Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

A Defense Against Doldrums

The stale, crusty edge of winter lingers forever, it seems. And while I know Shakespeare called April the "cruelest month," I feel February is a strong contender for the title.

What's to be done with these days in which citrus season is closing and spring shoots and greens are still weeks away?

I'll throw in my vote for that greatest of Swedish traditions... and no, I don't mean IKEA, I mean the Smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord Fish Platter

A group of friends, a selection of hot and cold tasties freely sampled and maybe a few merry nips of akavit... it all seems like just the thing to relieve late-winter doldrums.

So then, what goes on the smorgasbord? To my mind, considering the menu is half the fun.

I think a proper smorgas spread includes a tantalizing array of foods common in Sweden, such as sliced dark rye or pumpernickel bread (for making open-faced sandwiches), spicy mustard, sliced cheeses, cold meats such as ham, sausages, Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce, cold shrimp salads, potato salads dressed with dill, beets (pickled or not), pickled veggies, pickled and smoked fish (salmon and herring are popular), cardamom cake, warm rice pudding and coffee.

And though I mock IKEA's world domination a bit, they probably are the best source of smorgasbord ingredients for most folks. With reasonable prices on lingonberries and a selection of Swedish delights in their food area, I'd encourage you to browse through their offerings if you're interested in setting up a savory smorgas of your own.

Meanwhile, I'll offer my own tasty Swedish Meatball recipe, which makes a delicious meal whether you're feeding a crowd or just serving dinner.
Swedish Meatballs (Makes about 30 meatballs)
2 slices fresh bread (white or whole-wheat)
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, divided
2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground pork
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Tear the bread into bits and place it in a small bowl with the milk. Allow the mixture to soak for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sweat the onion until softened but not browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. When tender, transfer the onions to a large bowl, but reserve any of the oil/butter mixture left in the skillet.
3. Put the ground beef and pork in a large bowl and blend in the sweated onions, egg, salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg.
4. Squeeze any excess milk out of the bread crumbs and blend into the meatball mixture.
5. Form golfball-sized meatballs with your hands, stacking the balls on a clean plate.
6. In the same skillet you used to sweat the onions, add the reserved tablespoons of butter and oil and heat over a medium flame.
7. Add the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd the pan), and saute until well-browned on all sides — about 7 to 8 minutes. Move cooked meatballs to a wire rack or plate covered in paper towels.
8. When the meatballs are done, reserve the fat in the pan, sprinkling the flour into the skillet. Continue heating, stirring the flour and oil with a wooden spoon.
9. Add the stock to the pan, stirring to loosen any bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer and stir until the stock reduces and starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and stir in the sour cream.
10. Return the meatballs to the saucy skillet and coat well with the sauce. Serve hot with lingonberry sauce on the side.

Lingonberry sauce is pretty quick to make on the fly... just warm a half-cup of lingonberry jam or jelly in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water, whisking the mixture until it's a uniform, pourable sauce.

And what if there's no lingonberries to be found? Just substitute a currant, blueberry or blackberry jam. It'll be just as tasty.

Yours in Winter Feasting!
Miss Ginsu

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2.19.2009

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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    2.16.2009

    Wild Rice Porridge 2.0

    Last January, I posted my personal take on the Mahnomin Porridge that the groovy Minneapolis restaurant Hell's Kitchen makes for their funky brunch menu.

    That recipe was pretty rich, and it takes a while to make, so it's not exactly easy to produce on chilly midweek mornings.

    Thus, I've made a new version that's more quick and flexible. The secret, as with many things, is planning ahead.

    If you cook the grains for this porridge in the evening (maybe do it while you're making dinner), it's easy to wake up all zombie-like the next day, scoop it into bowls and microwave for a quick and hearty whole-grain brekkie. No pre-coffee brainpower required.

    Wild Rice Porridge

    Use whatever dried fruit and nuts you like. J particularly loves the combination of currants and walnuts, but I think dried cherries and almonds or pecans and cranberries would be pretty ace, too.

    If you save the syrup for the end of the process, everyone can choose to sweeten (or not sweeten) to their hearts' content.
    Wild Rice Porridge 2.0 (Makes 4 servings)

    1/2 cup wild rice
    1/2 cup whole oat groats or brown rice
    4 cups water
    3/4 cup milk or cream
    1/4 cup dried berries: cranberries, blueberries, currants and/or cherries
    1/4 cup chopped nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pecans
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    Maple syrup, to taste (optional)

    1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cooked wild rice with oat groats (or brown rice) and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated and the rice and groats are tender (about 30 to 35 minutes).
    2. Stir in the milk/cream, dried berries, nuts and cinnamon.
    3. At this point you can transfer the mixture to a container to refrigerate it for reheating later. To finish, scoop portions of roughly a cup into microwave-safe bowls and cook on HIGH for 1 to 2 minutes, or until hot (the timing will depend on your wattage).
    4. Season to taste with the maple syrup, and serve hot with milk or cream on the side.

    There's a bunch of research now that indicates that nuts, berries and whole grains and even cinnamon are good for you, but that's not why you should eat wild rice porridge for breakfast.

    You should eat it because it's chewy, nutty, satisfying sustenance that makes cold, nasty January mornings just a little more agreeable.

    Happy Eating!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.29.2009

    Day 4: Holiday Glühwein

    This post marks Day 4 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    Ever open up a bottle of wine and then wish you hadn't bought it? It's not corked or anything. It's just... not your thing.

    The Germans have a thrifty and practical solution for this in the form of glühwein, which you might also know as Norwegian glögg or simply mulled wine.

    In fact, most wine-drinking cultures have some kind of mulled wine tradition, so I don't wonder whether this recipe started with the need to do something with unsatisfactory vino.

    Gluhwein

    If you don't have an unappealing bottle of wine to use up, you can simply use an inexpensive one. You'll be adding sweetener and so many other flavors, you shouldn't really notice the wine's flaws.

    Though red wine is usually used, it's not out of line to spice white wine in the same way.

    There's as many recipes as families, I'd imagine, but I like the following variation.
    Holiday Glühwein (Serves 4-6)
    1 cup water
    2 Tbsp honey
    1/2 tsp grated lemon or orange peel
    1 cinnamon stick
    4 whole cloves
    4 allspice berries
    1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
    1 750ml bottle red wine
    Lemon or orange juice (optional, to taste)

    1. Bring the water, honey, citrus zest, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and vanilla (if using) to a boil in a saucepan.
    2. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep 30 minutes, before straining out the spices. Pour the bottle of wine into the spiced liquid and heat to a boil.
    3. Reduce heat, adjust flavor with a little lemon or orange juice and a little extra honey (to taste). Serve hot in mugs.

    In Nordic countries the local glögg is drunk during the Christmas season with sweets such as gingerbread that are served with blue cheese.

    Num! I may very well try the same some bone-chilling afternoon this month.

    A holiday toast to you and yours!
    Miss Ginsu

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    12.04.2008

    Day 1: Welcome Cocoa

    This post marks Day 1 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

    One of the things I enjoy most about winter is that feeling of warmth and comfort that comes after being outdoors in the dank chill.

    There's nothing like skating, or sledding or shoveling the walk (or simply bearing up to the driving the winter wind), and then finding yourself indoors — safe and cozy.

    It's the "fresh, dry socks and a cup of hot cocoa" feeling.

    Hot Chocolate

    Maybe you can't always offer up a pair of dry socks to wayward travelers, but it's nice to be able to welcome winter visitors (or maybe just yourself) with a quick cup of homemade cocoa.

    Make some of your own mix now, and you'll be ready for those moments of cocoa comfort.

    The mix makes a nice gift as well. Just put it in a jar and add a ribbon with a cute tag with the basic how-to.
    Hot Cocoa Mix (Makes 8 servings)
    3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/8 tsp salt

    1. In a mixing bowl, blend cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt.
    2. Store mixture in a lidded jar or another airtight container.

    To prepare the hot cocoa:

    1. Whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa mix (for each serving) with 1/4 cup hot water (for each serving) until smooth and blended.
    2. Blend in 3/4 cup whole milk (for each serving) heat the cocoa until it steams.
    3. Serve hot one-cup portions in mugs.

    For an extra-nice cuppa, I like to add in a 1/4 tsp (for each serving) of vanilla extract and maybe a dollop of cream, whipped cream or marshmallows, but all that's just lovely excess...

    This mix is also delightful served with a cinnamon stick, a peppermint stick or a shot of peppermint schnapps, as you like it.

    Holiday Cheer!
    Miss Ginsu

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    12.01.2008

    I (heart) Hot Chocolate


    Zucco dishes it up schnazzy.

    I realize this is one of those far-from-controversial opinions.

    Proclaiming a passion for hot chocolate falls in along the lines of revealing a long-held affection for large-eyed puppies.

    That said... wouldn't you agree that it's still about the best thing winter has to offer?

    Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate
    Courtesy of this week's Manhattan User's Guide:

    Skate: Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
    Hot Chocolate: Le Gamin, 183 9th [21st] 212.243.8864

    Skate: The Pond at Bryant Park
    Hot Chocolate: The Pond Snack Bar

    Skate: Rock Center Rink
    Hot Chocolate: Cafe SFA at Saks.

    Skate: Wollman Rink
    Hot Chocolate: Serendipity

    Skate: Lasker Rink
    Hot Chocolate: Hungarian Pastry Shop, 1030 Amst [110th/111th]

    Skate: Riverbank State Park
    Hot Chocolate: You’ll have to fill your thermos for this one – Jacques Torres perhaps...350 Hudson [King] 212.414.2462

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    12.01.2005

    Ooo. Blood Oranges Are Pretty.

    Blood Orange Scraps
    ... but they stain your chefs' whites somethin' fierce.

    One of the best things about cooking is the task's intrinsic aesthetic qualities.

    Sometimes I'm just so enamored with a particular vegetable, or, in this case, blood orange rinds collecting on the board.

    And by the way... blood oranges are in season right now. Snatch 'em up if you see 'em in your store. Since they're a little less sweet and a little more savory than other oranges, they're excellent in salads with, say, spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

    Mmm...

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    3.25.2005

    Cream-Filled Puff, a Cup of Joe and Thou.

    Cream Puff and Coffee
    A quiet moment with Papa.

    For every trying moment in which the city is cruel and mean, there's another full of bliss and whimsy that makes my heart thump with love.

    Sometimes, on a chilly March morning, all it takes is a perfectly crisp and airy cream puff, a hot cup of coffee and a bright, clean shop populated with cheery Japanese girls in sunny yellow neckerchiefs.

    Thanks, Beard Papa. You saved the day.

    Beard Papa's
    740 Broadway
    New York, NY
    212.353.8888

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    3.10.2005