Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Strawberry Fields 4Evah

At long last, sun emerged from behind a wall of clouds. Heartsick with cabin fever, we leaped at the chance to get out and about. Zipcar provided the wheels, Google provided the directions and PickYourOwn.Org offered up the berry farms.

Strawberry Pint

Truth be told, we spent most of our time hiking on the lovely Delaware Water Gap trails, but on the way back, we popped into Sussex County Strawberry Farm to snatch up a sweet, fragrant pre-picked pint.

Strawberries on the Cutting Board

Though I believe that the very best strawberry enjoyment is of the self-evident straight into the mouth variety, a berry compote, berry jam, berry smoothie or strawberry-rhubarb pie are all very nice as well.

If you're in the mood for something a bit more savory, may I recommend an old favorite of mine? The Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts makes a delightful side dish or brunch item, and it's dead simple to put together.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Spinach-Strawberry Salad (Serves 4)

5 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
Mild goat cheese or feta, crumbled
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved

For the Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp ground pepper
A dash of salt
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put the spinach in a large salad bowl and top with walnuts and strawberries.

2. In a smaller bowl, blend the balsamic vinegar, pepper and salt. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and incorporated.

3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to mix. Top with the goat cheese or feta, divide between four bowls or plates and serve immediately.

Because it's so bright and sprightly, I think this salad would be particularly nice paired with something heavier, like a pressed panini sandwich or a rich bean stew.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.06.2009

A Salad to Greet the Springtime

How long has it been since I posted a recipe? Too long, clearly.

Travel, work and a busy schedule of triathlon training have kept me from blogging, but today I come to you with a salad that celebrates one of the underrated wonders of the spring season: the radish.

I found some lovely red radishes at the farmer's market last weekend — tender and almost sweet with a gentle peppery bite. Though perfectly nice just rolled in salt and popped in the mouth, I thought they'd make a pretty addition to the dinner plate.

Et voila!... this side salad for our pork saté. We served it with a delicious spicy peanut sauce, but I thought that would mess up the plate, so I left it off for the photo.

Sate Skewers with Cucumber-Radish Salad

Thai-Style Cucumber-Radish Salad (Serves 3)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
8-10 radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 green onion (white and green parts) thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves
10 mint or cilantro leaves (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, fish sauce (if using) and honey. Drizzle in the oil while whisking.
2. Add radish slices, cucumber slices, green onion and pepper flakes. Toss to coat with the dressing.
3. Chop or tear basil and mint/cilantro into pieces and sprinkle over the salad. Serve immediately.

Though we served it with pork skewers, I think this salad would be just right with all kinds of grilled/broiled meats: steaks, chicken... even fish.

Quite a nice addition to a grilling/picnic line-up. And with summer's precious grilling weekends now trickling away, I think we'll definitely make this one again in the near future.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.03.2009

A Beautiful Bean Salad at the Brooklyn Food Conference

The call went out. And the foodies poured in.

The people who pickle and the people who vend kitchenware. The people who grow community gardens and the people who grow kombucha. The Slow Food people and the Just Food people. The vegans and the grass-fed meat vendors.

They came, they spoke and they distributed their recycled paper brochures.

Brooklyn Food Conference Expo

Disappointingly, the workshop I really wanted to attend (Permaculture: an introduction to ecological design systems fro sustainability) was stuffed to the walls with folks pouring out into the hallways of John Jay High School.

But the good news is, the lunch was delicious. The finest cafeteria food I've ever eaten in a high school cafeteria. (I realize that's faint praise, but it really is intended with the highest regard.)

Cafeteria Food at the Brooklyn Food Conference

Here you can see the tender mushroom quiche I couldn't keep my paws off (it was very much like the ones I make, actually) and the delightful bean salad. It had sauteed red onions and a savory sesame dressing. Simple and lovely, with a crunchy shout-out to spring.

You'll note that cafeteria serving tray is compostable sugar cane and the fork is fashioned of some kind of biodegradable corn plastic. Both went into the conference compost bins, although the napkin I used had to hit the trash can, for inexplicable reasons.

Though I can't share much of the food conference with you, I'll try to recreate that tasty salad for you here, dear reader. It seems like it'd be just the thing for a spring picnic: inexpensive to make and no worries of mayonnaise poisoning on a hot day.
Sesame Three-Bean Salad (Makes about 4 cups)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
1 cup fiddlehead ferns (or asparagus cut in 1" pieces)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 1/2 cups cooked beans (ideally, a mix of black, pinto and navy)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized skillet. Add the red onions and fiddlehead ferns (or asparagus, if using), and sauté, moving constantly in the pan for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Remove from heat.
2. In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce and vinegar. Whisk in sesame oil slowly to incorporate.
3. Mix the onion mixture with the beans and sliced tomatoes. Toss to coat with the sesame vinaigrette. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with a little more soy sauce or cider vinegar, to your taste.
4. Allow the flavors to mellow for several hours in the fridge before serving.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Food Conference for sponsoring the event, and even more thanks to whomever cooked lunch. You, anonymous anonymous kitchen worker(s), made my day.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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5.03.2009

A Dozen Ideas for Boiled Eggs

Ahh, Easter. Egg dying. Egg hiding. Egg finding. And then... a lot of hard-boiled eggs to use up in a hurry.

Blue Easter Eggs

I'm sure you know how to make a simple egg salad (dice boiled eggs, add chopped celery if you like and slather with enough mayo to moisten), but just in case you're long on eggs and short on ideas, here's a dozen other things to do with a hard-boiled egg.

1. Persian-Style Chicken Salad
Dice a couple of eggs with a few diced boiled potatoes, two cups of diced, cooked chicken, three tablespoons each of chopped pickles, diced celery, sliced black or green olives and fresh dill. Toss gently 1/2 cup of lemon-olive oil vinaigrette or mayonnaise, as you like. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve over lettuce leaves with wedges of tomato.

2. Simple Niçoise Salad
Fill a large bowl with four cups of mixed, washed lettuce or Boston lettuce, add a couple of sliced boiled eggs, two to three new potatoes, boiled and halved, about 3/4 cup water-packed or oil-packed tuna, 1/3 cup boiled green beans, two to three tomatoes sliced into wedges, two sliced green onions and a tablespoon of capers or oil-cured black olives. Toss with a vinaigrette of your choice.

3. Classic Deviled Eggs
I love deviled eggs so much. Just peel a dozen eggs, slice in half (reserve the whites, holes-up on a platter) and place the yolks in a mixing bowl with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 to 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp hot paprika. Blend until smooth and season to taste with salt. Place the yolk mixture in an appropriately sized plastic bag. Clip off one of the corners. Squeeze the mixture from the bag into the hollows of the egg whites. Garnish with cayenne or paprika and serve immediately.

4. Serve with Smoked Fish
Grated eggs go well with smoked fish alongside chives and chopped radishes. On the same note, there's also the Scandinavian Sillsalad or Laxsalad, both of which combine cured fish with eggs, potatoes, apples and caraway.

5. If you have cash to spare, serve with caviar.
Grated eggs are a classic accompaniment to Russian caviar, alongside blini or toast points, diced red onion, capers and sour cream.

6. Scotch Eggs
Peel boiled eggs, cover each in a layer seasoned sausage, roll in breadcrumbs and deep-fry until the sausage is cooked. Decadent pub fare. Make a batch and eat alongside beer. And Rolaids.

7. Workout Snacks
As I mentioned back here, boiled eggs are the protein bar of the ancients. And they come in convenient, eco-sensitive biodegradable packaging, too.

8. Wilted Spinach Salad
Wash and dry four cups of fresh spinach. Place on two plates and top with two to three boiled eggs, sliced; four strips of cooked bacon, diced; two sliced green onions, one tomato cut in wedges. Drizzle with 1/3 cup hot bacon grease, sprinkle on two tablespoons tarragon vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

9. Steamed Asparagus & Salmon Salad
Steam one 6 to 8 oz salmon fillet and one bunch of asparagus. Chop the asparagus into 1" segments. Flake the salmon. Combine in a mixing bowl with an apple cider vinaigrette (whisk together 1 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, juice of quarter of a lemon and 4-5 Tbsp olive oil) and serve over two sliced, boiled eggs and a bed of greens.

10. What's a bowl of ramen without strips of pork, a dollop of seaweed and a sliced, boiled egg? Just a bowl of noodles, nothing more.

11. Stinging Nettle Soup, courtesy of Nami-Nami.

12. The classic Cobb Salad.
Create a bed of romaine, iceberg or Boston lettuce and top with diced bacon, diced ripe avocado, diced cooked chicken breast, diced tomato, diced hard-boiled eggs and roquefort or your favorite blue cheese. Dress with a simple vinaigrette.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.12.2009

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

Recession-Proof: Spicy Peanut Soba (or Slaw)

I feel a great sauce is like one's most reliable suit or best basic dress. It proves its thrift and usefulness again and again.

A spicy peanut sauce turns out to be one of those go-to recipes. I know I just covered peanuts yesterday, I'm going to run the risk of making it peanut week around here (Heck... why not just make it peanut week around here?), and propose a good peanut sauce as part of your recession-proof recipe package.

Soba Noodles

As ag booster (and legume-hacker) George Washington Carver popularly pointed out, peanuts are supremely useful little legumes. Not only can you use the humble peanut to make paint, dye and nitroglycerin... they're also cheap and tasty.

Use this sauce on shredded cabbage and carrots, and you've got yourself a savory slaw. Use it over soba noodles for a lovely lunch or dinner. Use it as a salad dressing. It's also great with thin-sliced grilled meats in the style of a classic peanut saté sauce.

Veggie Slaw

Thus, a savory peanut sauce is not merely versatile, it's also a flexible meal-maker in which both meat lovers and vegetarians can rejoice with equal fervor.

Ginger-Peanut Soba, Salad or Slaw (Serves 4)

For the Base

1/2 lb soba noodles, cooked according to package instructions, rinsed and cooled

or

1/4 head cabbage, finely sliced & 2 carrots, shredded

or

1 head boston or butterhead lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1-2 tsp hot sauce (or more, if you like it hot)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp lime juice
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2/3 cup vegetable oil

Optional Accessories:
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or mint, roughly chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (1 ounce) peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup cooked, sliced chicken, pork or beef

1. Blend peanut butter, vinegar, hot sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice and fresh ginger. Whisk in vegetable oil slowly.

2. Toss peanut sauce with cooked soba noodles or cabbage/carrots or torn lettuce.

3. Top with your choice of optional accessory ingredients and serve. The soba and slaw keep well, but if you're not serving a lettuce salad immediately, wait to dress it until just before serving.


Yours in good, cheap eats,

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8.06.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: Cool Beans

Back around tax time when I started this series, basic black bean soup seemed like a really tasty idea, but after a week of 90-degree days, I must admit that thick, hearty soups seem far less appealing. Just turning on the stove seems far less appealing.

Chickpea Salad
Chickpea, Yellow Zucchini & Sweet Corn Salad w/ Red Wine Vinaigrette

Thank goodness for canned beans. Cheap, tasty protein... no flames required. I've been making bean salads with my CSA vegetables for the past two weeks. And thanks to the remarkable versatility and variety of beans, I'm still not sick of them.

While blanching corn cobs, fava beans or green beans does require a pot of boiling water, there's plenty of veggies out there that are perfectly happy to hop into your salads in raw form.

Market-Fresh
Market-Fresh Succotash

And since bean salads are so simple, it hardly seems worth it to write up a recipe. So but I'll just do a little quasi-mathematical formula:

1 can of your favorite beans (washed & drained)
+ 1 cup sliced zucchini, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, shredded carrot (or whatever veggies you like)
+ 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, dill and parsley all work just fine)
+ 2 Tbsp olive oil
+ 1 Tbsp citrus juice/vinegar (white wine, red wine, cider, malt, balsamic...)

= Tasty Bean Salad


White Bean Salad
White Bean, Cucumber, Tomato & Parsley Salad w/ Lemon Vinaigrette

Beans are already little protein powerhouses, but if you're mad for protein, or just really love meat, you can toss sliced, cooked beef, chicken, tuna, lamb, sausage, etc. atop any of these salads.

I particularly love bean salads with the olive oil-soaked tuna like the Spanish Ortiz Bonito Del Norte, but that kind of blows the economical angle. :)

Bon appetit, ya'll!

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7.22.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: French Lentil Salad

Never does a cold salad sound so good as on a sticky, hot, lethargic day.

That's when there's nothing finer than slumping over to the fridge and finding a tasty stash tucked away. Yes, some generous former version of yourself (perhaps that productive weekend you?) had the foresight to prepare and place this delight in the fridge for your current lazy enjoyment. Thanks, past-tense self. You rule.

Using the spicy horseradish mustard whipped up in last week's post, it's quick (and tasty) work for you (or some former version of you) to make a one of this household's summertime favorites... the French Lentil Salad.

This is a terrific salad to have around because it's full of protein, it's easy to make vegetarian or meatetarian, it's easy to make in advance (and travels well to picnics), it doesn't take long to cook and it keeps in the fridge for several days, so you can make a large batch on a Sunday and eat it for your weekday lunches and lazy midweek moments.

French Lentil Salad with marinated artichokes
French Lentil Salad with marinated artichokes

The accommodating French Lentil Salad also welcomes a variety of ingredients. This week, we happened to have baby leeks in the CSA box, so sliced baby leeks replaced the scallions I usually use.

If I have a can of marinated artichokes around... in they go. A few extra olives in the fridge? Slice 'em up. Sun-dried tomatoes? Delightful. J really loves this salad with oil-packed tuna. (At $10 a jar, it's a splurge, but we really love the Ortiz Bonito del Norte. Mmm...)

French Lentil Salad with Serrano Ham
French Lentil Salad with Serrano ham

Basic French Lentil Salad (Makes about five cups)
The lentils
9 oz dried green lentils
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
Water, to cover

1. In a large pot, soak the lentils, covered in salt water, for 1 hour.
2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until tender, but not overcooked, about 15 minutes.
3. Drain, spread on a sheet tray to cool, and combine with the salad ingredients.

The vinaigrette
1/4 cup spicy mustard (or DIY mustard)
3 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch sugar (optional)

1. Mix the mustard and vinegar.
2. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth.
3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, to taste.

The salad
1. Mix the cooled lentils in a large bowl with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
2. Add in your choice of additions. Use whatever you have. I usually mix in:

1/2 to 1 cup chopped herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro or a combination thereof)
2-3 slices Serrano or Proscuitto ham, diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried currants, softened in hot water for 20 minutes
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

While French Lentils aren't the cheapest legume on the shelf, I can still pick up about 18 oz for less than three bucks, so a basic version of this recipe can be made for as little as 80 cents a cup (the olive oil, lentils and any dressy bits you add in being the expensive ingredients).

Not a bad price for such a delightful source of protein and fiber.

Cheers!

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6.18.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: A Foraged Feast

I remember Alton Brown once referred to quiche as "Refrigerator Pie," and while that phrase gave me the heebie-jeebies, I now see what he was getting at.

Quiche may sound a little stuffy or unapproachable, but if you think of a quickie egg custard in a pie shell as a tasty carrier for a world of little tidbits hanging around the fridge... that quiche suddenly goes from stuffy to sensible.

Have a random bit of cheese? Maybe there's a few herbs in the crisper? A mushroom or two? Some shriveling cherry tomatoes? What if all you have are onions? Never fear... dinner is close at hand.

The secret to making quiche a quick, easy and economical dinner is making sure you have a pie crust in the freezer. I know of no hungry person who's interested in rolling out a pie crust. Leave the crust-rolling and freezing to some lazy weekend day. Or just buy a pack of reliable frozen crusts from your favorite store.

When you meet up with that inevitable "there's nothing for dinner" day, just remember the handy pie crust in your freezer and do a quick forage through the fridge.

Mushroom Quiche and Lemon Greens

I always like to pair a richly flavored quiche with a crisp green salad.

Luckily, salads can also be great friends for the fridge forager and the hawk-eyed produce aisle sale watcher. One of my favorite salads of late has been the "bitter greens with a lemon vinaigrette" version. Something about a bitter green just loves the tangy bite of a fresh-squeezed lemon. Arugula, spring dandelion... even spinach works well for this recipe.

A word to the would-be lawn foragers: Picking baby dandelion greens from your own yard can be a terrific way to make a salad on the cheap, but you really have to be sure that 1. the dandelions haven't bloomed yet (for some reason, the blooms make the leaves inedibly bitter) and 2. nobody's chemically treated the lawn for at least three years. Nobody's looking for a mouthful of Roundup in their salad.
Forage Quiche
Quiche Base
1/2 cup cream, half & half or milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust

Add-ins
Grated cheese (up to 1 cup), sautéed onions, leeks or mushrooms, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs or a teaspoon of crumbled dry herbs, roasted red pepper slices, cooked spinach or arugula, cubed cooked ham, bacon bits, cooked spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes or sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped roasted vegetables.

1. Heat oven to 375°F. If you prefer a crispier crust, pierce the shell several times with a fork and pre-bake it for 25 minutes before proceeding to the filling step.

2. In a suitably sized bowl, whisk together the cream (or half & half or milk) with the eggs. Add the salt, nutmeg and pepper.

3. Spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of add-in fillings across the pie crust. Pour the egg custard mix over the fillings and place the quiche on a baking sheet.

4. Bake until the quiche is set in the center, about 35 minutes. Let it cool on a rack for 15 minutes to an hour before serving. Leftover slices are great for lunchboxes.

Lemon Green Salad
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 pinch sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups tender greens
6 halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
6-8 hard cheese shavings or crumbles of goat cheese (optional)

1. Whisk together the lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in the olive oil in a stream until incorporated as a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little more sugar, if desired.
2. Toss greens and vinaigrette in a salad bowl.
3. Top with cherry tomato halves and cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

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5.15.2008

Tapas Party in a Jar

One of the great things about serving tapas is that it's just good, simple food. Score a cheap rioja and a Spanish cheese, slice a sausage, make a nice salad and open a bunch of jars. In Spain, they actually put tasty things in jars.

I have a favorite Spanish salad recipe that's made up of bacalao, oranges, tomatoes and green olives. This might sound strange if you're not accustomed to sweet and savory salads, but this kind of flavor combination is very ordinary in the Mediterranean.

Tapas on the table
Baguette, quince paste and fig cake in the foreground, tuna, remojón, and assorted olives in the back.

It's colorful, easy to put together and very nice as part of a tapas party spread.
Remojón (Spanish Cod & Orange Salad) (Makes 4-6 appetizer servings)

3/4 cup (about a 5"x4" piece) of dried salt cod
12 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oranges
1 small red onion
10 Spanish olives, pitted and halved (optional)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Toast the fish over a flame or under a broiler until lightly browned.
2. Soak the the toasted cod in a bowl of cool water while you segment the oranges. Cut each orange segment in half.
3. Cut the red onion in half and cut each half into thin slices. Soak slices in cold water if you want to take out some of the bite.
3. Mix the drained tomatoes, onion slices, olives (if using) and the halved orange segments.
4. Drain the soaking fish and remove any skin or bones. Shred or chop the fish and add to the salad.
5. Blend the Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes) into the vinegar before whisking in the oil. Pour this dressing over the salad and toss to blend.

This salad holds up well (and probably even improves) as it sits at room temperature while you zip around the house picking up stray items in preparation for guests.
Easy-Peasy Tapas for 4-6

1/2 lb block of Manchego cheese, sliced
and/or a half-pound of Garrotxa cheese, sliced

1/2 lb chunk of membrillo (quince paste)
and/or fig paste

1 jar of oil-preserved tuna
and/or Spanish Cod & Orange Salad (see recipe, above)

1/4 lb thin-sliced serrano ham
and/or 1/4 lb salchichon slices

1-2 types of salt-cured or Spanish green olives
and/or roasted peppers and/or marinated tomatoes

1 baguette, thinly sliced
and/or some good lookin' crackers

Nice extras
Dried dates
Roasted almonds
Dried figs


Salud!

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5.14.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: The Saladwich

Confessional time: I love sandwiches. Truthfully, I'm rather sandwich crazy. This is probably a personality flaw on my part, but for some reason, everything tastes better when it's wrapped in some kind of starch.

J is generally the opposite. Bread is often too... you know, bready. Having been spoiled by homemade bread and Paris living, he's a bread nerd who'll just do without if he can't get something from the fine local bakers at Sullivan Street, Balthazar or, in a pinch, Le Pain Quotidien.

Now, I love a gorgeous loaf, but I'm not half so choosy. I mean, sometimes I really need a sandwich. If I always waited for the perfect loaf to roll into my fingers, I'd deprive myself of one of life's greatest pleasures.

It's a salad! It's a sandwich!

Enter the saladwich. This recipe provides not only an economical meal, but a problem-solver. J gets his salad, I get my sandwich, and we're both happy and well-fed. It's also a great meal for households in which someone's concerned about carb reduction or there's a split between veggies and meat-eaters.

Convertible Greek Saladwiches (serves 2)
1/2 hothouse cucumber, sliced thin
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup cooked chickpeas
1-2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 head green leaf lettuce, washed and chopped/torn
1-2 whole wheat pitas, halved
Cooked chicken cutlets, tuna or leftover steak, sliced (optional)

Tahini Dressing
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp tahini
6 oz plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Toss together the cucumber slices, onions, chickpeas, dill and tomatoes (as well as any meat, if desired) with the chopped or torn lettuce.
2. Blend the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt and tahini in a blender or food processor. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
3. Dress the salad mix and serve to anyone who's eating the dish as a salad. Stuff 3/4 cup of the salad mix in the pita halves, drizzle with additional dressing, and serve in pita form to anyone who prefers a sandwich.

If you have extra dressing (and you should), save it for a future salad or use it for dipping raw vegetables. Mmm...
Bon appétit!

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5.07.2008

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

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

Goal 6: Unlock the Salad Code

My boss loves it when I make salads for our department lunches. He's not really into vegetables (he usually claims his favorite veggie is either the potato or the onion), so it's kind of a nice compliment when he takes a big portion of salad.

I find it disturbing, however that he believes there's some kind of magic behind making a good salad. Shouldn't a set of basic salad skills be one of the rights and responsibilities befitting a modern citizen? (Just behind the our rights to participatory government and free speech, of course.)

Salads shouldn't be relegated to the corner as "virtuous" food alongside culinary misfits like alfalfa sprouts, rutabaga and wheat germ.

Though they invariably contain heaps of healthful vegetables, salads are often quite fatty. In my book, salads really have more in common with the food of jubilation than the food of deprivation.

Granted, while I worked in a garde manger position, I did spend nine months of my life doing little more than making salads at high speed. One could say I have a certain expertise in the area.

The thing is, most people have been buffaloed into believing salads are not only virtuous but maybe even difficult.

I'm here to tell you it's not true, and I'll prove it with an infographic. Whee!

I've broken down some popular salads based on their major components. You'll note that the pattern is pretty easy to follow...
    1. Take a bowl of the lettuce of your choice.
    2. Sprinkle on a sweetly savory component, such as roasted red peppers or cherry tomatoes.
    3. Chop up an herbaceous component.
    4. Add crumbled/diced cheese or boiled egg.
    5. If you wish, add cooked beans or a diced protein.
    6. Dress with a harmonious vinaigrette.
    7. Toss and serve.

Salad Chart

Just remember... every salad you make is an opportunity for a party on your plate.

Miss any of the previous resolutions? You'll find #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5 linked here.

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1.06.2008

May, and the crisper goes mad with spring fever

shallot_gone_wild

J left on Sunday for sunny Spain, and it's been cold and gray here in New York ever since. (Check the weather reports and you'll see this statement is not simply the skewed view of a pining girlfriend.)

While I labor in the industrial zone in Queens, he sends me notes that go like this:
I made a picture of today's picnic lunch for you, but my internet connection isn't good enough to upload it. The place where I bought the food was like the prepared food area of a Whole Foods, only better appointed and staffed by grown-ups. They had several counters, each with some sort of focus (breads, savories, pastries, chocolates). The items on sale were priced by the kilo, save some things that are typically sold in slices, such as tartas and quiches.

When I selected my veggie quiche, the quiche-lady wrapped it in butchers' paper, tied the parcel with a string, then handed me my food and a small placard on which she wrote the price in grease pencil over a space labeled with her counter's name (there was one slot for each section). When I was done, I took my parcels and the placard to the door where I was charged for everything at once, after which the clerk erased (i.e. wiped clean) the placard and placed it in a stack to be returned to the counters. The quiche, which I ate in the big park by the Prado, was excellent.

Yours,
J.

Ah, for a leisurely life of sunny picnics and charmingly wrapped quiches!

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, my crisper drawer is mad with spring fever. I brought home fresh spinach, strawberries and local grouper for a solo Friday night fish feast and discovered that every shallot bulb, garlic clove, onion, shallot and scallion in the bunch sprouted green tops and depleted the white bits I'd normally use in my sauté.

Sitting in the cool darkness of the refrigerator floor, how do they know it's springtime? They didn't do this to me two months ago. Suddenly, it's May, and all the aromatics in the household are suddenly inspired to burst into fresh sprays of chartreuse sprouts. I've been wishing for some space to garden, but this wasn't quite what I'd had in mind.

I was disoriented and dismayed until I remembered that green tops are just as yummy and useful as white bulbs. So then, marching on to dinner:

grpr_brwnbtter
Montauk Grouper
with a quick brown butter sauce, sliced green shallots and fresh cilantro chiffonade

strwbrry_salad
Spinach-Strawberry Salad
with toasted walnuts, Israeli feta and a balsamic vinaigrette

chc_chp_cookies
Three small chocolate-chip cookies*

Easy, quick, delicious, seasonally appropriate (except for the cookies, but when are cookies ever in season?), and a good use of my newly discovered refrigerator garden.

I won't join J. in the sunshine for another week, and every day until then is scheduled for darkness and rain. That said, as long as the market is full of fresh produce and my refrigerator remains rich in garlic and shallot sprouts, I can't help but feel the daily pulse of spring on my dinner plate.

*Cookie Tip for Single People: Next time you bake chocolate-chip cookies, make extra dough, chill it down, form the cold dough into fat discs the size of slightly squashed golf balls and keep 'em securely wrapped in your freezer. That way you can just take out two or three at a time. Bake frozen cookies in an oven preheated at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Presto! Fresh, hot cookies with no need to commit to a whole dozen.

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5.12.2006

Ooo. Blood Oranges Are Pretty.

Blood Orange Scraps
... but they stain your chefs' whites somethin' fierce.

One of the best things about cooking is the task's intrinsic aesthetic qualities.

Sometimes I'm just so enamored with a particular vegetable, or, in this case, blood orange rinds collecting on the board.

And by the way... blood oranges are in season right now. Snatch 'em up if you see 'em in your store. Since they're a little less sweet and a little more savory than other oranges, they're excellent in salads with, say, spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

Mmm...

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3.25.2005

Tangerines, I Say.

NYC restaurants are on a saffron kick these days, all aswirl with excitement over Cristo's miles of billowing fabric. I went today, and indeed... in the right beam of sunlight I could see saffron.

It's not that I don't love saffron. Truth is, I'm just mad about saffron. (heh...) But what I saw was tangerine. Miles and miles of tangerine. Flattened Clementines strung up in sheets. My eyes thus attuned to the color, I saw it everywhere for the rest of the afternoon. Tangerine scarves, tangerine subway seats, tangerine balloons and sweaters and traffic cones.

The Gates
The sun shone, the wind subsided, and all of New York stuffed into a few miles' space to gawk at The Gates.

So, in honor of The Gates and the tangerine, which both have a fleeting season that will soon end, I offer up a tangerine salad reminiscent of thousands of orange sheets against thousands of bare trees.

Tangerine-Frisee Salad

vinaigrette
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp coarse-ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salad:
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
3 large tangerines segmented with peel and pith removed (or five small tangerines, peeled and segmented)
2 bunches frisee, stemmed, cut down, washed and dried

1. Cover the onion slices with ice water and let soak 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking the vinegar with the mustard, pepper, salt and sugar.
2. Pour in the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until all the oil is incorporated.
3. Drain the onion slices, pat dry with paper towels and separate into rings.
4. Mix the tangerines, onions and the frisee lightly. Drizzle in vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately.


Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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2.13.2005