Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Black Eyes, Green Thumbs: Roller Derby Gardening

I'm convinced that if there's ever an apocalypse, you really want a roller derby girl on your side. Not only do they have rough and tumble skills and mighty muscles for fighting off the zombie hordes, derby girls tend to be some of the most ambitious, multi-talented people I know.

Case in point: Suzy Hotrod — talented photographer, guitarist in a punk band, speed demon on a flat track, horchata aficionado... and urban gardener.

Out Standing in her Field

Suzy recently took me out to her little plot in the Two Coves Community Garden in Queens.

Community Toolshed

Assisting with weeding and vine tending tasks before Suzy's Gotham Girls practice, I'm surprised to see that Two Coves is surprisingly roomy for a city garden.

Suzy's plot stretches out about 8 foot by 6 foot (roughly the size of a Manhattan apartment) and is home to cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, watermelons, mint, basil, Swiss chard, kale, beans, pink flamingoes and jolly garden gnomes.

"I always forget to bring something to put the vegetables in, so I end up putting them in my helmet." She says, passing me a stack of kale leaves as she piles up a haul of godzilla-sized cucumbers and fat tomatoes.

Suzy's Helmet/Basket

But Suzy's not the only GGRD girl on the block. On the way back from the compost pit, she shows off the a neatly rowed plot maintained by Bonnie Thunders, the first derby girl to roost in Two Coves.

One of the garden locals helps diagnose an unfortunate case of low water pressure and invites us to take some fresh-picked green beans, cherry tomatoes and zucchini.

"I had two cute little pumpkins. You should've seen them," he tells me, shaking his head. "But they're gone. Stolen. Well — maybe next year..."

Suzy nods. "That happened to me, too. One of my gnomes disappeared."

Jolly Garden Gnome

Ah, and there's the downside of community living. The wounds inflicted by contact sports heal, but what's to be done with the pain dealt by squash-snatchers and gnome grabbers?

Well, there's always next year. Luckily, derby girls are also pretty great at shrugging off bruises.

Go see more of Suzy's urban gardening in the flickr set here.

Yours in Veggie Worship,
Miss Ginsu

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8.07.2009

A Salad to Greet the Springtime

How long has it been since I posted a recipe? Too long, clearly.

Travel, work and a busy schedule of triathlon training have kept me from blogging, but today I come to you with a salad that celebrates one of the underrated wonders of the spring season: the radish.

I found some lovely red radishes at the farmer's market last weekend — tender and almost sweet with a gentle peppery bite. Though perfectly nice just rolled in salt and popped in the mouth, I thought they'd make a pretty addition to the dinner plate.

Et voila!... this side salad for our pork saté. We served it with a delicious spicy peanut sauce, but I thought that would mess up the plate, so I left it off for the photo.

Sate Skewers with Cucumber-Radish Salad

Thai-Style Cucumber-Radish Salad (Serves 3)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
8-10 radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 green onion (white and green parts) thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves
10 mint or cilantro leaves (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, fish sauce (if using) and honey. Drizzle in the oil while whisking.
2. Add radish slices, cucumber slices, green onion and pepper flakes. Toss to coat with the dressing.
3. Chop or tear basil and mint/cilantro into pieces and sprinkle over the salad. Serve immediately.

Though we served it with pork skewers, I think this salad would be just right with all kinds of grilled/broiled meats: steaks, chicken... even fish.

Quite a nice addition to a grilling/picnic line-up. And with summer's precious grilling weekends now trickling away, I think we'll definitely make this one again in the near future.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.03.2009

A Hammock, a Pimm's Cup and Thou

I feel that fully half of what makes the Pimm's Cup such a beguiling summer cocktail is in the garnish. There are multiple variants, of course, but I favor the ultra-simple slice of cucumber + slice of lemon.

Pimm's Cup

Pimm's makes a variety of styles, and that namesake cocktail made with the formulation known as No. 1 has traditionally been popular in the south of England, appearing as one of two staple drinks (the other sip of choice would be champagne) at such rarefied events as Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne opera festival.

Knowing all that, it's interesting to see that the recipe for the classic Pimm's Cup cocktail is terrifyingly simple. Common, even...
Pimm's Cup
2 oz Pimm's No. 1
4 to 6 oz lemonade (some use lemon/lime soda; I favor ginger ale)
Mint leaves, and slices of lemon (or orange, strawberry, apple...)

Originally, the cocktail required borage leaves in lieu of mint/cucumber, but as borage is a bit tough to come by in U.S. markets, cucumber is the go-to garnish hereabouts.

But as I mentioned, I find the cucumber/lemon combo to be particularly magical. The cooling qualities of the cucumber alongside the citrus zip and vigor of the lemon go a long way in gin-style cocktails (and Pimm's No. 1 is one such blend) in particular, since gin is, by nature, herbaceous.

I've even become a great fan of lemon and cucumber slices served with water. So simple, but the scent and flavor results are elegant... perfect for brunch, for time spent on the deck/patio/fire escape and for adding a touch of class to your next grill-fest. Give it a try and see if you don't become a convert.

Cheers,

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8.20.2008

Middle Feastern Delights

Filled with lots of tangy citrus and yogurt flavors and plenty of cool cucumbers, the foods of the Middle East seem particularly suited for warmer weather.

I first encountered spiced ground lamb as a Turkish kabob, but I discovered that the whole operation with the stick seemed like just a bit too much fuss for regular use.

Why not just make spiced lamb meatballs? They're fun to make, not too fussy and are even very nice when munched as cold leftovers for your midnight snacking needs.

Lamb Balls, Raw
Lamb Balls, Cooking
Lamb Balls, Cooling

This Cucumber-Yogurt Raita goes very well with lamb. You'll find it's similar to a Greek Tzatziki, but tzatziki typically uses garlic instead of citrus. If you'd like something more Greek-y, drop the cumin and substitute puréed garlic for the citrus juice. Voila!
Spicy Lamb Balls w/ Cool Cucumber Raita (Makes 25 meatballs)
For the Spice Blend
1 Tbsp whole coriander
1 Tbsp whole cumin
1/2 Tbsp whole black peppercorn
1/2 Tbsp whole fennel seed or anise

For the Lamb Meatballs
2 pounds lamb
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1 small onion, minced (optional)
1 tsp olive or canola oil

1. Grind the spices in a spice grinder. (If you're using pre-ground spices, simply blend them together and use 3 tablespoons of the mix for this recipe.)
2. Mix together the lamb, egg, salt, onion (if using) and the ground spice blend in a large mixing bowl.
3. Form golf-ball-sized spheres with the meat mix and set them on a plate while you heat the skillet.
4. In a large (17") skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add about half the lamb balls and cook about 1 minute before gently rolling each ball over with a pair of tongs.
5. Continue cooking the lamb balls for about 5-7 minutes, rolling each ball every 60 seconds to an uncooked side. Remove the cooked balls and drain them on paper towels.
6. Cook the second batch of lamb balls the same way you cooked the first batch. Serve hot or warm with cucumber raita (below).

Cool Cucumber Raita
1 small cucumber, peeled (or half of an unpeeled hothouse cucumber)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 Tbsp chopped mint, cilantro or parsley (optional)

1. Shred the cucumber on a grater and squeeze out all the excess juice you can.
2. Blend squeezed cucumber shreds with yogurt, citrus juice, salt, cumin and herbs (if using).
3. Taste, and if the mixture seems too tart, add a dash of sugar. Serve immediately with the lamb balls. This raita is also terrific with a variety of Indian curries.

This recipe also makes great sandwiches, so if you're in the mood for hand-held food, stuff two to three warm lamb balls into toasted pita halves. Add a bit of shredded lettuce and tomato slices and drizzle with the cucumber sauce.

J loves this meal quite a lot, so we eat it with some frequency. Favorite accompaniments include tabbouleh, hummus, fresh cucumber-tomato salads, pickled beets (locally, the good fellas at Rick's Picks and Wheelhouse Pickles both make some terrific pickled beets) or pickled ramps and tahini sauce.

Cheers!

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6.24.2008