Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Tri Harder

If you're a longtime reader, you may have noticed I've posted more infrequently lately. There's a reason for that: In order to fulfill a personal New Year's Resolution this year, I'm training for my very first triathlon — a sprint tri in Central Park that takes place next month.

Now, maybe some people can complete an Ironman event in their sleep, but if you'd known me when I was a sprout, you'd know what a big deal even a sprint-length triathlon is for me. My high school class did not vote me "most likely to drop a lot of money on protein powder."

I was an arty kid. I couldn't even make it the one mile around the track for the Presidential Physical Fitness tests they administered every year in gym class. Just running a quarter mile made my lungs feel like they were burning.

But after college, a funny thing happened. I jogged a bit, and it wasn't so bad. No burning lungs. So I jogged a bit more. I thought I'd be the best I could be when I hit that long-awaited mile run, but it turns out I can now zip out for a 3.5-mile run before breakfast.

Chickpeas on the Run

So what made the difference? I credit two success factors: 1. Lack of judgement from gym teachers and classmates. 2. Not living with a smoker (Dad was a heavy smoker throughout most of my childhood).

And the best part? progress with running helped show that I wasn't athletically retarded (something I'd long believed). This year I enrolled in swim classes at the YMCA. And while I'm not a sleek dolphin in the water yet, I'm now proud to say I'm less of a sea cow.

A great benefit I've discovered about training for a triathlon is the diversity. If I have a blister from running, I can switch over to swimming. If my arms are sore from swimming, I can work on my biking. The built-in variety means I'm never bored. There's just so much to concentrate on.

That's also part of the downside of triathlon training. Even for a shorter-distance triathlon (like the sprint tri I'm working toward) there's a major time commitment to balance each aspect of the sport.

Aside from juggling the schedule to accommodate training, anyone attempting athletic events quickly finds that eating becomes a major planning factor. When do you eat? What do you eat? How much do you eat? In what form should you eat it? I must admit, I'm not really jazzed about eating (slurping?) those sugary little goo packets I see in sporting goods stores.

Additionally, many events start early. Should you wake up extra-early to eat so you have time to digest beforehand? When the event is long, as in the many hours involved in a marathon, how do you eat on the run (literally), without upsetting the tummy?

Luckily, those who work out tend to experiment and find their own solutions to these questions. And they're usually happy to share.

Dave's New Pizza Oven
Dave's New Pizza Oven

Just yesterday, I stopped by the Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea to chat with my friend Chef Dave Sclarow of Lunetta and Pizza Moto while he kneaded dough into crusts. (BTW, he's expanding into the Sunday Flea in Dumbo in a couple of weeks.)

He gave me a handy tip for even more simple smoothies: Instead of using an upright blender, use a big cup (or a mason jar) with a stick blender (aka "immersion blender"). Fast, easy and less laborious to clean up. Brilliant.

Smoothie in a Jar
Smoothie in a Jar

Dave offers this recipe for his workout smoothies: two ice cubes, half a banana, big scoop of peanut butter and soy milk. Sometimes he adds a little maple syrup if he wants it to be sweeter.

So today, I made my morning smoothie in a mason jar with a lid, and kept it cold in the fridge for my post-workout recovery drink. Slick.

One of his pizza-slingers mentioned that the sesame-seed & honey bars that are sometimes found in natural food stores make good workout snacks, too. A little protein. Some sugars. Easy to carry. A good option.

I've done posts on workout snacks before, but I'm always open to new tips and helpers. Drop 'em if you've got 'em!

Yours in good health,
Miss Ginsu

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7.12.2009

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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1.12.2009

mel·on·cho·li·a

mel·on·cho·li·a (n.)



A mental disorder characterized by hopelessness and withdrawal stemming from a realization that the melon season is short, while the rest of the year is filled with charlatans masquerading in the market stalls.


Six melons you need to befriend:

1. Crenshaw... seductive, sexy, sweetly spicy with rich, gold-pink flesh
2. Charantais... queen of the melon patch reigns in a cloud of delicate, floral scents
3. Casaba... custard-smooth sweetness with a hint of its cousin, the cucumber
4. Juan Canary Melons... honey-perfumed and creamy white-fleshed
5. Ambrosia... intensely orange, sweeter and muskier than the muskmelon
6. Persian... firm, orange flesh that blends the fragrant flavors of air and earth

It's also handy to keep in mind that melons love to be near: ginger, prosciutto, manchego, mint, lime, lemongrass, chili, nutmeg and arugula.

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7.19.2005

Ladies & Gentlemen, the BBQ will be televised...

Oh yes, my friends... it's that time of year again.

Here's my tips for surviving the 3rd annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC this weekend.


The Susquehanna Tool & Die Company sweat in their costumes before hitting the stage.


Don McLemore (Big Bob Gibson's grandson) slings smoky piles of pig at their mobile pit. McLemore, his wife, Caroline, and their son-in-law, Chris Lilly, have braved this madhouse event three years running.


Eleven Madison provides chocolate-chocolate cupcakes with cow and pig sprinkles.


Early attendees scarf down swine samples on the wing.

1. Show up before it begins at noon. By the time the dinner bell rings, you'd better be in line. With cash. (There's always that $100 Bubba Fast Pass for those who have money to burn, of course... and if you happen to know any of those people, please be a doll and send 'em my way.)

2. If you'd like to sample multiple 'cues (seize the day, people!), divide and conquer. Send someone out to each pit you want to taste. Have 'em buy multiple boxes.

3. Bring your own bottle of soda or water (or, hey! lemonade!) in your bag. No sense in paying a premium price and then having to carry it around. You'll need your hands for barbeque.

4. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

5. Bring a blanket and stake out a spot in the shade on the lawn. From there, you can listen to music, revel in your superior attack plan and pity all the poor, sweaty masses queued up for 'cue.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.11.2005

The Birth of an Entrée

Alas... my digi camera is dead dead dead. Mourning its decline, I perused my archives and thought y'all might enjoy this little "back of the house" tour from the perspective of a veg cook (one of my kitchen stations back in the day).

Keep in mind, we're not talking short-order slapdash here. This ain't no Denny's. This is how it's done in a *good* kitchen.


Prepwork.
It's the foundation of your station. You never find a line cook in a high-end kitchen just standing around. There's always something to chop up or clean up. This is Davey making quick work of a ginger julienne.


Mis en place (mees-ehn-plahs).
It's all about prepwork and organization, folks. In this cooler drawer (called a lowboy) we find lovingly trimmed turnips, boiled potatoes, lamb bits, braised squash with mustard seeds, toasted coconut, blanched green beans and brussels sprouts, and on the upper left, roasted shallots, turnips and cauliflower, methinks... I can't remember what that reddish-colored stuff is. The meat cook made that.


On fire.
When you hear the order come in, down go the pans. This is a chickpea panisse for the lamb dish. You'll note the blue "side towel" in my friend's hand here. You don't see hot pads or oven mitts in professional kitchens. You see side towels, and god help you if you don't have a dry side towel, because you'll learn the conductivity of water in a heartbeat if you grab a hot handle with a wet towel. Zow!


The lineup.
These plates just came out of the warmer, so they're still pretty warm on the fingers. The veg generally goes in rings to shape it while it waits for the meat cook to finish slicing and fanning out the meat.


The product.
Here we see the lamb veg (turnips, potatoes, leeks and bits of lamb roast) and the afore-mentioned chickpea panisse just before the meat cook makes his addition. You'll note that my veg plays backup to that juicy spread of lamb. All this dish needs is a drizzle of sauce, a garnish, and an approval by the chef. I'm actually hungry just looking at it...


Chef puffs his cheeks, deep in thought.
Nothing goes out without scrutiny from the chef or whichever of his sous chefs happens to be manning the front line. He's got a whole palette of funky garnishes he can use to give your entrée a finishing touch. You know... stuff like finely chopped chives, cilantro chiffonade, mint chiffonade, microgreens, fried ginger, fried lotus root strips and the like.

Just in case any of this makes you hungry, all these photos were taken in the kitchen at Tabla (Corner of 24th & Madison, NYC). The chef is Floyd Cardoz, and the disembodied hands belong to my brother in arms, Dave S.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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5.31.2005