Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Vive la Clafoutis!

Ah, the 14th of July! The season of fresh, local cherries. The celebration of Bastille Day. The time to bake a fruity dessert for this week's Dessert Corps project.

Oh, hey... look at that. It's like a cosmic alignment of forces telling me it's time to make a cherry clafoutis, the traditional custard pudding of Limousin in the heart of la belle France.

Rainier Cherry Bowl

As it happens, the fantastic Dessert Corps volunteer crew provided me with a half-dozen eggs and more than a pound of gorgeous, blushing Rainier Cherries — sweet, fragrant and fresh from the Greenpoint farmers' market.

Not familiar with the Rainier? It was developed in Washington state in the 1950s, as a descendant of the big, beautiful Bing Cherry and the smaller, more obscure (but very hardy) Van Cherry.

Apparently the Rainier fetches princely prices because the birds eat about a third of the crop and because they bruise easily, so there's some waste in transit.

By that measure, a Rainier Cherry Clafoutis is a dessert (or brunch treat) that's fit for kings! Or perhaps just recently deposed royalty! Or maybe even friends who happen to be a bit down on their fortunes and need a bit of home-baked comfort.

Rainier Cherry Clafoutis

You choose the audience. I'll provide the recipe:
Golden Rainier Cherry Clafoutis (Makes one 8" dish)
2 1/2 cups (roughly) pitted Rainier cherries
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted almonds
4 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cream (or milk)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Confectioner's sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F and butter an 8" round or square baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the cherries with the cornstarch and spread evenly across the bottom of the buttered dish.
3. Blend the flour and almonds in a blender or food processor until nuts are very finely chopped.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in flour until just mixed.
5. Blend in cream, melted butter, vanilla (or almond) extract and lemon zest (if using), whisking until smooth. Pour this mixture over the cherries.
6. Bake until the center sets and the top begins to turn golden, about 55 minutes.
7. Cool to room temperature before dusting the surface with powdered sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, if desired.

Bon appétit, mes amis!
Miss Ginsu

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7.14.2009

The Most Stylish Meal of the Day

I couldn't help but notice that Esquire is into breakfast right now. I caught sight of their March issue, which contains a sixteen-page food porn spread of home-and-away brekkie delights chock-full of sexy, oozy breakfast glamour shots... so ya know, that's kind of a tip-off.

Bacon, Eggs & Sauteed Ramps

And why shouldn't breakfast be trendy? It's wintertime, and breakfast is comforting. Breakfast is important for good health. It's the most important meal of the day. And in a recession economy, going out with your friends for breakfast (or brunch) makes a lot more sense than going out for dinner.

So in honor of that king of meals, I'm offering a roundup of my favorite brekkie posts to help bring joy to your mornings.

Soft-Boiled Egg & Latte at Le Pain Quotidien

It's kind of a Breakfast Bonanza, if you will, with everything from the mains to nice details and delightful drinks.

The Main Event
  • Wild Rice Breakfast Porridge
  • Easy-Peasy Granola
  • Zucchini Blondies
  • Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bread
  • Dad's Sunday Morning Blueberry Muffins
  • Do-It-Yourself Pancake Mix
  • Moist & Sticky Fig Cake
  • Custard Baklavah (Galatoboureko)
  • Foraged Quiche
  • Homemade Beans on Toast
  • Nicomachean Eggs

  • Croissant & Latte at Cafe Grumpy

    A Few Nice Details
  • Blended Bacon Butter
  • Quick Lime Curd
  • Spicy Strawberry Compote

  • Hot Chocolate at St. Helen Cafe

    Breakfast Beverages
  • Coffee Concentrate (for Easy Iced Coffees)
  • Power Smoothies
  • Banana Batidas (Banana Shakes)
  • Hot Masala Chai Kit
  • Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
  • Mulled Apple Cider

  • Of course, as much as I love all of the above, my brekkie of choice is almost always the McCann's Steel-Cut Oats. Simple. Tasty. Wholesome. Always satisfying.

    Any breakfast favorites you'd like to share? Let me know below.

    Yours in brekkie worship,
    Miss Ginsu

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    2.16.2009

    Recession-Proof Recipes: La Crepe Complete

    Last week's Recession-Proof Recipe examined stock and gave a fast variation for Pho. Pho is simple peasant food, and this week, I'd like to take an economical eating cue from yet another group of peasants.

    Like yesterday's cassoulet, a humble country casserole that's often elevated beyond its original station, the sometimes pretentiously presented French crêpe is essentially just a thin pancake with tasty tidbits rolled up inside it. It's the peasant food of Brittany.

    Several years ago I discovered I could afford a ticket to fly overseas and spend few days in Paris, but didn't have much money for lodging or food. So I ended up with a week of Paris hostels, student entry to museums and a host of street crepes.

    For that week, my diet was primarily composed of the sweet crepe, or crêpe sucrée (it was supremely cheap and the whole transaction used up the only 15 words of French I could remember)... a charming banana-Nutella combo that I still remember fondly and order whenever I encounter it on a menu.

    After traveling around with J a bit, I discovered his crepe preference invariably fell to the crepe complete, a classic buckwheat crepe filled with an egg (whites cooked, but with a runny yolk, please) with melted gruyere and ham. Simple. Filling. Complete.

    Whether in Montreal...

    crepe complete in Montreal

    In Mediterranean Spain...

    crepe complete in Girona

    In Midtown Manhattan...

    crepe complete in the Midtown CyberCafe

    Or in Paris...

    crepe complete in Paris

    Across the universe, la crepe complete is his crepe of choice.

    As you may notice in those photos, my crepe is generally in the foreground, and I always order something else. The vegetable crepe. The goat cheese and fig crepe. The ratatouille crepe. And then I find I'm always jealous of J's hearty, savory crepe. He's made a convert of me.

    By using just the slightest bit of ham and cheese with the egg, this meal manages to be simultaneously inexpensive and satisfying. And the construction of the dish is somehow magically classier than some lowly pancake and egg with skimpy slices of ham and cheese.

    Though you may have encountered sweet crêpe batters before, I must insist on the buckwheat in this recipe. The earthy flavor really does something special alongside the cheese and ham. Those Breton peasants knew something about flavor on a budget.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the blog-reading public, may I present:
    The Crêpe Complete (Serves 2-4)
    For the crêpes
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup milk
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup buckwheat flour
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

    For the filling
    4 eggs, warmed to room temp
    4 pieces ham, thin-sliced (or skip it, if you're vegetarian)
    4 pieces gruyere or Swiss cheese, thin-sliced

    1. Whisk together the water, milk, eggs, flours, salt and butter or whir in a blender until uniform. Cover and chill for 1 hour (or up to two days).
    2. Place an oven-proof plate in the oven and turn the oven on to 200° F. Remove the crepe batter from the fridge and stir it up to unite everything.
    3. Heat a large (12-17") crepe pan or skillet over moderately high heat. Melt a dollop of butter in the pan, swirling to cover the surface.
    4. When butter sizzles, add 1/4 cup of the crepe batter and, again, swirl to cover the pan surface. Cook several minutes until the bottom develops a golden texture. Then flip the crepe over with the aid of a spatula/pancake turner.
    5. Gently break one egg into center of the newly flipped crepe (try to keep the yolk intact).
    6. Cook the crepe and egg just until the white is set. Top with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese. Gently fold two sides (or four sides, as you prefer) of the crepe in to overlap the egg, cheese and ham.
    7. Use a hot pad to remove the warmed plate from the oven, then move the cooked crepe to the warm plate with a spatula.
    8. Keep your completed crepes warm in the oven while you repeat steps 3-7 with the remaining crepe batter, eggs, ham and cheese. Serve crepes hot with a crisp green salad and a cold mug of dry cider.

    Bon appétit!

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    4.16.2008

    The St. Pat's Hangover Brunch

    I'm a bit sad to report that St. Pat's day in New York creeps closer and closer into Halloween territory with each passing year.

    This year I saw the now-ubiquitous Mardi Gras-style plastic beads joined by kelly green handlebar moustaches, flowing green nylon wigs, sparkling green eye shadow and green short-shorts. And that was just on my subway commute. I didn't dare hit the bars.

    I don't mean to sound like a hater, but hosting a St. Pat's party these days almost seems like a dangerous invitation. "Come, friends! Bring your booze! Eat my green cupcakes! Vomit outlandish colors on my carpet!"

    Irish Soda Bread
    Kate's surprisingly moist Irish Soda Bread

    But a clever coworker, the lovely Suzy Hotrod(TM) came up with an ingenious idea for our latest department potluck: The Post-Patrick's Day Hangover Brunch. No hangover, derby hat or green food coloring required.

    The crew was inspired, and the ensuing feast was a delight, with not a drop of green food coloring in sight. It was truly a St. Patrick's day miracle surpassing all that snake harassment for which the old legends give him credit.

    Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
    Suzy Hotrod's Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

    I contributed Irish Cheddar Mac & Cheese (with both veg-friendly and Berkshire Bacon variations), Suzy contributed Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, Mike brought the home fries, Kate brought a moist and flavorful Irish soda bread, Marc brought Orangina (because everything's better with Orangina), Ryn made what may be the most tasty boiled brisket and cabbage dinner I've ever had and the mighty-mighty Anna Bollocks brought the totally tasty bangers (as well as Cadbury Chocolate Roses and Irish tea) from the 61st Street Deli in Woodside (3967 61st Street, Queens).

    Honestly, the Mac & Cheese was so tasty and simple to make, I think it'd be a shame to reserve it for those few days fore and aft the ides of March. And clearly, you can use whatever cheddar you happen to have on hand.

    Irish Cheddar Mac & Cheese
    With bacon in the foreground, veggie-friendly in the back

    Irish Cheddar Mac & Cheese (Makes three 8" x 8" pans)

    1 16oz box macaroni elbows
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    2 tsp dry ground mustard (or 3 Tbsp prepared mustard)
    5 cups milk
    1 tsp salt
    Ground black pepper, to taste
    1 1/4 lb Irish Cheddar, shredded
    6-8 strips bacon, cooked, cooled and chopped (optional)
    Sweet paprika (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 375°F., and cook macaroni elbows in a large pot of salted, boiling water until tender (about 8-10 minutes). Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside.

    2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a heavy-bottomed stockpot until it bubbles. Whisk in flour, mixing well.

    3. Add mustard and salt to the mixture, then gradually whisk in the 5 cups of milk, working out any flour lumps that appear.

    4. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and burbles.

    5. Remove sauce from heat and stir in half the shredded cheese.

    6. Combine the sauce with the macaroni and distribute evenly in the pan or pans. (Don't overfill the pans... they need room to bubble a bit in the oven.)

    7. If using, sprinkle bacon across the macaroni, then evenly top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle on sweet paprika for a jaunty garnish.

    8. At this point you can cover and refrigerate for baking later, or for immediate enjoyment, bake approximately 40 minutes (60 if it's been in the fridge) or until lightly browned and bubbly. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

    Sláinte!

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    3.19.2008

    Borrowed Comforts

    Is comfort food necessarily bound up in the place in which we spend our developmental years? I have some quibble with that notion.

    The comfort food of my people is supposed to be monochrome and starchy: bread, potatoes, beef and butter served alongside a tall glass of milk or a cup of dark coffee. I sprouted in the Upper Midwest of these United States, and that's how we rock it up there.

    Yet, in times of stress, sorrow, sickness or stupor I so often find myself drawn toward the comfort foods of far-flung regions: Venezuelan arepas, Vietnamese pho, Japanese ramen, Indian curries, Israeli shakshoukas and Moroccan tagines.

    Coffee at Les Enfants Terribles
    Coffee and J's furry arm at Les Enfants Terribles

    In the darkness, Canal street cutie, Les Enfants Terribles, is a crush of beautiful people who drink and laugh and flirt.

    But on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the place is a low-key gem, providing me with a corner table, sunny windows, a view of the international soccer matches, a hot cup of coffee, a crusty baguette and a plate of tasty tagine alongside rockin' Moroccan harissa. My tagine is hot, tender and rich in meaty chicken flavor with a hint of lemon. Slathered with a little searing harissa, it's pure comfort food.

    Tagine and couscous at Les Enfants Terribles
    Tagine (at front) and couscous (at rear) from Les Enfants Terribles

    This is certainly not the finest tagine on the planet (that's a mystical meal I imagine as some kind of slow-cooked masterpiece I'd discover in the kitchen of a Moroccan grandmum). What it is, however, is warm, welcoming, inexpensive and... yes, comforting.

    When I really think about it, is my brunch tagine so different from the cuisine of childhood? The tagine is really just a stew. Baguette in place of sliced bread, couscous for the potatoes, chicken or lamb replace the beef and the coffee... well, that's still coffee.

    The arepas I love so much are simply a crispy corn shell holding a pocket of stewed meat or vegetables. Pho and Ramen are steaming bowls of veg and meat with noodles. India's curries are highly spiced stews served with basmati rice. The shakshuka is a hot tomato-pepper stew served with eggs and pita. None of these dishes are really so different from the others.

    It's clear that the accents are different. One man's harissa is another man's ketchup, no? But could it be that when we speak of comfort food, the world communicates with something like a common tongue?

    Three Spoons

    Les Enfants Terribles
    37 Canal St. (at Ludlow St.)
    Lower East Side, NYC
    212.777.7518

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    11.18.2007

    Want Coffee With That, Hon?

    Neighborhood joints should have a bit of fun with their menus, right?

    I mean, maybe restaurants in contention for multi-star reviews have some reason to write up flowery prose with cursive fonts, but I feel that the corner bistro and the neighborhood greasy spoon can afford to demonstrate a little personality.

    Sometimes I love a menu so much, I'm forced to beg for it (failing that, I’m sometimes forced to thief it). Get a load of this one lifted a while back from The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis.

    The brekkie was fairly standard hip brunch-y grub (with some extra love for the veggies), but the menu itself... Swoon!

    For your enjoyment, I've put forth the effort to transcribe the Breakfast Specialties (yes, unedited, thankyouverymuch), below.

    Don’t blame me if, after reading this, you need to run in search of fried eggs and home fries, stat.

    BREAKFAST SPECIALTIES

    Welcome to the Triple Rock Social Club. We've put some serious thought into the composition of our menu, but chances are pretty good that you might want something customized a little bit. That’s cool, were into making everything available exactly the way you want it. So wipe he frown off your face and ask one of our bitter, overworked, underpaid servers for what you want. They’ll be less than thrilled to accommodate your every whim. Let’s get it on!

    IMPORTANT NOTE FOR VEGANS: Most items on the menu can be made strictly vegan (*=can be prepared vegan). If you would like your food to be prepared in a strict vegan manner, just talk to your friendly server and we’ll do what we can to hook it up. And yes, the soy cheese is casein-free. Feel free to discuss any concerns you might have with your server and we’ll make it your way. Girl, you know it’s true…

    SPECIALTY BREAKFASTS [Jump start your morning with one of our kick-ass specialties. You won’t be sorry]

    The Mothertrucker $6.50
    So you’ve got a great big convoy, you’re ridin’ cross the land. Sit your mudflaps down and dig in. We got the platter with what you need to keep all 18 wheels running. Home Fries with veggies and cheddar, topped with three eggs. Comes with delicious Toast. Get it with Bacon, Sausage, Ham or Veggie Sausage for only $1.25. Dedicated to Gertie.

    Rock Star Egg in a Hole $4.25
    If you are unfamiliar with the Egg In A Hole, you are definitely not a rock star. Through a complicated scientific process, we mold Egg and Toast together, creating a hybrid to kick breakfast ass. We’ll serve you up two Eggs in A Hole plus a side of Home Fries. Get it with cheese for $.75.

    Fried Egg Sandwich $5.00
    Eggs and cheese fried up like they were crazy and served on Toast. What, are you serious? Damn straight. Comes with a bunch of Home Fries, too. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage for only $1.25.

    Steak and Eggs $6.95
    Three eggs, Home Fries and toast. Start your day off on the right track and pamper yourself with sizzling steak.

    *Tofu Scrambler $5.25
    A perfect way to start a guilt-free day. Resistance is futile. Comes with Home Fries and Toast. Get it with cheese or soy cheese for $0.75. Add veggie sausage for only $1.25.

    OMELETTES [Eggs-celent. All omelettes served with Home Fries and Toast.]

    Great American Pork-Off $5.75
    This porkalicious concoction is chock full of every part of the pig from the rooter to the tooter. Bacon. Ham. Sausage & Cheddar. Suuuieeee!

    Veggie Non-Porkorama $5.25
    God Damn! If there’s one thing we love around here, its fake meat! Veggie Sausage, Cheddar and Onion.

    Bob Denver Omelette $5.50
    This ain’t your rocky mountain high, baby! This taller, goofier omelette is just what you need to keep your stomach satisfied on anyh three hour cruise. The Professor made us a bicycle-powered griddle and we’re not afraid to use it. Ham, Cheddar, Green Peppers and Onions are all included. This breakfast will keep you going until you get back to port, if that ever happens…

    Devil Went Down to Georgia Omelette $5.00
    Cheddar and Onions in a huge honkin’ omelette smothered with World Famous Triple Rock ChiliTM. Satan Endorsed. Satan Approved. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    Mushroom and Swiss Omelette $5.00
    We knew we had to have something standard and regular for you damn geniuses. You know it, you love it. We own you, so eat it and shut up. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    Farmer Ted’s Omelette $5.00
    Take down your overalls and bend over for this omelette, cuz we’re gonna serve it up hot. Farmer’s been workin’ overtime to give it to you garden-style. Onions, Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Spinach. Add cheese for $0.75.

    Plain Omelette $4.50
    We’ll add cheese or veggies to your omelette for $0.75 each. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    BETH”S BREAKFAST BURRITO [Out-freakin-standing.]

    Beth’s Breakfast Burrito $5.00
    We had our best people work this on out for us. It uses the same powerful technology as the burrito, but this one will cure all morning afflictions. Scrambled Eggs, Spanish Rice and Homemade Salsa, bound by the goodness of ooey gooey cheese, and wrapped in the love only a good tortilla can supply. Home Fries will round out the experience for you. We’ll let you up the ante with Ham, Sausage, Bacon or Veggie Sausage for $1.25. The deals just keep on coming…


    The Triple Rock Social Club
    629 Cedar Avenue
    Minneapolis, MN
    612-333-7499

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    11.10.2005

    Brown + Orange = Breakfast Bliss

    Brown Cafe
    Baked Eggs
    Latte at Brown
    Wheelbarrow Tomato Plant

    To those who might secretly harbor notions that Paris or Milan have already cornered the market on enchantment, I submit Brown — a shoebox cafe on the Lower East Side with fantastic fresh food fare.

    Details are affectionately observed. Fussiness is turned away at the door. Coffees and brunch are crafted with love and presented with the most quiet, subtle panache.

    If you're curious about the food you'll be eating at Brown, simply stop by its petite next-door specialty-shop sister... Orange. Here's where you'll see the walls loosely lined with exotic, imported oils; the counter lineup of rich cheeses supplied by Mitica, the savory, fennel-scented sweet Italian sausages; the delightfully spicy chorizos; the juicy, organic cherry tomatoes. Lucky you... these are the components you'll soon see on your plate.

    Morning sunshine. Outdoor seating. Eggs baked in tiny skillets. Idyllic, yes? Better yet, my dining companion informs me that a third sibling will soon be added to the taste triumvirate.

    A sweet shop, he thinks. Guilding the latte, I think.


    Brown & Orange
    Brown on Urbanspoon
    61 Hester St
    (btwn Ludlow & Essex)
    Lower East Side, NYC
    212.254.9825

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    7.09.2005