Eureka! The German-Russian Plum Kuchen
Food history Recipes Eureka! The German-Russian Plum Kuchen

Following the paths of history leads to a lot of strange endpoints. A group of people ends up halfway across the world, replanted in a strange location, and you wonder, why is there a population of Koreans in Kazakhstan? To this and many other Central Asian mysteries, my friend from Kazakhstan shrugs and simply says, “Stalin.” Unsurprisingly, when I went to find out why the Dakotas of North America are full of a population that identifies as “Germans from Russia,” the answer is partly Stalin.

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Plantain Bread & The Wonder of Quick Loaves
Recipes Plantain Bread & The Wonder of Quick Loaves

For some reason, I especially love recipes that turn old or ugly fruit and vegetables from trash to treasure. It’s almost like getting something for free. Rubbery zucchini? Zucchini Bread! Black, squishy bananas? Banana Bread! Dented Eggplant? Make Baba Ganoush! Bruised apples or strawberries? Perfect for a quick fruit sauce. When we had two soft, black plantains that were surplus to requirements for our Cuban dinner, I assumed they’d be a good addition to a quick bread, and I was more than thrilled with the result.

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Travel Recipes The Delights of Duluth & Quadberry Crumble Pie

The Big View Ah, Duluth… So much easier to say than, say Keegewaquampe (though in truth, the Chippewa kind of had first dibs on naming rights). Mum and I met up in Minneapolis and pushed north to take in the promised delights of the Lake Superior region. And delight there was. We were only there overnight, so I won’t be revealing any state secrets here, but I will say that if only famed Kentucky Representative J.

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Vive la Clafoutis!
Recipes Vive la Clafoutis!

Ah, the 14th of July! The season of fresh, local cherries. The celebration of Bastille Day. The time to bake a fruity dessert for this week’s Dessert Corps project. Oh, hey… look at that. It’s like a cosmic alignment of forces telling me it’s time to make a cherry clafoutis, the traditional custard pudding of Limousin in the heart of la belle France . As it happens, the fantastic Dessert Corps volunteer crew provided me with a half-dozen eggs and more than a pound of gorgeous, blushing Rainier Cherries — sweet, fragrant and fresh from the Greenpoint farmers' market.

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Recipes Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Of all the fruits, rhubarb retains the most magical nostalgic quality for me. Back when I was very small, it grew gargantuan each spring around the farmhouse. My mom always made terrific rhubarb desserts. Sweet-tart. Spicy. Distinctly rhubarb-y. What’s funny is that rhubarb isn’t actually a fruit. It’s a stem, making it technically a vegetable… but who eats rhubarb as a vegetable? No, rhubarb is the vegetable that found its true calling in the fruit world.

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Recipes Spinach-Strawberry Salad Forever

At long last, sun emerged from behind a wall of clouds. Heartsick with cabin fever, we leaped at the chance to get out and about. Zipcar provided the wheels, Google provided the directions and PickYourOwn.Org offered up the berry farms. Truth be told, we spent most of our time hiking on the lovely Delaware Water Gap trails, but on the way back, we popped into Sussex County Strawberry Farm to snatch up a sweet, fragrant pre-picked pint.

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Recipes Preserved Grapes & Pecans: A Way with Les Conserves

On a trip to Paris a while back, I stopped in a bookshop on a quest for cookbooks. There were many fine volumes, but one in particular stood out as a must-have. Les Conserves is a glossy, photo-packed soft-cover (Produced by a French division of Reader’s Digest! Why don’t they make such lovely books for English readers?) is ideal for a French neophyte like me. Just look at this recipe for grape preserves.

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Recipes Resolution #3: Get Cultured

There’s nothing like the zeal of the convert, and ever since I started getting regular doses of probiotics in my diet, I can’t shut up about ‘em. After years of having a constantly grumpy tummy, the belly is soothed and I feel my overall health is better. Thank you, gut flora. Fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir are an obvious way to get the probiotic party started, but not everyone eats dairy, so those folks can look to fermented plant products like pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso and kombucha for their healthy bacteria.

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Day 2: Cranberry Cream Tart
Recipes Day 2: Cranberry Cream Tart

*This post marks Day 2 of Miss Ginsu’s 2008 Advent Calendar . Everyone needs a nice little “company’s coming” recipe that they can make up ahead of time, and this one is an inexpensive and impressive trick that works with leftovers, so it’s super -thrifty. I whipped up this idea for work to help people use up excess Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, but I think you could really use whatever fruit jelly strikes your fancy.

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Smoked Chops & Apple-Kissed Kraut

I had grand plans for a gorgeous autumnal Choucroute Garni, but life interfered (I’m certain you’re well aware of know how life tends to do that) and I realized that a long-cooking dish in the Dutch oven simply wouldn’t do. Food needed to appear on the table STAT. Luckily, a deconstructed Choucroute Garni happens to make for one of the quickest meals out there. And a darn tasty one at that.

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About Me

Miss Ginsu is a nom-nom-nom de plume of Leitha Matz, who worked at Tabla and FreshDirect in NYC, wrote about the food scene from 2004 to 2009 in Brooklyn and presently lives in Berlin. Occasionally seen on TV cooking segments, Leitha has also written for FreshDirect, contributed to Cee Cee Berlin, The Food52 Cookbook and has been interviewed/quoted in The Food Keeper as well as The Washington Times and Salon.

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