Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Food Horoscope: Pisces

Happy birth-month, Pisceans!

Pisces

Pisces, the fishes (February 19 to March 20)

Now, I'm merely a cook, and not an astrologer, but here's my advice for your foodcast:

This is probably a good year to let food help you develop your relationships.

I've got something in mind that I think will help you do this in two ways.

The sourdough loaf, leavened by naturally occurring wild yeasts, comes to us through a very ancient tradition that requires patience and consistent care... powerful virtues in an era that tends to pay more attention to haste and impermanence. Some sourdough starters have been carefully tended and passed down from baker to baker for tens or hundreds of years.

The practice of patience and consistency helps ensure that your sourdough starter survives, but these skills also helpful things to remember in tending one's friendships.

And both the starter and the products it makes are ideal for sharing, another powerful relationship builder. When you think back on some of your favorite meals, you're likely to find they were spent with people you love. As long as there have been people, people have shared their food, so this is a pretty old concept.

So my thought is this: a new friend to break bread, or gather together a group of old friends to join you for brunch. Conspire to launch projects and solve problems.

I'd post the sourdough particulars here, but Sharon Vail's supremely cool recipes and story here at NPR sum up just about everything I'd want to say on the topic. She uses her starter in pancakes, biscuits, loaves and even chocolate cake.

On the other hand, the impatient among you might consider purchasing a little sourdough community to get your starter started right.

So with that thought in mind, enjoy your birthday and happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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3.02.2009

The Thick, The Thin & The Hearty

This week brings Shrove Tuesday, known to some as Mardi Gras and known to me as Pancake Day.

Bacon, Eggs n' Pancake

While I grew up with the thick, pillowy pancakes that appear in diners and truckstops across the nation, J. was raised on a delicate, European-style pancake... something more along the lines of a crepe.

Buckwheat Crepe with Egg & Gruyere

I must admit, the discovery that not everyone ate the same kind of pancake was a bit of a shock to me. I'd always considered a pancakes to be something like blankets, and crepes to be those delicate little wraps with fillings in them. Discrete categories, you see?

Mais non! Pancakes are objects of great variation. In the US, we just happen to like 'em fat.

In any case, there's no need to bicker — whether thinner or thicker, the pancake is a little morning gift. As Cookie Monster might say, it's "a sometimes food."

So in honor of Pancake Day this year, I offer my recipe for Sweet Potato Pancakes. In thickness, they're closer to the pillowy variety of my youth, but the addition of vegetable matter makes them sweeter, heftier and heartier.

You'll notice this recipe also provides a great way to use up leftover mashed sweet potatoes. In truth, I developed them as a post-Thanksgiving idea for leftovers, but I think they make an especially nice treat throughout the winter. Just save a little mash from dinner to use in pancakes the following morning.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Do keep in mind that they'll darken a bit more than your standard pancake. The sugar in the sweet potatoes browns quickly in the pan. I also recommend you pour smaller circles of batter than you might otherwise... smaller cakes are easier to flip.
Sweet Potato Pancakes (Makes 6 pancakes)

1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup pancake mix
Oil or butter for the griddle/skillet

For Serving: Maple syrup and/or butter

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk/buttermilk, oil and mashed sweet potato. Stir in the pancake mix until just combined.
2. If the batter seems too thick, thin with a teaspoon or so of water to attain a pourable consistency.
3. Heat a large, oiled griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Working in batches, pour batter in 1/3 cup portions onto the hot griddle/skillet surface and cook until the edges of the pancakes bubble and brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Carefully flip and cook the reverse side until browned, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat the process with the remaining pancake batter.
6. Move the cooked pancakes to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in the oven until serving time. Top with butter and/or maple syrup, to taste. Serve hot.

For extra decadence, serve them with alongside a bowl of fresh whipped cream in which you've blended a hint of cinnamon and maple syrup. Mmmm. They're also good with applesauce.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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2.23.2009

Shrove Thursday

In honor of miserably cold weather, the glories of a homespun breakfast and the last few days of Pancake Month, I got up a little early to make pancakes for myself today. Blueberry-Banana Wholegrain Pancakes, to be precise.

"Miss G," I thought, "You've had a tough week at work, and you need comfort food that makes your Thursday just a little more awesome." It's a simple demonstration of good self-care.

Donuts can be tasty, but they tend to make me crash out with sugar shakes... and that's not exactly setting myself up for success. The hot bowl of steel-cut oatmeal or my very own homemade granola are delicious — and very satisfying — ways to wake up, but that's what I eat pretty much every day.



A small stack of pancakes, on the other hand... now that sounded pretty great. Regardless of what happened for the rest of Thursday, I could rely on the gift of pancakes to make the day a little more special.

I find that aside from the feelings of warm bliss they produce, pancakes are a nice treat because most of the measuring can be done in advance. Like many people I know, I operate on about a quarter of my normal brain as I bump around the kitchen in the morning.

Easy DIY Pancake Mix

8 cups flour of your choice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Sift the ingredients together. Store in an airtight container for up to three months, or keep it the mix in the freezer for even longer.

To make a batter, measure out 1 cup mix and blend with 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 3/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup water or milk) and 3 Tbsp melted butter.

Thin it out with a little more milk or some water if it seems too thick.

You can use all-purpose flour or a mix of flours. J really enjoys a flavorful buckwheat pancake, so a half-and-half mix of whole-grain flour and buckwheat flour works well for those.

To make a whole-grain mix, try whole-grain pastry flour, which has a finer texture. Oat flour blends are nice, too. Feel free to add in some wheat germ if you're a fan.
Blueberry-Banana Pancakes (with Cinnamon!)

1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 3/4 cup plain yogurt + 1/4 cup milk or water)
1 egg
1 cup Easy Pancake Mix
3 Tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ripe banana, well-mashed
1/2 cup blueberries

Additional butter, for cooking

1. Heat the oven to 250°F and place a cookie sheet on the top rack.

2. Whisk together the yogurt/buttermilk, milk and egg until smooth.

3. Blend in the pancake mix until the lumps are worked out. Add a little more milk or water if it seems too thick.

4. Stir in the melted butter, cinnamon and mashed banana and blueberries.

5. Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat.

6. Melt a teaspoon of butter on the pan, creating an oiled surface.

7. Using a 1/4 cup to measure the batter, pour disks onto the hot griddle. When bubbles begin to form in the center of the cooking pancake, carefully flip it and cook other side.

Keep finished pancakes warm in the oven until you're ready to serve 'em.


Got extras? Don't pitch 'em! Wrap well and freeze. You can revive pancakes in a warm oven or toaster oven some desperate morning in the future. (I'd avoid using the microwave, however... it makes breads so rubbery.)

Wishing happy breakfasts to all!

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2.28.2008