Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Inside Google with the Girl Geeks

Maybe this is just a crazy quirk I have, but I'm always curious about what it's like to eat in the cafeterias and restaurants that loom behind closed doors.

For years, I've had great wonder about what it's like to dine at Google. A couple of my friends/co-workers who were hired on at their New York office told wild tales of all the wonders to be enjoyed... Celebrity chefs! Afternoon tea! Microbrew parties! Free food in the cafeteria!

Thanks to an affiliation with Girl Geek Dinners, a wonderful international organization that's dedicated to helping chicks revel in all things geeky and technical, I was recently able to satisfy some of my "what's it like to eat at Google?" curiosity.

Just in case you, too, are curious... I took photos.

First, the approach:

As one walks toward the 8th floor Hemispheres Cafe (past tons of security guards, I might add), one can't help but notice the walls lined with celebrity chefs who have cooked at the cafe.

Everyone from the more obscure cooks (Dave Martin from Season 1 of Top Chef) to the household names (Mario Batali) get their grinning mugshots up on these walls.

Just before the door, I was thrilled to find Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto in the form of a boxing bear, which is now my new favorite way to display company values. On bears. I'll be attempting to install this sort of thing at my workplace STAT.

Don't Be Evil
"Bear this in mind as you eat your lunch, people."

Hemispheres Cafe at Google
Approach to Hemispheres Cafe

Inside, we enjoyed an open bar with the standard wines, beers and sodas alongside long, thin breadsticks, and I connected with busy bloggers Rachel of Cupcakes Take the Cake and Caryn of Metsgrrl.com.

Girl Geeks
The Girl Geeks chat, chew and twitter it all.

Yes, that's the Empire State Building in the background of the photo above. There's a large outdoor area for noontime sunning. I'm so. very. jealous.

Diagrammed Google Meal
The dinner, diagrammed.

On to the main event:

So how was the food? It was good. It was very good for cafeteria food. The beef was juicy, the crabcake was tender on the inside, crisp on the outside. The green beans were tender-crisp. The garlic mashed potatoes were tasty, if over-seasoned. And the whole-grain bun was chewy and nutty, with a very nice crumb.

I was green with envy that Googlistas get gratis cafeteria food of this caliber. I think I'd get plump (and maybe even tan) working at Google.

And, as Google sponsored the event, they also gave all the girl geeks nifty thermal coffee mugs with baby pink versions of the Google girl logo, like so:

Google Girl Logo
Google Girl Logo

I think I would've been happy just eating the food, but the speakers that followed dinner were both fantastic. Corinna Cortes, Head of Google Research NY and Katrin Verclas, Co-Founder and Editor of MobileActive made the evening invaluable, thanks to their entertaining and informative speeches. (I know so much more about computer science careers and mobile technologies now!)

Big kudos to Girl Geek Dinners NYC for organizing and to Google NY for sponsoring. I encourage girl geeks everywhere to band together, learn together and dine together.

So that's one clandestine cafeteria that's a little less cryptic. I hope to infiltrate the UN cafeteria sometime soon, so stay tuned for that.

Miss Ginsu

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A Wintery Short Rib Braise

I'm always thrilled to find something that's so satisfying and nourishing, it becomes a new addition to the lineup of household favorites. That's a rare occasion.

But I think we have a winner, folks. This is a braise made up of beef short ribs, mushrooms and the hearty winter greens of your choice.

There's a little fuss involved in browning the short ribs before they head into the oven for a slow-cook, but it's worth it for the rich flavor and falling-off-the-bone tenderness.

And beyond great taste, there's five additional reasons I find this dish very compelling:

1. There's almost no waste in the recipe. The veggie and mushroom stems go straight into the pot and it's a good way to use up a bit of leftover wine.
2. Short ribs are an inexpensive — but very tasty — cut of beef.
3. With no spuds, rice, pasta or parsnips, it's a pretty low-carb, low-gi dish. Good news for dieters and diabetics both.
4. I love dark, leafy greens and am always looking for more ways to use them.
5. Ditto that for mushrooms.

And did I mention tasty? I've made it two weekends in a row, and I may make it again this weekend, if that's any indication.

Wintery Short Rib Braise

It's based around a recipe I found in Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer by Amy Farges.

I've been using a combination of shiitake and portobello mushrooms, and though she recommends pearl onions, I've substituted standard white or yellow onions sliced into half-moons... I'll admit I have very little patience for the blanching/shocking/peeling process that goes into preparing pearl onions.

Wintery Short Rib Braise (Serves 4)

2 small bunches (about 2 lb) kale or Swiss chard
1 1/2 lb hearty mushrooms: button, portobello, cremini, porcini or shiitake
4 lb beef short ribs
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/2" slices
3 cups beef, chicken or veggie stock
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup diced tomatoes

1. Wash the greens and cut the leaves away from their stems. Cut the leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces and set aside (pack them in the refrigerator, if you wish). Cut the stems crosswise into 1" slices.
2. Trim the stems from the mushrooms, knock away any dirt and slice the stems into 1/2" pieces. Cut the mushroom tops into wedges (4 to 6 each) and hold separately from the stems.
3. Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and pepper. Over a medium-high burner, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. Brown each of the short ribs on each side about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the browned short ribs from the pot.
4. To the same pot, add the onion slices, mushroom stems and the stems from the greens.
5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Pour in the stock, wine and tomatoes. Tuck in the short ribs. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot or dutch oven and place on the center rack in the oven. Cook until the beef is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
6. Remove the short ribs from the pot (the bones may fall away at this point), and heat the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the reserved leaves and simmer until tender (about 10 minutes for Swiss Chard, or 30 for kale).
7. Season the sauce to taste, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Return the short ribs to the pot

If you're serving guests, you can do all the work through step #5, cool the dish down and chill it in the fridge, if you like. At that point, it's quick and easy to pull it out a day or two later to finish it off.

You could probably also use a slow cooker instead of the oven for the long-cooking part if you're so inclined.

But in any case, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.

To Warm, Homey Meals & Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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Resolution #2: Rearrange the Plate

In culinary school, we did a lot of plate drawings. The elements were always different, but the formula was invariable: Protein, Veg, Starch. Protein, Veg, Starch.

J recently started trying to drop weight to qualify for a lower weight division at tournaments, and he suggested that we drop the starch sector from our plates.

"Just double the vegetables and put the meat on the side."

At the time, this statement was revolutionary, and I must admit, not terribly welcome. Martin Luther pounding at the kitchen door. Drop the starch? But that was 1/3 of the plate! Utter madness!

Reorganizing the Plate

It's taken some trial and error (old habits die hard) and some dishes have been dropped entirely (pasta and potato dishes fail under this plan), but I'm endeavoring to change, and behold! J has lost weight and I've felt less dopey after meals.

So my second resolution for the new year is to rearrange the plate that exists in the mind... the one that's been imprinted there by a lifetime of Protein, Veg, Starch combos.

The new plate is steak and sautéed broccoli. Or chili and salad. Or turkey and Brussels sprouts. Or a big Greek salad. Or beans and collard greens. Or a stir-fry, hold the rice.

Potatoes, rice, noodles and bread now become condiments to be used sparingly rather than major players on the plate.

Now, I'm a big bread lover, so this is a resolution — and a revolution — in progress, but I think it's a worthy goal that will pay dividends in weight maintenance, more veggie consumption and just feeling good overall.

Three more resolutions to come!

To our health!
Miss Ginsu

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Resolution #1: Better Brown Bagging

Get to (or stay at) a healthy weight. Enjoy variety. Save money. Control what goes into your body. Feel more organized.

These are just a few of the many tasty benefits wrapped up in the resolution to pack more delicious lunches to take to work.

Truth is, I've known all the terrific reasons to pack lunch for quite some time, but I've never quite been able to put the plan in action. Day after day, I end up ordering takeout from the same three or four places near work.

But this year, I believe I've discovered the lunchbox grail: that essential key to making good lunches happen. It's planning ahead.

That's not quantum mechanics, I realize, but I'm pretty sure this one simple flaw is why I've largely failed at lunch packing for years. Boffo brown-baggging just doesn't happen in that pre-coffee morning zombie mode.

So watch out... This, dear friends, is the year I'm going to start packing.

I've broken the process down into five easy steps to make it achievable for me, and maybe for you, too.

Step One is identification of tasty, packable lunchtime candidates.

The successful lunch-maker needs a small arsenal of go-to lunch recipes with a few variations to keep it interesting. Here's a few of my favorite options for ease, flavor and portability:
  • Desktop Panini
  • Basic French Lentil Salad
  • Bahn Mi Sandwiches
  • Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles
  • Any Bean Salad

  • Real Simple also has a list of four takes on the Tuna Sandwich and Martha Stewart features a handful of fast, healthy soups.

    Step Two is gathering up the equipment.

    I've had too many lunch plans quashed by a lack of appropriate containers.

    While it's not necessary to have a designer lunchbox, I think you'll be more proud of your efforts (and make your coworkers more jealous) if your pack is cool.

    You'll also broaden your lunchtime options if you keep a couple of cold packs and an insulated thermos on hand.

    I've got some ideas in my gear shop if you need inspiration.

    Step Three is gathering up the ingredients.

    Keep lunch in mind while doing the weekly shopping. Whether that's extra celery for celery sticks, enough beans to double the soup recipe, a few necessary condiments or a pack of string cheese for snacking, lunch isn't going to happen if you don't plan the details.

    Step Four is putting it into the schedule.

    Packing lunch needs to be a priority. Wash salad greens and cut carrot and celery sticks on Sunday. Make a bean dip or a simple soup while you're waiting for dinner to cook. Pack up the containers the night before so everything's ready to go in the morning.

    Step Five is not leaving lunch on the counter (or in the fridge) when walking out the door to go to work.

    Kind of self-explanatory, but it's happened to me more often than I'd like to remember.

    Additional tips:

    There's 1001 ways to make a sandwich, so don't burn out on the same 'ol thing every day. Switch from sliced bread to a roll, baguette or a wrap, add a savory spread, a different pickle or a new kind of cheese to make the difference between something you look forward to eating and something that sits sadly at the bottom of the sack.

    Plan for leftovers. Cooking up a bigger batch of something on the weekend (soups, stews, roasts, curries, casseroles) is a classic way to make both lunches and dinners happen.

    Think about what travels well. Roasted vegetable, pasta, meat/fish and bean salads make particularly good choices for lunch packing... Since they're already dressed, there's less risk of spilling vinaigrette on your pants (or across the inside of your bag).

    So that's the jist of it: Plot, Equip, Gather, Schedule and Follow Through. Five steps to better brown bagging.

    Look for more resolutions in the days to come...

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Day 23: Christmas Gumbo

    This post marks Day 23 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    In my neighborhood, 'tis the season of the big carp slaughter. Apparently it's traditional for Polish folks to eat fresh carp for Christmas (part of the traditional "fish on holy days" tradition, no doubt) so the fishes are currently swimming about in cold-water pools waiting to be chopped up for dinners across the 'hood.

    Likewise, in Italy, southern folks celebrate the feast of the seven fishes over the holidays.

    I, too, think of the sea when I think of Christmas. My mom's family has a tradition having to do with eggs and herring roe (one I generally skip), but I appreciate the idea of honoring this season with the fruits of the sea.

    Thus, I propose a seafood gumbo, one with red, white and green colors (for the sake of festivity) and fresh shrimp or clams (for the sake of tradition).

    Onions & Peppers

    Christmas Gumbo

    This recipe feeds many, doesn't cost much to make and comes together without much fuss. In fact, the biggest pain is in the vegetable chopping — a task which may be farmed out to any eager-to-help holiday guests.
    Christmas Gumbo (Serves 5-6)
    1 lb sausage (chicken, pork or seafood)
    3 Tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
    2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    2 medium onions, diced
    1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2" pieces
    1 bay leaf
    1 tsp cayenne pepper (or less, if you're sensitive)
    1 pound okra (fresh or frozen), sliced in 1/2" pieces
    1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
    3 cups chicken stock or water
    1/4 cup dry white wine
    1/2 lb shell-on shrimp and/or 6 to 8 clams (optional)
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    Salt to taste
    6 to 8 cups cooked rice (for serving)

    1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven over medium heat, cook the sausage in the bacon fat or olive oil until it begins to brown.
    2. Remove the sausage from the pan, add the flour to the pan oils and stir well to incorporate the flour into the fat. Cook the flour mixture 3 to 5 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.
    3. Add the onions, bell pepper pieces, celery and bay leaf to the pot and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring well to cook evenly.
    4. Add the cayenne, okra, tomatoes and the stock (or water) and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the okra is very tender, about 30 minutes.
    5. Add the wine and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    6. Bring the pot to a boil and add the shrimp or clams (if using). Cover and cook about 3 to 5 minutes — just long enough until the cook through and/or the clams have opened.
    7. Stir in the chopped parsley and adjust salt the and/or cayenne, if necessary. Serve hot over rice.

    Serve with a sliced baguette, a crisp green salad and a glass of dry white wine or cold ale. The seasonal ales with some spice and citrus go nicely with this dish.

    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 20: The Scarborough Loaf

    This post marks Day 20 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    Like me, you may know a few vegetarians. Like me, you may have once been one of those vegetarians.

    In those days, I was always a little befuddled at the holidays. I mean, feast foods are pretty proscribed for omnivores (1. roast something 2. add starchy sides).

    Those who shun meat are left without a lot of festive "center of the plate" foods. Spinach lasagna just seemed so everyday, and I was never wild about the tofurkey.

    Scarborough Loaf

    While making this vegetarian loaf I was humming a little Simon & Garfunkle, so you can probably guess the inspiration for the seasonings...

    Though suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians, this loaf does contain a little egg and milk, which help it stick together better. If you're making a vegan loaf, skip the egg and milk and substitute 1/2 cup vegetable stock.

    Chestnuts are a bit easier to come by at the holidays, and I think they make the loaf particularly seasonal.
    The Scarborough Loaf (Makes 1 9" by 3" loaf)
    1/2 cup brown or red lentils
    2 Tbsp olive oil, divided in two portions
    1/2 lb (8oz) mushrooms, chopped
    1 large onion, chopped (1/2" pieces)
    10-12 whole chestnuts, roasted & chopped (or substitute 1 cup chopped walnuts/pecans)
    3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    1 Tbsp fresh sage
    1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
    1/2 tsp fresh thyme
    1/2 tsp ground pepper
    1 cup breadcrumbs
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup milk
    1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    1 Tbsp soy sauce

    1. Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add a pinch of salt to the pan, set over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until very soft. Drain off any excess water and reserve the lentils.
    2. Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a large skillet and sauté the chopped mushrooms for 10 to 12 minutes. When softened, move the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl.
    3. To the same skillet, add the other tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the onion pieces. When the onions are soft and translucent, remove them from the heat and add to the mushrooms in the mixing bowl.
    4. Mix the drained lentils, chopped chestnuts, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and ground pepper into the mushroom-onion mixture.
    5. Blend in the breadcrumbs, then add the egg, milk, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.
    6. Lightly oil a loaf pan, press the mixture firmly into the pan and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

    While quite nice on its own, I think it'd be even more fancy (and tasty) drizzled with a mushroom cream sauce or a vegetarian gravy.

    Holiday Cheer,
    Miss Ginsu

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    Day 6: Holiday Party Taquitos

    This post marks Day 6 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    There's nothing particularly holiday-centric about these little tacos other than the fact that they're red, green and festive. But color counts for a lot, and these are just so good, I can't hold back on sharing them.

    We had them for dinner recently (and definitely will again) but I think they'd be fantastic as party eats, since it's easy to make fillings in volume ahead of time and let people go crazy making their own bites while you socialize.

    Green Caper Salsa

    The secret is in the sauce. Sure, you can go buy something in a jar, but it's never going to taste as fresh and vibrant as what you make a'la minute.

    So let's get to the sauce first. I discovered a version of this sauce in Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible. (He called it a French West Indian Caper Sauce and used it with grilled snapper.)

    I changed a few things, tried it with fish tacos and was immediately hooked.

    It's a beautiful shade of green and has a zippy, lightly briny flavor reminiscent of Veracruz-style coastal cuisine. Easy to make. Also good with chicken, beef or pork... It's a keeper for sure.
    Caribbean Caper Sauce for Taquitos(Makes about 1 cup)
    1 clove garlic
    1 shallot or small red onion, halved
    1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
    2 Tbsp drained capers
    1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
    1 to 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
    1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

    1. Put garlic, shallot/onion, parsley, capers, jalapeño, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil in a blender and purée smooth.
    2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    I'd also recommend a red salsa to keep the red and green theme going. You could make one with fresh-chopped tomatoes if you have good ones, but since tomatoes tend to be less wonderful in the winter, I have a recipe for roasted red peppers.

    Roast the peppers yourself or buy 'em in a jar... This recipe works either way.
    Roasted Red Pepper Salsa (Makes about 1 cup)
    1 clove garlic
    1 shallot or small red onion, halved
    1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
    3 roasted red peppers, drained if necessary
    2 Tbsp drained capers
    1/2 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
    1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
    Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

    1. Put garlic, shallot/onion, parsley, capers, jalapeño, lime juice and red peppers in a blender or food processor and pulse to achieve the texture you desire.
    2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Once you pour these lovely salsas in bowls, all you have to do is set out a bowl of shredded cabbage, maybe some sliced limes and cherry tomatoes, a packet of small-size tortillas (heated, of course), a bowl of sour cream and a protein of some kind... maybe some shredded chicken, pork, beef or beans, or a plate of grilled fish.

    Voila!... Holiday-ready taquitos!

    Feliz navidades, mis amigos!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Smoked Chops & Apple-Kissed Kraut

    I had grand plans for a gorgeous autumnal Choucroute Garni, but life interfered (I'm certain you're well aware of know how life tends to do that) and I realized that a long-cooking dish in the Dutch oven simply wouldn't do.

    Food needed to appear on the table STAT.

    Luckily, a deconstructed Choucroute Garni happens to make for one of the quickest meals out there. And a darn tasty one at that.

    Chops & Kraut

    Enter... Smoked Chops and Apple-Kissed Kraut.

    Easy! Fast! Tasty! Seasonally appropriate! Exactly the kind of thing you want in your weeknight dinner arsenal, no?

    I've configured this recipe for two, but if you want to serve more, just double the chops and kraut.

    If you can't find smoked pork chops, you can use the standard ones, but the smoked ones (a German specialty) are really quite tasty, so I'd recommend you try to track them down.
    Smoked Chops and Apple-Kissed Kraut (Serves 2)
    1 apple
    1 onion
    2 tsp vegetable oil or bacon fat
    2 smoked pork chops
    1 cinnamon stick
    3 cups sauerkraut
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 tsp honey (or a little more, to taste)

    1. Chop the apple into 1/2" cubes and slice the onion.
    2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil or bacon fat in a medium-sized saucepan and the remaining teaspoon of oil in a skillet.
    3. Saute the chopped apple and sliced onion in the saucepan for 5-10 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, begin searing the pork chops over medium-high heat in the skillet.
    5. Add the cinnamon stick, sauerkraut and cider vinegar into the apple-onion mixture. Let the kraut mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    6. When the pork chops have a little color on each side, remove from the heat and allow them to rest. (Smoked pork chops are already fully cooked. If you're cooking raw pork chops, make they reach an internal temperature of 160°.)
    7. Season the apple-kraut mixture (to taste) with a little honey, divide it between two plates and serve each of the cooked pork chops on its own little bed of kraut.

    Around here, this is the kind of meal that's typically served alongside a crisp green salad (maybe with apples, walnuts, goat cheese and a cider vinaigrette?) or steamed Brussels sprouts, but you'll have to gauge your own tastes.

    In any case, it certainly makes an excellent autumnal meal (those apples! that cabbage!) for not a whole lot of money or time investment. And who couldn't use a few more of those?

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Not the Lunchlady's Goulash

    At the tender age of six or seven, I had a clear moment of decision in the school lunchroom.

    As most epiphanies are, this revelation was heartfelt and simple. Though I'd traditionally devoured nearly anything that crossed my path — poisonous or not — I discovered a newfound hatred for goulash.

    Little did I know that the bland hamburger-macaroni combo they'd scooped onto my plastic tray and billed as goulash was actually a low-rent impostor.

    After what was essentially a simplified Hamburger Helper, imagine my shock upon learning that goulash was actually supposed to be full of meat chunks, vegetables... flavor!

    Spicy Pork Goulash

    True gulyás was something entirely different — a beloved, often spicy dish that had a long heritage with the cattlemen of Hungary.

    In keeping with any traditional dish, it seems there's a million ways to make a goulash. You'll find that the Wikipedia page on the topic is robust.

    I've enjoyed goulash with beef stew meat and chicken, but at the moment I'm particularly in love with a take on the dish that Ryn brought into work for us to sample last week.

    She found this spicy pork version in the superb Staff Meals from Chanterelle — a cookbook I recommend highly.

    Unlike many of the products of haute restaurants, the recipes in Staff Meals are varied and delicious, but because they're from the back rooms of Chanterelle and not the fancy front tables, they're actually easy for the home cook to reproduce. Yay!

    Spicy Pork Goulash

    But on to the reformation of goulash...

    Despite the whole chunks of meat in this dish, I think it still qualifies as a Recession-Proof Recipe. The meat in question is all about cheaper cuts, and the rest of the dish is filled up with spices and sauerkraut — about as cheap as it gets.

    You can, of course, serve this entrée with hearty dark-grained bread or buttered noodles and/or mashed potatoes, if you like, but I really love the fact that the dish itself is high-flavor and low-carb. We're a bit mindful about how and when we're carbing it up around this household, so that's an important consideration.

    And, like any stew, this goulash improves with a bit of mellowing in the fridge... thus, the leftovers are dynamite.
    Spicy Pork Goulash (Based on the Staff Meals recipe)
    2 Tbsp vegetable oil
    3 lb pork stew meat (shoulder is best), cut into 1"-2" cubes
    2 large onions, halved and sliced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 cup chopped bacon
    4 cups flavorful stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)
    1/4 cup dry red wine
    1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
    1 Tbsp Aleppo pepper (or hot Hungarian paprika)
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 tsp caraway seeds
    2 lb fresh sauerkraut (avoid the canned stuff)
    Salt, to taste
    Chopped parsley (Optional, for garnish)
    Sour cream (Optional, for garnish)

    1. Heat the first portion of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. In several batches, brown the pork cubes on all sides, moving the seared cubes to a dish while you work.
    2. When all the pork is browned, use the same pot to cook the bacon. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 10 minutes.
    3. Add the pork (and any juices it releases) back to the pot along with the stock, wine, paprika, caraway and bay. Bring to a boil and then either cover the pot and reduce to a simmer on the stove or move the covered pot to a 375°F oven. Either way, you'll let it cook for one hour.
    4. Stir the sauerkraut into the pork mixture and either return it to the oven or keep it cooking on the stove-top for another 20-30 minutes or until the pork is very tender.
    5. Carefully remove the stew from the heat and pluck out the bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and more paprika. Garnish (if desired) and serve.

    I still find it amazing that this delicious dish and that junk that the lunchlady served with an ice-cream scoop go by the same name.

    The sour cream is an optional — but really delicious — accompaniment. It does something magical with the flavors that's hard to describe. I recommend it.

    Bon appetit!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Food Quote Friday: David Shumate

    Combo at Cafe Katja

    "In the early spring I get together with all the people I've been in my past lives. We sit around the table at my grandfather's farmhouse — mashed potatoes, creamed peas, cornbread."

    — David Shumate in "Welcome Home, Children"

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

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    What's For Dinner? Autumnal Arugula-Apple Saute

    On Monday night, I cooked a turkey breast roast. With some roasted Brussels Sprouts and pan gravy, it was a fine dinner.

    I cubed the rest of the roast, and this week I've been using up the cubes in various ways. The turkey-black bean burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla. The turkey cubes in my antipasti salad at lunch.

    Autumnal Saute

    Tonight's meal might be my favorite of this week's leftover turkey dishes. An Autumnal Turkey-Apple Sauté in just 15 minutes flat. Good on vitamins, pretty low in the carb department, seasonal, economical and tasty, too.

    You can't beat that with a stick, as my pa used to say.

    Sauteed apples and onions

    Now, you could used cooked tofu cubes or seitan cubes or pork cubes or chicken cubes or whatever protein you like, but I happened to have turkey on hand.

    You could also go all crazy and peel the apple. I didn't. Why? Well, because I'm lazy and because I justify my behavior with the thought of extra fiber and nutrients in the peel. So there. It was just as tasty with the peel on.
    Autumnal Arugula-Apple Sauté (Serves two... or one with leftovers)

    1 Tbsp olive oil
    1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
    1 apple, cut into 3/4" cubes
    1/4 cup pecans (unsalted)
    1 bunch arugula (or spinach), washed and chopped
    1 cup cooked turkey cubes (1") (or whatever protein you like)
    1 tsp fresh lemon juice
    A pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper

    1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot or skillet until it shimmers.
    2. Add the onion slices and the apple cubes. Sautée 10 minutes, or until the onions soften and begin to brown a bit. Add the pecans to the pan.
    3. Add the arugula or spinach, along with the cooked turkey cubes. Keep it moving in the pan, cooking down the greens, for about 5 minutes.
    4. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve.

    You could serve this with a starchy side dish (couscous?) or a hot buttered roll or something, but I'm going low-carb this week, so no bread for me.

    Still, it's a tasty dish... the apples provide sweetness, the pecans are nutty and rich and the turkey fits right in. I also have leftovers for lunch.

    I'll do this one again soon, leaving out the protein cubes, and serving it as an autumnal side to a pork chop or something.

    I bet this'll also be a good dish to keep on file for the days after Thanksgiving when turkey is in abundance and both ideas and energy to cook are running low.

    Bon appetit!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Demystifying Mussels

    Here's a mystery: Mussels are cheap, tasty, plentiful, fast-cooking, low in mercury, a lean source of protein and a good way to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Early humans were big on 'em.

    With all that to their credit, you might think they'd go like gangbusters. You'd think those little black shellfish would be flying out of fishmongers' shops, so to speak. But no. You'd be wrong. Home cooks tend to shy away from cooking mussels.

    And I should know... I'm one of those shy cooks. I know how fast and easy and good mussels are (especially with a solid Belgian beer), and yet I very rarely make them.

    Mussels with White Wine and Tomatoes

    Why not? Maybe it's something about dealing with the shells. Maybe it's the fact that they're living and need to be cooked right away — Mussels really aren't keen on hanging around the fridge.

    Then again, maybe it's just habit. It's just so easy to whip up a salad or to sear a steak. It's a cinch to throw on a pot of soup and have something comforting to eat for several days.

    But mussels have so much going for them, I really feel like efforts should be made to work them into the routine.

    Here's a super-fast, super-easy mussel method. My best tip for success? Make sure they're all closed (or ready and willing to close) before you cook 'em. If their shells are a little open, give 'em a squeeze and see if they make an attempt to shut. Mussels that don't close should be tossed.

    Mussels in White Wine & Tomatoes (Serves about 4 people)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    3-4 garlic cloves, smashed or minced
    2 shallots, sliced thin
    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
    2 lb fresh mussels
    1 cup dry white wine
    1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, drained
    1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

    1. In cool running water, scrub the mussels clean and pull off the little bit of seaweed-like "beard" along the edges.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes (if using). Sautée for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Add the mussels to the pan and stir them about, coating them in the oil. Add in the drained tomatoes and the white wine. Cover the pan and cook until the mussels begin to open, about 3 to 5 minutes.
    4. Remove the pan from the heat. Spoon out the cooked mussels and sauce into serving dishes and sprinkle with the parsley. Be sure to offer separate bowls to collect the shells.

    Serve with a sliced baguette — you and your fellow diners can soak up some of the savory sauce.

    Obviously, this dish is going to go well with the rest of the bottle of wine you used for cooking, so be sure you're cooking with a wine you enjoy (and that's just good advice for just about any dish).

    Bon Appetit!
    Miss Ginsu

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    The Problem with Chickpea Masala

    You know what the biggest problem with my Chickpea Masala is? I can't get it to look good. It smells great. It tastes wonderful. It looks... homely.

    Oh, sure. I can toss some chopped cilantro or some parsley over the top of it. But come on... that's just putting lipstick on a pig. (Or is that a dog? Who knows these days?) Curry is just a homely dish.

    Chickpea Masala

    This is really the problem with all the bowl-foods. Delicious, yes. Tasty, yes. Recession-proof? Of course. Easy to make on Sunday and then take to work as leftovers? Without a doubt.

    Just not good-lookin' enough for shmantzy guests, that's all. This is peasant cuisine.

    Still, that's not going to stop me from sharing the recipe. It's so quick, easy and good for work-a-day lunches, I can't resist its humble charms.

    Fast Chickpea Masala (Serves 2 (with leftovers) or 4)

    1 Tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
    1 medium-sized onion, halved and cut in 1/4" slices
    2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed to a pulp
    1 2" piece ginger, peeled and minced
    1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced thin (optional)
    2-3 Tbsp Masala Spices (see below) or a mix of your own
    1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
    1 15-oz can chickpeas (drained and washed)
    1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
    3 cups cooked rice (for serving)

    Optional Garnishes
    Chopped cilantro
    Plain yogurt or cucumber raita

    1. Heat the oil/ghee over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onion slices.

    2. Cook until the onion goes from white to translucent (about 10 minutes) and add in the garlic, ginger and jalapeño slices. Cook 5 minutes more.

    3. Add in the spice mixture. Cook an additional 3 minutes. The spices should begin sticking to the pan.

    4. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

    5. Season to taste with the salt. (At this point, you may wish to add either a pinch of sugar, or a squeeze of lime juice, as needed, to please your palate.) Serve immediately with rice and garnishes, or pack up for work-week lunches.

    Masala Spice Mix

    1 Tbsp cumin seeds
    1 Tbsp coriander seeds
    1 tsp mustard seeds
    1 tsp black peppercorns
    2 cardamom pods
    1 tsp fennel
    2 whole cloves
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp turmeric

    It's best to use whole spices, toasting them in a pan and then grinding them up for this mix, but you can get away with ready-ground spices if that's all you can find. The turmeric, for example, is almost always found pre-ground, so if you're grinding, just add that at the end.

    If you're going to skip anything, don't skip the cumin and coriander. They're essential. The others are all negotiable. If you like more heat in your mix, add in some cayenne. I enjoy using fresh chilies when possible, so I like to leave it out.

    Store the surplus in an empty spice jar and use within a week or so.

    A pilaf of white basmati rice would obviously be the traditional choice to serve with this curry, but I've been liking the brown basmati lately. It has extra fiber and extra nuttiness.

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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    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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    In some book somewhere, Julia Child has a fantastic quote about cassoulet. I can't locate it at the moment, but it's something about cassoulet being a food ideally suited for a lumberjack. In Manitoba. In January.

    Like I said, it's awesome. And it's hidden deep inside some text that apparently isn't part of Project Gutenberg.

    In the readily indexed Larousse Gastronomique, we find that cassoulet is "A dish, originally from Languedoc, which consists of haricot (navy) beans cooked in a stewpot with pork rinds and seasonings." Simple as that.

    But then they go into a discussion of longstanding ingredient disagreements and cassoulet rivalries in a variety of provencal French towns. The cassoulet section also includes recipes that insist pretty strongly that cassoulet must contain such-and-such a thing or must be made such-and-such a way.

    I've seen the dish served at high prices in plenty of fancy restaurants, but here's the thing: at its core, cassoulet simply just what Julia and Larousse initially said. It's a beautiful, economical peasant food.

    The finished cassoulet: ducky, porky, bean-y and tasty

    Now, if you've ever made a cassoulet, you might balk at my use of the word "economical," above, but in truth, the French farmhouse wives that created the first cassoulets weren't going for haute cuisine... they were using up what was stored around the farm.

    They kept ducks, and preserving the duck legs in a fat just happens to be pretty practical for those wondering what to do with a bunch of duck legs. They had cured bacon at hand. They had pork sausages, which were a frugal way of using up random pig bits. They had dried beans in the larder and root vegetables stocked in the root cellar. All the things that went into a cassoulet recipe were part of their everyday lives.

    clove-studded onion
    A clove-studded onion gives this dish a hint of the exotic.

    Most cassoulet recipes are going to ask you to start with dry beans, soak them, simmer them with spices, etc. etc.

    Now, I've made cassoulet from the bottom up, preparing the sausages myself, making the duck confit from scratch, soaking and simmering the beans... the whole nine yards. I'm here to tell you that yes, you can do all that, but that means you'll only have the time and energy to make cassoulet once (or maybe twice) in your lifetime, and that'd be a darn shame. Because it's really, really tasty.

    If you make cassoulet the lazy way, you're more likely to make it a bit more often, and regardless of what Larousse might say, the end result of the lazy method is not so different from the "took me three weeks to do everything myself" method.

    For most of us here in the States, duck confit is a bit challenging to come by, but if you happen to live in a large city (or in close proximity to a duck farm) you may, like me, have some on hand. I get mine from FrescoDirecto, where you can find them in the deli Tongue & More area (a title that always makes me giggle).

    No duck legs? No problem. Skip the confit and make your cassoulet with beans, sausages and bacon. You could probably even get away with veg stock, veggie bacon and veggie sausage to make it vegan. Whatever. It's all good. Just make it soon. This is food best suited for chilly stay-inside evenings, and those cool nights will soon give way to sweltering summer.

    cassoulet in progress
    I used two clove-studded onions. They were small.
    Cassoulazy (Serves 6-8)
    1 medium-sized onion, peeled
    8 whole cloves
    1 1/2 cups good stock (chicken, duck or vegetable)
    1-2 bay leaves
    3 carrots, washed and sliced in 1" segments
    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    4 strips thick-cut bacon, sliced in half
    1 pound garlicky pork sausages (I use sweet Italian sausages if I can find 'em)
    A little bundle of fresh herbs, if you have 'em*
    3 duck legs, confit (if you can locate duck confit, if not, skip 'em)
    3 14oz cans navy beans (or cannellini beans), drained & rinsed
    1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    For the crusty top (if desired)
    2 cups breadcrumbs
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

    1. Heat oven to 325° F.
    2. Poke the cloves into the flesh of the onion. Place the onion in an ovenproof heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven.
    3. Pour the stock into the pan and add the bay leaves, carrots, garlic, bacon pieces, pork sausages and the bundle of herbs (if using).
    4. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
    5. Add duck legs (if using), beans and tomatoes to the pot. Grind black pepper over the mixture. (Do not add salt. The cured meats will make this dish plenty salty.)
    6. Cover the Dutch oven or stockpot, carefully place in the center of the oven and let the mixture cook for 1 1/2 hours. When done, carefully remove the pot from the oven and pluck out the bay leaves, herbs and leg bones (the meat should fall away easily).
    7. If you'd like a crispy top crust, combine the breadcrumbs with the parsley and olive oil and sprinkle this mixture atop the hot cassoulet at the end of the cooking process. Turn the oven up to about 400° F and bake the cassoulet, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes to brown the breadcrumbs.
    8. Serve hot with a crisp green salad and a nice lager, an ale or a rich red wine with moderate tannins.

    *This is sometimes referred to as a bouquet garni. Parsley stems tied with a sprig each of rosemary, sage and thyme are nice. Enclose the herbs between two celery stalks, if you're so inclined.

    This dish makes very tasty leftovers for lunch, so don't be afraid to make a batch that's far larger than you need.

    Bon appétit!

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    May, and the crisper goes mad with spring fever


    J left on Sunday for sunny Spain, and it's been cold and gray here in New York ever since. (Check the weather reports and you'll see this statement is not simply the skewed view of a pining girlfriend.)

    While I labor in the industrial zone in Queens, he sends me notes that go like this:
    I made a picture of today's picnic lunch for you, but my internet connection isn't good enough to upload it. The place where I bought the food was like the prepared food area of a Whole Foods, only better appointed and staffed by grown-ups. They had several counters, each with some sort of focus (breads, savories, pastries, chocolates). The items on sale were priced by the kilo, save some things that are typically sold in slices, such as tartas and quiches.

    When I selected my veggie quiche, the quiche-lady wrapped it in butchers' paper, tied the parcel with a string, then handed me my food and a small placard on which she wrote the price in grease pencil over a space labeled with her counter's name (there was one slot for each section). When I was done, I took my parcels and the placard to the door where I was charged for everything at once, after which the clerk erased (i.e. wiped clean) the placard and placed it in a stack to be returned to the counters. The quiche, which I ate in the big park by the Prado, was excellent.


    Ah, for a leisurely life of sunny picnics and charmingly wrapped quiches!

    Meanwhile, back in Gotham, my crisper drawer is mad with spring fever. I brought home fresh spinach, strawberries and local grouper for a solo Friday night fish feast and discovered that every shallot bulb, garlic clove, onion, shallot and scallion in the bunch sprouted green tops and depleted the white bits I'd normally use in my sauté.

    Sitting in the cool darkness of the refrigerator floor, how do they know it's springtime? They didn't do this to me two months ago. Suddenly, it's May, and all the aromatics in the household are suddenly inspired to burst into fresh sprays of chartreuse sprouts. I've been wishing for some space to garden, but this wasn't quite what I'd had in mind.

    I was disoriented and dismayed until I remembered that green tops are just as yummy and useful as white bulbs. So then, marching on to dinner:

    Montauk Grouper
    with a quick brown butter sauce, sliced green shallots and fresh cilantro chiffonade

    Spinach-Strawberry Salad
    with toasted walnuts, Israeli feta and a balsamic vinaigrette

    Three small chocolate-chip cookies*

    Easy, quick, delicious, seasonally appropriate (except for the cookies, but when are cookies ever in season?), and a good use of my newly discovered refrigerator garden.

    I won't join J. in the sunshine for another week, and every day until then is scheduled for darkness and rain. That said, as long as the market is full of fresh produce and my refrigerator remains rich in garlic and shallot sprouts, I can't help but feel the daily pulse of spring on my dinner plate.

    *Cookie Tip for Single People: Next time you bake chocolate-chip cookies, make extra dough, chill it down, form the cold dough into fat discs the size of slightly squashed golf balls and keep 'em securely wrapped in your freezer. That way you can just take out two or three at a time. Bake frozen cookies in an oven preheated at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Presto! Fresh, hot cookies with no need to commit to a whole dozen.

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