Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Summer Ceviche Salad with Fresh Papalo

The vendor had noticed us ogling her herbs. "It's papalo! Here, take some with you." she chirped. "I'll write the word down for you. It's from Mexico. Use it like cilantro."

At the next stand over, we scored some gray sole and returned home with arms full of tomatoes, onions, lettuces, cucumbers and this unfamiliar herb.

A quick web search revealed that papalo is indeed native to Mexico, and it grows like a weed across the Southwest US as well as Central and South America. Generally eaten raw, is often added to things like guacamole, salsas and sandwiches.

Fresh Papalo

This site claims the flavor is "somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue," but having not eaten rue, I thought I tasted something slightly citrusy and minty, like something between cilantro and the sushi bar staple, shiso.

Homesick Texan makes a very pretty salsa verde with it, but on this particularly hot, humid day, we had our minds set on a cool ceviche salad for lunch.

This is just a variation on my basic ceviche recipe. I think the only thing that could have made it more delightful would be a sliced avocado on the side.

Ceviche Salad

Summer Ceviche Salad (Serves two)

2 sole fillets (or another white fish) sliced in 1/2" wide strips
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey (or a pinch of sugar)
1 tsp chopped papalo (or cilantro)
1 tsp chopped epazote (optional)
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 radishes, sliced very thin
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced very thin
1 green onion (white section) sliced very thin
4 cups mesclun or chopped leaf lettuce

1. Combine the lime juice and salt in a glass/pyrex dish or another non-reactive container.
2. Add the fish slices, tossing well to coat the fish with juice, and chill (for up to, but not more than an hour), stirring once or twice during that time to make sure all the fish surface area comes in contact with the juice.
3. After 20-30 minutes, the fish should look white and opaque. Drain off most of the lime juice and incorporate the olive oil. Coat the fish well.
4. Mix in the honey (or a pinch of sugar) and taste the lime juice-olive oil blend. Adjust the flavor, to taste, with salt/sugar.
5. Toss in the herbs, tomatoes, radishes, jalapeño slices and onion.
6. Divide the lettuce greens and make a bed on each plate. Spoon the ceviche on top of the lettuce and drizzle the greens with the lime juice.

Because it's often used as a substitute for cilantro or culantro, you won't be surprised to learn that the papalo was delicious in our ceviche.

I think it'd also make a delightful addition to fish tacos. That citrusy aspect is bound to make papalo welcome anywhere you'd use a pinch of cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

If you happen to be in NYC, you can get your very own papalo (and epazote and other good-lookin' herbs and veggies) at the Angel Family Farm stand at Tompkins Square on Sundays. Looks like they're based in Goshen, NY, and they run a local CSA, as well.

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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7.30.2009

Dear Miss Ginsu: My Soup is Bland.

Dear Miss Ginsu,

I need help with my bean soup. It's bland. I've already added the salt. What am I doing wrong?

-Desperately Seeking Flavor

Black Bean Soup

Dear DSF,

Bland soup is so disappointing. I feel your pain.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I'm not psychic. Without reading the recipe you used or tasting the soup myself, it's difficult to know what to tell you to add.

That said, I can offer some general help.

I'm assuming you started your bean soup with a flavorful stock, whether vegetable, beef, or chicken. That's the number-one thing you can do to give beans a chance. Well, that and seasoning the pot with salt and pepper before you serve it, but it sounds like you've already hit the shaker.

The next thing I'd ask about is the other ingredients. Smoked pork/bacon is a classic flavor enhancer for bean soups. Likewise, tomatoes also bring a lot of "meaty" taste to a soup. Did you use sautéed onions and/or garlic? They're called "aromatics" for good reason.

And then there's herbs and spices. You didn't mention using pepper. A bay leaf during the cooking is certainly your friend. A little rosemary can help a lot. Allspice is nice. I'm big on dried thyme.

But all those things are what you'd want to think about during the cooking process.

If it's all cooked and you're stuck with a pot of uninspiring soup, the best thing to do might be to work with your garnish options.

Slices of avocado, a little chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar or mild goat cheese can work wonders on a black bean soup.

A bland navy bean soup could liven up with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Or swirl in a spoonful of pesto.

Or try a dollop of sour cream, a bit of fresh-cut basil or parsley, some grated Parmesan, some flavorful croutons, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a few drops of Tabasco sauce.

You get the idea. If you don't load in the flavor while you're cooking, you need to find a way to bring it in at the end.

Good luck, and happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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1.15.2009

Food Quote Friday: Gary Fincke



"Whatever the Sunday, the sorrows kept the women in the kitchen,
My cousins and their mothers, my grandmother, her sister, all of them
Foraging through the nerves for pain. They sighed and rustled and one would
Name her sorrows to cue sympathy's murmurs, the first offerings
Of possible cures: three eggs for chills and fever, the benefits
Of mint and pepper, boneset, sage, and crocus tea."

Gary Fincke from "The Sorrows"

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9.12.2008

Blended Bacon Butter (& Friends)

One of the first techniques we learned in cooking school was for making compound butter. It's essentially just butter that's softened, blended with something flavorful, reformed and re-chilled for serving.

Compound butters are so decadent and so easy — though they never fail to impress guests when you make the effort — and yet, they're one of those delicious details I invariably forget about.

Bread & Butter
Why bread and butter when you could be eating a better butter?

Here's three recipes for compound butters — each supremely simple and very tasty. You'll notice the method is the same for each, so once you've made one or two, you can kind of go crazy and add in just about anything you like.

The Bacon Butter is divine on grilled vegetables (try it on your corn-on-the-cob), the Herb Butter is great sliced and slipped under the skin of a chicken you're about to roast, the Anchovy Butter especially loves steaks and broiled fish... and (surprise!) all three are delicious spread across the surface of a fresh baguette. Or maybe even a hot biscuit. Mmm...
Blended Bacon Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup crisp bacon, finely crumbled (or proscuitto or serrano ham, minced)
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the bacon or minced proscuitto/serrano (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Zesty Herb Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1/2 Tbsp tarragon, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the garlic, herbs, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Garlic Anchovy Butter
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
4 Anchovy fillets, minced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1. Blend the butter in a bowl with the minced anchovies, garlic, zest and lemon juice (a wooden spoon works well for this).
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll the butter into a tight log shape in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week. If you won't use it that day, wrap well (or seal in a freezer bag) or freeze for up to 3 months.


Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.14.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 07.28.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake took a break in the Central Park Sheep's Meadow. (Fine spotting to the Beast and Hazard both.) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Apizza Scholls: Top Five Pizzeria in America
Slice puts its hands on one of America's best pies. You can bet I'll be stopping by the next time I'm in Portland.

Reviving the Ramapo
"The market is ripe for the return of the Ramapo because there is a sizable group out there that wants their tomato to taste good." It's like finding something useful up in the attic.

Slideluck Potshow
A surprise hit in cities around the world, simply local folks sitting around watching slides and eating potluck food.

A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss
And now, friends, we return to an era of surfs raising premium crops for the lords...

I Hate Cilantro Haikus
Wow... I had no idea this was a haiku genre.

NutritionData.com
Some good visualizations of individual ingredients in the Nutrition Search widget.

Italy's creative microbrew movement gets noticed
"Outside of the U.S., Italy probably has the most exciting brewing scene in the world," says Garrett Oliver. And yes, he's talking about beer, not wine. That's just crazy.

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7.28.2008

Food Quote Friday: Alice May Brock



"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good."

Alice May Brock

More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive

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4.18.2008

Food Quote Friday: Aldous Huxley

Herbs from the Marche d'Aligre

"The scent organ was playing a delightfully refreshing Herbal Capriccio — rippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon; a series of daring modulations through the spice keys into ambergris; and a slow return through sandalwood, camphor, cedar and newmown hay (with occasional subtle touches of discord — a whiff of kidney pudding, the faintest suspicion of pig's dung) back to the simple aromatics with which the piece began. The final blast of thyme died away; there was a round of applause; the lights went up."

Aldous Huxley from Brave New World

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2.01.2008