Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Giddy for Green Tomato Gazpacho

As the family legend has it, on the night before I was born, my mother cooked up a pizza topped with sliced green tomatoes, and the next morning, pop! There I was. (Though, truth be told, it may actually have taken a bit more effort than I'm leading on...)

I won't go so far as to call green tomatoes some kind of folk remedy for inducing labor, but I sure do think they provide awfully good incentive for anyone taking their sweet time in the womb.

Now that I've been out in the world a few years, I've discovered all kinds of other ideas for what to do with green tomatoes.

Green Tomatoes at the Market

My first suggestion would be that you take just a little time and invest it in making a green tomato chow chow. If you can some now, you'll have it this winter, and it really is just divine, especially when mixed into bean soups, egg salads or (my very favorite) served alongside grilled/broiled meat or fish. Nom!

But if you happen to have a few green tomatoes and not much time to spare, I'd recommend gazpacho. It's easy, it's low-key and since it's not a cooked dish, you won't heat up the kitchen. Or even break a sweat, to be perfectly honest.
Supremely Easy Green Tomato Gazpacho (Serves 3 to 4)

2 cups green tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 small or 1 large clove garlic
1 medium Kirby cucumber, quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeds removed (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or 1/2 slice stale bread, torn to pieces
1 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional Garnish
chopped cilantro, 1/2" cubes of cucumber, sliced green onion and/or cubed avocado

1. In a blender or food processor, chop the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumber and jalapeño, if using.
2. Add the breadcrumbs or pieces, tomato juice and olive oil. Pulse to incorporate.
3. Stir in the chopped cilantro, oregano and Worcestershire.
4. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to adjust to your desired flavor.
5. Chill for at least three hours (or overnight). Garnish, if desired, and serve cold or at room temperature. It's great with chewy baguette slices or garlic bread.

The beauty of a gazpacho is that it's so flexible and so forgiving. You can leave it chunky or make it really smooth. You can really even drop half the ingredients here and still come out with a tasty soup, though this happens to be the formula I like.

And on that note, you might notice that this recipe is almost identical to the Red Tomato Gazpacho I blogged a few years ago, or maybe even the Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho from last August.

Huh! Funny how that happens! Yes, folks. You're on to me. It's all about theme and variation here at Chez Ginsu...

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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8.17.2009

Black Eyes, Green Thumbs: Roller Derby Gardening

I'm convinced that if there's ever an apocalypse, you really want a roller derby girl on your side. Not only do they have rough and tumble skills and mighty muscles for fighting off the zombie hordes, derby girls tend to be some of the most ambitious, multi-talented people I know.

Case in point: Suzy Hotrod — talented photographer, guitarist in a punk band, speed demon on a flat track, horchata aficionado... and urban gardener.

Out Standing in her Field

Suzy recently took me out to her little plot in the Two Coves Community Garden in Queens.

Community Toolshed

Assisting with weeding and vine tending tasks before Suzy's Gotham Girls practice, I'm surprised to see that Two Coves is surprisingly roomy for a city garden.

Suzy's plot stretches out about 8 foot by 6 foot (roughly the size of a Manhattan apartment) and is home to cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, watermelons, mint, basil, Swiss chard, kale, beans, pink flamingoes and jolly garden gnomes.

"I always forget to bring something to put the vegetables in, so I end up putting them in my helmet." She says, passing me a stack of kale leaves as she piles up a haul of godzilla-sized cucumbers and fat tomatoes.

Suzy's Helmet/Basket

But Suzy's not the only GGRD girl on the block. On the way back from the compost pit, she shows off the a neatly rowed plot maintained by Bonnie Thunders, the first derby girl to roost in Two Coves.

One of the garden locals helps diagnose an unfortunate case of low water pressure and invites us to take some fresh-picked green beans, cherry tomatoes and zucchini.

"I had two cute little pumpkins. You should've seen them," he tells me, shaking his head. "But they're gone. Stolen. Well — maybe next year..."

Suzy nods. "That happened to me, too. One of my gnomes disappeared."

Jolly Garden Gnome

Ah, and there's the downside of community living. The wounds inflicted by contact sports heal, but what's to be done with the pain dealt by squash-snatchers and gnome grabbers?

Well, there's always next year. Luckily, derby girls are also pretty great at shrugging off bruises.

Go see more of Suzy's urban gardening in the flickr set here.

Yours in Veggie Worship,
Miss Ginsu

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8.07.2009

This Is Just To Say...

The Season's First Tomato

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the tomato
that was on
the fire escape

and which
you were probably
saving
for your return

Forgive me
it was delicious
so rich
and so ripe

Apologies to William Carlos Willaims

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7.13.2009

Chow Chow Chow!

I'm willing to admit it: I'm a northern girl with southern envy. Having grown up on a parade of cream of mushroom soup casseroles, I've since discovered some of the flavorful, everyday delights my southern brethren took for granted... things like red velvet cake, po-boys and one of the finest condiments to cross my palate: chow chow.

It's my great loss that the only chow chows I'd ever encountered were the dog breed and the dancing chow-chow-chow cats of 1970s-era TV advertising.

But then — as if led by destiny — my last roommate abandoned a full jar of Loveless Cafe Old-Fashioned Hot Chow Chow in the fridge. It was amazing. I was immediately hooked.

Now I understand that chow chow is a dog, a dancing cat and a versatile condiment that's used like a pickle relish and flavored like an Indian chutney.

Delicious on grilled meats, it's powerhouse flavor for egg salad and chicken salad. It's a savior for ho-hum bean soups and stews that lack oomph. It's killer on a cheeseburger or sausage roll... and it's delicious straight out of the jar.

Hot Yellow Chow Chow

I imagine chow chow is also going to become my new favorite way to use up extra vegetables that happen to be hanging around the fridge.

Sadly, we won't see any green tomatoes for months, but since I'm an addict now, chow chow can't wait. I'm substituting tomatillos or pickled green tomatoes until I can get my grubby mitts on the garden-fresh versions.
Hot Yellow Chow Chow (Makes about two quarts)

1 cup green tomatoes (or tomatillos), cored and quartered
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup celery, minced
1 cup bell peppers (red or green), diced
1 jalapeno chili, sliced thin
1 cup white or yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

Cooking Liquid
2 cups white or red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp celery seed
2 Tbsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

1. Soak the tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery, bell pepper, onions and parsley in a salt water brine (1/4 cup salt to 1 quart [4 cups] water) overnight.
2. Drain off the brine and place the vegetables in a heavy-bottomed pot with the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender (about 30-40 minutes).
4. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning level with salt and pepper to your liking. Add a little more vinegar if it's too sweet or blend in a little more sugar if you find it too sour. The flavor will become more rich and blended as it cools.
5. Ladle the hot chow chow into sterilized glass jars, add lids and seal in a hot water bath, or cool and transfer to the refrigerator.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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4.15.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 11.10.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was called out (by everyone, seemingly) at a Gotham Girls Roller Derby home game. So, where in the world is Cupcake this week? Yeah, I know this one's a softball, but be a peach and post a guess in the comments anyway.

Feds try to get students to eat fruit and veg
"Not to brag or anything," 10-year-old Harrison Saling said, "but I've always been pretty good about my fruits." Hilarious...

'Clean-up' bees could save endangered hives
Scientists tinker with bees in the hope of saving agriculture. Go, Scientists, Go!

Purple Reign
Snapdragons + Tomatoes + Genetic Tinkering = more flavonoids?

When Money Is Tight, Eating Healthy Can Be a Struggle
Newsflash... healthful eating is a class issue!

Pizza From Scratch: First, Bricks and a Trailer
My friend Dave rocks the outdoor oven for the Times. Woot!

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

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11.10.2008

Demystifying Mussels

Here's a mystery: Mussels are cheap, tasty, plentiful, fast-cooking, low in mercury, a lean source of protein and a good way to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Early humans were big on 'em.

With all that to their credit, you might think they'd go like gangbusters. You'd think those little black shellfish would be flying out of fishmongers' shops, so to speak. But no. You'd be wrong. Home cooks tend to shy away from cooking mussels.

And I should know... I'm one of those shy cooks. I know how fast and easy and good mussels are (especially with a solid Belgian beer), and yet I very rarely make them.

Mussels with White Wine and Tomatoes

Why not? Maybe it's something about dealing with the shells. Maybe it's the fact that they're living and need to be cooked right away — Mussels really aren't keen on hanging around the fridge.

Then again, maybe it's just habit. It's just so easy to whip up a salad or to sear a steak. It's a cinch to throw on a pot of soup and have something comforting to eat for several days.

But mussels have so much going for them, I really feel like efforts should be made to work them into the routine.

Here's a super-fast, super-easy mussel method. My best tip for success? Make sure they're all closed (or ready and willing to close) before you cook 'em. If their shells are a little open, give 'em a squeeze and see if they make an attempt to shut. Mussels that don't close should be tossed.

Mussels in White Wine & Tomatoes (Serves about 4 people)
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed or minced
2 shallots, sliced thin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 lb fresh mussels
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. In cool running water, scrub the mussels clean and pull off the little bit of seaweed-like "beard" along the edges.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes (if using). Sautée for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the mussels to the pan and stir them about, coating them in the oil. Add in the drained tomatoes and the white wine. Cover the pan and cook until the mussels begin to open, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Spoon out the cooked mussels and sauce into serving dishes and sprinkle with the parsley. Be sure to offer separate bowls to collect the shells.

Serve with a sliced baguette — you and your fellow diners can soak up some of the savory sauce.

Obviously, this dish is going to go well with the rest of the bottle of wine you used for cooking, so be sure you're cooking with a wine you enjoy (and that's just good advice for just about any dish).

Bon Appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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9.17.2008

Food Quote Friday: Lewis Grizzard



"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

Lewis Grizzard


Love a luscious food quote? Find more here.

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8.29.2008

The Mysteries of Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho

I've known those who salt their watermelon, and those who sugar their tomatoes. I once thought these practices were madness.

After culinary school, I become more flexible in my appreciation of these summer flavors. Yes, watermelon could get along happily in a savory salad. Yes, tomatoes could represent the sweet aspect of a dish.

Tomato & Watermelon

Once I'd gotten past the prejudices of my youth, I learned that tomatoes and watermelon could be great friends in salads.

And yet, tomato and watermelon match-ups still seem like strange bedfellows to me. An odd couple.

"But why is this pairing so strange?" I ask myself. They're both fruit. They grow and ripen together.

In fact, under-ripe watermelons taste quite like cucumbers. Since I think nothing of combining cucumbers and tomatoes, tomato-watermelon dishes should be second nature.

Then each summer tomato + watermelon is a minor culinary revelation. These cautious notions must be simply be old habits dying long, hard, tortured deaths.

Tomato & Watermelon Gazpacho

When I finally do take that terrifying leap and add, gasp! watermelon to my gazpacho... the result isn't horrifying at all. It's truly lovely.

For that matter, this dynamic duo is economical. Since both are simultaneously in surplus at the same time, it's a quick (and rewarding) task to blend them up together into soup.
Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho (Makes about 6 cups)

1/2 cup water or tomato juice
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
1 cup watermelon, seeded & cubed
1 small cucumber, peeled and quartered
1/4 small red onion
1/2 jalapeño pepper (or substitute 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper)
1 slice whole-grain bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lime juice (optional)

Optional Garnishes
1-2 Tbsp cilantro or mint, chopped
1 Tbsp small-diced cucumber
1 Tbsp small-diced watermelon
1 Tbsp crumbled fresh cheese or feta

1. Combine water or juice, tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, onion, 1/2 jalapeño, bread pieces and salt in a blender or food processor and purée smooth. (You may need to do this in batches.)

2. Taste the gazpacho and adjust the seasoning with 1 tsp fresh lime juice and a little more salt, if desired.

3. Chill one hour or until ready to serve (the flavor will improve overnight). Garnish with chopped herbs, mint, diced cucumber, diced watermelon and/or crumbled fresh cheese.

I find that crunchy fresh-baked croutons are really nice in a gazpacho as well. Or go crazy and throw on some bacon bits. It's a flexible dish.

This is actually a great dish for brown bagging. Just skip the garnish. It'll hold up well for a few hours without refrigeration and won't require on-site heating. Serve it with a salad for a lovely light lunch at some lunching locale of your choice. Like, say... the park.

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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8.28.2008

Dear Miss Ginsu: Bitter Tomato Sauce?

Dear Miss Ginsu,

Ok, I figure if anyone knows the answer to this, it's you.

Spaghetti sauce: aside from adding copious amounts of sugar — how does one keep homemade sauce from being sour/bitter?

I'm assuming this comes from a combination of the tomato sauce and bell peppers? Not sure how to counteract this flavor without turning it into "candied" red sauce.

Yours,
Bittersweet




Dear BS,

Cooking all the elements of the process long and slow is a sure-fire way to increase the natural sugars.

Caramelizing the onions so they're nice and brown, getting a little color on the garlic, long-simmering the tomato sauce — not to mention making sure you've removed the skins from the tomatoes... that'll all alleviate bitterness or sour notes. Some people strain out the seeds, too.

So much depends on the quality of the tomatoes you begin with. Since the natural flavors in tomatoes vary so greatly, you can see how it might be difficult to give precise measurements for a sauce recipe.

That said, a *small* amount of sugar added at the end of the process as you're adjusting the seasoning can certainly improve the balance in naturally very acidic or bitter tomatoes.

Though — as you noted — too much sugar just takes the sauce too far down the sweet continuum into candyland.

Also make sure the salt you're using in your recipe isn't "iodized" salt. The iodine that's added to some salt products might protect you from goiters (ew!), but it also adds a note of bitterness. That's just one of the reasons some recipes call for kosher salt.

Hope that helps!
Miss Ginsu

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8.27.2008

Simplicity, Thy Name is Bruschetta

Friends, it appears to be Tomato Week here at Chez Ginsu, so if you're not a love apple lover, I'd encourage you to stop back next week, when we'll see some tantalizing sweet stuff and a post on the tastiest yogurt I could find in these parts.

But for now, it's all about that juicy little god of the gardening world.

Tomatoes in the market bins

Truthfully, I'm so crazy about good, ripe tomatoes, I don't touch them for most of the year.

Late fall through early summer, I'll get by with cherry tomatoes, dried tomatoes and canned tomatoes. But when the lush, fresh, local tomatoes start rolling in, woo-hoo! Apologies to snow bunnies, but I feel tomato season really marks the most wonderful time of the year.

Time was, I used to believe that the open-faced, sliced tomato sandwich was probably the ultimate tomato-worship recipe (and no, biting into a tomato or just eating the slices doesn't count as a recipe).

Grilled ciabatta bread

But I did some rooftop garden-sitting for my boss last week, and now I've gone even more puritanical. No compound-ingredient spread necessary. Just grilled bread, olive oil and tomatoes. (Maybe salt, pepper and some fresh basil, if it happens to be on hand.)

This is the kind of recipe that's so simple, highest quality in each ingredient is key to success. Mealy tomatoes, off-flavored oil, gummy bread? Any flaw ruins the whole dish.

It's also the kind of recipe that seems to occur to just about anyone who has bread, olive oil and tomatoes on hand. In Spain, they might call it pa amb tomaquet
and in Italy, you might see it served as a bruschetta, but it's the same tasty idea. Go all crazy with this line of thought, and you'll soon find yourself eating pizza.

Grilled Tomato Bruschetta

Cherry tomatoes? Beefsteaks? Green zebras? Brandywines? Tomato type doesn't matter, as long as they're luscious.

The bread? I like a ciabatta or a baguette, but that's also negotiable. Just make sure it's good bread and the holes aren't too big.

Pick an olive oil you love (grassy, buttery, spicy... it's up to you), and while the grill's heating up for your entrée, throw down some generously brushed slices of bread.

Easy-peasy. Pour a glass of wine, munch a tomato-topped slice and offer a toast to simplicity.

Miss Ginsu

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8.26.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 08.11.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
It's Cupcake's birthday! Hooray, and happy birthday, Cupcake! Last week, our exploratory pastry hero was located out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Beijing breakfast of champions
Eggs and tomatoes... with ginger!

Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions
Contrary to popular mythology, coffee doesn't appear to cause cancer, send you to the loo or give you high blood pressure.

Cutting Calories and Saving D'oh
Very nicely done.

Consumers are raising cane over corn sweetener
Count me in among the wary. I'm a big label-reader and HFCS-avoider these days...

.: Jen's Chocolate Cake :.
Not a blog, but simplicity itself: a single chocolate cake recipe that Jen (and others) apparently adore. I made a peanut-butter glaze for it last week.

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8.11.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 07.28.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake took a break in the Central Park Sheep's Meadow. (Fine spotting to the Beast and Hazard both.) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Apizza Scholls: Top Five Pizzeria in America
Slice puts its hands on one of America's best pies. You can bet I'll be stopping by the next time I'm in Portland.

Reviving the Ramapo
"The market is ripe for the return of the Ramapo because there is a sizable group out there that wants their tomato to taste good." It's like finding something useful up in the attic.

Slideluck Potshow
A surprise hit in cities around the world, simply local folks sitting around watching slides and eating potluck food.

A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss
And now, friends, we return to an era of surfs raising premium crops for the lords...

I Hate Cilantro Haikus
Wow... I had no idea this was a haiku genre.

NutritionData.com
Some good visualizations of individual ingredients in the Nutrition Search widget.

Italy's creative microbrew movement gets noticed
"Outside of the U.S., Italy probably has the most exciting brewing scene in the world," says Garrett Oliver. And yes, he's talking about beer, not wine. That's just crazy.

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7.28.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: Summertime Succotash

It's really, truly summer when the sweet corn arrives. Then we see the the zucchini and tomatoes. And that's when it's time for summer succotash — one of the most lovely, fresh and versatile of seasonal salads.

summer succotash

By definition, a succotash consists of beans and corn — sometimes baked.

But the succotashes I've always known have been simple summer salads composed of just-shucked sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, beans (sometimes green beans, sometimes lima beans or kidney beans) and maybe even some jalapeño, slices of zucchini, fresh-chopped basil, fresh parsley or cubes of smoky bacon. Some people use sliced fresh okra.

In theory, this is an inexpensive dish. Everything should be in season, and very little is absolutely required, so unavailable or unattainable ingredients can be skipped.

Clearly, I'm no succotash purist. But it's summertime, and the livin' is supposed to be easy.

So use this recipe for a basis and then go crazy. Add in yellow squash, sliced scallions or red bell peppers. Maybe you'll toss in some cooked salad shrimp. It doesn't matter. Succotash is going to be delicious any way you choose to do it.
Easy Summertime Succotash (Serves 6-8)
4 ears corn
1/4 cup fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped
1 15oz can lima beans, kidney beans or canneloni beans, rinsed well
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 lb sliced bacon, cooked crisp (optional)

1. Cut the kernels away from the corn and hold in a large mixing bowl.
2. Mix in the drained beans, chopped herb(s) and tomato halves.
3. While whisking, drizzle the olive oil into the cider vinegar to incorporate the two into a simple vinaigrette.
4. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with crumbled bacon, if desired. Serve immediately or hold at room temperature for an hour or two until serving time.

Summertime succotash also won't wilt like green salads, so it makes a good barbecue side or a "make it & take it" dish for potlucks and picnics.

Cheers!

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7.03.2008

Mi Chelada Es Su Chelada

Nearly 10 years ago, I visited the Yucatán Peninsula for the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival and discovered a drink they called the michelada. It was a refreshing cocktail of sour, savory and salty flavors with brisk carbonation... just the thing for an afternoon of snorkeling, sunbathing and snacking on fresh fish tacos beside the sea.

I didn't see another michelada until I moved to NYC and rediscovered them at Barrio Chino, where the staff poured micheladas just the way I remembered, not to mention great fish tacos. But Barrio Chino is nearly always busy when I'm hankering for a michelada, so I learned to make them on my own.



Through much experimentation, I found that Clamato, a tomato-clam juice, makes the most balanced michelada. Unfortunately, Clamato is also made with high-fructose corn syrup — an additive I actively try to avoid.

So go with Clamato if you can take the MSG and HFCS, or just use your favorite tomato juice. Standard V8 works fine and R.W. Knudsen also makes a nice vegetable blend without corn syrup, but their juice is pretty tart, so you may have to notch down the lime you'll add to the michelada recipe to get the right flavor balance.

One more thing: this is a salty drink. Maybe don't serve it to friends with sodium-sensitive hypertension, okay?
Miss G's Michelada
A small bowl or dish of kosher salt (for salting the glass rim)
1/2 cup Clamato or your favorite tomato juice
juice of 1 lime
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash soy sauce
1-2 shakes of hot sauce or 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 bottle Negra Modelo, Corona or Sol, chilled

1. Dampen the rim of the glass you intend to use (a pint glass is perfect) with water or lime juice, and dip the dampened rim into the bowl or dish of salt.
2. Pour tomato juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce into the glass and mix well.
3. Add ice, if desired, and pour in the beer. The beer will froth in the glass, so pour slowly. You may not get the entire beer in the glass. This is fine. Sip your cocktail and pour in the rest of the beer when you have space.

Last year, I saw that Budweiser was marketing a savory beer based on the same concept: The Budweiser Chelada. I haven't had one, but I can't help but think that fresh-squeezed limes have a lot to do with the charm of this drink. And if you ask me, canning a highly acidic beverage in aluminum sounds like a recipe for nasty off-flavors.

All I'm saying is this: don't try the Bud Chelada (or, similarly, the Miller Chill) and think you've had the genuine article. A real michelada needs to be freshly prepared, and it has a flavor that's somewhere between a Bloody Mary and a Corona with lime. Wait for a sweltering hot, crushingly humid day and make yourself a michelada based on the recipe above.

Salud!

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6.19.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 06.16.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Happy Bloomsday! Last week, Cupcake was located in Chinatown, NYC, just south of Canal on Mott Street. (Another win for Mr. Hazard.) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

US Tomato Industry in "Complete Collapse"
Gosh, wouldn't it be great if we had accurate paper trails on our produce crops? Of course, I couldn't help notice the x-treme price-jump effect this news produced in the grape tomatoes at my local market... see here for the evidence at Flickr.

Triple whammy
As with many things mythical and natural, it seems that three is a magic number in the kitchen.

Tasting the Grape, Among Other Things
A conference to taste those wines that "you would not, of your own volition, spend an entire weekend drinking"

Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions
Can you imagine the uproar this would cause in the US?

10 paths to painless pizza-making
Smitten Kitchen does up a very liberating guide to the art of making pizza at home.

Peak-Season Produce Map
An excellent use of the internet. Thanks, Epicurious!

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6.16.2008

The Wisdom of Food Proverbs

Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I remember what my dad always used to say: "Where a tomato appears, basil is welcome." And you know what? It works. Bruschettas, sauces, lasagnas, salads, soups... When the tomato is involved, I add the basil and it's nice. This method might work less well in a salsa, but honestly, it wouldn't be bad.

That got me thinking about other food proverbs or traditional sayings.

Perhaps I'm just leaving a treasure of wisdom sitting out on the front stairs by ignoring the supposedly Polish proverb: "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times — in water, in butter and in wine." I generally just encourage my fish fillets to swim in a nice pool of olive oil, but I don't doubt that a few generations of unnamed ancient cooks are on to something.

There's certainly great truth in Benjamin Franklin's "Fish and visitors smell in three days." I've always tried to keep that notion in mind when I shop as well as when I travel.

As I poked around the internet, looking for food proverbs, I came up with "Talk doesn't cook rice," commonly credited to the Chinese, and "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat," credited to anonymous, pithy New Yorkers. Both seem like very sensible, very practical notions.

Garlic Bulb
One free seat on the subway, coming right up.

And what about "There's no such thing as 'a little garlic'"? Much as I love the stuff, I've found that it really does proclaim itself the king of any dish in which it appears.

I think I'll have no trouble abiding the merry Czech proverb: "A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure." On the same tip, we find the Egyptian: "Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love and to celebrate the good days." As an amateur hedonist myself, I couldn't agree more.

Most endearing among the food wisdom I found was this one, credited to an anonymous Chinese author: "When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other."

I like that one a lot. It says a great deal about the value of beauty, and I'm going to try to remember it so I can keep it close at hand in my daily life.

Bread and Butter at Les Enfants Terribles

One last food proverb I found (commonly credited to an Arab source) seems less useful for developing culinary prowess, but ominously valuable as a life lesson, or rather, a warning: "He who eats alone chokes alone."

Have a favorite? I'd love to hear it. Post in the comments and you can share with anyone else who happens along this way on a quest for food wisdom.

Cheers, all!

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6.04.2008

Day 20: Have a Holly-Jolly Chutney

This post marks Day 20 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Ah, the office gift exchange! Secret Santas. Perpetually exchanged fruitcakes. $5 gift certificates that get lost immediately.

Between the cost restraints and varying levels of regular interaction, a gift exchange with coworkers can be tricky business, indeed. The classic white elephant gift exchange is fun, but I feel like I end up with a desk full of silly things that I need to dust periodically.

Last year, one of my coworkers gave me a jar of zippy tomato chutney with a little snowflake sticker stuck on it. It was delicious, and I was so pleased to receive something useful, tasty and homespun.

They went all out with the canning, but you could just as easily make a quick refrigerator chutney if you don't feel like sterilizing jars or don't have the space for a sealing operation.

tomato chutney

This chutney is ultra-easy and very tasty with meats, veggies or rice dishes. It's a simplified version of a recipe by my former chef, Floyd Cardoz of Tabla restaurant. Go ahead and double or triple it if you're going to be giving away jars to friends or coworkers.
Quick & Spicy Tomato Chutney (Makes 3 pints)

1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes*
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1.5 Tbsp finely chopped peeled ginger
1/2 cup white onion, minced
1 small dried red chili, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
1 Tbsp sugar, or to taste

1. If using whole tomatoes, chop the into 1" chunks. Reserve juices.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until it's hot but not smoking.

3. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and nigella seeds to the pan, stirring until the mustard seeds pop (watch for flying seeds!).

4. Quickly add the garlic, ginger, onion and chilis.

5. Immediately reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until the garlic and onion are soft, but not browned.

6. Stir in the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.

7. Remove the chutney from the heat, and add the lemon juice, sugar and salt and pepper to taste (the mixture should have a nice balance).

8. Remove the chili and pour into sterilized jars. If you're giving them as gifts, seal the jars in a water bath, or for home use, simply keep the chutney refrigerated (up to a week) or frozen.

*If you can find them, use the fire-roasted tomatoes from Muir Glen.

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12.20.2007

Food Quote Friday: Col. Robert Johnson

tomatoes

"The time will come when this luscious golden tomato, rich in nutrition, a delight to the eye, a joy to the palate whether fried, baked, broiled or even eaten raw will form the foundation of a great garden industry."

- Col. Robert Johnson

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11.09.2007

Food Quote Friday: Pablo Neruda

Tomatoes in the Barcelona Boqueria

"the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness."

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) "Ode to Tomatoes"

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8.17.2007

Gazpacho redemption

Sadly, one of my favorite local joints recently charged me $6 for the pleasure of a cup and a half of poorly made gazpacho... gazpacho with far too much raw onion and nearly no spice or salt.

Worst, it just tasted flat. It needed a shot of acid. It came with a little sprinkle of chives, but no pita, no cracker, no toast tip. Alas!



Above you see the gazpacho I was hoping for. Nicely spiced, mouth-wateringly zesty, with rich tomato flavor and hints of celery, cucumber and fresh jalapeño.

All it took was a quick trip to the farmers' market and a spin through the blender. Some stuff out of the pantry... salt, pepper, a shot of lemon juice... Adjust seasoning and add a couple slices of awesome garlic cheese bread on the side.

Heavenly. Inexpensive. Satisfying. A'la Scarlett O'Hara, I'm compelled to alert the world, "With god as my witness, ah will never suffer substandard gazpacho again!"

Just Good Old Gazpacho (Serves 3-4)
2 cups ripe, red tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 small or 1 large clove garlic
1 medium cucumber, quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeds removed (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or 1/2 slice stale bread, torn to pieces
1 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar (or substitute lemon juice)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional Garnish
chopped cilantro, 1/2" cubes of cucumber, sliced green onion and/or cubed avocado

1. In a blender or food processor, chop the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumber and jalapeño, if using.
2. Add the breadcrumbs or pieces, tomato juice, olive oil and vinegar. Pulse to incorporate.
3. Stir in the chopped cilantro, oregano and Worcestershire.
4. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to adjust to your desired flavor.
5. Chill for at least three hours (or overnight). Garnish, if desired, and serve cold or at room temperature.

As I mentioned, I served it with the garlic cheese bread I picked up at the farmers' market, but you can go with croutons, baguette or whichever loaf you love.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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8.28.2004

A Moment of Tomato Bliss



Anything you're forced to eat over the sink or off the edge of the deck has got to be good eats.

Case in point: the Summer Tomato Sandwich.

My landlord leaves tomatoes and cucumbers on the ledge of my kitchen windowsill. These strange (but very welcome) offerings make their way into my meals in a whimsical, offhand fashion.

The Summer Tomato Sandwich is maybe the most simple, most beautiful of these celebratory dining moments.
1. Take one perfectly ripe garden-grown tomato.
2. Slice fresh-baked bread (my current favorite is the farmer's market garlic-cheese loaf).
3. Slather bread slices with a thin layer of mayonnaise for use as a flavor and moisture-barrier component.
4. Season tomato slices with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Place tomato slices atop slathered bread slices.
5. Close sandwich and eat immediately over the sink, astride the fire escape, or off the edge of the patio. Experience bliss.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

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8.18.2004