Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Alternatives to Turkey and Pie

Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with this famous line: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Similarly, of Thanksgiving dinners, I might say, "Average Thanksgiving dinners are all alike; every interesting Thanksgiving dinner is unique in its own way."

Thanksgiving meals I grew up with were always the most basic Midwestern fare (probably because grandma didn't really enjoy cooking). The menu: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans and pie.

In college, I went vegetarian and dined on Tofurkey with stuffing, veggies and the rest of the fixings. (In retrospect, I might've done better to have simply baked a nice casserole.)

I was recently impressed to learn that many southern folks consider a ham to be an essential aspect of the Thanksgiving feast. (Honestly, I really don't know where they find the room in their ovens.)

And in my Polish neighborhood, a Thanksgiving dinner might include turkey alongside "Meat Stuffing, Fruit Stuffing, Vegetable Salad, Pierogies, Apple Cake and Apple Cherry Cake," as advertised in the window of the local cookshop where I snapped this image:

Thanksgiving in Greenpoint

While I'm usually a traditionalist for the Thanksgiving feast, this year I have a broken wrist and a busy week, so we're keeping it as simple and as local as possible with products from our CSA, the NYC farmers markets and the local foods at FreshDirect.

Putting aside tradition, we'll be going with Duck and Flan instead of Turkey and Pie. I've decided on duck breasts because they're fast, they're easy, they're 100% dark meat (no fighting over the legs) and they'll still be lovely with cranberry sauce.

Our Simple, Local Thanksgiving Menu:
You'll note that almost everything on the menu can be found within 200 miles of the city, so I want to offer my heartfelt THANKS to all the people who work hard to grow raise, process and transport our food.

Ending the meal with a slice of pumpkin flan offers a nice change of pace from the standard pumpkin pie. Additionally, if there happens to be anyone on a gluten-free diet at your dinner table, they'll appreciate the lack of crust.

Flan

Flans are pretty easy to make, except for two tricky parts at the beginning and end of the process: caramelizing the sugar and flipping the cooked flan onto a serving plate. Just pay close attention at these junctures and you'll have no problems.

And remember, if you should happen to burn the caramel, it's not a big deal. Just open the window to air out the kitchen, soak the burnt sugar off the bottom of the pan with hot water and try it again with lower heat and a watchful eye.

If you have pumpkin pie spice in the cupboard, you can just use a teaspoon of that in place of the ginger, mace/nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice/cloves.

Spiced Pumpkin Flan (Serves 5-6)

2/3 cups sugar (divided into two parts)
3 large eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice or cloves
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a small saucepan, cook 1/3 cup of the sugar over medium heat until it begins to melt. Don't stir or touch it; just lower the flame and heat it, swirling the pan until the melted sugar caramelizes to a golden brown.
3. Quickly pour the liquid caramel into the bottom of a 9" quiche/flan dish or cake pan. Turn the dish to evenly coat the bottom. Allow to cool.
4. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl, blending in the pumpkin, cream, salt and spices.
5. Place the quiche/flan dish inside a roasting pan (with high sides) and pour hot water into the roasting pan until it measures about half-way up the side of the flan dish.
6. Carefully move the roasting pan to center rack of the oven before pouring the pumpkin batter into the flan dish. (This process prevents flan flubs on the way to the oven.) Bake until the flan is firm in the center, but still has a little jiggle — about 50 to 60 minutes.
7. Carefully move the hot flan dish from the roasting pan to a wire rack to cool. Then chill in the refrigerator at least 2 to 3 hours. (Overnight is better.)
8. To serve, warm the flan for a few minutes before running a knife around the edge of the dish. Place a large plate on top of the flan dish. Gently flip both together so that the flan gently flops onto the plate. Lift away the flan dish and cut the flan into wedges.

Having an interesting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Drop a note in the comments!

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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11.23.2009

Terrifyingly Tasty Treats for Halloween

Halloween really snuck up on me this year, and that never happens. I usually have a costume idea by August. By the first of the month, I'm usually sipping cider and toasting pumpkin seeds.

But this year, I'm in an arm cast, so everything takes longer to do and I'm left with fewer costume options. Mummy? Zombie accident victim? Abominable snowman? I'm at a loss.

Thankfully, cast or no, there can still be treats.

We'll be doing another Halloween potluck at work. If, like me, you've let Halloween sneak up and surprise you, you might need a few good recipe ideas for holiday eats.

Let's have a look at some tasty Halloween party food thoughts, eh?

Halloween Potluck
Note the dry ice "cauldron" in the back. Spooooky, right?

A Menu of Spooky Delights for Halloween
Obviously, sweets tend to be the focus for Halloween, but if you're throwing a party, the guests will certainly be grateful to see a few savory treats as well.

A Few Sweet...
  • Cookies of the Dead (Cute and scary.)
  • Goo-ls (or Globins) (Cute, scary and CRUNCHY!)
  • Brandied Caramel Sauce (For dipping sliced apples or pears.)
  • Pumpkin Spice Bread (Pumpkins!)
  • Not-Very-Scary Cakes (And not too bad for you, either.)
  • Off-The-Hook Maple Nut Bars (Seriously: these are deadly good.)

    A Few Savory...
  • Black Bean Soup (Dark and bubbly.)
  • Devils on Horseback (Good year-round, but great on All Hallow's Eve.)
  • Hot Artichoke Dip (Serve with cut veggies as a nice contrast for all the sweets.)

    And a Couple of Drinks for Good Measure
  • Mulled Hot Apple Cider (for the kids)
  • The Bronx Cocktail (for the grownups)

    Hoping your Halloween costume ideas are going better than mine!

    Cheers,
    Miss Ginsu

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  • 10.27.2009

    Two words

    Two words that embody what's awesome about flying Air France:

    "Champagne Apéritif"

    Champagne Aperitif

    Ahhhhhh. Chanoine Brut Grande Reserve. The fennel crackers weren't half bad, either.

    Actually, I love flying Air France for a number of these little niceties. The texture of the blankets and pillowcases. The fact that (even in the standard economy-class seats) they give me a little travel packet with a moist towelette, earplugs, headphones and an eyeshade.

    And I love the menus. Actually, I'll share the menu here. Isn't it lovable?

    In-Flight Menu

    Here are the offerings within:

    Choice of Beverages: beer (Heineken), mineral water, juices, soft drinks, white wine (Vin de Pays d'Oc Chardonnay 2008 La Baume) or red wine (Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 La Baume)

    * Surimi, carrot and zucchini salad with ratatouille bread

    Choice of Main Course
    * Chicken with spiced coconut sauce, basmati rice and fried onions
    -or-
    * Four-cheese tortellini with Neapolitan sauce and Italian cheese

    * Butter, demi-baguettes, Camembert wedge, gingerbread-fig tart, fruit smoothie, coffee and tea

    Don't forget the after-dinner brandy digestif and the pre-landing snack pack (mineral water, butter cookies, drinkable yogurt).

    Nowadays, I usually pack my own picnics on flights. Boiled eggs, summer sausage, apples, grapes, cheese, carrot sticks, raw almonds, a bite or two of chocolate...

    I realize cost-cutting is important and all, but flying used to be part of the fun of the travel adventure. I miss those days. Thankfully, Air France still manages to hold on to a few of the humanizing details that make a multi-hour flight bearable.

    More from the adventures in Northern Italy and Southern France on the way. Meanwhile, I'd be happy to hear any in-flight food survival tactics, so if you've got one, throw it in the comments.

    Cheers,
    Miss Ginsu

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    10.02.2009

    FoodLink Roundup: 11.17.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was handily spotted in the grand hall of Grand Central Station. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Spam Spikes
    Apparently, in hard times (like now) Spam production (the meat kind) goes into overdrive.

    Talking chocolate with Damian Allsop
    Man breaks back and morphs into modern Willy Wonka. Culinary magic ensues.

    What the World Leaders Ate
    Planet Money posts the White House menu for G-20 world leaders. Mmm... Lamb, Quinoa and Huckleberries.

    The Math on the Starbucks Gold Card
    Bottom line: you have to be an addict to make it pay.

    Scientists turn tequila into diamonds
    My high school chem class definitely didn't feature this experiment.

    McDonald's sales rise 8.2 percent
    "McDonald's is likely benefiting from diners who might ordinarily go to pricier sit-down restaurants but are gravitating to fast food to save money — a phenomenon called 'trading down.'"

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

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    11.17.2008

    A Quick Bite of 1946, Anyone?

    I think most of us have played the "would you rather" game. It's usually a contest of bad and worse. Would you rather be turned into a zombie or an oompah-loompah? Would you rather give up your firstborn child to Britney Spears or a tribe of cannibals? Would you rather eat a kitten or a puppy?

    The wacky world of Foods 1946 presents us with this conundrum:

    Would you rather spend more time in the kitchen and eat a sustainable, locally sourced, home-cooked meal of ham & pureed vegetable soup, roast goose with roasted vegetables and a side of applesauce, mashed potatoes and turnips, fresh-baked corn muffins and then plum pudding and fresh-ground coffee to finish, a'la 1846. (Click into the image for the larger view.)

    A Winter Meal of 1846

    OR

    Would you rather spend less time in the kitchen and enjoy a meal composed of packaged foods: split pea soup (from a mix), canned ham, minute rice, canned asparagus tips, canned artichoke heart salad, corn muffins from a mix and a last course of strawberry shortcake (from frozen strawberries and a biscuit mix) served with instant coffee, a'la 1946.

    A Winter Meal of 1946

    Granted, I could go for some strawberry shortcake right about now, but I think you see what I'm getting at here.

    The world of 1946 was so sure that your answer to this "would you rather" query would favor speed and cheap processed foods, they'd most certainly be floored to hear that 2007 voted "locavore" as the word of the year, that people around the globe ware increasingly more interested in Slow Food or that Community Supported Agriculture programs were thriving and growing.

    Oh, 1946! Everything was so plain, so clear and so logical for you, wasn't it?

    Tomorrow, just a little more fun from Foods 1946.

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    1.23.2008

    Want Coffee With That, Hon?

    Neighborhood joints should have a bit of fun with their menus, right?

    I mean, maybe restaurants in contention for multi-star reviews have some reason to write up flowery prose with cursive fonts, but I feel that the corner bistro and the neighborhood greasy spoon can afford to demonstrate a little personality.

    Sometimes I love a menu so much, I'm forced to beg for it (failing that, I’m sometimes forced to thief it). Get a load of this one lifted a while back from The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis.

    The brekkie was fairly standard hip brunch-y grub (with some extra love for the veggies), but the menu itself... Swoon!

    For your enjoyment, I've put forth the effort to transcribe the Breakfast Specialties (yes, unedited, thankyouverymuch), below.

    Don’t blame me if, after reading this, you need to run in search of fried eggs and home fries, stat.

    BREAKFAST SPECIALTIES

    Welcome to the Triple Rock Social Club. We've put some serious thought into the composition of our menu, but chances are pretty good that you might want something customized a little bit. That’s cool, were into making everything available exactly the way you want it. So wipe he frown off your face and ask one of our bitter, overworked, underpaid servers for what you want. They’ll be less than thrilled to accommodate your every whim. Let’s get it on!

    IMPORTANT NOTE FOR VEGANS: Most items on the menu can be made strictly vegan (*=can be prepared vegan). If you would like your food to be prepared in a strict vegan manner, just talk to your friendly server and we’ll do what we can to hook it up. And yes, the soy cheese is casein-free. Feel free to discuss any concerns you might have with your server and we’ll make it your way. Girl, you know it’s true…

    SPECIALTY BREAKFASTS [Jump start your morning with one of our kick-ass specialties. You won’t be sorry]

    The Mothertrucker $6.50
    So you’ve got a great big convoy, you’re ridin’ cross the land. Sit your mudflaps down and dig in. We got the platter with what you need to keep all 18 wheels running. Home Fries with veggies and cheddar, topped with three eggs. Comes with delicious Toast. Get it with Bacon, Sausage, Ham or Veggie Sausage for only $1.25. Dedicated to Gertie.

    Rock Star Egg in a Hole $4.25
    If you are unfamiliar with the Egg In A Hole, you are definitely not a rock star. Through a complicated scientific process, we mold Egg and Toast together, creating a hybrid to kick breakfast ass. We’ll serve you up two Eggs in A Hole plus a side of Home Fries. Get it with cheese for $.75.

    Fried Egg Sandwich $5.00
    Eggs and cheese fried up like they were crazy and served on Toast. What, are you serious? Damn straight. Comes with a bunch of Home Fries, too. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage for only $1.25.

    Steak and Eggs $6.95
    Three eggs, Home Fries and toast. Start your day off on the right track and pamper yourself with sizzling steak.

    *Tofu Scrambler $5.25
    A perfect way to start a guilt-free day. Resistance is futile. Comes with Home Fries and Toast. Get it with cheese or soy cheese for $0.75. Add veggie sausage for only $1.25.

    OMELETTES [Eggs-celent. All omelettes served with Home Fries and Toast.]

    Great American Pork-Off $5.75
    This porkalicious concoction is chock full of every part of the pig from the rooter to the tooter. Bacon. Ham. Sausage & Cheddar. Suuuieeee!

    Veggie Non-Porkorama $5.25
    God Damn! If there’s one thing we love around here, its fake meat! Veggie Sausage, Cheddar and Onion.

    Bob Denver Omelette $5.50
    This ain’t your rocky mountain high, baby! This taller, goofier omelette is just what you need to keep your stomach satisfied on anyh three hour cruise. The Professor made us a bicycle-powered griddle and we’re not afraid to use it. Ham, Cheddar, Green Peppers and Onions are all included. This breakfast will keep you going until you get back to port, if that ever happens…

    Devil Went Down to Georgia Omelette $5.00
    Cheddar and Onions in a huge honkin’ omelette smothered with World Famous Triple Rock ChiliTM. Satan Endorsed. Satan Approved. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    Mushroom and Swiss Omelette $5.00
    We knew we had to have something standard and regular for you damn geniuses. You know it, you love it. We own you, so eat it and shut up. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    Farmer Ted’s Omelette $5.00
    Take down your overalls and bend over for this omelette, cuz we’re gonna serve it up hot. Farmer’s been workin’ overtime to give it to you garden-style. Onions, Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Spinach. Add cheese for $0.75.

    Plain Omelette $4.50
    We’ll add cheese or veggies to your omelette for $0.75 each. We’ll add Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Veggie Sausage to your omelette for only $1.25.

    BETH”S BREAKFAST BURRITO [Out-freakin-standing.]

    Beth’s Breakfast Burrito $5.00
    We had our best people work this on out for us. It uses the same powerful technology as the burrito, but this one will cure all morning afflictions. Scrambled Eggs, Spanish Rice and Homemade Salsa, bound by the goodness of ooey gooey cheese, and wrapped in the love only a good tortilla can supply. Home Fries will round out the experience for you. We’ll let you up the ante with Ham, Sausage, Bacon or Veggie Sausage for $1.25. The deals just keep on coming…


    The Triple Rock Social Club
    629 Cedar Avenue
    Minneapolis, MN
    612-333-7499

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    11.10.2005

    Yes, you really do want this.

    Would a ceviche in the light of bright day tickle the palate so sweetly?

    Presenting... the evening's hand-written menu, deftly snatched up and tucked away by my delightful dining companion.

    Charmingly erratic capitalization and punctuation left intact. My own garden-variety dining annotation included.

    The Queen's Hideaway
    DINNER: August 26, 2005

    MAIN:
    1. TART: crab and corn custard with side of smoked cherry tomatoes; bush basil. 12 (ed note: Sprinkled with rock salt. The smoked tomatoes made the dish.)
    2. Albacore Tuna ceviche with Avocado, currant tomato & fresh fried tortilla. 12 (ed note: As seen in the photo above. These folks are not afraid of the pepper grinder. Very nicely seasoned.)
    3. BBQ Italian Sausage with Flaky Biscuits and savory summer berry compote. 11
    4. Buttermilk & chive marinated Flounder fillet, coated in cornmeal & fried. With hushpuppies, coleslaw & hideaway hot sauce. 12
    5. Fried chicken/salt potato Salad on a bed of mesculin(sic). Sides: sauteed okra & sweet sweet Melon. 11

    SIDES & STARTERS:
    1. Peaches roasted in duck confit with triple-cream KNNiK(?) cheese. Yes, you really do want this. 5 (ed note: oh.god.yes. But why only half a peach? Still... heavenly.)
    2. Heirloom cucumber salad with vinegar & dill. 4
    3. White corn on the cob. With butter. 2
    4. Bobolink diary stinky cheese plate with chicken paté & beautiful seedless grapes. 5 (ed note: Holy cats! Ah do loves me some stinky cheese!)
    5. Jersey maers with butter, chives & sea salt. 3

    DESSERT:
    1. Golden Peach & Raspberry Pie 5 (ed note: None left. A deep sadness, indeed.)

    BEVERAGE:
    1. Coconut/Lime Soda 3

    [The Queen's Hideaway has A Bottle Fee (ed note: endearingly scribbled heart appears here) ]

    The Queen's Hideaway
    222 Franklin St (at Green)
    Greenpoint, Bklyn
    718.383.2355

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    8.29.2005

    Now That's a Cool Tool...

    To counterbalance all the dreck and drivel out there on the wild wild web, it's great to run across something that makes you wonder how you ever got along without the internet.

    1846 Menu
    One of my own fun finds... a suggested winter menu from 1846

    Everyone's got their own favorite things, of course, but easy access to an archive of over 5,000 menus dating back to 1856 (via TMN) from the terribly helpful and efficient folks at foodtimeline.org sure does the trick for me.

    Check 'em out... it's a great time capsule.

    And if you've got resources or tools (web-based or reality based) near and dear to your own heart (or stomach), be a peach and drop me a line!

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    4.01.2005