Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


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.


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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Getting Stuffed

I've been off on a bit of a Claudia Roden kick for the past couple of weeks, and I must admit it's an awfully tasty kick to be off on.

In case you don't know who she is, let me just put in a word for her classic The New Book of Middle Eastern Food — an impressive culinary resource.

I love the way she breaks down recipes to discuss how ingredients and preparations differ a little in the different cultural versions of the same dish.

For a recipe addressing stuffed eggplants, for example, she cites the Syrian version but also refers the reader to a different filling that the Lebanese tend to prefer.

Stuffed Eggplant and Arugula Salad

It makes me wonder why I've shunned stuffed vegetables for so long. They're such an easy and flexible meal. You can use eggplants, peppers, zucchini and a variety of winter squashes.

Roden points out that the fillings range from purely meat and veggie stuffings to ones completely composed of grain and beans. So you can really use whatever you happen to have on hand. That means a stuffed vegetable entree can be made vegetarian or not, as you like it, and expensive or thrifty, depending on your budget.

Hollowing an Eggplant

I used eggplants this weekend, because I love them, and it's easy to just roast or sauté the innards pulled out of the eggplant for a quick baba ganoush.

I found that the easiest way to make a hollow for the stuffing was to draw a 1/2" thick outline around the flesh of eggplant with a paring knife to guide the area that I wanted to scoop. Then I scraped out the flesh with a spoon, as you can see in the image above. This would also work well with zucchini.

Stuffed Eggplants, Ready to Bake

The stuffing was based on one of Roden's recipes, but I used some chopped tomatoes for extra zip.
Stuffed Eggplants (Serves 4)
2 medium-sized eggplants
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb ground lamb or beef
8 oz chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

To garnish: chopped parsley and crumbled feta

1. Halve the eggplants and scoop out the flesh. Place the hollowed eggplant halves on a baking sheet and save the flesh for another purpose.
2. In a large skillet or a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame and sweat the onions for 10 minutes.
3. Add the lamb or beef, breaking it up for even cooking. Sauté for 10 minutes or until the meat browns well. Carefully drain off excess grease before adding the tomatoes, pine nuts, allspice and cinnamon.
4. Cook another 10 minutes, season with salt and ground pepper, to taste, and remove the pan from the heat.
5. Heat the oven to 375°. Spoon the filling evenly into the eggplant halves and place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup water into the pan to prevent burning and cook until the eggplant is tender, about 20 minutes.
6. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and crumbled feta. Serve hot.

Obviously, a person could replace the meat with rice or quinoa, maybe add in some chickpeas and come up with an equally happy result.

I'm looking forward to digging deeper into Roden's book, and I'll report more discoveries as I find them.

Happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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The Most Stylish Meal of the Day

I couldn't help but notice that Esquire is into breakfast right now. I caught sight of their March issue, which contains a sixteen-page food porn spread of home-and-away brekkie delights chock-full of sexy, oozy breakfast glamour shots... so ya know, that's kind of a tip-off.

Bacon, Eggs & Sauteed Ramps

And why shouldn't breakfast be trendy? It's wintertime, and breakfast is comforting. Breakfast is important for good health. It's the most important meal of the day. And in a recession economy, going out with your friends for breakfast (or brunch) makes a lot more sense than going out for dinner.

So in honor of that king of meals, I'm offering a roundup of my favorite brekkie posts to help bring joy to your mornings.

Soft-Boiled Egg & Latte at Le Pain Quotidien

It's kind of a Breakfast Bonanza, if you will, with everything from the mains to nice details and delightful drinks.

The Main Event
  • Wild Rice Breakfast Porridge
  • Easy-Peasy Granola
  • Zucchini Blondies
  • Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bread
  • Dad's Sunday Morning Blueberry Muffins
  • Do-It-Yourself Pancake Mix
  • Moist & Sticky Fig Cake
  • Custard Baklavah (Galatoboureko)
  • Foraged Quiche
  • Homemade Beans on Toast
  • Nicomachean Eggs

  • Croissant & Latte at Cafe Grumpy

    A Few Nice Details
  • Blended Bacon Butter
  • Quick Lime Curd
  • Spicy Strawberry Compote

  • Hot Chocolate at St. Helen Cafe

    Breakfast Beverages
  • Coffee Concentrate (for Easy Iced Coffees)
  • Power Smoothies
  • Banana Batidas (Banana Shakes)
  • Hot Masala Chai Kit
  • Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
  • Mulled Apple Cider

  • Of course, as much as I love all of the above, my brekkie of choice is almost always the McCann's Steel-Cut Oats. Simple. Tasty. Wholesome. Always satisfying.

    Any breakfast favorites you'd like to share? Let me know below.

    Yours in brekkie worship,
    Miss Ginsu

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    Chocolate Fondue the Lazy Way

    Feeling rushed this week? Broke? Out of ideas for something special you might want to do for the Valentine's Day holiday?

    Consider the Lazy Cook's Chocolate Fondue, a recipe that's easy, cheap, fun to do, a little out of the ordinary and supremely decadent — all at the same time.

    Chocolate Fondue with Peeps

    The nice thing about this recipe (other than the fact that it's dead simple, cheap and reliably tasty) is that it's so very flexible.

    If the berries look ugly (February isn't exactly their best month), get dried fruit instead.

    Don't like marshmallows? No problem: skip 'em.

    Need a Valentine's Day treat for the whole family? Double the recipe. Kids love to dip things... especially in chocolate.

    Prefer dark to milk? Go crazy.

    Whatever your preferences, this is the chocolate treat for you and your valentine, because you can customize it perfectly to suit the occasion and the participants involved.

    Chocolate Fondue with Peeps (Close Up)
    Chocolate Fondue the Lazy Way (Serves 2-4)

    For the sauce
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    8oz (1/2 lb) chocolate chips, pastilles or small chunks (milk, dark or white)

    For dipping (Choose one or more)
    Fresh strawberries, raspberries or blackberries
    Bananas, cut into 1" chunks
    Pound cake, cut into 1" cubes
    Dried fruit (apricots, figs, dried cherries, banana chips and pineapple work well)
    Jumbo marshmallows
    Graham crackers or shortbread cookies
    Walnut or pecan halves
    Fresh coconut, cut into 1" cubes

    1. Count out forks or skewers and prepare a serving plate with the dipping items. (You'll want them at the ready so the sauce doesn't cool down completely while your fussing.)
    2. Place the cream and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the chocolate melts and incorporates.
    3. Pour the chocolate sauce into a pretty bowl and serve immediately alongside your prepared platter of dippers.

    Totally easy, right? You can whip this up in less than 20 minutes.

    I'm not a white chocolate person, but I must admit it looks particularly cool on the berries.

    And feel free to use broken up chocolate bars, chocolate chips, one of those huge Hershey chocolate kisses hacked into little pieces... whatever chocolate you happen to have.


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    Top Ten Tips for Recession-Proof Recipes

    The Cooking for the Recession topic recently came up at NPR's Planet Money blog, so I was compelled to comment, having written on the topic for nearly a year now.

    As I typed it out, I realized I should probably do a similar top-ten roundup herein. And so, voila!
    Top Ten Tips for Recession-Proof Recipes

    1. Roasting makes just about anything taste rich and decadent.

    2. Full of vitamins, protein, fiber and flavor, beans are your new best friends.

    3. Homemade soup stock is a classic way to use kitchen scraps to make thrifty meals. When I worked at restaurants, we used nearly every vegetable scrap for the stockpot, leaving out only the potato peels, lettuce cores and broccoli stems.

    4. Look to the world's peasant foods for delicious inspiration on the cheap. Soups, sandwiches, quiches, casseroles and omelets taste luxe but cost little.

    5. Use extenders -- inexpensive ingredients that stretch out the use of other, more expensive ingredients. (Rice, pasta, bread, croutons, etc.)

    6. Eat in-season produce. It's generally cheaper and tastier at its peak.

    7. Don't pay a labor upcharge. Chop your own single-serving fruit/vegetable finger foods and mix your own workout drinks in reusable containers.

    8. Stewing/braising turns cheaper, tougher cuts of meat and uglier vegetables into delicious dishes.

    9. Inexpensive, flavorful sauces (peanut sauce, roasted red pepper sauce) can help you bring joy to noodle dishes, entrées and salads.

    10. Double your batches of dinner and brown-bag the excess for your workaday lunches.

    Soup Week!

    You'll notice that the recession-proof theme offers up a lot in the way of soup — just in time for soup week! I'll be blogging all about soup this week, so tune in tomorrow for more warm comfort.

    Happy eating,
    Miss Ginsu

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    Day 23: Christmas Gumbo

    This post marks Day 23 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    In my neighborhood, 'tis the season of the big carp slaughter. Apparently it's traditional for Polish folks to eat fresh carp for Christmas (part of the traditional "fish on holy days" tradition, no doubt) so the fishes are currently swimming about in cold-water pools waiting to be chopped up for dinners across the 'hood.

    Likewise, in Italy, southern folks celebrate the feast of the seven fishes over the holidays.

    I, too, think of the sea when I think of Christmas. My mom's family has a tradition having to do with eggs and herring roe (one I generally skip), but I appreciate the idea of honoring this season with the fruits of the sea.

    Thus, I propose a seafood gumbo, one with red, white and green colors (for the sake of festivity) and fresh shrimp or clams (for the sake of tradition).

    Onions & Peppers

    Christmas Gumbo

    This recipe feeds many, doesn't cost much to make and comes together without much fuss. In fact, the biggest pain is in the vegetable chopping — a task which may be farmed out to any eager-to-help holiday guests.
    Christmas Gumbo (Serves 5-6)
    1 lb sausage (chicken, pork or seafood)
    3 Tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
    2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    2 medium onions, diced
    1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2" pieces
    1 bay leaf
    1 tsp cayenne pepper (or less, if you're sensitive)
    1 pound okra (fresh or frozen), sliced in 1/2" pieces
    1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
    3 cups chicken stock or water
    1/4 cup dry white wine
    1/2 lb shell-on shrimp and/or 6 to 8 clams (optional)
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    Salt to taste
    6 to 8 cups cooked rice (for serving)

    1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven over medium heat, cook the sausage in the bacon fat or olive oil until it begins to brown.
    2. Remove the sausage from the pan, add the flour to the pan oils and stir well to incorporate the flour into the fat. Cook the flour mixture 3 to 5 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.
    3. Add the onions, bell pepper pieces, celery and bay leaf to the pot and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring well to cook evenly.
    4. Add the cayenne, okra, tomatoes and the stock (or water) and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the okra is very tender, about 30 minutes.
    5. Add the wine and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    6. Bring the pot to a boil and add the shrimp or clams (if using). Cover and cook about 3 to 5 minutes — just long enough until the cook through and/or the clams have opened.
    7. Stir in the chopped parsley and adjust salt the and/or cayenne, if necessary. Serve hot over rice.

    Serve with a sliced baguette, a crisp green salad and a glass of dry white wine or cold ale. The seasonal ales with some spice and citrus go nicely with this dish.

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Day 14: Lemon-Ginger Bath Cookies

    This post marks Day 14 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    There are those gelid winter days on which some part of me believes I'll never be warm again. These are the moments when I pine for a wood-scented sauna, but settle for a hot, spiced bath instead.

    J's mom makes awesome soaps, but anything having to do with lye is a bit terrifying to me. I also love fizzy bath bombs notmartha has a great post on that... I just haven't been able to lay hands on liquid glycerin and spherical molds yet.

    Lemon-Ginger Bath Cookies

    So homemade bath cookies are about as complicated as I'll probably get with body care recipes for the moment. Though they don't fizz, they do make the water feel soft and pleasant, they're cheap, they're endlessly customizable and as with traditional cookies, they're pretty fun to make.

    You can find vitamin e and epsom salt at drugstores. (The vitamin e is optional, but it's good for the skin.) Essential oil shows up at natural food stores, craft stores and places like the Body Shop. Add a little color for festivity, or go au naturel, as you like.
    Lemon-Ginger Bath Cookies (Makes about 36)

    2 cups epsom salt or finely ground salt
    1/2 cup baking soda
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp vitamin e oil (optional)
    2 eggs
    1 Tbsp lemon zest
    1 Tbsp ground ginger
    Food color and/or Essential Oil (optional)

    1. Heat the oven to 350° F.

    2. In a mixing bowl, combine the salt, baking soda and corn starch, blending well.

    3. In a small saucepan, heat the olive and vitamin E oils (add a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender, if you like) just until they're warm.

    4. Whisk the eggs into the warmed oil and pour this mixture into the dry ingredients. Blend just until the mixture forms a dough.

    5. Roll heaping tablespoon-sized portions into discs. The dough will begin to dry, so work quickly. Place 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 7 to 9 minutes.

    6. Cool on the baking sheet before storing in airtight containers. Allow to rest overnight before using. To use, drop 1 to 2 cookies into a hot bath and allow them to dissolve slowly.

    Use them for yourself or put some in a pretty box with some "do not eat" usage instructions. They make a festive — and comforting — homemade gift.

    Holiday Cheer!
    Miss Ginsu

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    Day 13: A Homespun Holiday

    This post marks Day 13 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    I got my holiday tree this week, and I realized it's one of those annual purchases that never creates buyers' regret for me. The pine scent, the warm glow of the lights and the homey little ornaments all add up to great joy for the few weeks it comes to visit.

    Digging through the holiday box, it also struck me that the oldest and most humble ornaments are the best ones in the bunch. No doubt Hallmark makes spiffy things, but they never kindle the sweet sentimentality of the little homespun items.

    Thus, today is dedicated to nifty homemade holiday decorations — the ideal combination of thrift and flair.

    On a trip to the South Dakota State Capitol building (where they host tons of lovely trees every year), I snapped up five great ideas for what you and fam or friends can make with a few popsicle sticks, some glue, a bit of paint, crafting felt, raffia and other stuff you might have around the house.

    Marshmallow Snowman
    1. Marshmallow Snowman

    Wood Spoon Cat
    2. Wood Spoon Cat

    Golden Walnut
    3. Fishing Lures and Gold-Painted Walnuts

    Dried Apple & Raffia Garland
    4. Dried Apple & Raffia Garland (+ bonus Popsicle Stick Snowflake in the Corner)

    Popsicle Stick Santa
    5. Popsicle Stick Santa

    All these things are cheap (and fun) to make and give... and maybe that's just what's needed in a year when a bunch of us have more time than money.

    Holiday Cheer!
    Miss Ginsu

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    FoodLink Roundup: 09.22.08

    Cupcake's Link Roundup
    Last week, Cupcake was spotted (by two clever folks!) in Bryant Park, NYC at the Flatiron Building. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

    Frothing at the Latte
    Some casual research on whether lattes signal political preference.

    Unscrambling the Boastful Egg
    Decoding what all that labeling is trying to tell you.

    Dry sodas — soft and complex
    Small-batch soda made with care. I approve.

    How to be a thriftysomething: scrimping stylishly
    Recession-proof for the Brit set.

    6 Food Mistakes Parents Make
    Seems like sound advice to me.

    New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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    Food Quote Friday: James Beard

    Orchard-Fresh Plums

    "There is absolutely no substitute for the best. Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing."

    James Beard in The Fireside Cook Book

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    My Big Fat Granola Epiphany

    Sometimes, I'm just rolling along with my life and I'm suddenly hit upside the head with the realization I've been doing something completely silly for years.

    Case in point: Granola. Why have I been buying granola? I feel like such a dope for having paid Kellogg's to make a substandard version of it for me.

    It's painfully quick and easy to make. It creates a warm, homey aroma in your kitchen. It's fresh. It's yummy. It's cheap.

    And when you make it at home, you can put whatever you want in it. Looking to make it healthier? Toss in some extra oat bran. Not a big fan of raisins? No problem. Love hazelnuts more than life itself? Go nuts. Literally.

    And it's even better with fresh berries and yogurt...

    This stuff is good with milk, nice for crunch over yogurt, ice cream, fresh fruit or pudding. Get yourself a big tin of rolled oats and forage for some dried fruit and nuts in the back of your cupboard.

    So don't be a rube like me. Stop buying granola. Take this recipe and fly free, little sparrow.
    DIY Granola Base Recipe (Makes about 4 1/2 cups)
    4 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT instant)
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    2 tsp cinnamon
    2 Tbsp molasses
    1/2 cup maple syrup
    1/3 cup canola oil (or another light, unflavored oil)
    1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite chopped nuts or seeds, if you wish a combination of: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, flax seeds, etc.

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, blend all the ingredients.
    2. Spread the mix on a cookie sheet or sheet tray and bake 15-25 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking to brown the mix evenly.
    3. Cool the tray on a rack, stirring occasionally. Add dried fruit, if desired, after granola has cooled.

    After you've done the base batch once or twice, experiment with coconut flakes, macadamia nuts and dried pineapple or perhaps hazelnut and cranberry or maybe dried cherries and almonds or maybe dried apple and walnut...

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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