Category: Recipes


Kimchi seems to be one of those things you either really like, or really don’t. Frankly it’s an odd food. Essentially vegetables left out to spoil “just enough” to let the magic happen. And by magic I mean fermentation of course. One of my favorite confluences of science and cookery…from the process that brought you such treasures as BEER, bread, sauerkraut, and did I mention beer yet?!

Some of the many ingredients that can be used to make Kimchi.

Anyway, because there is a certain amount of alchemy involved, people don’t even think about making their own Kimchi at home. This is a shame because it is extremely simple to make. A bit time consuming I’ll grant you, but simple. Another intimidation factor is that there are a million different types of Kimchi. However, the great thing about making it at home is that you can customize it to your tastes. Do you like Nappa Cabbage? Throw it in there, Turnips? Sure. Baby Bok Choy? Why not? Asian Pears? Absolutely!

A definition is in order. What is Kimchi after-all? According to Merriam Webster it is “a vegetable pickle seasoned with garlic, red pepper, and ginger that is the national dish of Korea”…and they should know right? Well, sort of. They are mostly correct though, Kimchi IS the national dish of Korea, but as I said before there are an incredible array of different types & styles of Kimchi, many based on which region of Korea you are in, and/or the season of the year.

The type I enjoy making centers around Nappa Cabbage. This is the type most Americans think of when they think of Kimchi. Not that many Americans spend much time thinking about Kimchi, but they should ( I know I do). I usually make a huge batch of it and end up eating it exclusively for several weeks on end. Kimchi is very versatile in that it can be used as a side dish, a main course, or a component of something else (Kimchi Jjigae comes to mind, a spicy stew made with Kimchi, tofu, and usually pork).

And speaking of healthy eating, what could be more healthy than raw, fermented vegetables? Low calories, high nutrient value (including lactobacilli the all important “beneficial bacteria”),  and delicious…it’s the perfect diet food. No wonder Koreans eat about 40 pounds of it each year.

OK enough about Kimchi. Let’s talk about actually making it! Here is the ingredient list for the Kimchi that I make. You can substitute / add / subtract to your hearts content. It’s the process that is important. As for what goes into it….totally up to you. For example, many Korean recipes add raw oysters, I don’t feel the need to be THAT authentic. As for the shopping, just head to your local Asian food market, it’s all there!

Kimchi Recipe

Ingregients:

Nappa Cabbage: I usually use two medium sized heads or just one if they are huge.
Baby Bok Choy: This gives the final product a nice dark green component.
Daikon Radish: Nice and crunchy with a great peppery flavor.
Asian Pear: Adds some nice sweetness, and crunch.
Carrots
Scallions
Garlic, and lots of it!
Ginger, and lots of it!
Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
Seasame oil
Garlic Chili Peper Sauce
Seasame seeds
Korean hot pepper flakes (the package will say “red pepper powder”, or “course ground red pepper”)
Sweet Rice Flour
Anchovies

Prep:

Nappa Cabbage:

1. Remove any bruised outside leaves from the head, then cut it in half lengthwise. Cut out the hard core at the bottom, then cut the two halves in half lengthwise. Next, cut each of the quarters in half again.

2. Now cut across your lengths of cabbage so that you mostly have rough 2” x 2” square bite sized pieces. It won’t be uniform but that’s OK. Alternatively, cut it however you would think it’s most fun to eat…

Baby Bok Choy:

1. Cut off the thick stem at the bottom.

2. Separate the leaves. No cutting necessary. These are already in perfectly sized pieces!

Asian Pear:

1. Keep the skin on, core it, then slice it fairly thick.

Daikon:

1. I like to quarter the radish lengthwise, then slice it fairly thick. This creates pretty large “pie wedge” pieces.

Carrot:

I thinly slice the carrot on the bias so you get long, thin pieces. Shredded would also work well. This will give you an excuse to the mandoline out of the closet…if you can find it.

Garlic & Ginger:

Minced…and don’t be shy with either.

Anchovies:

This is optional of course, but it adds a nice salty underlying note that rounds out all the other flavors. For a large batch you might use (1) 2 oz tin. For smaller amounts just use half a tin.

Kimchi cabbage soaking

Method:

1. Fill your kitchen sink (or a very large plastic tub) with water. Liberally salt the water, then throw in all the cut cabbage. Mix it around to shake any dirt loose, then let it soak for 30 minutes or so.

2. Remove the cabbage from the sink and put it in a clean kitchen trash bag, or a plastic grocery bag if it’s large enough.

3. Put a lot of salt in the bag and mix it up! What’s a lot? Depends on how much cabbage you have. Let’s say a cup of salt, less for smaller amounts. Basically enough to lightly coat all of the leaves.

4. Close the bag, pierce it all over with a knife, then put the whole bag back into the sink and put something heavy on top of it. As the salt penetrates, the cabbage will begin weeping liquid. This is what we want. Keep the cabbage weighted for 2 or 3 hours, mixing it up every once in a while.

5. When the time is up (or you are getting bored), rinse the cabbage in cold water, then dry it as best you can (salad spinner works well!).

6. Next, we get the paste ready! In a small sauce pan, boil 1 or 2 cup of water. To the boiling water wisk in about ½ cup of sweet rice flour and a few teaspoons of sugar. Cook it for a few minutes stirring constantly. This will become a loose paste. If it’s too thick, just add more water. You’re looking for the consistency of oatmeal. Let this cool a bit then add in as much of the Korean pepper flakes as you dare to. More than you would think possible in fact. Perhaps 2 cups of pepper flakes to 1 cup of paste.

7. In as large a work bowl as you have, bring all of the vegetables (and fruit) together and mix around a bit. I usually need to use several bowls for this.

8. To the vegetables (and fruit) add the paste we made from step 6. Also add the garlic, ginger, anchovies, sesame seeds (to taste. I add a lot). Mix thoroughly, and remember you are dealing with hot peppers so latex gloves are a good idea.

9. Once those items are mixed well add the sesame oil, ginger-garlic chili sauce, and rice wine vinegar to taste. One suggestion…you really only need a few tablespoons of vinegar (up to ½ cup), and a little sesame oil goes a long way. As for the chili sauce, the more the better; Keep in mind it’s pretty spicy though. Mix everything together again.

10. Finally, add some salt & black pepper. Now taste it! Adjust the seasonings to your liking. In my case this usually means more garlic, more ginger, and more hot chili sauce.

11. Once you have it seasoned to your liking, pack it as tightly as you can into one or two large glass jars. Not surprisingly, used ½ gallon store bought Kimchi jars work really well for this! Push down as hard as you can to pack it in as tightly as it will go.

12. Now the fun part. Leave it on your counter for days and days until it begins fermenting! Do not put the lid on the containers (otherwise the jar may explode), simply cover the jars with plastic wrap and let it sit. Once they start to ferment I usually leave them out for 1-2 more days to “sour them up”, then into the fridge they go. Total time on the counter around 5 days, but this will vary.

Homemade Kimchi Ready to eat!

It’s finally ready to eat. You’ve worked hard for this…eat & enjoy! It will keep in the fridge for several weeks. One last tip, it is simply wrong to eat Kimchi with anything other than chopsticks.

So that’s it! It’s basically one evening of work, then several days of waiting…but it is well worth the effort!

ENJOY!

With the weather cooling and other subtle (and not so subtle) signs that fall is here Amy & I decided to try our hand at pickling recently! We are both originally from Central New York and back home we have a group of friends (some old school Italians, some just damn good cooks!) that get together every fall and on one day pickle a massive amount of peppers.  Everything about these peppers are incredible, from the peppers themselves, to the pickle juice which is almost equally valued for it’s ability to turn hard boiled eggs into the most phenomical pickled eggs you can imagine! It is also delicious on pasta with some shredded cheese & cracked black pepper (as Amy will tell you!).

The peppers mentioned above were the muse for our rendition. So we called one of our friends to get the low down on how they make them. We then did our best to mimic their approach. In the end we failed to be honest, but ours are still pretty tasty. Our next move is to sit down with these pickling pros and figure out where we can improve the process, and where we diverted from their tried and true ways!

Originally, the guys used a mix of Hungarian Hots & Cherry Peppers, but they have since replaced the Hungarian Hots with Hot Banana Peppers (easier to get apparently). We may have hit the farmers markets at a bad time for peppers but we didn’t see a large selection of any type of hot peppers and zero Hungarian Hots or Hot Banana Peppers! We did our best to search out moderately hot peppers, but ended up with an assortment of fairly mild peppers with a few jalapeno’s thrown in for good measure. Mind you, in order to come to this combination we made stops at the Hope St. Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods, Shaw’s, and the Asian-American grocery store in Cranston.

With the peppers procured, we donned our gloves and started chopping. When finished, we had enough to fill 20 quart sized Ball jars. To the chopped peppers we added a mix of finely chopped flat leaf Parsley, Basil Leaves and olive oil. We mixed this well (using a plastic trash bag made it an easier chore) and let it sit for a while as we prepared the brine & got the jars ready.

The brine was simply a mix of apple cider vinegar & water, basically 50/50, but with slightly more vineager than water so maybe 55/45 along with some salt & pepper. That was placed in a  pot and set to boil. As that was heating we placed all the Ball jars on the counter and in each placed the following: a sprig or two of Dill, 2 cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, 1/2 t of alum, and perhaps a 1/2 teaspoon of Trinidadian pepper sauce (I was afraid our peppers weren’t going to be spicy enough!).

We then jammed as many peppers into each jar as we could. Once the jars were full we dipped a pitcher into the near boiling brine and begun filling the jars. As each jar was filled with the hot brine we placed a lid on the jar and moved to the next one until they were all filled. As I recall from making the peppers with “the guys” the jars would seal themselves after a few minutes. Of course, none of ours sealed! Luckily I have a Food Saver with a Ball jar attachment, so I used that to force seal all the jars. It was late at night on a Saturday when this process was finally finished (~2:00am-ish), so we placed the jars back in the boxes and set them aside for 2 weeks then finally headed to bed with a terribly messy kitchen!

Two weeks later we opened one of the jars and snacked on a few of our homemade pickled peppers! I should start by saying that they are pretty good…just not nearly as good as the ones from our friends in Central NY! Their brine is delicious. Just sipping it from the jar is delicious! It’s a harmonious taste of vinegar, peppers, spices and oil that tastes way better than the sum of it’s parts. Our brine on the other hand tastes like what it is, vinegar & water! We did like how nice and crunchy our peppers were though, and they actually taste pretty good so we are actually happy with them, but now we need to sit down and figure out how to improve.

Now our mission is to eat 20 jars of peppers as quickly as we can so we can try again!

A few lessions learned:
1. I think they didn’t seal because we didn’t pre-heat the jars.
2. I believe the brine needs to be more seasoned…more salt & pepper, perhaps a few other spices
3. Need more olive oil in the jars. Perhaps pouring some oil in each jar prior to the hot brine?!

Any of you pickling pro’s out there have any suggestions?!

Inspired by all the local tweeting about Blackbird Farms from local foodies & restaurants, and the fact that the farm is down the street from where I work, I stopped by their new farm stand last week. What I saw got me very excited!

It’s a very small farm stand sitting in one of the farm’s pasture at the corner of Limerock Road & Douglas Turnpike. The tiny hut contains one cooler, one freezer, some space for a few vegetable boxes, and a small cash register. That’s it! The real magic is inside that freezer. HUGE steaks of grass fed beef (several cuts), large (and small) roasts, and some very nice looking local pork. In the cooler there were some convenience items then cartons of their fresh eggs!

Blackbird Farms Pork Chops

Unfortunately I only had $13. on me, otherwise I would have gone to town! Perhaps it worked out for the best actually. Instead of several large Ribeyes I ended up with (3) packages of pork chops. Each package was in the $4 range which I thought was very reasonable. I mistakenly believed each package to contain one large chop, but there were actually two chops per package, but they were still a good size.
While still at the farm stand my mind was already racing to figure out how I was going to cook these chops, and what to serve them with. As usual that’s half the fun! I’ve always loved the combination of pork with apples, and with the weather starting to lean more towards fall I was also thinking about cabbage and more hearty fare (it’s stoemp weather as they say! They do say that right?!). The end result was pan fried pork chops with red cabbage and apples.

I chose to pan fry the chops to keep it as simple as possible. Since this was my first encounter with Blackbird Farms pork I wanted to make sure I could taste the meat and nothing else! So keep it simple I did. I thawed them out, removed them from the packages, and patted them dry. Afterwards I liberally salted & peppered them on both sides and that was that. Next, I heated the pan, added some olive oil and browned the chops on both sides so they were still slightly pink in the center.
For the side dish my mis-en-place was as follows:
  • sliced red cabbage
  • thinly sliced onion
  • sliced granny smith apples (skin on)
  • brandy
  • minced garlic
  • honey
  • bavarian beer vinager (but any type would do!)
In the pan I used to cook the pork chops (some nice fond at the bottom, and very flavorful oil!) I added the onion and cooked them until they were nicely browned/caramelized. I then added the garlic and continued to saute for a few more minutes then added the brandy to finish deglazing the pan. Next in was the cabbage and apples which I sauted for another 10 minutes or so until both were soft. At this point I added a little honey, and the beer vinager which gave it a nice sweet & sour component. This continued to cook for another 5 minutes or so. One final taste at the end to make sure it was seasoned properly with salt & pepper and it was ready to plate!
I was really happy with the end result. The earthyness of the cabbage paired well with the sweetness from the cooked apples and the sweet & sour honey/vinager thing kind of rounded it all out…all with a hint of brandy in every bite. The star of the show however was the incredible Blackbird Farms pork! Those pork chops were just incredible! I’m glad there were two in each package after all. Amy finished her two, and that left the other four for me…
Greek Yogurt

Greek Style Yogurt

So a couple of months ago I got very excited about making my own yogurt at home. Not just any old yogurt of course, I wanted greek yogurt! Amy & I discovered Fage Yogurt a few years ago and have gone through stages where we were actually buying it by the case from a local natural foods store. The stuff is awesome. However, we’ve also noticed that along with it appearing in more places  (i.e. the regular grocery store) the price was also climbing up…and it was expensive to begin with. In the Providence area Fage is now at least $1.99 per 6oz cup. Which doesn’t seem like a lot until you factor in that we were eating 10 or more per week.

So I google “homemade yogurt” and there are tons of sites that will show you how to do it at home with very little equipment. I tried several different methods…with only occasional success! Yogurt made in a cooler, yogurt made with a hot pad, etc. I just wasn’t having much luck.

I finally ended up buying a yogurt maker from Amazon called the “Euro Cuisine YM100”. It still took quite a bit of tinkering, but I finally have it down! I purchased the YM100 which comes with 7 jars and lids, I also bought an extra box of jars, and the “Euro Cuisine Yogurt Starter” packets.  There is a booklet that comes with the yogurt maker, but you really have to just play with it until you find the right recipe to suit your tastes.

Mike’s Greek Yogurt:

5.5 jars of 2% milk (I use good, fresh, organic milk)

1.5 jars of half & half

1 packet of starter (or 1 jar/serving of yogurt with active cultures)

4 T of non-fat powdered milk

Directions:

1. Combine the milk and half & half in a sauce pan and heat until it’s warm. About 105 degrees I guess. Warm to the touch, but not hot. If it’s too hot you will kill the yogurt culture.

2. Wisk in the powdered milk & starter

3. pour into the jars, place in the machine, and set it for 9 hours (perfect sourness for me…go 10 if you like it more sour, 8 or 8.5 for less sour).

Greek Yogurt Ready To Eat

Greek Yogurt Ready To Eat

Secrets I’ve learned:

Make sure not to jostle the yogurt maker while it’s working. Otherwise the yogurt won’t be smooth.

Don’t go overboard with the powdered milk. 3 -4 T is really all you need.

When the yogurt is finished, put it in the fridge for at least 3 – 4 hours to set. THEN, loosen the lids and store the jars on their sides and place them on paper towels. This strains the yogurt and makes it more in the style of Fage.  Whey will separate out over the course of 24 hrs or so, just pour it out and keep the jar on it’s side until the  yogurt is as thick as you’d like it! When properly thick, tighten the lid and store it upright.

It took quite a bit of practice but I’m at the point now where I can consistently make good, thick yogurt. It’s nice and rich, has the perfect tangyness, and will get as thick as you need it to. It’s still not as cheap as the low budget yogurts, but it’s much more wholesome, and it’s fun to make! Even with the starter and organic milk I think it ends up costing about $1. per jar or so.

One more tip: If you dump the jar of finished yogurt into a paper towel (or cheese cloth if you have it) and put that in a strainer overnight in the refrigerator you will end up with a product very much like cream cheese…only much healthier!

Give it shot!