Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Autumn in New Amsterdam: Tasty!

I just spent all my allowance on food. But honestly, you would've done the same, right? It was a beautiful autumn day in New York, and there were rows and rows of tempting food vendors at the New Amsterdam Market.

New Amsterdam Market

I attended the market for the first time in June last year, and it's just gotten bigger and better in the interim.

If you've not been, the New Amsterdam is kind of a cross between the Brooklyn Flea, the Union Square Farmers Market and the food markets at Essex Street and Chelsea.

Since the focus is on great food that's grown or produced in New York, there's some familiar faces for those who already know and love the artisanal butchers, bakers, cheese-makers, apiaries, dairies, farmers, canners and picklers in the local food scene.

You'll also find top-notch specialty goods... delicious, effervescent kombucha that reminds me of a crisp, dry cider (and I don't even like kombucha). There's pâté and pork rillettes spread on toast (thank you, Dickson's.) There's now a whole row of local wineries, and not one, but two vendors of oysters on the half-shell, not to mention the truly superior, ultra-fresh BoBo chickens I mentioned last year.

Indeed, there's such a buffet of people who are putting their love (and high-quality ingredients) into the food at New Amsterdam, it's a good thing they don't have the place open year-round. I'd drain my account and give myself a bellyache every weekend.

If you're in New York and you've managed to miss the other market days, there's two more chances (November 22 and December 20) to go before the year's out. Meanwhile, here are few things that delighted me today:

Meat Chart Bike Jersey
This very cool meat chart bike jersey from Fleisher's

Saxelby Cheese Mongers
The ever-charming Benoit from Saxelby Cheese.

New Yorker Tomato Seeds
Heirloom tomato seeds from The Hudson Valley Seed Library. They're supposed to be good for container gardens. We'll see about that next year...

Sullivan Street's Raisin Loaf
Raisin Walnut Loaves from Sullivan Street Bakery. So, so tasty... Nom!

Want to see more? Check out the full New Amsterdam Market photo set.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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A Defense Against Doldrums

The stale, crusty edge of winter lingers forever, it seems. And while I know Shakespeare called April the "cruelest month," I feel February is a strong contender for the title.

What's to be done with these days in which citrus season is closing and spring shoots and greens are still weeks away?

I'll throw in my vote for that greatest of Swedish traditions... and no, I don't mean IKEA, I mean the Smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord Fish Platter

A group of friends, a selection of hot and cold tasties freely sampled and maybe a few merry nips of akavit... it all seems like just the thing to relieve late-winter doldrums.

So then, what goes on the smorgasbord? To my mind, considering the menu is half the fun.

I think a proper smorgas spread includes a tantalizing array of foods common in Sweden, such as sliced dark rye or pumpernickel bread (for making open-faced sandwiches), spicy mustard, sliced cheeses, cold meats such as ham, sausages, Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce, cold shrimp salads, potato salads dressed with dill, beets (pickled or not), pickled veggies, pickled and smoked fish (salmon and herring are popular), cardamom cake, warm rice pudding and coffee.

And though I mock IKEA's world domination a bit, they probably are the best source of smorgasbord ingredients for most folks. With reasonable prices on lingonberries and a selection of Swedish delights in their food area, I'd encourage you to browse through their offerings if you're interested in setting up a savory smorgas of your own.

Meanwhile, I'll offer my own tasty Swedish Meatball recipe, which makes a delicious meal whether you're feeding a crowd or just serving dinner.
Swedish Meatballs (Makes about 30 meatballs)
2 slices fresh bread (white or whole-wheat)
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, divided
2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground pork
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Tear the bread into bits and place it in a small bowl with the milk. Allow the mixture to soak for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sweat the onion until softened but not browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. When tender, transfer the onions to a large bowl, but reserve any of the oil/butter mixture left in the skillet.
3. Put the ground beef and pork in a large bowl and blend in the sweated onions, egg, salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg.
4. Squeeze any excess milk out of the bread crumbs and blend into the meatball mixture.
5. Form golfball-sized meatballs with your hands, stacking the balls on a clean plate.
6. In the same skillet you used to sweat the onions, add the reserved tablespoons of butter and oil and heat over a medium flame.
7. Add the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd the pan), and saute until well-browned on all sides — about 7 to 8 minutes. Move cooked meatballs to a wire rack or plate covered in paper towels.
8. When the meatballs are done, reserve the fat in the pan, sprinkling the flour into the skillet. Continue heating, stirring the flour and oil with a wooden spoon.
9. Add the stock to the pan, stirring to loosen any bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer and stir until the stock reduces and starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and stir in the sour cream.
10. Return the meatballs to the saucy skillet and coat well with the sauce. Serve hot with lingonberry sauce on the side.

Lingonberry sauce is pretty quick to make on the fly... just warm a half-cup of lingonberry jam or jelly in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water, whisking the mixture until it's a uniform, pourable sauce.

And what if there's no lingonberries to be found? Just substitute a currant, blueberry or blackberry jam. It'll be just as tasty.

Yours in Winter Feasting!
Miss Ginsu

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FoodLink Roundup: 10.20.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was reviewing flats of sweets in Istanbul, Turkey. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

River Cottage Bramley lemon curd
A lovely photo series composed of lemon curd made with apples. Mmm...

i voted!
As if voting wasn't already its own reward... Now, there's ice cream.

Rancher’s Goat Meat Grabs Attention of Chefs
Niman dumps the cows, goes for the goat.

On recession gardens
The retro Victory Garden returns in new, credit-crunched clothing.

Credit Crunch Cooking
Cheap meats, thoughts of eating the pets and a return to MFK Fisher.

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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FoodLink Roundup: 09.01.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Though an excellent guess was tendered for Yellowstone, last week, Cupcake was actually located in at the geothermal ponds of Iceland's Blue Lagoon. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Earthquake-proof a wine cellar
...with o-rings and zipties. A nice hack for connaisseurs living on fault lines.

Celebrating the produce pioneers
An article on one of the Bay area's produce boosters... followed, inexplicably (not that I'm complaining), by veeeery tasty looking brown-butter almond cake with plums. I'd eat that.

Marrow filled with spinach, bulgar and feta
Apparently in the UK, a "marrow" is a summer squash. Good to know.

Think Twice Before Jumping Into the Restaurant Business
The anatomy of fail: “I seriously thought we were going to die of exhaustion”

What It's Like to Be a Butcher
What makes the butcher? Find out in this really nicely done piece. Kudos to Esquire.

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Barbecue for 1,000

It's not every day a girl gets to play with 600 pounds of meat and a smoker the size of a Humvee.

I'm going to back up for a second and tell you this: Every year at work — and this is a food company, mind you — we've eaten the same thing.

Burgers, dogs, chips and watermelon.

Not this year. This year, we were going to eat corn on the cob, saucy ribs, salmon grilled on cedar planks and pulled pork barbecue. Real barbecue. On a real smoker.

But for 1,000 people, one needs a lot of meat and a really big smoker, and as you may have noticed... those aren't available at every corner bodega.

Thus, the quest for real barbecue at our picnic wasn't looking good until someone noticed that Harry's Water Taxi Beach just happens to host a really big smoker.

A lot of wood
You're going to need a lot of wood...

The game was on. We needed supplies. A lot of supplies. This turned into an Excel Spreadsheet. A thousand hungry people is nothing you want to tinker with. Details needed to be decided. Among other things, my boss (initiator and executor of this wild scheme) demanded:

200 lb Pork Butts
75 lb Pork Shoulder
50 lb Pork Ribs
40 lb Pork Belly
250 Packages of Potato Rolls
10 gallons of Barbecue Mop
2 Mops
1 Quart Kosher Salt
1 First Aid Kit...

And that's just a sampling. Simply planning out and gathering up the supply list was a monster proposition.

21 Aged Steaks
21 dry-aged steaks. You've gotta have snacks while you work.

Low, Slow Meat Thermometer
Let yourself go... low and slow, that is the tempo.

The night arrived, the crew assembled, the supplies were delivered, the fire was lit, and... I'll just let you watch the extremely condensed version of our 12+ hour smoking party in this quick video.

And was it good? Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Best. Company picnic. Ever.

But you don't need 500 pounds of meat and a smoker of epic proportions to make good barbecue.

In my estimation, what you really need is a manageable smoker, a nice pork butt, a bunch of wood, a lot of free time and Paul Kirk's awesome barbecue book, full of recipes for barbecue mops, rubs, sauces and more. Kirk is the man.

Meanwhile, if you want yet more barbecue madness, you can see the full photo set at Flickr.


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A Guide to Troubleshooting Marinades

My brother called me up the other day and left a message. It went like this:
"Hey! How you doing? I'm having a barbecue on Friday night and I was wondering if you had some ideas you could give me. Maybe something special? Drop a line and let me know. Thanks!"

Ay yi yi! No information about guest preferences. No information about his protein of choice... pretty much no information.

What would have been most helpful, of course, would be a hint about his flavor preferences. I've found that most meat marinades and sauces zero in on a combination of two (or more) of the following flavors:

Spicy, Salty, Tangy, Sweet, Fresh, Savory and Earthy.

Lime-Cumin Marinade? Earthy, Salty, Tangy
Teriyaki Marinade? Salty, Sweet, Tangy
Balsamic Marinade? Sweet, Tangy
Tandoori Marinade? Tangy, Earthy, Spicy
Mint-Yogurt Marinade? Fresh, Tangy, Spicy
Pomegranate Shashlik Marinade? Tangy, Sweet, Spicy
Jerk Marinade? Spicy, Salty, Tangy
Sesame-Orange Marinade? Sweet, Tangy, Savory
Honey-Mustard Glaze? Sweet, Spicy, Tangy
Argentine Chimichurri Sauce? Fresh, Spicy, Tangy
Classic Barbecue Sauce? Sweet, Tangy, Salty, Savory

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Since I assumed he'd choose beef, I offered my brother a chimichurri sauce and a cumin-lime marinade.

He settled on the chimichurri, but called me just before the barbecue in a minor panic. The sauce was just... so spicy... so herby.

I told him to mix in a teaspoon of sugar and call me back. It worked like a charm. The barbecue was a success. The guests were impressed. But I realized afterward that I should have asked him a couple of questions about his general flavor preferences before winging recipes at him.

Ultimately the secret to sauces and marinades is in the balance of those flavors. Too much salt, too much spice, too much sweetness, too tangy and not savory enough... these are the problems that plague weekend grill chefs everywhere.

My advice is always this: taste the mixture before you marinate your steak/chicken/shrimp/whatever in it. Is it bland? Too full of high notes and not enough low notes? Take note of the following cures:

Could Be More Tangy: prepared mustard, a squeeze of citrus or a shot of vinegar, sometimes plain yogurt works

Bland/Needs More Salt: Try a shake of soy sauce, a little salt or a hint of fish sauce; or, try a dab of black olive or anchovy paste.

Needs More Depth (earthiness): Depending on the recipe, you could try ground cumin, ground coriander, toasted sesame oil, dried oregano or dried thyme.

Could be More Fresh-Flavored: Try chopped fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, mint or pesto.

Not Rich Enough: Kick up the umami with sesame oil, tomato paste, caramelized onions, mushroom powder, fish sauce, anchovy paste or Worcestershire sauce.

Could Use Some Spice: A few chilies, ground black pepper, mustard, cayenne powder or hot paprika usually do the trick.

Needs a Little Sweetness: Try a little sugar, honey, maple syrup, or fruit juice.

Too spicy? You can't take back the chilies, but you can add back some balance with a little honey or sugar.

For your weekend grilling needs, I offer the recipes I gave my brother, plus one extra for the folks who prefer their marinades a little sweeter and less spicy.

Lime-Cumin Skirt Steak
1 beef skirt or flank steak (about 1 1/2 lb)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or less, if you can't take the heat)
2 garlic cloves, minced/smashed
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin

1. Blend the marinade ingredients together.
2. Chill the steak and the marinade overnight in a zip-top bag.
3. Grill as you normally would. (Probably 3 minutes per side on a medium-high
4. Let the meat rest about 10 minutes, and cut into thin slices to serve. This is great with tortillas, grilled onions and peppers.

Another nice option (one that doesn't involve marinating) is the Argentinian chimichurri. They're big on steak there, and this is supposedly the traditional sauce of the gauchos.
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Flank steak (1 1/2 to 2 lb)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 jalapeño peppers (start out with just one)
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Olive oil, salt and pepper (for the steak)

1. Blend the vinegar, pepper(s), garlic, bay, parsley, cilantro, oregano and olive oil until smooth.
2. Season to taste with salt and sugar, if using.
3. Dress the flank steak with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side.
4. Let the meat rest about 10 minutes, then cut into thin slices (across the grain), and serve with the chimichurri sauce. Mmm. Tasty.

This recipe is great served with grilled green onions.

Sesame-Orange Marinated Steak
1 lb beef skirt, flank or tri-tip steak
1 Tbsp ginger, chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)

1. Combine ginger, soy, orange juice, sesame oil and honey to a blender and mix until incorporated.
2. Pour marinade into a zip-top bag, add the steak and marinate overnight.
3. Remove steak from the marinade, pat off any excess moisture and grill over medium-high coals for 3 to 4 minutes per side.
4. Let the meat rest about 10 minutes, and cut into thin slices (across the grain) to serve. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if desired.

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Middle Feastern Delights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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FoodLink Roundup: 04.28.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was found (thanks to the sharp mind of Mr. Hazard) in the blossom-filled lanes of Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

A Guide to Bakeries in Manhattan's Chinatown
A handy guide for the gweilo, myself included.

Book-Beer Pairings
Slightly less reading comprehension, slightly more giggling while you turn the pages.

The In Vitro Meat Consortium
I've said it before: The future is yucky.

The All-Natural Taste That Wasn’t
“Isn’t it amazing how many additives it takes to make something taste natural?”
Oh, Pinkberry, you haz betrayed my tiny trust.

Manhattan Milk Company
All new... it's retro.

Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals
A good "just in case" guide.

When Neighbors Become Farmers
Lawn? We don't need no stinking lawn.

The great British breakfast is a killer
Hilarious. Read through to the response at the end.

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Food Quote Friday: Otto von Bismarck

I love sausage
Sausages & cornichon at Le Baron Rouge, Paris

"Those who love sausage and obey the law should not watch either being made."

Otto von Bismarck

Find more spicy food quotes here.

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Food Quote Friday: Woody Allen

"Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage."

Woody Allen (1935- )

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Got Gloves?

Armadillo from "Animalloys: an un-natural history series" at the NYPL

Sometimes you run across a shining gem that requires little in the way of introduction. Case in point: Tips on preparing armadillo from the Field Guide To Meat by Aliza Green.
1. Remove the glands from the legs and back of the armadillo, then clean and cut into serving pieces.
2. Brown in a little oil, covered, until light brown. Stir in enough flour to absorb the oil. Season as desired.
3. Add a small amount of water, barbecue sauce or chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until fork-tender.

Note: Always use rubber gloves when handling raw armadillo, because it can carry leprosy.

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Best Thing Ever: Hotdog Oragami

I particularly love it when my party meats look like miniature elephants...

Oh, man... a friend just sent me this amazing link:
Nippon Meat Packers Hotdog Art

The diagrams are fantastic, and I also love this page, which displays the seasonally appropriate ways to show off your meat sculptures.


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