Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Grocery Store Tourism

This may seem a bit strange, but one of my very favorite overseas travel activities isn't visiting the museums or galleries (though they're very nice, of course)... it's touring local grocery stores and food shops.

I like to see how the average person lives. In Italy, for example, your average shopper has access to powerful traceability and sourcing information.

Behold! Egg coding!

Italian Egg Coding

The eggshells come with printed sets of numbers. The packaging includes the key to translating the numbers.

What do you find in that code? Everything about where that egg came from, including the state, province, municipality and farm where it was produced, the breed of the chicken and of course, the date on which the hen produced the egg.

Pretty cool, no? One glance at the eggshell, and you know just where it came from, what kind of chicken made it and how fresh it is.

Similarly, when I visited both Italy and France, I noticed that the produce is all labeled with the country and/or region of origin... even at the farmers' markets.

Farmers' market labeling

The second reason I enjoy checking out other peoples' groceries: they have things we don't.

While looking in rural France (Les Eyzies) for food that would work well on the grill, we were delighted to find an upgrade on the traditional canned campsite "pork 'n beans" duo. This canned duck confit and lentils heated up just fine on the grill and made couple of très magnifique dinners.

The same shop also had shelf-stable jars of duck rillettes (essentially a fatty duck spread), which tasted amazing when spread across a fresh baguette.

Can of Lentils & Duck Confit

And finally, there's the joy of discovering cool packaging logos and graphic design. You'll find some of my recent favorites, below:

Goat's Milk Yogurt
An adorable goat's milk yogurt label from Trento, Italy

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A devilish rotisserie chicken bag from Toulouse, France

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A charming nut sack from Berlin, Germany

Corleggy Cheese Label
A lovely little cheese label from Belturbet, Ireland

I know I can't be alone in my tendency toward grocery store tourism. Anyone have foreign food discoveries to report? Let me know in the comments or link me over to your adventures.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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10.18.2009

Video Farm Trip III: Planning CSA Shares

As city-based CSA member, I'm on the receiving end of a long process. Vegetables, fruit, flowers and eggs just magically show up every week at my CSA drop-site in Brooklyn, leaving me with very vague notions of the machinations behind the mesclun mix.

Williamsburg CSA

A recent trip out to my CSA source, Garden of Eve Farm, finally unveiled some of the hard work and careful planning that go into each bulb of fennel and head of cabbage I nestle into my weekly totebag of goodies.

Since they're responsible for literally hundreds of families' vegetable deliveries on a weekly basis, Chris and Eve need to simultaneously tend to innumerable everyday details of running a farm (like all those little weeds sprouting up every week) and think through the larger farm-strategy issues (like scheduling their labor and plant-growth cycles).

Every week, they need to harvest enough veggies to supply their farmstand, stock the various farmers' market stands and make sure all those CSA members are happy and well-fed.

In this video, Chris talks a little bit about how he fills the weekly CSA orders and the why the September CSA shares are, surprisingly, some of the most challenging shares of the season.



If you'd like to see the whole tasty farm tour in photo form, click here for the Garden of Eve Farm flickr set.

Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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8.26.2009

Video Farm Trip I: Farming is Hard Work

Having been a CSA member for many years, it's my great shame that I've only just visited the source of my delicious veggies. Thankfully, now I've been there and back, returning with armfuls of fun things to share.

Rows of Purple Cabbage

But first, a little context: Garden of Eve Farm spreads out across 120 acres on Long Island.

Family farmers Chris and Eve actively seed 40 acres of that land at any one time with their organic vegetables and flowers, leaving about 40 acres as wild forestland and working to enrich the organic matter in the soil of the remaining 40 fallow acres.

Eve, Forrest and Chris

They've had a CSA program for about four years, they run a shop at the farm and they sell produce and flowers on the weekends at farmers' market locations, including one at the Greenpoint Farmers' Market.

In this video, you'll see the farm's bees and chickens, and hear Chris talk about work on the farm.



Can't get enough farm life? You're in luck... I'll publish part II of this three-part series tomorrow and the third video on Wednesday.

Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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8.24.2009

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

How to Stuff a Zucchini Blossom

With so many fruits and vegetables available year-round, it's rare in the modern world to enjoy a food that's really, truly a limited-time offer.

You can get an apple in June, when, by all rights, all the apples from the previous autumn should be long gone. But it seems it's always apple season somewhere, and we've come to rely on that constant availability.

But due to a brief season and great delicacy, the zucchini blossom is, I believe, one of just a handful of what I like to think of as "now or never" foods.

Zucchini Blossoms

But the blossoms are a-blooming right now at the farmers' markets (and in gardens, presumably), so friends... your once-a-year opportunity has arrived.

Quick, now! Snap up a half-dozen and a little crottin of goat cheese or maybe a mild, creamy feta — you'll need just over an ounce, but get two to three ounces of cheese, and you'll have a bit extra left over for topping tasty summer salads.

When it comes down to it, it's very simple to stuff a blossom. I didn't know this until I worked in a restaurant, but after having now stuffed more blossoms than I care to count, I can assure you, the process is dead easy. Like breading a fish fillet. You really can do this, and the results are lovely.

Interior of the zucchini blossom

Just take a sharp paring knife (or a pair of kitchen shears) and slice (or snip) into the blossom along one side. Gently open the petals and remove the pollen-covered pistil inside (that's the yellow tube-shaped part).

Fashion a small, football-shaped portion with about a teaspoon of the cheese and place it where the pistil once was. Close the petals firmly around the cheese. Voila! You're half-way there.

I like to remove the green leafy bits from the base of the flower (I believe they're called sepals) before moving on. If you like, you can do this much ahead of time and just keep the stuffed blossoms chilled for a few hours before it's time to make dinner.

Goat cheese stuffed zucchini blossom

When the time for cooking arrives, you have a few options as far as the breading goes. I've always loved to dip the blossoms in a simple egg wash (one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water), then roll them in panko. Simple as that.

This summer, J requested a version made without wheat flour, so we've been coating zucchini blossoms in seasoned spelt flour.

It's such a flexible recipe, I'll be so bold as to use this rule of thumb: if you can use it to bread a fish or chicken breast, you can probably coat a blossom in it, too.

The cooking process is simple pan-frying. Just dip a stuffed blossom in the egg wash, roll to coat in the panko/flour/crumbs, then move the prepared blossom to a skillet heated over a medium-high flame with a few tablespoons of olive, canola or veg oil.

Cook each blossom about a minute before turning. Continue cooking and gently turning the blossoms until the whole surface crisps, about three minutes total.

Move the cooked blossoms (a pair of tongs helps for this) to a paper towel to cool slightly. Serve hot alongside your favorite entrée. Stuffed blossoms go especially well with grilled meats and seafood or as garnish atop pasta dishes.

We had them with sautéed zucchini and the supremely tasty pork chops of Tamarack Hollow Farm.

If you're in NYC, you can pretty much score the whole meal — blossoms, goat cheese, eggs, zucchini and those superb chops — at the Union Square Market on Wednesdays and test your newfound stuffing skills right away.

But hurry... summer is short, and zucchini blossoms really are a limited-time offer.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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8.03.2009

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