An Attempt at Kim Chi

2010/06/04

When I think of my first canning project of the summer, my thoughts usually turn to ruby red strawberries or tart rhubarb stalks, but the common denominator is sugar, and lots of it. However, this year, I broke out the mason jars for the first time over kim chi, slightly pickled but mostly fermented Korean vegetables. *Note: I did not process the kim chi in a boiling water bath, so it is to be used up within a month or so. *Related Note: Does anyone want any kim chi?
While the most common vegetable base for kim chi is Napa or Korean cabbage, there are actually many different types of kim chi based on all sorts of vegetables. Anyone who says otherwise does not know what he or she is talking about. Since I was blessed with an abundance of bok choy this week from my CSA membership (more details soon), I decided to make a kim chi based on bok choy, with Korean radish, Korean leeks, and green onions. *Note on ingedients: I went to the local GrandMart (a very extensive ethnic supermarket with an awesome produce department) to procure the Korean radish and chili powder, and I happened to see Korean leeks, which I had not known even existed, on sale for $0.99 a bunch.
I combined two different recipes to make my kim chi, because there were aspects of both that I liked and disliked. I still managed to miss a step and I may have ruined the kim chi, despite my best efforts to save it. I guess I will find out in a few days.

Recipe:

  • 1 large head bok choy
  • 1 Korean radish (could substitute daikon)
  • 2-3 Korean leeks
  • 5-6 green onions (mine had red bulbs)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • A knob of ginger, 3 inches long and peeled
  • 1 1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup kosher salt

1. Chop the bok choy and radish into bite size pieces. Cover with salt and let sit overnight in a glass bowl.

2. Drain the brine off the vegetables (the salt will have brought out the juices from the vegetables a la osmosis). Rinse the vegetables!

3. Slice the leeks and onions, press or finely mince the garlic, and grate the ginger, combine in a separate glass or ceramic bowl. Add the pepper powder and a little bit of the brine and stir to make a paste.

4. Mix the paste with the vegetables. I used a spoon; if you use your hands you might want to wear gloves.

5. Spoon the mixture into sterilized jars. Too off with brine, fresh water, or a mixture of the two, depending on how salty the vegetables were.

6. Let it sit for a few days at room temperature until it starts to ferment (bubbles will form), then move it to the fridge. Use within one month.

*Never eat anything if you are unsure if it is safe. “When in doubt, throw it out!”

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Cheesy “Tex-Mex” Potato Gratin et al.

2010/03/10

As the weather is starting to get warmer, pretty soon all these hearty winter dishes I have been enjoying all season will start to seem too heavy. However, for the time being I will keep making them as long as I can. Tonight’s dinner was a perfect example of classic comfort food, but with a little twist.

I will let you in on the chain of thought that went into planning tonight’s menu. Flank steak (for Ian) goes well with southwestern flavors, such as black beans and tortillas. And while beans and rice are a classic combination, most people don’t think about how well beans and potatoes go together. And what combination is more classic than steak and potatoes? There you have it. I decided on a simple black bean dish, “Tex-Mex” potato gratin, and a spiced flank steak for Ian.

First: Cheesy “Tex-Mex” Potato Gratin

This easily took the most time, but was by far the most rewarding.

  • 10 really small potatoes, peeled
  • 4 oz feta cheese (queso fresco would be even better, but the grocery store didn’t have any)
  • 4 oz low moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (monterrey jack would work, too)
  • 1/2 of a 7 oz can of green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt
  1. Slice the potatoes very thinly (I used a mandolin), and divide into thirds. Mix the feta with the chiles in a small bowl.
  2. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of an 8×8 glass baking dish. Salt the potatoes. Top with half of the onions, then half of the feta/chile mixture, then a 1/3 of the mozzarella. Make another layer of potatoes, and then layer the rest of the onions and feta/chile mixture. Layer on another 1/3 of mozzarella. Top that with a final layer of potatoes and then the rest of the mozzarella.
  3. Cut the butter into really small pieces and dot it around the top of the dish. Mix the milk and broth together and pour evenly over the entire dish. Then top with an even layer of parmesan cheese (this will make a delectable crust).
  4. Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes covered with aluminium foil (grease the foil with a little oil so the cheese doesn’t stick). Then remove the foil and broil until the cheese becomes brown and bubbly.

Second: Simple Black Beans

For the black beans, I sauteed onions and garlic in canola oil until the onions were translucent, then I added a can of black beans, the other half of the can of green chiles, some frozen cilantro and frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s (I love this stuff), and some ground cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until warm.

Third: Flank Steak

I forgot to marinate the steak, but I decided to cook it anyway. I rubbed it with Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, topped it with onions, and broiled it for about 6 minutes on each side and then let it rest for a few more. It was not as flavorful as it could have been, Ian said, but it was cooked perfectly; rare and juicy.


Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash

2010/03/02

Today I spent most of the day snacking on dried apricots so juicy and delicious that they tasted like little bites of summer itself. They were part of a tray brought back from Armenia that was overflowing with artfully arranged pieces of apricot, apple, pear, peach, date, and very tasty churchkhela, a Caucasian confection made repeatedly dipping strings of walnuts in thickened, sweetened grape juice. However, by the time I left work, the weather had turned cold and rainy, and I decided something heartier needed to be on the menu, so I decided to stuff some squash.

I had these adorable individual-sized winter squashes from the market. I cut off the tops and a little of the bottoms, cleaned them out (reserving the seeds*), rubbed the insides with olive oil, and roasted them at 350 degrees F until tender. While they were cooking I made the filling.

*The seeds from other winter squashes can be roasted, just like pumpkin seeds (butternut seeds are particularly good). I like to toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili powder and roast them at 350 degrees F until they start to pop.

For the filling:

  1. Saute half a large sweet onion in 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. When the onion is transparent, add 1/2 cup quinoa and stir to toast.
  3. After a minute or two, add 1 and 1/2 cup vegetable broth or stock. Stir occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes until the quinoa is mostly cooked.
  4. Add a minced garlic clove and 1/8 to 1/4 cup pine nuts. After a few minutes add 1/4 cup frozen spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until warm.

When filling is done, spoon it into the squash shells, alternating with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Top with goat cheese an a sprinkle of parmesan. Put the squash back into the oven until the the cheese begins to melt and brown.

I served the squash with the leftover filling on the side. Ian also got a pan-fried (in olive oil) chicken breast coated simply with salt and pepper. Quinoa is very high in protein, so I didn’t feel the need to eat anything else.

The dinner was very good. I love the nutty quinoa, but it was not Ian’s favorite. He said he would rather have couscous; I think it was a texture thing. All in all it was quite filling and not unhealthy. Squash season is wrapping up, but I can see stuffing summer vegetables with a similar mixture.