Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

How I Fell in Love with Brussels Sprouts

I grew up with Brussels Sprouts prejudice. My dad didn't like 'em. He'd only ever known the sprightly sprout under poor conditions — namely, my grandmother's vicious habit of boiling veggies into submission.

They were bitter and mushy at the same time. Wretched pale lumps. I didn't blame him for loathing them, and with his opinionated introduction, I never even considered experimenting with sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

Later on, (much later, to my great dismay these days) I discovered the Brussels Sprout the way it was meant to be: roasted.

Oh, sweet revelation, thy name is roasted vegetables, and my relationship with these cutie little cabbages hasn't been the same since.

Brussels Sprouts and Pecans

If, like my dad, you find that you and Brussels Sprouts somehow got off on the wrong foot, I urge you to give peace a chance.

This technique is simplicity defined, and may your life be well changed when you try it. If you hate pecans, just skip 'em. I like them quite a bit, but they're not necessary, just tasty.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans (Serves 4)
2 pints fresh Brussels Sprouts
3/4 cup whole or halved pecans
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
4 to 5 grinds of black pepper, or to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350°F, cut the Brussels Sprouts into 1/4" slices and pile them into a mixing bowl as you work.
2. Add the pecans, olive oil, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Toss to mix well.
3. Spread the sprouts and nut mixture across a sheet tray and place in the oven to roast.
4. After 15 minutes, stir the sprouts on the tray to help them cook more evenly, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. At this point they should be beginning to show some browning at the edges. (If not, continue roasting for a few more minutes.) Remove from the oven and serve hot.

These days I've grown to love the flavor of Brussels Sprouts au naturel and I often just steam them, but roasting brings out such sweetness and richness, I feel a dish like this is bound to win over the hearts (and tastebuds) of haters.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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2.02.2009

Recession-Proof Recipes for Downmarket Days

I probably don't need to tell you that the US economy has been looking bleak for a while. You've probably noticed that much for yourself.

Even if they're not yet ready to call it an o-fish-al recession*, those of us who read the paper or listen to the news occasionally know better. We have some hunch that these days won't be remembered in future history books as "The Roaring Oughts."

While a little kitchen economy is always a great idea for your personal bottom line, this nation's recent period of economic growth and development may have left your sense of thrift in some forgotten corner of the pantry. Maybe it's hanging out back there alongside a can of butter beans and some dusty jar of unlabeled jam.

Or maybe you've just never had the need to be frugal, you lucky soul!

Whatever the case, a recession, er... make that economic downturn is the perfect time to dust off (or brush up on) some kitchen conservation cred.

One caveat first: I'll not discuss a diet consisting of Top Ramen, Hamburger Helper or store-brand Cheerios here. You can find that stuff on your own (though I'm not sure why you'd want to...) These tips speak to real dining and real food (with actual nutritional value) on the cheap.

baked apple

Thrifty Tip #1: Roasting makes just about anything taste decadent.

Ever baked an apple? Steaming, tender, candy-like... It's always hard for me to believe that it's the same fruit as a raw apple. Something magic happens in that oven.

Sure, you can core an apple and stuff it with nuts, butter, sugar and rolled oats beforehand. You can maybe sprinkle on some cinnamon, but all that's totally unnecessary. Just a plain old peeled and cored apple baked in the oven for a half-hour or so is strangely heavenly.

Serve warm with a drizzle of cream or sour cream or plain yogurt and a baked apple is positive bliss. Simple, delightful and dead cheap.

And just about everyone knows about the wonder of oven-fried potatoes, but it might not have occurred to you that the same roasting magic works with all kinds of vegetables.

Ho-hum cauliflower is suddenly heavenly after a little time on the roasting tray. Just chop down a head into florets of similar size, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until the cauliflower is tender and has a little brown on the tips (about 30-40 minutes at 350°F). Toss the florets around on the pan about half-way through cooking to ensure they roast evenly.

One of my favorite inexpensive (yet decadent!) meals is the classic Roasted Vegetable Salad. Roasting concentrates the flavor to make the veggies rich and satisfying.

It takes a little time to get the roasting done, but that's mostly the passive variety of "find something else to do" time while you wait for the oven buzzer to sound.

Extra bonuses: the bounty of root veg gives it good fiber and nutrient value, you can play around with a wide variety of vegetables in the dish and you can adjust the end product to suit meat eaters or vegheads, as needed.

Feel free to use whatever firm vegetables you happen to find on special at your favorite market. Try (similar-sized) cubes of hard squash (butternut, acorn, delicata), sliced fennel, zucchini, broccoli florets, potato cubes, roasted asparagus, celery root... I've even used roasted radishes.

Just keep in mind that the slices or cubes of each vegetable to be roasted should be of similar size. Different vegetables also roast at different rates, if you're not sure about how fast a particular vegetable will roast, keep it segregated from the rest so you can easily remove it when it's tender.

Roasted Vegetable Salad (Serves 2)
2 medium-size carrots, peeled & cut into 1" pieces
2 medium-size parsnips, peeled & cut into 1" pieces
3 to 5 small beets, peeled & quartered
1 large onion, cut in 1" wedges (or 4-5 shallots, halved)
1 to 2 large portabello mushrooms (sliced into 1/2" strips)
About 3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 head green leaf lettuce (torn into bite-sized pieces, washed & spun dry)
1/3 cup dressing of your choice (I favor a vinaigrette or a sun-dried tomato dressing)

3 to 4 slices thick-cut bacon or pancetta; diced, cooked & drained (optional)
1 oz fresh Parmesan, feta or goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss carrot, parsnip and beet pieces in a large bowl with 1.5 tablespoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Separately toss onion wedges and portobello slices in the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Since the more dense root vegetables will need to cook longer, spread them across a baking tray and roast them separately from the faster-cooking onion and mushroom pieces (which you should spread evenly across another tray). Place both trays in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, stir tray contents to help them cook evenly and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. At this point, the mushrooms and onions should look shrunken and lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and stir the root vegetables again. Remove the roots from the oven when they're fork-tender.

Cool roasted vegetables on the trays for 10 minutes before tossing them together with the torn lettuce, the dressing of your choice and the cooked, diced bacon (if using). Divide salad between two plates and top with cheese (if using).


Roasted vegetables are also wonderful served over penne, baked into a quiche or just served as a side dish on their own.

Look for another Recession-Proof Recipe next week!

Cheers!


* Such terrifying terminology is reserved for declines that persist for two or more consecutive quarters. Translate that as "eight or more dreadful months" if you're more into dividing your year via the Gregorian calendar.

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3.27.2008

Five Pounds of Garlic, Part I

There it was, towering among a pile of bleached garlic braids and heads at the sampling table at work. An industrial-sized bin. Five pounds of peeled garlic.

All my coworkers were, understandably, intimidated.

They took a head or two. They grabbed a braid for their kitchens. Awash in greed and drunk on self-confidence, I snatched the industrial-sized bin and sped back to my desk to adore my bounty.

And then, of course, the inevitable question. What the heck does one do with five pounds of peeled garlic?

Roasted Garlic Spread
Mmmm... delicious, savory vampire bane.

Garlic heads keep longer. Garlic braids can be dried and hung as decoration. Preserved garlic will sit in your fridge for months.

For someone who's been trained rigorously in the art of kitchen economy, five pounds of peeled garlic looms like a ticking bomb.

I had to meet a friend for a burger and beer dinner at her favorite dive bar, so the jug o' garlic came along for the ride.

Seeing it propped up there on the bar, I finally fully realized the burden of bounty.

Five pounds of garlic.

Nobody at the bar would take any of it off my hands (chickens) and I realized that casual use would only send me through slightly less than a head's worth every week.

Moreover, upgrading my regular garlic intake wasn't going to help my social life. My five-pound friend was threatening to go horribly bad before April, so I knew drastic measures were required.

I scrolled through a mental list of garlic-heavy recipes... 40-Clove Garlic Chicken might seem like a lot of garlic when you're doing the peeling prep work, but 40 cloves only actually amounts to about a half-pound.

That'd be 10 batches of 40-Clove Garlic Chicken and probable death threats from my roomie. Not acceptable.

There's always garlic jelly and pickling, truly time-honored preservation methods, but I had my mind set on something fast and simple. Something I could do on a Saturday whilst painting the kitchen.

The shining answer to my windfall woes? A roasted garlic spread, of course!

It's hardly worth a recipe, so I'll simply describe...

Generously bathe peeled garlic in vegetable oil (I like olive or canola), spread on a cookie sheet and roast until browned and soft in a 375°F oven. Remove from the heat and puree with a bit of salt and pepper. Pack the fragrantly sweet results into a pint or quart container.

Two and a half pounds' worth of silky white cloves turned gloriously golden and were ready to freeze, slather on flatbread or blend into recipes. This one delicious recipe got me half-way through the jug and bought me some serious fridge space.

So, 2.5 pounds down. I'll let you know in Part II of this post what happens to the other 2.5.

Miss Ginsu

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3.15.2005