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Dear Miss Ginsu: I have eggplants.

Dear Miss Ginsu,

This week the farm share delivered a bunch of eggplants. I have not really done much with them before, so I ask your advice. Other than tossing some sauteed eggplant into a bean salad (not that there's anything wrong with that), what other tips do you have?

Best Regards,
— Desperately Seeking Produce Advice

Grilled Vegetables
Just about anything is tasty when it's brushed with olive oil and grilled...

Dear DSPA,

A ratatouille is a classic use (or stuff hollowed-out shells with ratatouille and bake 'em) and there's always the classic eggplant parm.

Lil Frankie's in the East Village serves eggplant halved, roasted and topped with a zippy chili oil, but I think you'd have to have their wood-fired oven to make it taste that rich and smoky. I've tried it in my oven, and it's just not the same. But eggplant does love the grill. There's something about the smoke that really compliments the flavor.

I usually go Middle Eastern with eggplant (either roasted with olive oil and za'atar spice or in a baba ganoush) and serve it alongside cucumber/tomato/feta salad, hummus and spicy lamb balls.
Baba Ganoush
1 large eggplant
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp tahini
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Chopped parsley and/or mint (optional, for garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Poke the eggplant several times with a fork (to create steam-escape routes) and place on a baking sheet.

2. Bake until it is soft, about 20-30 minutes, or you can grill the eggplant (it's okay for it to char) about 10-15 minutes.

3. Allow the eggplant to cool before cutting in half, draining off any excess juice and scooping its flesh into a food processor/blender.

4. Blend eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and salt until smooth. Season to taste with a little more lemon juice, olive oil or salt, as you like. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped parsley and/or mint and serve with pita.

If you dig the heat, I find baba ganoush is pretty great with a little Aleppo pepper added in or sprinkled across the top. I know they sell it at Penzeys (along with za'atar), either online or in shops... there's one at the market at Grand Central Station here in New York.

Happy eating!

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8.19.2008

The Eastover Potluck

It was too cold, too drizzly and too long since our last convivial food gathering. We needed another office potluck to bring cheer to our cubicles. But what's the food holiday that falls between Easter and Passover?

Well, Eastover, of course. An opportunity to use up some of that leftover ham. A time to clean out the excess Peeps. An excuse to munch matzo. The Eastover Potluck!

Peeps go for a Dip

Since Easter is such a ham-heavy holiday and Passover is, well... not, there was some definite sacrilege going down at our potluck table. But we're a spiritually apathetic bunch of Jews, Christians and Agnostics, so it was all in good fun.

Ryn made latkes (not that those really work for Passover, but hey... everybody loves a latke) with the requisite apple sauce and sour cream, Kate brought rugelach and hamantashen and Mike scored hummus and pita. Tomi made spring-y little cucumber tea sandwiches. Marc inexplicably brought bottles of Orangina and Anna Bollocks ponied up the Girl Scout Cookies.

The best in show prize for dramatic presentation went to Suzy Hotrod's Platter o' Peeps Fondue. (Because nothing compares to a Peep dipped in chocolate...) I'd share the recipe, but it doesn't really require one. Just follow along with the photo below: assorted Peeps and whole strawberries displayed on a platter with a side of thick chocolate sauce for dipping.

Peeps Fondue

For my part, I dedicated my potluck offering to bringing peace between vegetarians and the meatheads. Thus: egg matzo with two spreads: one, a zippy deviled ham; the other, a spicy roasted carrot dip based loosely on a recipe I found in Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon.

The deviled ham spread is a bit ugly, so I really recommend some garnish to make it look tasty, but once people give it a try, it's always wildly popular. The carrot spread scored many fans as well, and it would actually make a welcome dip at Passover (even the reverent tables), since it requires no grain, dairy or meat products.

Spicy Roasted Carrot Spread on Egg Matzo


Dip 1: Spicy Roasted Carrot Spread (Makes about 2 cups)
1 5-6 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 large red onion, quartered
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons hot paprika (or a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne pepper)
2 Tablespoons orange juice or tomato juice (or water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2. Place the carrots, onion pieces and garlic in a baking dish. Toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Arrange the onions with the cut side down.
3. Bake until the carrots are soft and browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool.
4. Remove any papery skin layers from the onion. Place the carrots and onion in the food processor or blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Add pour in the last tablespoon of oil, cumin, coriander and paprika.
5. Pulse, adding the juice a little at a time to help make a smooth blend.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. The flavor will improve overnight. Serve cool or at room temperature, garnished, if desired, alongside crackers, crudités, pita or matzo.

Dip 2: Deviled Ham Spread (Makes about 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced ham
1 egg, hard-boiled
2-3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp mango chutney
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
Sweet paprika, for garnish
1 Tbsp sliced scallion or chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Pulse ham, egg, mustard, chutney, mayonnaise and cayenne pepper in blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in celery. Season to taste with more cayenne, if desired.
3. Sprinkle spread with paprika and greenery, if desired. Serve with toast points, pita wedges, crackers... or matzo, if you're nasty.

Cheers, ya'll!

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4.08.2008

Day 22: Hot Artichoke Dip

This post marks Day 22 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Everybody needs a few never-fail foods in their recipe collections. A few go-to goodies that score points and leave 'em wanting more every time.

I have more cookbooks than I like to think about. I have recipe card boxes stuffed to bursting with clippings and scratched notes. I have pages ripped from cooking magazines and loose pages printed off websites.

But when it comes down to the moment of truth... I keep going back to that small collection of dishes that do the job.

This one is one of my favorite winter potluck, holiday party, covered dish and general "I don't know... just bring something" dishes for cold-weather gatherings.

artichoke dip

Don't show your cardiologist, nutritionist, lifecoach or personal trainer. It's seriously scary and rich. It's also seriously tasty. I first tried it at Brit's Pub in dear old Minneapolis. (Speaking of which, if you happen to be in the Twin Cities in the summertime, I recommend Brits as a fun joint for rolling lawn balls, munching Scotch eggs and downing pints...) The recipe you see below is a variation of theirs.

Omigod Hot Artichoke Dip (Makes 5 cups)

28oz artichoke hearts (Two 14oz cans)
8oz cream cheese
8oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup (4oz) cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika

For serving
1/4 cup diced tomato
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Sliced sourdough bread

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Chop artichoke hearts and squeeze any excess water from the spinach.
3. Combine chopped artichokes, cream cheese, spinach, cheddar, mozzarella, onions, sour cream, dijon mustard, salt and paprika.
4. Pour mixture into a 10" square casserole dish or baking pan. Smooth the surface.
5. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until the dip is bubbling and browned on the surface.
6. Garnish with tomato and/or shredded Parmesan. Serve hot.


I've also tried this dip with Swiss and smoked gouda, and that's nice, but I think there's something special about the cheddar.

It's about as simple as recipes get. The only way you can go wrong with this dip is if you don't supply enough bread or crackers. So slice a couple of baguettes or a big loaf of pumpernickel to serve alongside, and don't say I didn't warn you.

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12.21.2007

Garlic Challenge, Part II

Oh, how time flies when you have a ticking time bomb sitting in your refrigerator.

I'm talking, of course, about my super-abundance of garlic, as mentioned in a previous post.

Although the posted expiration date is past, they seem to be holding up well, so I've had some time to play with these stinky little gems.

bulb of garlic

After discovering the many ways one can use up one's supply of roasted garlic spread, making 40-clove chicken (twice), pumping out a bunch of Indian cuisine and sneaking slices of the stuff into everything short of breakfast cereal, I was casually wondering why I haven't had a date in weeks. That's when I received this note from an old friend:

Found your garlic dilemma interesting.

Here's a suggestion: I went to a party in Colorado a few years ago. The host, Tom Cavelli, made something he called bona calda. I don't remember the exact recipe — we both had a lot of beer that night — but it included a huge amount of garlic.

Here goes:
2 cups, yes cups, of finely chopped garlic.
4 ounces of anchovies
enough cream to kind of hold it all together

It seems like he sautéed the garlic and anchovies, then added the cream.

We all dipped bread and vegetables into the bona calda while it was still in the pan. I thought it was wonderful, but as I said, I had a lot of beer that night.

For the next three days, I could not get toothpaste to foam up in my mouth.


This helpful suggestion seems to fall into under the "when your cup runneth over with stinky bulbs, pile on fermenting fish" school of thought, and I believe that only the addition of Corn Nuts could ensure a more foul perfume.

But following Dan's lead, I did, indeed whip up a delightfully nasty frenzy of garlic, fish and fat. I recommend you pair this recipe with a hoppy India Pale Ale, a pile of Netflix and a weekend alone.

More commonly known as Bagna Cauda (bahn-yah cow-dah), this creamy-salty-fragrant sauce is of Northern Italian (Piedmont) extraction.

The name translates as "hot bath," and it's traditionally served as the hot bath for cut veggies. Think: fennel slivers, sunchoke strips, carrot sticks, sliced red peppers, zucchini sticks, etc.

As one of the folks in the comments mentioned, it's a popular Italian New Year's Eve appetizer (with, of course, attendant rumors of good luck and good fortune).

Additionally, as you might gather from the name, it's intended to be served warm (maximize that aroma!), but don't boil it.

Many folks do as Dan and his crew did, gathering around the kitchen and eating bagna cauda straight from the pan. A piece of bread is often used as an edible platform for any delicious drippings that are bound to occur.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Ginsu, five cups of garlic still remain in the fridge, so it seems some kind of garlic jelly looms in my future... I'll document that conclusion in Part III of the garlic saga.

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5.25.2005