Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

There Will Be Milkshakes

The Golden Globes are in the bag, the Oscars are rolling up and all the fashionable awards parties should really be serving spiked milkshakes, shouldn't they?

For your Saturday enjoyment, here's a quick recipe accompanied by a shot of my little friend Dash rocking the "There Will Be Blood" trend wave.

I drink your milkshake baby onesie
White Russian Milkshakes (Makes 4 Servings)
8 oz vodka
4 oz coffee liqueur, (such as Kahlùa)
4 cups pure vanilla ice cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups milk

In a blender whip all ingredients together until smooth. Serve immediately in tall glasses with straws. Drink it up.

An enterprising soul could also substitute frangelico, amaretto or a chocolate liqueur and enjoy tasty results.

Meanwhile, if you know any under-clothed babies (or adults, for that matter), by all means, do make haste to swaddle them in something sassy.

Cheers,

Labels: , , , , ,

1.26.2008

The Food FEMA Forgets

Two years ago, in the midst of Avian Flu scares, I typed up a quick Foodie's Apocalypse Kit... a nice grouping of emergency preparedness items I felt (and still feel) FEMA and the Red Cross really missed the boat on.

Now that two years have passed and the flu scare headlines have been replaced with the terror du jour, folks may have forgotten their annual apocalypse kit freshness review. So... How're those expiration dates looking? National holidays ought to correspond to the practical needs of the citizenry, so shouldn't the second Thursday of January always be Check Your Apocalypse Kit Day?

As we all take a moment to take stock of our stockpiles, I think it's particularly appropriate to plan for a very practical emergency preparedness component that FEMA forgets: Vice.

Tucked in alongside the 10 Essentials, addicts of every stripe need to lay in stock for their needs. Stressful times are not the right moments to quit smoking or try to kick the caffeine.

There's three underrated bug-out bag essentials I'm thinking about at the moment: Coffee, Chocolate and Hard Liquor.

apple martini

Coffee is a no-brainer for bean-worshipers like me. It's le soma quotidien. I feel ooky without it. Ooky is most certainly not what I want to feel if there's anything that's required of me.

Chocolate isn't much of a mental stretch, either. If there's a disaster, you're probably going to feel very unhappy and uncomfortable. For most people, chocolate is something soothing and pleasant. A staple diet of brown rice and canned beans might keep the body working, but a nip of good chocolate is food for the spirit.

I've already mentioned the liquor in brief, but as it's still not on any emergency preparedness list I've ever seen, I'm pressed to make my case with more persuasive detail.

Even if — like me — you're no fan of clear liquors like vodka (or whiskey, or rum), said fluid should be de rigueur for nearly anyone's go-bag. Aside from obvious benefits as a mental balm during hard times, liquor is endlessly useful:

  • It sterilizes wounds and cleans tools.

  • Liquor preserves foods.

  • It's a local anesthetic and disinfectant. Use it on cuts and broken blisters.

  • For painless bandage removal, rub a vodka-soaked cloth on the bandage to dissolve the adhesive.

  • Liquor can be used as an accelerant.

  • I've not tried it, but vodka's rumored to take the sting out of jellyfish encounters and poison ivy incidents

  • Liquor is a commodity that maintains its value. Trade it to the neighbors for something you want or need.

I was around for the Northeast Blackout of 2003, and I can tell you with great certainty that in the sudden absence of electricity, people become very interested in clean water, long-burning candles and a good, stiff drink.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

1.10.2008

Day 12: What, me bitter?

This post marks Day 12 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

The dank, dark days of December are famously crowded with cocktail parties. Cocktails and latkes for Hanukkah parties, cocktails and pigs in blankets for Christmas parties, cocktails and blini for New Year's Eve.

Aside from the sleek glassware and ostentatious garnishes, my favorite aspect of the cocktail is the stories that follow in the wake of every highball, martini, gimlet and toddy out there. To follow the history of cocktails is to dive down a fascinating rabbit warren of nooks, crannies, characters and concoctions.

My obsession of the moment is with bitters. Having recently discovered that Marlow & Sons, my local shop of culinary wonders was making their own bitters, my mind opened to a new world of possibility.

You can make bitters? Like, not buy them but make them? At home? Without a still? What an adventure!

Yes, Virginia, you can whip up your own homemade bitters. As it turns out, that's what our ancestors used to do. Bitters were common among the herbal tinctures and tonics of an ancient age. And though they're rarely used in cocktails today, bitters preceded the first cock-tails and were, by definition, a necessary component of the earliest cocktail mixes.

The second known printed reference to cocktails comes in the May 13, 1806, edition of the Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, New York:
"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters — it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else."

Hardy har har.

In all seriousness, the bitters-making process is embarrassingly easy and endlessly adjustable, based on your own tastes.

There's heaps of ancient recipes out there, calling for everything from obscure botanicals like columbo root, gentian and Virginia snake root to better-known additives like chamomile, cherry bark, cardamom and caraway.

I'm going with lemon, ginger and common household spices for mine. Look how pretty my steeping bitters look!

375

DIY Citrus Bitters

1/2 cup raisins
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1" piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole allspice
750 ml whiskey, rum or vodka (highest proof you can find)

1. Combine spices, citrus and liquor.
2. Cover, refrigerate and soak for 1-4 weeks.
3. Strain into a clean jar of your choice.

Make bitters now, and they'll be ready for your Christmas and New Year's cocktails.

Toss aside your Angostura and your Campari and imagine how clever you'll look when you whip out your very own home-brewed bitters at your next party.

Or be generous... Make custom labels and give bottles away as gifts.

How will you use your newfound skill in making bitters? Glad you asked! I've included three quick recipes below. Just keep in mind: bitters are not meant for straight-up sipping. Add to cocktails with a light hand, as you would use a seasoning or garnish.
1. Hot Mulled Wine
You may notice some similarity between this recipe and the Hot Mulled Apple Cider recipe from last week. I think they work well in tandem at parties. Offer Mulled Cider to the kids and teetotalers, Mulled Wine to your favorite boozehounds.

1 750-ml bottle red wine
1 cup water
1 tsp DIY Citrus Bitters
1/3 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
3 allspice berries
2 star anise
Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler

1. Pour the wine, water, honey and bitters into a large saucepan.
2. Wrap the spices and orange slices in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string (or simply use a strainer to remove spices and slices the at the end of simmering).
3. Add the spice bag to the pan and heat the wine, uncovered, over very low heat until hot, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the spice bag (or strain out the spices and oranges), and serve hot, garnished with cinnamon sticks.

2. Citrus Bitters & Soda
Cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.

6 oz DIY Citrus Bitters
6 oz soda water

1. Half-fill a highball glass with ice.
2. Pour in bitters.
3. Fill the rest of the glass with soda water.
4. Top with a twist of citrus. Serve immediately.

3. The Gin Bitter
A cocktail classic. Substitute rum or whiskey for the gin, if you prefer.

2 jiggers gin
2 dashes DIY Citrus Bitters

1. Half-fill an old fashioned glass with cracked ice.
2. Shake gin and bitters with 1/2 cup cracked ice.
3. Pour into prepared glass.
4. Top with a twist of citrus and/or a thin slice of cucumber. Serve immediately.

Happy adventuring, all! Cheers!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

12.12.2007

Food Quote Friday: Ray Nargis

charming coffee cup

"When I am old I'll drink whiskey in the morning
And coffee at night
And laugh and spit and swear wherever I want.
When I am old I'll help Girl Scouts across the street
Even if they don't want to go
And I won't have a car
And I won't have a bike
And I'll walk everywhere."

— from Ray Nargis' poem "When I am Old"

Love food quotes? Read more here.

Labels: , , , , ,

11.30.2007

The Foodie's Apocalypse Kit

With pandemic paranoia pulsing in the press, the time seems ripe to discuss one of the treasures reaped from a recent bookshop foray: How to Develop a Low-Cost Family Food-Storage System by Anita Evangelista.

Sounds dull, right? The low-budget 1940s-era clip art on the cover might not convince you to give it whirl, either. But just wait until you find out what's on page two: Eleven Reasons to Store Food.

1. Severe seasonal weather, with road closures, power outages, and supermarkets depleted by panic buyers.
2. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, volcanoes, or tornadoes, with supermarkets unable to restock shelves.
3. Ecological disasters, such as the Three Mile Island nuclear facility's failure, and the contamination of foods.
4. The possibility of nuclear holocaust with all food deliveries suspended.
5. Tainted foodstuffs, either by purposeful maniacs (as in the "pain-killer poisonings") or improper processing (as in the glass fragments found in baby foods or the salmonella bacteria in dairy foods.
6. Riots, civil insurrection, collapse of local or regional governing bodies, gang warfare, looting, racial incidents; inability to shop at all.
7. Long-term illness.
8. Loss of employment and inability to secure a new job.
9. Strikes, either by truckers, food processors, food pickers or supermarket employees.
10. Destruction of standing food crops in farmers' fields, either willfully or by natural calamities.
11. Collapse of the currency system, and inability to purchase needed goods.

Wow! Choose your poison — that's enough paranoia for everyone!

Evangelista tours readers through the various practical traditional and non-traditional food acquisition systems (shopping, gardening, foraging, gleaning, etc.) and food preservation methods before pulling out the really fun stuff in Chapter Five: Where Do I Put It?

I was particularly interested in this section, thanks to my teensy New York apartment. What's a budding packrat to do, given a cramped kitchen and no closet space?

The easy answer? Five gallon plastic buckets. The path of dedication? Camouflage your booty by opening up the walls, installing interior shelving, replacing the wall and slapping on patch and paint 'til the evidence is invisible.

I know... you're saying to yourself, "I hate making trips to Home Depot. Why would I bother with all that?"

Ask anyone who's ever worked as a waiter or waitress whether they've found people to be on their best behavior when they're hungry. Now imagine a city full of cranky, hungry people. Now imagine a bunch of cranky, hungry neighbors busting into your nest and rooting for your neatly stored cans of black beans and your tasty treasure trove of apple sauce and your shiny silver cans of Le Sueur Baby Peas.

Good thing you plastered those cases of SPAM and light-syrup pineapple rings into your wall, right? Trust me... You'll thank Anita Evangelista later.

In all seriousness, there really is a chance that avian flu could wreak havoc (it happened in 1918), in which case it's good to have extra water and canned goods stuffed into your limited closets. Here's the Flu Wiki and advice from the Red Cross on all the stuff you should already have on hand anyway.

In addition to a solid first aid kit, a lot of water and all the items from FEMA's boring list of staples, from my personal apocalypse kit, I can recommend:

  • Tasty Bite Dinners.
    Indian and Thai curries! Far more flavorful than the standard shelf-stable MREs.

  • Amy's Kitchen organic soups.
    Soup is good food.

  • Desert Pepper Black Bean Dip.
    Because I'm an addict, okay?

  • Frontera Chipotle Salsa.
    This stuff could make cardboard taste good, and if I'm reduced to roasting rats, I want something nice to dip them in.

  • Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate Mix.
    It's yummy, and disasters are always short on yummy.

  • Orange-blossom honey and fruit jams from Sarabeth's (or homemade).
    Delightful with Carr's water crackers

  • Sardines in Hot Sauce or Mustard (Bumblebee sardines are good).
    Mmm... Sardines. I eat these even when I have fresh food around.

  • Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes.
    So versatile, so delicious. And the cans are lined, so they don't have that awful "can" flavor.

  • Jars of spicy Spanish olives, oil-packed Italian tuna and jars of roasted red peppers.
    I reckon this'll make for good post-apocalyptic tapas.

  • Praline spread from Le Pain Quotidien.
    Again, seriously delicious. And yes, this stuff would make even my homemade hardtack edible.

  • Quality tea and coffee in factory-sealed containers.
    Lack of caffeine is a disaster unto itself.

  • Aseptic packs of Parmalat milk, Ceres fruit juices and Silk chocolate soy milk.
    Open a fresh container after the spare daily ration of rice and water grows tiresome.

  • Bottles of vodka and bourbon (or your favorite hard liquor).
    Barter with the neighbors for some of their Slim Jims. Disinfect a wound. Preserve fruit. Or just have a consolation drink. Liquor is endlessly useful in hard times.

Labels: , , , , ,

3.22.2006