Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

It's new! It's tasty! Go look!

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Boy, the world could really use another website. There's just not enough out there right now, and I'm feeling unfulfilled."

Okay, so maybe you're not thinking that. And maybe the world doesn't really need another website.

But this isn't just any new website. This is a sensory explosion of beauty, passion and color wrapped up in an efficient 5-7-5 line structure. Lush photos. Tasty haiku. And a new post every week. What's not to like?

Haiku Lunchbox

It's Haiku Lunchbox, and you should go over there right now and add it to your RSS or Google Reader or bookmarks or whathave you so you don't miss out on the tastiness to come.

Guaranteed delight or your money back.

Meanwhile, this site will be featuring some tasty recipe stuff this week, including a high-stakes barbecue sauce throwdown. Excitement... stay tuned!

Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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7.26.2009

Best. Amateur Cookbook. Ever.

"I think I need more," she said, with only the slightest trace of sheepish guilt in her expression. "If I give you money, can you see if they have more?"

Tomorrow is my CSA pick-up day.

But today, my coworker, a fellow local food devotee, is hitting me up. She's shoving money in my hands. For vegetables? Nah. For fruit? Nope. She wants cookbooks. Cookbooks produced by CSA volunteers, no less.

Well Seasoned Cookbook

Honestly, I bought one out of obligation. Sight unseen, I plunked down my $20 and expected I'd receive in return some homely little packet of jumbled text.

I expected an amateur effort that I'd push into my bookshelf and never, ever reach for (except to drag it from living space to living space throughout the course of my life). That's how these things work.

Well Seasoned Vegetable Guide

But lo! The cover was actually pretty nice. The pages were attractive. The photography was certifiably gorgeous. The interstitial artwork was tasteful. The recipes looked genuinely tasty. Indeed, it appeared this might be the first amateur cookbook I'd put into regular use in my kitchen.

My coworker saw it the next day and immediately wanted one. So at the next week's pick-up, I bought one for her and an extra copy for myself.

This week, I'm going back for more. I'm buying these cookbooks not out of some idea about nurturing the community, but out of a need for more of these great cookbooks that I can give as gifts.

Well Seasoned Side Dish Pages

Keep in mind, this was a very small-run book. You probably won't ever actually see one. (You can cook my two contributions — Summer Succotash and Divine Brine for Ramps, Scallions or Onions — from the recipes here.) But you may someday be involved in creating a community cookbook yourself. After all, thousands of these things are published on small press runs every year.

If and when that happens, you might be interested in doing what the Williamsburg-Greenpoint CSA is doing, because clearly, they're getting a few things right.

Well Seasoned Chapter Pages

Making Your Community Cookbook ROCK (Learnings from the GWCSA Cookbook)
1. Know the Readers. (CSA members, in this case.)
The folks who put this book together were very selective about which recipes would be most useful to their audience. They didn't use every recipe that came to the desk. And I think they chose well. A recipe like Zucchini & Caramelized Kohlrabi Quesadillas might not be right for every cookbook, but that page is bound to be a great relief to someone faced with a bunch of kohlrabi and no ideas. (That'll be me next month.)

2. Keep it Focused.
The Well Seasoned cookbook has a real sense of place. In addition to recipes from GWCSA members, the editors include recipes from beloved local restaurants. I'm looking forward to cooking Enid's Sweet & Hot Collard Greens and making Taco Chulo's Escabeche this summer.

3. Include relevant extras.
The front of the book begins with a guide to identifying and cooking all the major CSA vegetables we see throughout the season. The back of the book features a conversion guide, cooking terms, cook's notes and a nicely organized index. There are sidebars on Home Composting, Cooking for Pets and Preserving Summer's Bounty (canning, pickling and drying).

4. Use gorgeous photography.
So many small-run cookbooks neglect the mouthwatering beauty that color photographs provide, and that's a shame. I know it involves extra cost in the printing, but nothing inspires and motivates a cookbook reader like visions of tastiness dancing in the head.

5. Pay attention to detail.
The book printed on recycled, chlorine-free paper using wind power (see point #1). Each recipe includes servings/yield and the approximate preparation time. Vegan recipes are noted with a symbol beside the recipe name. All the food photography notes the recipe name and its page number. The book is spiral-bound to make it easy to use in the kitchen. There's a consistent recipe style used throughout. Attention to this kind of minutia might seem fussy, but it's essential when you actually want to prepare the recipes, as opposed to using the piece as a coffee table book.


The truth of the matter is this: my CSA, the GWCSA, is populated by very talented professionals. This amateur cookbook isn't strictly amateur. I note that the editor of this volume has years of experience in publishing, the art director/illustrator works for Saveur and the lead photographer seems to know her way around a food shot.

That said, I think anyone doing their own small-run cookbook can heed five simple hints from the pros (know the reader, keep it focused, provide extras, use color photography, mind the details) and polish a rough-hewn booklet into a useful and appealing little gem that'll keep people (like my swooning coworker) coming back for more.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.30.2009

What to Buy For the Eater

After getting a few nifty gastronomy-centric gifts for my birthday this year, I realized another Miss Ginsu gift guide might be in order.

Thus, I give you: What to Buy for the Eater

The basic philosophy is this: if you already know your recipient loves food, all you have to do is just select one of the secondary characteristics listed below and voila... they're gift-ified! (And since most of the stuff here costs less than $30, you shouldn't have to smash the piggybank to make 'em smile.)

The Coolest Temporary Tattoos

Does your foodie have a sense of humor?

Food Lovers' Tattoos

As Seattle's home of the goofy, Archie McPhee has always been a rich source of gifts for foodies, thanks to clever classics like the toast clock and the freeloader fork. And in keeping with our bacon-saturated times, there's even an entire page of bacon items.

But the recent addition of temporary tattoos for food lovers may be my favorite thing yet. All done in the retro "Sailor Jerry" school of 'tats, these sweet slicks are tempting arm candy... no commitment required.

*****

Handmade Mesh Produce Bags

Is your foodie a farmer's market farmers' market fiend or co-op junkie?

Mesh Produce Bags

Ooo! I know just the thing...

I bought a pack of reusable mesh produce bags off Etsy.com in the early spring, and I've been enjoying them all summer long.

They're cheap, too, so consider including a nice market tote bag. (And no. I'm not ashamed to recommend my own.)

These little guys are great because they're light, see-through, easy to open, they help you avoid collecting excess plastic... and they really do make you the envy of the farmers' market. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten envious looks and remarks on the lines of, "Oh! Those are so cool! Where'd you get them?"

Though the supplier I bought mine from is currently pursuing other things (i.e. has a life) there's lots of other folks who are selling them now in lots of pretty colors.

*****

Do-It-Yourself Cheese

Is your foodie the hands-on/DIY type?

Ricki's Cheese-Making Kit

I saw Ricki Carroll's sweet little Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit at Grand Central Market and immediately knew I needed to look her up.

As it turns out, Ricki's the "Cheese Queen" of the interweb, and does a lot of cheese-making education.

Her kit seems like a really fun, accessible way to introduce food lovers — especially younger ones — to the pleasures of cheese-making.

Then again, if the easy-cheesy mozzarella kit seems a bit elementary for your advanced DIY-er, consider a kit for making homemade soda, wine or beer or maybe even a mustard-making kit.

*****

Supremely Cute Salt & Pepper Shakers

Is your foodie a museum-lover? Possibly even... artsy?

Hugging S&P Shakers

The food geeks who are also design geeks are powerless in the face of designware from the MOMA shop.

A little caveat, since I realize any gourmand worth his or her, ahem... salt uses a pepper grinder instead of a pepper shaker for that freshly-ground goodness. I'm a sucker for the cute. And this Hugging Salt & Pepper set has the real cute. Oh! I am helpless in the face of its cuteness.

But if you know your gift recipient is way too sophisticated to be buffaloed by cuteness... you should probably go for the supercool Index Chopping Boards instead.

*****

One For the Road

Is your foodie sentimental?

Serendipity3

Consider a food gift that acknowledges a taste of reminiscence.

For those with a sweet tooth, Oldtimecandy and NostalgicCandy both feature retro packs that coordinate to the era of your recipient's youth.

Homesick former New Yorkers might appreciate things like the Frrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity 3, a classic deli-style lunch with the pastrami sandwich kit from Zingerman's or the ceramic version of NYC's ubiquitous We Are Happy To Serve You paper cup.

*****

Yum on the Run

Is your foodie active? Maybe even... sporty?

Happy campers (or boaters, or hikers, or picnickers) will love something practical (and cool-looking) for their alfresco dining.

REI has fun stuff in general, but I really like their Light My Fire Meal Kit, which comes with a compact set of two plates, a lidded cup, a crazy spoon/fork utensil, a little waterproof box (for berries?) and a colander/cutting board.

Pretty colors (a whole range of 'em), recyclable, no metal to freak out the TSA staff at the airport... and it floats.

For the bean-worshipers, REI also features a nifty French Press Commuter Mug, which comes in a variety of colors and serves as a combo coffee press, travel mug and coffee caddy. Pretty slick.

Miss Ginsu

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9.30.2008

Hungry for the Classics

Long before I flirted with food love, I fell hard for books. But the sad truth was, it really didn't matter how hard LeVar Burton worked at making Reading Rainbow relevant. I was still one of those bookworms that caught flying iceballs in the face from November through March.

These days I'm spared the iceballs (usually) and I'm really bowled over by what Penguin Books has been doing with their Graphic Classics series. Daaamn... The classics are suddenly edgy!

These are books I want to be seen with on my subway commute. Witty illustrators like Chris Ware doing the covers. Current scribblers like Fast Food Nation's Eric Schlosser doing commentary. For the luvvagod, French flaps!

I swoon. And when J sent along the cover to The Three Musketeers, I knew I had to share, as well.

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2.27.2008

Chilled Spinach Soup. So cool. So refreshing.

Cool Spinach Soup
Hot day, cool soup.

Martha Stewart's May issue contained an enticing Chilled Yogurt-Spinach Soup with Shrimp.

It was pretty steamy and warm today, and although I didn't have the requisite cucumbers, Greek-style yogurt, chicken broth, red onion or fresh spinach, I really couldn't face going grocery shopping or doing any actual cooking.

So I changed her recipe up a bit. Never fear! It's still really lovely and couldn't be faster or more satisfying on a stuffy June evening.

I served mine up with a few steamed shrimp and felt blissful. Now if only my landlords would let me out into their backyard...

Chilled Yogurt-Spinach Soup
1 pkg frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
2 cups plain yogurt
8 oz sour cream
2 scallions (chopped roughly)
2-3 fat garlic cloves
Juice of one lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups light stock (I used a fish stock, but chicken would be fine)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pea shoots for garnish

Blend spinach, yogurt, sour cream, scallions, garlic, lime juice, olive oil and stock in blender until smooth. Garnish with fresh pea shoots, chopped parsley, fresh mint, basil or maybe croutons and serve immediately.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.05.2005