyn Flea. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief
Common-Sense Food Activist Michael Pollan Strikes Back!

Brazilian-inspired soup
A slightly lighter take on that classic Brazilian takedown: feijouada.

Bread Without Yeast
Just add flour, water and patience.

Change Your Pumpkin, Change Your World
Is food political? You bet your sweet squash it is...

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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Food Quote Friday: Paul Reyes

coffee cup

"The crowd swelled and ebbed with regulars dedicated to this brave motherland diet, in a tiny room packed with the odors of hot oil and coffee and sugar and warm bread. And sure, pork skins for breakfast might mean fewer days in the long run, but they added a weird rigor to the morning. If anything, the grease is sentimental."

— Paul Reyes in Harpers, October, 2008

Need seconds? More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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Another Dose of Pain

Okay, I'm only doing this for you folks, so don't say I never did nothin' for ya.

A while back I made a couple of new designs for the Swag Shop and there was some insistence in the comments that I make a tote-bag suitable versions.

Who am I to turn down a tote-hungry public?

But as it turned out, the initial design was just not up to snuff for that kind of thing. So I got me a book and learned how to make vector graphics. I sweated. I slaved. I gritted my teeth... and here we are.

So there you have it. Bring the Pain tote bags. Great for bringing home the bread. Or the bacon. Or whatever you prefer to put in your tote bags. I'm not judgmental.

Two Sizes:
Big (13.5 deep by 15 wide)
Bigger (15.5 deep x 18.5 wide)

Back to your regularly scheduled food blog tomorrow!

Miss Ginsu

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Bring the Pain

One of my dear friends noted that it's been forever since I updated the site Swag Shop. And she's right, of course.

So today, we play with bread punnery. Because honestly, there's nothing funnier than an angry baguette. Well, almost nothing. An angry dinner roll is pretty funny, too.

Bring the Pain
Le pain? Oh it's already been brung.

And because an angry baguette and company just weren't enough... I whipped up a pack of mean little dinner rolls for you.

Bring the Pain
Watch out! Those buns are tough!

Find angry baguettes and dinner rolls, not to mention culinary-minded bunnies, coffee-thoughtful fishes and little ninja MissGinsu wielding her scary ninja powers on buttons, totes, tees and all that kind of stuff in the Swag Shop.

And tomorrow, we'll put down the puns and get back to the regularly scheduled food blog.


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Food Quote Friday: Anne Sexton


"Someone once said:
Don't bite till you know
if it's bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud."

Anne Sexton from Snow

More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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The Wisdom of Food Proverbs

Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I remember what my dad always used to say: "Where a tomato appears, basil is welcome." And you know what? It works. Bruschettas, sauces, lasagnas, salads, soups... When the tomato is involved, I add the basil and it's nice. This method might work less well in a salsa, but honestly, it wouldn't be bad.

That got me thinking about other food proverbs or traditional sayings.

Perhaps I'm just leaving a treasure of wisdom sitting out on the front stairs by ignoring the supposedly Polish proverb: "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times — in water, in butter and in wine." I generally just encourage my fish fillets to swim in a nice pool of olive oil, but I don't doubt that a few generations of unnamed ancient cooks are on to something.

There's certainly great truth in Benjamin Franklin's "Fish and visitors smell in three days." I've always tried to keep that notion in mind when I shop as well as when I travel.

As I poked around the internet, looking for food proverbs, I came up with "Talk doesn't cook rice," commonly credited to the Chinese, and "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat," credited to anonymous, pithy New Yorkers. Both seem like very sensible, very practical notions.

Garlic Bulb
One free seat on the subway, coming right up.

And what about "There's no such thing as 'a little garlic'"? Much as I love the stuff, I've found that it really does proclaim itself the king of any dish in which it appears.

I think I'll have no trouble abiding the merry Czech proverb: "A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure." On the same tip, we find the Egyptian: "Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love and to celebrate the good days." As an amateur hedonist myself, I couldn't agree more.

Most endearing among the food wisdom I found was this one, credited to an anonymous Chinese author: "When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other."

I like that one a lot. It says a great deal about the value of beauty, and I'm going to try to remember it so I can keep it close at hand in my daily life.

Bread and Butter at Les Enfants Terribles

One last food proverb I found (commonly credited to an Arab source) seems less useful for developing culinary prowess, but ominously valuable as a life lesson, or rather, a warning: "He who eats alone chokes alone."

Have a favorite? I'd love to hear it. Post in the comments and you can share with anyone else who happens along this way on a quest for food wisdom.

Cheers, all!

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FoodLink Roundup: 05.26.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located out at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Go, Hazard, go!) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

Inside the chef's larders
Uncovering the grocery products that UK chefs love.

A Caucasian cheese circle
"Even the best cheese cannot change everybody's attitudes overnight."

Carrotmob Bargains for Eco-Friendliness
A nice demonstration of the utility of consumer pressure.

That's Gross: Bread Head Bakery
Bread art. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

The BYOB Hero
A delightful-looking sandwich option for a food-deprived district of Manhattan...

Why low-fat ice cream melts faster
Deciphering ice cream additives with science! If my high school chem teacher had run this kind of experiment, I might have paid more attention in class...

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Food Quote Friday: Graham Greene

Cream Tea at Podunk

"Tea at college was served on long tables with an urn at the end of each. Long baguettes of bread, three to a table, were set out with meagre portions of butter and jam; the china was coarse to withstand the schoolboy-clutch and the tea strong. At the Hôtel de Paris I was astonished at the fragility of the cups, the silver teapot, the little triangular savoury sandwiches, the éclairs stuffed with cream."

— Graham Greene from The Comedians

Sample more savoury food quotes here.

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Food Quote Friday: Marion Cabell Tyree

Baguette at Les Enfants Terribles

“I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it. If persons without brains can accomplish this, why cannot you?”

— Marion Cabell Tyree from Housekeeping In Old Virginia

Be not daunted... more crusty, chewy food quotes can be found here.

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