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

Ramps, glorious ramps!

'Round these parts, you've got to get up pretty early to get your hands on ramps. Even then, you'll be going elbow-to-elbow with the chefs, sous-chefs and epicureans who understand just how short is the season, how tasty is the plant and how brief is our dance with this coy forest onion.

The number-one question among the vegetable groupies hanging around the ramp bins is, of course, "What do I do with them? How do I cook them?"

Ramps... Oh yes, ramps

The short answer: Cook them simply and with respect.

The longer answer: Consider the ramp to be two vegetables in one. It's like a green onion. The top and bottom fare better when their destinies diverge.

The ramp's leafy tops are perfectly happy to be sautéed with a little olive oil (or bacon fat, if you're nasty) in a hot pan. They take about sixty seconds to cook, and it's fun to watch as the leaves inflate like tiny jade balloons in the skillet.

Keep in mind that they cook down to practically nothing, so you'll need about one bunch to serve two people.

Sautéed ramps are ace alongside meats (particularly bison, venison and gamier meats), in omelettes, with fried eggs and bacon in the morning, or as a stuffing with mushrooms for dumplings, chicken or fish.

Ramps for brekkie

The stems and bottoms will want to be washed, trimmed of roots and stripped of the thin, protective layer hanging loosely around the bulbs.

Chop them into thin rings and use as you would use shallots, or, better yet: make pickles.

One of my bosses recently got into refrigerator pickling, and now he's nuts for it. Why? It's easy, it's cheap, it's satisfying and it feels like a creative act. You're playing with your food again.

Ramps await their pickling

The only downside to the fridge pickling method might be space limitations. The best thing is that you don't have to sterilize jars, create water baths to seal lids or take special care in handling hot equipment. Just load up jars with raw materials. Bring your pickling brine to a boil, and pour the brine into the prepared jars. Chill down and store in your fridge for a few days. Boom: pickles.

Last year I went ramp crazy and bought a dozen bunches. We ate sautéed ramps for two weeks, and I pickled the lot in an enormous jar using a simplified version of my old chef's ramp pickling recipe.

If you happen to make Indian food, you'll probably have all these spices sitting around in your pantry. If not, you can skip the spices you don't have; you'll just get less punch in the final product.

Divine Brine for Pickled Ramps, Scallions or Onions (based on a recipe by Chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla)

1 cup sugar
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek
2 small dried red chilies
3 whole cloves
1/2 lb ramp bulbs, scallion bulbs or onions (sliced into 1/2-inch rounds)

1. Mix sugar, vinegar, mustard, fennel, coriander, fenugreek, chilies and cloves in a suitably sized saucepot and bring to a boil.

2. Make sure bulbs or onion slices are trimmed and very clean. Place them in a clean glass jar with enough room so they can swim a bit.

3. Carefully pour the boiling brine over the ramps, scallions or onions. Cap the jar, chill and refrigerate.

4. After three days, your ramps will be pickled and ready for eating or using in recipes, but you can brine them for longer, and they'll keep (chilled) for months.

My three favorite things to do with pickled ramps:
1. Chop and toss into a basic egg (or chicken) salad. Awesome.
2. Chop and layer onto a hamburger, cheeseburger or just about any savory sandwich.
3. Chop and use with some of the brine to make a vinaigrette (especially over grilled or sautéed asparagus!)

Bon appétit!

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5.08.2008

April Fish!

I love-love-love the tale behind the poisson d'avril, aka the April fish. And to think! I went my whole life not knowing this slippery story until last year when J filled me in, bless him!

If you already know, just skip ahead to the recipe. If not, allow me to unwind this kinky yarn:

Waaay back in the day, Charles IX decreed that January 1 would officially be the new New Year's Day in France. Now, personally, I resent that decision because the holidays get so bunched up in late December that I'm never ready for another one on January 1. It just seems overcrowded. I've had more than enough hors d'oeuvres and cocktails by the end of Christmas, thank you very much.

It seems the good people of 1564 felt similarly. They'd been whooping it up on April 1 for pretty much... forever (doesn't late winter / early spring seem a perfectly reasonable time of year to whoop it up?), and they were none too thrilled with stupid old Charlie IX.

Plenty of other people didn't hear about the change of dates at all. Boy howdy! Didn't they look stupid kicking up their crazy yellow tights and crimson doublets, clowning around and celebrating the new year on April 1st when everyone else was calmly calculating the results of their first fiscal quarter.

It became a common prank in France to attempt to sneak a dead fish into the clothing of one's friends. (A dangerous liaison, indeed!) Sticking a paper fish to friends and loved ones has become the more modern (and far less stanky) version of this bizarre ritual.

Trout Duxelles

While I may try to sneak a paper fish or two onto some of my co-workers (not that they'd have any idea what I was on about...), I'd much prefer to receive my April fish in the form of dinner.

Thanks to a pair of whole, fresh rainbow trout, brussels sprouts, some herbs, a shallot and a handful of mushrooms, it's easy to whip up a schmantzy dinner in no time flat. (No foolin'!)

A duxelles (dook-SEHL) sounds challenging (that's French for you), but it's just sauteéed mushrooms and onions (or shallots) with a little thyme and some parsley. Divide the mixture between two cleaned and trimmed trout, rub on a little olive oil and roast. And that's about all there is to it.

Trout Duxelles with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Trout Duxelles (Serves 2)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium-sized shallots, sliced thin
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp red wine or sherry
1/2 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 rainbow trout, cleaned and trimmed
Olive oil (to coat the trout)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the pan with a dash of salt and pepper. Stir frequently to avoid uneven cooking.

4. After 15 minutes or so, the mushrooms should have shrunken considerably and should be apt to stick to the pan a bit. Add the wine or sherry to the pan to deglaze. (Take this opportunity to work any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.)

5. Add herbs and simmer until the alcohol has reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Place trout on a baking sheet and rub exterior with a little olive oil.

7. Divide the duxelles and spoon into the body cavity of each trout. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until trout flesh is white and opaque. Serve with a good ale and a crisp salad, a nice rice pilaf or roasted vegetables.


Happy eating!

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4.01.2008

Quick Bites: HerringFest

Herring Salad

I'm now officially in love with the herring. A trip last week to Grand Central Oyster Bar's Herring Festival struck me smitten with the briny, oily flesh of these little guys.

You see the split display with chives, egg and radish above, but my favorite item was the apple, beet, sour cream, dill pickle and herring salad off the appetizer menu. A gorgeous balance of sweet, salty, creamy, fatty and sour. Brilliant.

The herring run occurs in the late spring, and there's mere days left in the fest, so if you're herring-inclined, don't delay...

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6.16.2005

Feeling the Power of the Peep

As much as I adore hot chocolate and wooly sweaters, I've started (with a bit of guilt, perhaps, for not "living in the moment") looking forward to soothing, warm days full of far-more-robust farmers' markets and lots of springy fresh little things such as garden peas, morels, asparagus, ramps and tiny lettuces.



Spring also brings a profusion of marshmallows. In particular, marshmallow chicks, which sell by the truckload for a very short period of time leading up to Easter.

As much as I'm certain their parent company (a candy company disturbingly called "Just Born") would like to see greater sales of marshmallow ghosts at Halloween and marshmallow trees for the holidays, Easter is truly that one shining moment in the sun for marshmallow novelty candy.

And gosh, there's just something so weird and lovely about the marshmallow Peep.

I don't even actually eat the little sugarbombs (I'm more of a dark chocolate girl, truth be told). I simply enjoy looking at them, individually or stacked in trios, sporting pastel hues and blank, soulless faces.

But don't think for a moment I'm the only one hypnotized by Peep love. People cherish marshmallow Peeps for experiments, interior design, target practice and strategy wargames, not to mention a legion of crazed fans wrapped in marshmallow idolatry.

Think making pastel marshmallow treats is child's play? Maybe you want to try your hand at a few marshmallow concoctions of your own?

You'd best consult the Howstuffworks "How do they make marshmallows?" guide. Good luck, and may the Peeps be with you.

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2.20.2005