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A Salad to Greet the Springtime

How long has it been since I posted a recipe? Too long, clearly.

Travel, work and a busy schedule of triathlon training have kept me from blogging, but today I come to you with a salad that celebrates one of the underrated wonders of the spring season: the radish.

I found some lovely red radishes at the farmer's market last weekend — tender and almost sweet with a gentle peppery bite. Though perfectly nice just rolled in salt and popped in the mouth, I thought they'd make a pretty addition to the dinner plate.

Et voila!... this side salad for our pork saté. We served it with a delicious spicy peanut sauce, but I thought that would mess up the plate, so I left it off for the photo.

Sate Skewers with Cucumber-Radish Salad

Thai-Style Cucumber-Radish Salad (Serves 3)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
8-10 radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 green onion (white and green parts) thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves
10 mint or cilantro leaves (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, fish sauce (if using) and honey. Drizzle in the oil while whisking.
2. Add radish slices, cucumber slices, green onion and pepper flakes. Toss to coat with the dressing.
3. Chop or tear basil and mint/cilantro into pieces and sprinkle over the salad. Serve immediately.

Though we served it with pork skewers, I think this salad would be just right with all kinds of grilled/broiled meats: steaks, chicken... even fish.

Quite a nice addition to a grilling/picnic line-up. And with summer's precious grilling weekends now trickling away, I think we'll definitely make this one again in the near future.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.03.2009

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

How I Fell in Love with Brussels Sprouts

I grew up with Brussels Sprouts prejudice. My dad didn't like 'em. He'd only ever known the sprightly sprout under poor conditions — namely, my grandmother's vicious habit of boiling veggies into submission.

They were bitter and mushy at the same time. Wretched pale lumps. I didn't blame him for loathing them, and with his opinionated introduction, I never even considered experimenting with sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts on the Stalk

Later on, (much later, to my great dismay these days) I discovered the Brussels Sprout the way it was meant to be: roasted.

Oh, sweet revelation, thy name is roasted vegetables, and my relationship with these cutie little cabbages hasn't been the same since.

Brussels Sprouts and Pecans

If, like my dad, you find that you and Brussels Sprouts somehow got off on the wrong foot, I urge you to give peace a chance.

This technique is simplicity defined, and may your life be well changed when you try it. If you hate pecans, just skip 'em. I like them quite a bit, but they're not necessary, just tasty.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans (Serves 4)
2 pints fresh Brussels Sprouts
3/4 cup whole or halved pecans
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
4 to 5 grinds of black pepper, or to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350°F, cut the Brussels Sprouts into 1/4" slices and pile them into a mixing bowl as you work.
2. Add the pecans, olive oil, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Toss to mix well.
3. Spread the sprouts and nut mixture across a sheet tray and place in the oven to roast.
4. After 15 minutes, stir the sprouts on the tray to help them cook more evenly, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. At this point they should be beginning to show some browning at the edges. (If not, continue roasting for a few more minutes.) Remove from the oven and serve hot.

These days I've grown to love the flavor of Brussels Sprouts au naturel and I often just steam them, but roasting brings out such sweetness and richness, I feel a dish like this is bound to win over the hearts (and tastebuds) of haters.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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2.02.2009

Recession Proof: Rumsford's Soup

If you read much food writing, you may have encountered writer MFK Fisher's notes on thrifty cuisine.

In her 1942 recession-proof tome, How to Cook a Wolf she wrote of an inexpensive, nutritious meat-grain subsistence loaf (writer Jeffrey Steingarten later taste-tested that very recipe in The Man Who Ate Everything).

But far earlier than that, in the late 1700s, a remarkably multi-talented scientist/inventor named Benjamin Thompson (later known as Count von Rumford) was also interested in nutritious subsistence food, which led him to the creation of Rumford Soup.

Soup Bowl

The original Rumford Soup was composed of nothing more than pearl barley, yellow peas, potatoes, salt, old, sour beer and maybe a bit of vinegar. Cheap eats, indeed.

In today's prices, Rumford's recipe makes a meal for less than $1 per person, the most expensive ingredient being the beer.

This soup (as well as his efficient stove innovations) caught on in Europe and America and led to the establishment of the soup kitchens that nourished generations of the poor.

The traditional version of the recipe goes something like this:
Classic Rumford Soup (Serves 6)

1 cup pearl barley
1 cup dried yellow split peas
4 cups diced potatoes
1 tsp salt, or to taste
3 cups water
3 cups (2 12oz bottles) wheat beer (hefeweizen)
Malt or cider vinegar (to taste)

1. Put the barley, split peas, potato cubes, salt and water in a large stockpot. Slowly simmer the mixture for 1 to 2 hours, adding additional water, as necessary.
2. When the soup begins to thicken, add the beer and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Season to taste with a little vinegar and more salt, if needed. Serve with bread.

I think this recipe could be improved immensely by replacing the beer with some flavorful stock and adding some ground black pepper, a liberal sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley... but all that would obviously add a few cents onto the per-person price.

I've come up with a revisited version of Rumsford's famous soup, which is a little more dolled up and comes out to about $2 per serving if you make your own stock.
The Rumsford Redux (Serves 6)
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups split yellow peas
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup pearl barley
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 to 2 carrots, peeled and sliced (1/2")
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Soup Garnish (optional)
1 small red onion, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon

1. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, combine the 4 cups broth with the peas and the potatoes.
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Covered and cook until the peas and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the potatoes and peas.
4. Add the barley and carrot and continue simmering until the barley is tender, about 40 minutes.
5. Prepare the garnish by combining the chopped onion, parsley and lemon in a small bowl.
6. Remove the soup from the heat, and if it seems a bit thin, add a little more water. Stir in the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with small spoonful of the garnish (if using) atop each portion.

Obviously, Rumsford's soup was vegan-friendly, and my modernized version can certainly be made vegetarian or vegan as well... just make sure the stock is veggie and skip the cheese.

AND as promised, here's the solution to yesterday's soup crossword.

Yours in tasty thrift,
Miss Ginsu

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1.14.2009

Day 20: The Scarborough Loaf

This post marks Day 20 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Like me, you may know a few vegetarians. Like me, you may have once been one of those vegetarians.

In those days, I was always a little befuddled at the holidays. I mean, feast foods are pretty proscribed for omnivores (1. roast something 2. add starchy sides).

Those who shun meat are left without a lot of festive "center of the plate" foods. Spinach lasagna just seemed so everyday, and I was never wild about the tofurkey.

Scarborough Loaf

While making this vegetarian loaf I was humming a little Simon & Garfunkle, so you can probably guess the inspiration for the seasonings...

Though suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians, this loaf does contain a little egg and milk, which help it stick together better. If you're making a vegan loaf, skip the egg and milk and substitute 1/2 cup vegetable stock.

Chestnuts are a bit easier to come by at the holidays, and I think they make the loaf particularly seasonal.
The Scarborough Loaf (Makes 1 9" by 3" loaf)
1/2 cup brown or red lentils
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided in two portions
1/2 lb (8oz) mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped (1/2" pieces)
10-12 whole chestnuts, roasted & chopped (or substitute 1 cup chopped walnuts/pecans)
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh sage
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce

1. Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add a pinch of salt to the pan, set over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until very soft. Drain off any excess water and reserve the lentils.
2. Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a large skillet and sauté the chopped mushrooms for 10 to 12 minutes. When softened, move the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl.
3. To the same skillet, add the other tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the onion pieces. When the onions are soft and translucent, remove them from the heat and add to the mushrooms in the mixing bowl.
4. Mix the drained lentils, chopped chestnuts, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and ground pepper into the mushroom-onion mixture.
5. Blend in the breadcrumbs, then add the egg, milk, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.
6. Lightly oil a loaf pan, press the mixture firmly into the pan and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

While quite nice on its own, I think it'd be even more fancy (and tasty) drizzled with a mushroom cream sauce or a vegetarian gravy.

Holiday Cheer,
Miss Ginsu

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12.20.2008