Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Chow Chow Chow!

I'm willing to admit it: I'm a northern girl with southern envy. Having grown up on a parade of cream of mushroom soup casseroles, I've since discovered some of the flavorful, everyday delights my southern brethren took for granted... things like red velvet cake, po-boys and one of the finest condiments to cross my palate: chow chow.

It's my great loss that the only chow chows I'd ever encountered were the dog breed and the dancing chow-chow-chow cats of 1970s-era TV advertising.

But then — as if led by destiny — my last roommate abandoned a full jar of Loveless Cafe Old-Fashioned Hot Chow Chow in the fridge. It was amazing. I was immediately hooked.

Now I understand that chow chow is a dog, a dancing cat and a versatile condiment that's used like a pickle relish and flavored like an Indian chutney.

Delicious on grilled meats, it's powerhouse flavor for egg salad and chicken salad. It's a savior for ho-hum bean soups and stews that lack oomph. It's killer on a cheeseburger or sausage roll... and it's delicious straight out of the jar.

Hot Yellow Chow Chow

I imagine chow chow is also going to become my new favorite way to use up extra vegetables that happen to be hanging around the fridge.

Sadly, we won't see any green tomatoes for months, but since I'm an addict now, chow chow can't wait. I'm substituting tomatillos or pickled green tomatoes until I can get my grubby mitts on the garden-fresh versions.
Hot Yellow Chow Chow (Makes about two quarts)

1 cup green tomatoes (or tomatillos), cored and quartered
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup celery, minced
1 cup bell peppers (red or green), diced
1 jalapeno chili, sliced thin
1 cup white or yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

Cooking Liquid
2 cups white or red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp celery seed
2 Tbsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

1. Soak the tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery, bell pepper, onions and parsley in a salt water brine (1/4 cup salt to 1 quart [4 cups] water) overnight.
2. Drain off the brine and place the vegetables in a heavy-bottomed pot with the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender (about 30-40 minutes).
4. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning level with salt and pepper to your liking. Add a little more vinegar if it's too sweet or blend in a little more sugar if you find it too sour. The flavor will become more rich and blended as it cools.
5. Ladle the hot chow chow into sterilized glass jars, add lids and seal in a hot water bath, or cool and transfer to the refrigerator.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.15.2009

But You Can't Tuna Fish

When it comes to a surplus, some foods are easier to wrangle than others. Extra apples become applesauce and apple butter. Easy.

Extra peaches become preserves. No problem. Extra cabbage becomes sauerkraut or kimchi. Cucumbers, beans, onions and carrots become pickles.

But what happens when you come across a great sale on tuna? Well, as it turns out, that, too can be preserved.

Tuna!

J and I are huge fans of the oil-packed tuna that typically comes in jars from Spain and Italy, but those are not cheap.

An article in the LA Times a few months ago illustrated how the same process can be accomplished at home, so when we recently ran across some bargain albacore steaks, we stocked up.

Preserved Tuna

As the piece illustrates, oil-poaching tuna is a supremely simple process with the potential to save lots of money if you get a good price on the tuna. And the end result is very satisfying.

Watching your salt intake? Don't use it. Like a little citrus flavor? Add some lemon peel to the oil. We've been pleased with the addition of thin-sliced garlic.

Essentially, you just cover a tuna steak in olive oil, add some herbs, citrus peel, garlic and/or salt to the liquid (if you like) and cook it at the lowest cooking temperature you can manage for about 12 to 15 minutes.

Once it's opaque and flaking, it's ready to go in jars and hang out in the fridge... become a tuna salad sandwich or top a lovely salad, like this feta-olive-chickpea-tomato number. Mmm...

Mediterranean Salad

Our home-poached tuna is also J's new favorite thing when paired with avocado. We shared this salad the other night, and I have a feeling it's going to become a regular part of the dinner lineup.

Note: I didn't post an image here yesterday out of pure laziness... and lack of quality light in the windowsill, but mum insisted on a photo, so we made it again today. Yum.

Tunacado Salad
J's Tunacado Salad (Serves Two)
4-5 cups mixed lettuce, chopped or torn
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup drained tuna chunks
1 ripe Hass avocado, in 1" pieces
1-2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1-2 scallions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (use some of the poaching oil!)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt, grind of pepper

1. Combine lettuce, tomatoes, tuna, avocado, parsley and scallions.
2. Drizzle with a vinaigrette composed of the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
3. Devour immediately.

The parsley and scallions are minor, but very tasty additions. If you must, you can get by without them, but it really is a superior salad when they're included.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.04.2009

A Way with Les Conserves

On a trip to Paris a while back, I stopped in a bookshop on a quest for cookbooks. There were many fine volumes, but one in particular stood out as a must-have.

Les Conserves

Les Conserves is a glossy, photo-packed soft-cover (Produced by a French division of Reader's Digest! Why don't they make such lovely books for English readers?) is ideal for a French neophyte like me. Just look at this recipe for grape preserves.

Confiture de Raisins/Grape Preserves

You can see for yourself that the recipes in Les Conserves are supporting players to the photography. An interested cook can look over these images and gain insights on preparation, presentation and usage information in just a few seconds before deciding whether to invest a number of minutes processing the written details.

As much as I love words (I do make my living from them), I wonder if more cookbooks shouldn't handle instructions visually.

There's already been so much said about how we eat with our eyes, but the great majority of serious cookbooks contain little more than a centerfold of finished dishes in limited-utility glamour shots (if they contain photographs at all).

The cookbooks that do contain lots of photography and illustration seem to aim more at the coffee-table book audience than the folks who really want to learn to cook. So where, I ask, are the genre of serious instructional cookbooks that embrace the visual presentation of the useful as well as the lovely?

Well, perhaps they're in France. Perhaps they're made by Reader's Digest.

Have a look at the way the ingredients for the Grape Preserves are laid out for prospective cooks here. It's as if they really do want to instruct and inspire.

Ingredients

For those who read even less French than I, I'll offer a translation of the recipe in question:
Grape Preserves -Confiture de Raisins (Makes 1.25 liters/5.3 cups)

1 kg (2 lb) green or red grapes, plucked
2 lemons, cut in halves and sliced thin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted
1/2 cup cognac brandy

1. Put the grapes, lemons and sugar in a saucepan. Mix well, cover and let sit for a few hours to let the fruit macerate.
2. Bring to a boil, then cook on medium heat 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes, stirring frequently so that the bottom does not stick.
3. It is unnecessary to test the degree of gelatin for this jam; it is ready when a wooden spoon pulled over the surface leaves a wake.
4. Remove the pot from heat and let the jam stand for a few minutes before putting it in jars (this prevents the fruit from falling to the bottom). Add, in turn, pecans and cognac. Ladle the mixture into sterilized hot jars, then seal with lids.
Cookbook rant done, and I hope you've enjoyed these peeks into Les Conserves.

I'm going to spend the rest of the week focusing on preserves of one type or another. Thrift and handmade charm seem to make them an appropriate topic for this year.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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3.29.2009

Oh, Yes... Apricots!

Apricots

Goodness! What's to be done with three pounds of apricots?

Well, you could eat apricots until you never care to see another apricot again. There's also salads, crisps, tarts, jams, pickles and purées, of course.

But what of chutney? Sweet, savory, spicy and simple. You really can't go wrong with a few pints of chutney stacked in storage.

It's fantastic straight up on lamb, chicken, pork, salmon or duck, you can thin it a bit for a glaze or a fruit salad drizzle, mix up a tablespoon with a bit of canola oil and cider vinegar for a first-rate vinaigrette.

It'd be fun on vanilla ice cream or in a tart. Not to mention a pairing with cheese. A blue, perhaps? A friendly goat?

Here's my version...
Apricot-Ginger Chutney

3 Tbsp canola oil
1 dried chili
2 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise
1 large onion, minced
3" piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 cups sake (or dry white wine)
3 lbs fresh apricots, pitted & quartered
1 1/2 Tbsp ground, dried ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/4 c rice vinegar (or to taste)
3 T brown sugar (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp salt (or to taste)

1. Heat the canola oil with the chili, cinnamon and star anise (no more than 1-2 minutes).
2. Add in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add in the ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
4. Pour in the sake/wine and add apricot slices. Simmer until the apricots are tender. (Simmer a bit less if you like a chunkier chutney.) Blend in the pepper and dried ginger.
5. Strain the mixture through a colander, reserving juices. Pick out the spices and discard. Pour the reserved juices back to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbly (about 15-20 minutes).
6. Taste the thickened chutney liquid, adjusting the acid-sweetness-salt balance with a touch of rice vinegar, sugar and/or salt.
7. Incorporate the apricot pulp in the colander into the liquid in the pot. Transfer to sterilized jars (if you're canning), or cool the mixture and transfer it to prepared pint containers (for short-term refrigeration or longer-term freezing).

Makes enough to fill three pint containers, and takes around an hour from start to finish. Slap a cute homemade label on the jar, and it's great for gifting!

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.24.2005