Spiced Pumpkin Flan and Alternatives to the Thanksgiving Classics

Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with this famous line: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Similarly, of Thanksgiving dinners, I might say, “Average Thanksgiving dinners are all alike; every interesting Thanksgiving dinner is unique in its own way.” Thanksgiving meals I grew up with were always the most basic Midwestern fare (probably because grandma didn’t really enjoy cooking). The menu: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans and pie.

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How to Stuff a Zucchini Blossom
Recipes How to 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 already be a fuzzy memory. 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 (or courgette blossom, as J would say) is what I like to think of as “now or never” foods.

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Summer Ceviche Salad with Fresh Papalo
Recipes Summer Ceviche Salad with Fresh Papalo

The vendor had noticed us ogling her herbs. “It’s papalo! Here, take some with you,” she chirped. “I’ll write the word down for you. It’s from Mexico. Use it like cilantro.” At the next stand over, we scored some gray sole and returned home with arms full of tomatoes, onions, lettuces, cucumbers and this unfamiliar herb. A quick web search revealed that papalo is indeed native to Mexico, and it grows like a weed across the Southwest US as well as Central and South America.

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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 Thai-Style Cucumber-Radish Salad

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.

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Recipes Brooklyn Food Conference and a Beautiful Sesame Bean Salad

The call went out. And the foodies poured in. The people who pickle and the people who vend kitchenware. The people who grow community gardens and the people who grow kombucha. The Slow Food people and the Just Food people. The vegans and the grass-fed meat vendors. They came, they spoke and they distributed their recycled paper brochures. Disappointingly, the workshop I really wanted to attend (Permaculture : an introduction to ecological design systems fro sustainability) was stuffed to the walls with folks pouring out into the hallways of John Jay High School.

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Recipes Summer Delights: 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.

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Recipes The Tunacado Salad: You Can’t Tuna Fish!

When it comes to a surplus, some foods are easier to wrangle than others. Extra apples become applesauce and apple butter. Easy. Extra peaches become preserves. No problem. Extra cabbage becomes sauerkraut or kimchi. Cucumbers, beans, onions and carrots become pickles. But what happens when you come across a great sale on tuna? Well, as it turns out, that, too can be preserved. J and I are huge fans of the oil-packed tuna that typically comes in jars from Spain and Italy, but those are not cheap .

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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 Vibrant Green Coconut-Mint Chutney

I tend to eat lamb year-round, but for many, springtime is prime time for lamb roasts and chops. And I must admit, I’m not sure why mint jelly is the traditional accompaniment. I mean, it’s fine, but I just don’t think it’s quite as tasty or complex in flavor as my Coconut-Mint Chutney. This bright, fresh-tasting sauce is very similar to one I learned while working with Chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla and Bombay Kitchen.

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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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