Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Of all the fruits, rhubarb retains the most magical nostalgic quality for me. Back when I was very small, it grew gargantuan each spring around the farmhouse. My mom always made terrific rhubarb desserts. Sweet-tart. Spicy. Distinctly rhubarb-y.

What's funny is that rhubarb isn't actually a fruit. It's a stem, making it technically a vegetable... but who eats rhubarb as a vegetable? No, rhubarb is the vegetable that found its true calling in the fruit world.

And I used to be such a purist about it. None of that strawberry blending for me. Rhubarb was dandy on its own thankyouverymuch.

These days I see the value in marrying the two. They both mature at the same time. My CSA delivers them at the same time. Why shouldn't I cook them at the same time? And what a delight they are together!

For my Dessert Corps project this week, the theme is rhubarb, so I'm contributing a strawberry-rhubarb upside-down cake.

Rhubarb Compote

For this cake, I begin with rhubarb compote. But for my day-to-day life, that's generally where I end. Compote. With yogurt. For dessert. It's sweet-tart tangy, creamy, cool... really divine.

But since my humble yogurt and compote dessert doesn't seem dressy enough (or portable enough) for sharing with the soup kitchen... today, I go beyond compote and into the slightly more complicated world of cake.

Upside-down cakes are an interesting topic on their own. I wrote an article on them a couple of years ago and discovered that flipped cakes were probably born of historical necessity, skillet cakes having been easier to make than standard cakes for those without ovens.

But I digress... On to the cake!

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake (Makes an 8" x 8" cake)

Rhubarb Compote:
2 stalks rhubarb, cut 3/4" thick
15 medium strawberries, quartered
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup white or brown sugar

Vanilla Cake:
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup AP flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick butter (6 Tbsp), softened
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk (or plain yogurt + milk)

For the Compote: Combine rhubarb pieces, strawberry pieces, water and sugar in a saucepot. Gently simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the fruit is tender, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the Cake:
1. Grease an 8" x 8" round or square cake pan with butter and preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.
3. In a larger mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend in the butter until well incorporated and then stir in the buttermilk. (It will be sticky.)
4. Add about half the egg mixture into the larger mixing bowl, stirring until smooth (about 20 seconds) then stir in the rest of the egg mixture. Incorporate well.
5. Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly across the bottom of the greased pan. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the top of the rhubarb mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. Remove cake from the oven when done, cool for 5 minutes on a rack, then loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife, place a serving platter face-down atop the cake pan and invert the cake onto the platter. Some of the fruit may stick in the pan. Scoop this out and replace it atop the cake.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, or cool and serve slices with coffee.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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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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What's In The Box?

What's in the Box?

Oh, anticipation! I haven't felt so giddy since I was a kid at Christmastime. Several months ago, I signed up for my local Community Supported Agriculture group (that's a CSA to the regulars) and, swoon! the first delivery arrived last night.

One of the things I love about CSAs is how closely it ties one to the local environs. Here's what was in the box this week:

  • Red Lettuce
  • Green Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Arugula
  • Mesclun Lettuce
  • Baby Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Eggs
  • Flowers

    Now, since we've had a long, cool, damp spring (punctuated with a sudden heat wave last weekend), I can see and taste the weather trends in my produce. The lettuces — lovers of chilly days — are fantastic. On the other hand, the strawberries are big, but not as sweet or concentrated in flavor as they have been in other years.

    My little apartment doesn't have any space for a garden, so these agricultural details thrill me. Here's a few shots other shots from the pickup:

    Running a bit short on time this week (and stuffing my mouth full of juicy berries), but in future CSA box reports, I'll provide some recipes for usage. I've found that few people know what to do with, say, kohlrabi.


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  • 6.12.2008