Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

A Day for Goooools and Globins

I'd intended on making chocolate skulls with white chocolate and dark chocolate detailing. They were going to be So. Very. Cool.

Unfortunately, the white chocolate refused to come out of the plastic skull molds looking like little chocolate skulls. Instead, it looked like globby white chocolate messes.

I needed a Plan B. Stat.

White Chocolate Globins
Woooooooooooo-oooooooo!

Thanks to some handy pepitas, shredded coconut and chow mein noodles, Plan B was hatched... and out came these cute little globins. My roomie called 'em that.

I was thinking they should perhaps be called goooools, but they're just so globby and cute. She's right. Globins it is.

As you'll see in the photo below, these guys were perfectly happy to see and be seen at our lunchtime Halloween potluck at work this week.

We feasted on chocolate chip cookies, a delicious pumpkin bread, candied apples, coffee-braised beef ribs with spiced pumpkin, an addictive pumpkin dip with homemade tortilla chips and bottles of Orangina. You'll also see that Travis brought the burbling dry ice as his contribution in the back there.

Halloween Picnic

Clearly, as a fall-back plan, these little fellows were supremely easy to make. The white chocolate becomes both the molding material and the glaze on the outside, so I think you could make them with close to anything munch-able you happen to have around the house.

No pepitas? Use some other nut or seed. No chow mein noodles? Substitute something else for the arms. Maybe black liquorice ropes. Easy. I think they'd be great with just granola in them.

Globins (Makes about 14 globins)
12 oz (1 bag) white chocolate chips
2 Tbsp milk + 1 Tbsp milk
1 cup pepitas (or some other seed or chopped nut)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chow mein noodles + a few extras for arms
A small handful of dried currants or black sesame seeds (for eyes)

1. Over low heat in a saucepan, melt 3/4 of the bag of white chocolate with 2 Tbsp milk. Stir constantly.
2. Combine the nuts, coconut and chow mein noodles in a bowl.
3. Pour the melted white chocolate over the nut-noodle mixture. Blend well and place in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes.
4. Line a baking sheet or cake pan with parchment paper.
5. When the mixture is cool, but still pliable, remove from the freezer and form 1 Tbsp portions into tall mounds.
6. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp milk with the remaining white chocolate chips. This will become your glaze.
7. Carefully roll one the globin mounds in the glaze to coat. (You may want to use latex gloves for this task.) Stand the globin up on the parchment.
8. Push two currents or sesame seeds into the top of the globin for eyes and push chow mein noodles into both of its sides for arms (see photo, above). Repeat this glazing and decorating step with all the little naked globin mounds.
9. Allow your globins to cool on the parchment paper for a few hours or overnight. They're alive! Aliiiiive!

As party guests, I must say... the globins were perfect gentlemen and they were very popular with all the other guests. They mingle well and they're just so charming, they end up drawing a lot of attention. I'd certainly invite these little chaps along to another party.

All of which goes to show that sometimes Plan B is even better than Plan A. So that's my lesson of the day. Be open to Plan B, or whatever Plan B turns out to be.

Wishing you a spooooooky Halloween!
Miss Ginsu

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10.30.2008

Seis de Mayo: Brownie Tamales

So, Seis de Mayo. You might be thinking: Why not Cinco de Mayo? It's a perfectly reasonable question. As it turns out, Cuatro de Mayo was unreasonably busy for my coworkers and I, but we still really wanted an excuse to cook and eat a Mexican-themed potluck.

As far as potluck themes go, you really can't go wrong with Cinco de Mayo. I mean, c'mon... it's got the tasty built right in. Mexican and Tex-Mex foods are some of the most popular dishes in the nation. Salsa has surpassed ketchup as our national condiment of choice (judged via per-capita consumption). And nearly every American city now features excellent Mexican and Central American specialty foods.

Here in NYC, it's a cinch to walk into the Essex Street Market and pick up a stack of soft corn tortillas for practically nothing. Corn husks for making tamales are just a couple of dollars for a hearty fistful. There's baffling varieties of dried chilies. There's exotic sauce brands. The papayas, fresh tomatillos and cactus paddles await your salad-making pleasure.

Cheese quesadillas done up on the George Foreman grill seemed like a quick-and-easy winner for our slightly belated department holiday picnic this week, but I also wanted to try out something a little more ambitious.

Tamale in the Steamer

I found a delicious-sounding candidate in Rosa's New Mexican Table by Chef Roberto Santibañez, formerly of NYC's Rosa Mexicano restaurant... Brownie Tamales.

Having been burned by an unfortunate barbecue sauce recipe over the weekend, I was a little recipe-shy, but this one was actually created by Nick Malgieri, the many-times-published pastry chef who created the curriculum at my cooking school. Since I love Santibañez's instincts and I've had great success with all of Malgieri's recipes, I figured I couldn't lose.

Steam Bath Full of Tamales

I've doubled the recipe and made a few tweaks — I just can't leave anything alone — but it's pretty close to the original. You might want to plan for a little loss. I had a couple of blowouts. The failed tamales were still edible... just not very pretty.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend a sauce or ice cream to serve with these. They're quite tasty, but they're sort of homely on their own. Cinnamon ice cream would make an outstanding addition.
Brownie Tamales (Makes 12-14)
6 6-inch corn tortillas
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
13 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
8 large eggs, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups ground pecans (8 oz)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
12 large dried corn husks, soaked (7" across the bottom by 7" long)

1. Tear each tortilla into small pieces and grind them in a food processor (you may have to do this in batches). The texture should resemble coarse cornmeal. Set aside.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the melted chocolate.
3. Beat in four eggs, then blend in half the pecans and half the ground tortillas.
4. Add the remaining eggs, followed by the rest of the pecans, tortillas, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Drain the corn husks. While they're still damp, flatten out a husk on the surface before you and stuff with 1/2 cup of the brownie filling in the center of the husk. Fold the sides over the filling. I find it helpful to gather up the bottoms and tie them with a few inches of twine. (The top end will remain open. Just fold it over.) Repeat to form 12 tamales.
6. Place two or three dimes in the bottom of a large pot (while it boils, they'll jingle, letting you know there's still water in the pot) fitted with a steamer basket and water that meets the basket's base, but doesn't rise above it.
7. Stand the filled husks (open-end up) in the basket, keeping them upright, but not cramped.
8. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to keep the water simmering gently. Steam the tamales this way for about 30 minutes, carefully adding more water if the level runs low.
9. After 30 minutes, carefully remove a tamale, unwrap it and cut into it. It should be moist and semi-firm. If the tamale is still overly soft, return it to the basket and steam a bit more. If it's done, turn off the heat and let the tamales stand for 5 minutes.
10. Serve hot in opened husks with a scoop of ice cream, caramel sauce or whipped cream.

Salud!

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5.06.2008

The Eastover Potluck

It was too cold, too drizzly and too long since our last convivial food gathering. We needed another office potluck to bring cheer to our cubicles. But what's the food holiday that falls between Easter and Passover?

Well, Eastover, of course. An opportunity to use up some of that leftover ham. A time to clean out the excess Peeps. An excuse to munch matzo. The Eastover Potluck!

Peeps go for a Dip

Since Easter is such a ham-heavy holiday and Passover is, well... not, there was some definite sacrilege going down at our potluck table. But we're a spiritually apathetic bunch of Jews, Christians and Agnostics, so it was all in good fun.

Ryn made latkes (not that those really work for Passover, but hey... everybody loves a latke) with the requisite apple sauce and sour cream, Kate brought rugelach and hamantashen and Mike scored hummus and pita. Tomi made spring-y little cucumber tea sandwiches. Marc inexplicably brought bottles of Orangina and Anna Bollocks ponied up the Girl Scout Cookies.

The best in show prize for dramatic presentation went to Suzy Hotrod's Platter o' Peeps Fondue. (Because nothing compares to a Peep dipped in chocolate...) I'd share the recipe, but it doesn't really require one. Just follow along with the photo below: assorted Peeps and whole strawberries displayed on a platter with a side of thick chocolate sauce for dipping.

Peeps Fondue

For my part, I dedicated my potluck offering to bringing peace between vegetarians and the meatheads. Thus: egg matzo with two spreads: one, a zippy deviled ham; the other, a spicy roasted carrot dip based loosely on a recipe I found in Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon.

The deviled ham spread is a bit ugly, so I really recommend some garnish to make it look tasty, but once people give it a try, it's always wildly popular. The carrot spread scored many fans as well, and it would actually make a welcome dip at Passover (even the reverent tables), since it requires no grain, dairy or meat products.

Spicy Roasted Carrot Spread on Egg Matzo


Dip 1: Spicy Roasted Carrot Spread (Makes about 2 cups)
1 5-6 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 large red onion, quartered
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons hot paprika (or a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne pepper)
2 Tablespoons orange juice or tomato juice (or water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2. Place the carrots, onion pieces and garlic in a baking dish. Toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Arrange the onions with the cut side down.
3. Bake until the carrots are soft and browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool.
4. Remove any papery skin layers from the onion. Place the carrots and onion in the food processor or blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Add pour in the last tablespoon of oil, cumin, coriander and paprika.
5. Pulse, adding the juice a little at a time to help make a smooth blend.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. The flavor will improve overnight. Serve cool or at room temperature, garnished, if desired, alongside crackers, crudités, pita or matzo.

Dip 2: Deviled Ham Spread (Makes about 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced ham
1 egg, hard-boiled
2-3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp mango chutney
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
Sweet paprika, for garnish
1 Tbsp sliced scallion or chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Pulse ham, egg, mustard, chutney, mayonnaise and cayenne pepper in blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in celery. Season to taste with more cayenne, if desired.
3. Sprinkle spread with paprika and greenery, if desired. Serve with toast points, pita wedges, crackers... or matzo, if you're nasty.

Cheers, ya'll!

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4.08.2008

A Potlucky New Year

I was always told that potlucks were named as such because you were lucky if everyone brought a pot of something to share.

Our department hosted a potluck to kick off the start of the Lunar New Year today, and I'm now wondering if the really lucky part of a potluck is actually less about having enough to eat and more about the discovery of new dishes.

The Golden Carp oversees our Lunar New Year potluck

Foodwise, we got pretty lucky. Ryn brought pork and sautéed pea shoots. Kate made a tasty cold peanut noodle salad, I brought dumplings and a candy-filled golden carp from Kam Man on Canal Street, Alvin brought custards and pork buns from an apparentmob-scene New Year crowd in the Flushing outlet of the Tai Pan Bakery. Kristin picked up some tasty green tea ice cream. And Tomi made a delightful tofu-ginger dish and a very tasty salad of chewy, crunchy, spicy burdock root... a veggie I'd never really used before.

We cranked up the traditional Chinese music for ambiance (thank you, internet!) and compared the various virtues of our signs in the Chinese Zodiac. Despite a dumpling mishap, a good time was had by all.

I think our potluck did, in fact, make us feel lucky. We were lucky to enjoy the company of our coworkers. We were lucky to have food before us. And I know I felt very lucky when Tomi said she'd share her burdock root salad recipe.

Gobi (Burdock Root) Salad

After lunch we got email from Ms. T:
I’ll try to approximate amounts as best I can... but this was always a ‘stand next to mom at the stove and watch’ kind of thing. I know she has a Japanese-American church bazaar cookbook with a recipe... and those amounts never seemed like enough to me.

I went online and found: In addition to its healing qualities, burdock is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, folacin and fiber.

Having not had mama's salad or the church bazaar version, I can say we were all huge fans of Tomi's amped-up gobi salad.

And lucky for all involved, Ms. Tomi was kind enough to offer up not only her salad recipe, but also an accompanying poem from Ms. Shirley Kishiyama, her mum, which was published in American Tanka magazine, spring, 1999:

burdock root darkens

my fingers as I cut small sticks

bitter taste from my youth

I long for the taste of earth

I long for the crunch, crunch, crunch


Even if you've never had burdock and won't recall the taste from your youth or the crunch, crunch, crunch in your mind's memory, after trying this salad, I think you'll empathize (as I now do) with the longing. I think burdock is just one of those vegetables that encourages one to reminisce.

After you're through chopping up the burdock root, this salad looks simple enough to make. You could certainly turn down the heat if you're not a fan of spice.

I suspect the only tricky part for most people will likely be tracking down burdock root. You could probably use a root like celeriac as a substitute. Carrot would offer a slightly sweeter end result.

Tomi's Spicy Kimpira Gobo (or Kinpira Gobo)

3 stalks burdock (gobo) root, each about 2 1/2-feet long, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks. (I buy my gobo at Dynasty Supermarket @ the corner of Elizabeth and Hester.)

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, rinsed and dried
Equipment:
Large bowl of cold water
Large sauté pan

Working one half of a root at a time:

  • Peel burdock root.. there will be natural brown spots on the white flesh, but it's all gravy.

  • Cut the root into 2-inch lengths.

  • Cut each 2-inch section lengthwise into 4 slices.

  • Cut slices lengthwise into 3 to 4 matchstick-sized pieces.

  • Promptly put matchsticks in bowl of water to keep from browning — some browning will occur, but not to worry!

  • I like to give the gobo a second spin in some new cold water at this point, just to knock off any residual dirt.

  • Drain gobo in colander right before cooking.


1. In a large pan heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot.
2. Add gobo to oil and sauté.
3. As gobo is just beginning to turn translucent, add sugar and toss to coat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly so you don’t burn the sugar but get a nice caramelization goin’ on.
4. Add shoyu, toss to coat and cook until most of the shoyu has been cooked into the gobo or evaporated — approximately 5 minutes.
5. Add cayenne and crushed red pepper. Toss to coat and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings.
6. When all is said and done, you should see a nice, shiny, dark brown gloss on the gobo.
7. Let cool completely before adding coriander leaves. Serve at room temp or cold.


Gung hei fat choi!
Miss Ginsu

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2.07.2008