Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Chow Chow Chow!

I'm willing to admit it: I'm a northern girl with southern envy. Having grown up on a parade of cream of mushroom soup casseroles, I've since discovered some of the flavorful, everyday delights my southern brethren took for granted... things like red velvet cake, po-boys and one of the finest condiments to cross my palate: chow chow.

It's my great loss that the only chow chows I'd ever encountered were the dog breed and the dancing chow-chow-chow cats of 1970s-era TV advertising.

But then — as if led by destiny — my last roommate abandoned a full jar of Loveless Cafe Old-Fashioned Hot Chow Chow in the fridge. It was amazing. I was immediately hooked.

Now I understand that chow chow is a dog, a dancing cat and a versatile condiment that's used like a pickle relish and flavored like an Indian chutney.

Delicious on grilled meats, it's powerhouse flavor for egg salad and chicken salad. It's a savior for ho-hum bean soups and stews that lack oomph. It's killer on a cheeseburger or sausage roll... and it's delicious straight out of the jar.

Hot Yellow Chow Chow

I imagine chow chow is also going to become my new favorite way to use up extra vegetables that happen to be hanging around the fridge.

Sadly, we won't see any green tomatoes for months, but since I'm an addict now, chow chow can't wait. I'm substituting tomatillos or pickled green tomatoes until I can get my grubby mitts on the garden-fresh versions.
Hot Yellow Chow Chow (Makes about two quarts)

1 cup green tomatoes (or tomatillos), cored and quartered
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup celery, minced
1 cup bell peppers (red or green), diced
1 jalapeno chili, sliced thin
1 cup white or yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

Cooking Liquid
2 cups white or red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp celery seed
2 Tbsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

1. Soak the tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery, bell pepper, onions and parsley in a salt water brine (1/4 cup salt to 1 quart [4 cups] water) overnight.
2. Drain off the brine and place the vegetables in a heavy-bottomed pot with the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender (about 30-40 minutes).
4. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning level with salt and pepper to your liking. Add a little more vinegar if it's too sweet or blend in a little more sugar if you find it too sour. The flavor will become more rich and blended as it cools.
5. Ladle the hot chow chow into sterilized glass jars, add lids and seal in a hot water bath, or cool and transfer to the refrigerator.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.15.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 11.03.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, a cold, cruel beast spotted Cupcake watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade near Times Square. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Forget Caviar
Canceling the Christmas party: ...it’s bad form to do anything too opulent

Bringing Home the Venison
Trading the mushroom basket for larger-scale foraging in the Upper Midwest.

Celebrating Day of the Dead's delicious side
A holiday for the dead, but a feast for the living.

Environment, economy weigh on bottled water sector
Bottled water retailers look for new buyers in the global marketplace: "We have minerals and vitamins that are unique to the local community and we want to sell that."

Idolator's Guide To Condiment Pop
You want fries with that?

Calories Do Count
Chain eateries begin to see the results of item calorie count postings.

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

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11.03.2008

Colonel Mustard. In the Kitchen. With a Knife.

I wonder if the entrée is a bit like a family's first child. Lots of attention. Lots of photos. Lots of fuss. Conversely, the condiments of a meal are more like the third or fourth children. They're loved and cherished, of course, but they don't get the same kind of special notice.

It was close to 100°F today, so there was no cooking in our dinner plans. We ate a big dinner-sized salad made up of farmer's market lettuce, cherry tomatoes, diced rotisserie chicken and pepperoncini slices dressed in a zippy mustard vinaigrette.

It was wonderful... alive with flavor. But the tastes we enjoyed were dependent on the freshness of the lettuce, the juiciness of the rotisserie chicken, the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and most of all, the bold, lively flavor of the mustard vinaigrette, a delight made possible by J's close proximity to The Pickle Guys and Guss' Pickles.

Pickles & Mustard Crocks at L'Express in Montreal
Pickles & Mustard Crocks at L'Express in Montreal.

Long ago, households made their own mustard as a matter of course. It varied from home to home. It had personality. The mustards of yesteryear developed and matured in flavor as they sat in pottery crocks on the shelves of larders.

But today's mustards are shelf-stable and consistent. They're the same from day 1 to day 321. They're clones. Every bottle of French's is like every other.

Though these United States are awash in dead yellow packets and squeeze bottles of uninspired mass-market mustard, there are still delis and pickle guys and grandmas making their own, god bless 'em. Spicy homemade mustard. Mustard with vigor. Mustard with cojones.

I think summertime is a fine time to have some of the real stuff. It's a time of bratwurst and hamburgers, potato salads and barbecue sauces and picnic sandwiches.

If you happen to live too far from one of the keepers of the ancient yellow flame, you can make mustard yourself without much trouble at all. You can even be generous about it. Divide your batch in half and pack a bottle as a gift. Throw your own custom label on it. Go crazy.
DIY Spicy Horseradish Mustard (Makes 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white)
1/8 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt

1. Combine the vinegar, mustard seeds, dry mustard, garlic, horseradish, sugar and salt with 1/4 cup of water in a jar with a lid.
2. Cap the jar and shake well.
3. Refrigerate for two days.
4. Puree mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the jar and use immediately or store, chilled. Your mustard will mature and improve over a few weeks' time.

Quick Mustard Vinaigrette (Makes about 1/2 cup)
I find this mustard is particularly tasty with meaty salads and salads that include a cheddar cheese.

1 Tbsp DIY mustard
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch sugar (optional)

1. Mix the mustard, water and vinegar.
2. Whisk in the vegetable oil until smooth
3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, to taste.

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6.11.2008

Ramps, glorious ramps!

'Round these parts, you've got to get up pretty early to get your hands on ramps. Even then, you'll be going elbow-to-elbow with the chefs, sous-chefs and epicureans who understand just how short is the season, how tasty is the plant and how brief is our dance with this coy forest onion.

The number-one question among the vegetable groupies hanging around the ramp bins is, of course, "What do I do with them? How do I cook them?"

Ramps... Oh yes, ramps

The short answer: Cook them simply and with respect.

The longer answer: Consider the ramp to be two vegetables in one. It's like a green onion. The top and bottom fare better when their destinies diverge.

The ramp's leafy tops are perfectly happy to be sautéed with a little olive oil (or bacon fat, if you're nasty) in a hot pan. They take about sixty seconds to cook, and it's fun to watch as the leaves inflate like tiny jade balloons in the skillet.

Keep in mind that they cook down to practically nothing, so you'll need about one bunch to serve two people.

Sautéed ramps are ace alongside meats (particularly bison, venison and gamier meats), in omelettes, with fried eggs and bacon in the morning, or as a stuffing with mushrooms for dumplings, chicken or fish.

Ramps for brekkie

The stems and bottoms will want to be washed, trimmed of roots and stripped of the thin, protective layer hanging loosely around the bulbs.

Chop them into thin rings and use as you would use shallots, or, better yet: make pickles.

One of my bosses recently got into refrigerator pickling, and now he's nuts for it. Why? It's easy, it's cheap, it's satisfying and it feels like a creative act. You're playing with your food again.

Ramps await their pickling

The only downside to the fridge pickling method might be space limitations. The best thing is that you don't have to sterilize jars, create water baths to seal lids or take special care in handling hot equipment. Just load up jars with raw materials. Bring your pickling brine to a boil, and pour the brine into the prepared jars. Chill down and store in your fridge for a few days. Boom: pickles.

Last year I went ramp crazy and bought a dozen bunches. We ate sautéed ramps for two weeks, and I pickled the lot in an enormous jar using a simplified version of my old chef's ramp pickling recipe.

If you happen to make Indian food, you'll probably have all these spices sitting around in your pantry. If not, you can skip the spices you don't have; you'll just get less punch in the final product.

Divine Brine for Pickled Ramps, Scallions or Onions (based on a recipe by Chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla)

1 cup sugar
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek
2 small dried red chilies
3 whole cloves
1/2 lb ramp bulbs, scallion bulbs or onions (sliced into 1/2-inch rounds)

1. Mix sugar, vinegar, mustard, fennel, coriander, fenugreek, chilies and cloves in a suitably sized saucepot and bring to a boil.

2. Make sure bulbs or onion slices are trimmed and very clean. Place them in a clean glass jar with enough room so they can swim a bit.

3. Carefully pour the boiling brine over the ramps, scallions or onions. Cap the jar, chill and refrigerate.

4. After three days, your ramps will be pickled and ready for eating or using in recipes, but you can brine them for longer, and they'll keep (chilled) for months.

My three favorite things to do with pickled ramps:
1. Chop and toss into a basic egg (or chicken) salad. Awesome.
2. Chop and layer onto a hamburger, cheeseburger or just about any savory sandwich.
3. Chop and use with some of the brine to make a vinaigrette (especially over grilled or sautéed asparagus!)

Bon appétit!

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5.08.2008

Insert Your Wurst Pun Here







Ketchup? Check. A peck of mustard? Yep. Hot sauce? Sure. Cumin-pineapple relish? Well, why not?

All that's on offer at the condiment counter. Still, of all the tempting tastes at Broome Street's spanking new Broome Doggs, the most exciting was indubitably the currywurst sauce. Tomato-y, zippy, earthy. Like ketchup after a trek down the spice trail.

"They're all over the place in Germany. They're crazy for them there," attending dog slinger Todd told us, slopping a generous portion of spicy red glaze across a steaming dog. "Really. Look it up on the web. Just type in 'currywurst' and you'll find all kinds of stuff."

Todd did not lead us astray. Said to be one of VW's biggest products (at least in Wolfsburg), the saucy, spicy currywurst is apparently the most popular fast food dish in Germany. Berlin even goes so far as to host a Currywurst Museum, and a documentary homage exists within "The Best of the Wurst."

My favorite of the Currywurst worship pages might be this one, in which we discover that, "First you learn german (sic), then you may have a Currywurst." Brilliant incentive program.

Folks with DIY impulses should investigate one of the many recipes out on the interwebs.

Broome Doggs
250 Broome St.
(Btwn Orchard & Ludlow)
917.453.6013

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9.20.2005