Friday, November 4, 2011


I was very pleased to receive in our Taproot box this week… a daikon radish, and a beautiful head of Napa cabbage. When certain events converge in the universe it can only be time for… Kimchi!

Kimchi is the pickled cabbage-and-vegetable side dish that you will always be served as a side dish at any Korean restaurant that you visit. The recipes vary widely, and I have tried several recipes, but this one is what I find most closely resembles in looks and taste the Kimchi that Halifax Koreans make.

Before I get to the recipe I will note that you can be rather free with the recipe, depending on your taste. This may be part of the reason for the variety. I like the idea that the pickle can vary so much, but Kimchi purists may disagree. Western kitchens may not have all of the ingredients and in the past I have made substitutions that have yielded reasonable results (ie. Spanish paprika, instead of Korean chilis; a flour roux and/or babies' rice cereal, instead of sweet rice flour; I have skipped the fish sauce altogether). It will benefit you, however, to make the recipe at least once with the real ingredients. If you live in or near Halifax, then I recommend that you stop by the Heiwa Korean and Japanese Grocery on Chebucto Road at the corner of Philip Street (by the old West End Mall). These folks are so personable, and love to spread their own love of Korean (and Japanese) cooking and culture. They're full of hints and recommendations and will even provide an impromptu cooking lesson, if parties agree that it may be required. Another good place is Tien Phat at Bedford Highway and Flamingo Drive.

Okay. There are five main parts:
- the cabbage
- the other veggies
- the chili paste
- the final assembly
- fermentation

Step one: Salt the cabbage.
1 Large Napa Cabbage
10 Cups Water
½ Cup Coarse Sea Salt (For Salt Water)
⅔ Cup Coarse Sea Salt (For Sprinkling)

Stir ½ Cup Coarse Sea Salt into 10 cups of water until dissolved.
With a kitchen knife divide the napa cabbage length-wise, into 4 equal quarters. Remove the hard pith at the bottom of the cabbage and compost this. Then slice the cabbage quarters width-wise in one-to-two-inch pieces. Rinse these very well and spin/dry them. Then submerge them in the salt water in layers, sprinkling the remaining Sea Salt between the layers. (This part is a bit like making sauerkraut, if you have done that before.) You will notice the cabbage will start to "wilt" and begin to lightly leech its own fluids within a few minutes.

Set this aside at room-temperature for two to five hours. Then drain the salt water off, and rinse all of the cabbage completely. Rinse it twice, to ensure all of the salt is gone.

Step two: prepare the chilli sauce.
3 Tbsp Water
3 Tbsp Sweet Rice Flour
2 more Cups Water
1¼ Cup crushed Korean chillis

Whisk together the 3 Tbsp Water with the 3 Tbsp Sweet Rice Flour. After this is completely blended, whisk the roux into the 2 cups of water. Put this on the range top on medium heat and stirring frequently (it likes to stick to the bottom) heat it until the top is almost covered in bubbles. Boiling is not necessary. Remove this from the heat, pour it into a very large mixing bowl and this whisk in all of the chillis. Set aside.

Step three: prepare the veggies:
2 Cups Daikon Radish
5 Green Onions
½ Onion (save the other half for below)
Some Hot Peppers
4 to 5 Tbsp Minced Garlic
½ to 1 Tbsp Minced Ginger

There is the most room for variety here. In the past I have also included or substituted: yams, leeks, and other veggies.

Most of the veggies are essentially julienned. This includes the green onion. Slice the onion to julienne-size to (half or quarter rings). Add the hot peppers according to your taste preference. There are no extra points for displays of testosterone.

Step four: put it all together:
More ingredients:
¼ to ½ Sweet Apple (roughly match the onion size, below)
½ Onion
1 Tbsp Sugar
⅓ Cup Fish Sauce
½ Tbsp coarse sea Salt
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds (optional)

Chop the apple and the onion and then use a blender to purée both together. Add this purée and the sugar, fish sauce, salt, and sesame seeds to the chilli sauce in your mixing bowl. Stir well.

Next, add the julienned veggies and the minced garlic and ginger. Stir well again.

Finally, squeeze any remaining water from the napa cabbage and then stir it into the chilli sauce in batches. Using a large spoon or a wood spoon, make sure the cabbage and sauce is well blended, and the napa cabbage is as covered as possible. It should be easy to have all of the cabbage touching the sauce with only a few turns.

Step five: fermentation.
Technically, you could eat your cabbage mixture at this point, but then again it really wouldn't be kimchi! Kimchi should ferment, the same as a sauerkraut in order to give you the true kimchi experience.

Start by loosely covering your mixture or just putting a plate or saran wrap over top of it. Leave it on the counter-top for 24 hours. Stir it a few times over this time. You will note an increase in the liquid as the kimchi begins to ferment.

Then, spoon the kimchi into clean bottles or Mason jars (this recipe makes about 4 litres of kimchi), and move into the refridgerator. Leave it in the fridge to ferment for a bout a week. It will last this way forever. Literally forever. Not kidding.

And it is so delicious. And good for you, so I am told.

Bon appetit!


PS: You may have noticed a downward trend in our posting frequency. Kathy is entering the last month of her pregnancy, and sleep and repose are beginning to be increasingly important. I hope that you will forgive us; and accept a large onslaught of posting in January when parental leaves give us some leisure. (Ha ha.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

pesto and pickled plums

Another preserving night - this time canning the spiced plums which I made up a few days ago ( plus finally dealing with the basil in the garden (and from Taproot last week). The plums look great, but only made two jars, and there was yet more syrup - so we took a risk and canned two jars of apple chunks too. (I figured if crabapples tasted good, then regular apples should work as well.) The apples came out of the hot water canner looking a little mushy, so it might be a spiced apple syrup or sauce we got - but they also look very pretty, since the plums had coloured the syrup a beautiful glowing red.

I've been meaning to make pesto for a while, since the basil in our garden looked to be nearing its best-before date, so this evening Ria and I picked most of the basil. Pesto is a very simple recipe, and is definitely a money-saver if you make your own in season, rather than buying jars. We make a batch then freeze it in ice-cube trays (try to remember to spray the tray with olive oil first; the pesto comes out more easily) and eat it all winter long.

The recipe I use is a combination of a few, with the aim of lots of basil and less oil or expensive pine nuts:
1 c very packed basil leaves
1-3 cloves garlic (depending on their size and your taste)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T pine nuts
2 T -ish of olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1/4-1/2 tsp of salt (depending on your taste)

Toss everything in a blender and puree. You may need to use a little more olive oil to get the blender blending - you will also have to push the basil down occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure the blender keeps chopping. (Don't do this while the blender is running, or you will have woody pesto ... yes that's the voice of experience speaking.) Taste and add whatever is missing, then freeze in small quantities.

You can substitute walnuts or other nuts for the pine nuts, and you can also combine other herbs with the basil.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fennel Pasta with Caesar Salad side

Fennel is sort of my newer love, and some of its uses remain a mystery to me. When Taproot delivered several full bulbs in as many weeks I went looking for new uses and adventures.

Where it asks you to "slice thin" the fennel bulb, I chopped it, but I'm not sure that it makes too much difference. I'll slice it next time, and let you know. I also used penne, for want of spaghetti.

This would make a great meal by itself, but I added caesar salad and pickled olives for some variety on the plate. The pasta then made a pasta salad good for lunches for the week.

Olives aside, I am a bit of a stickler for preservatives in food, so I NEVER use that poison (he said, zealously) that they sell as "salad dressing" at the grocer's. So I make my own caesar salad dressing. Here is a recipe for enough dressing to make two big batches of caesar salad. This is sort of the minimum amount, as the lower limit is set by the single egg.

Caesar salad:
Clean and dry romaine leaves or similar lettuce (we used Taproot's bib lettuce this time around). Set aside.

Bring water to a boil and toss in one egg. Boil for exactly one minute, then remove and immediately put it in a bowl of ice water until ready to use.

Toss into your blender and purée:
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 rib of celery, chopped
1/4 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. gound pepper
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard seed
a pinch of sugar

After this is puréed, add this and re-purée:
the egg (spoon both cooked and raw bits into the blender)

After this is puréed, add this and re-purée:
2/3 c. oil (You are supposed to use pure olive oil, but I cheat and go 1/3 c. olive oil, and 1/3 c. sunflower or safflower oil.)

Toss about half of this dressing with the lettuce and some croutons. If you like a more "dynamic flavour" (as I do) you can add – to taste – a clove or two of raw minced garlic and some more lemon. Raw grated lemon is best.

Store-bought croutons are a crap shoot (read this as you will), but you can make your own croutons easily enough by chopping and frying up some dried-out bread with butter and minced herbs – and maybe some garlic. If your bread is not dried, then chop and put it in the oven at a really low heat as you prep the rest of the meal. Be careful not to toast it much in the oven, as the frying pan will do this already.

Bon appetit!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

balsamic salmon & zucchini

Quick and easy dinner tonight: rice, salmon brushed with dijon and balsamic vinegar, grilled in a grill pan (these are great for when it's raining and you can't bbq) alongside yellow and green zucchini slices tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar; sliced fresh tomato on the side.

And the salsa is canned! The recipe I posted yesterday makes exactly 6 250-ml jars.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A canning night

A productive evening - tonight we finally got to the canning we've been meaning to do for a while. We aren't quite as overrun as we were last year - I think we're getting fewer tomatoes from the garden, for whatever reason, and Ria is making a significant dent in the abundance of fruit - but there were still a few things that had to be dealt with.

#1 crabapples
I'm not crazy about jams and jellies, and we have lots downstairs, so I decided to make last week's crab apples into something else. A friend told me about her grandmother's pickled crab apples, which sounded good, so this is the recipe I tried: (I halved the syrup recipe.) We got two 500 ml jars out of it - and they look so pretty!

#2 plums
I had lots of syrup left over from the crabapples. Last year we made spiced plums that were fantastic, and the syrup for the crabapples was close enough that I decided to use the rest of it on the quart of plums from the fruit share. But this is the real recipe, if you want to try your hand at them. (They're pretty strong on their own, but they're really tasty with ice cream.) As you can tell, it was a British recipe I inherited/found (I have no idea of the source now) - someday I'll translate into cups. The pits are a bit annoying but not as annoying as trying to take them all out.

Spiced plums
4 quarts plums
3 lbs sugar
1 pint vinegar
1 T cinnamon
1 T cloves
1 T allspice
Make a syrup from the vinegar, sugar and spices. Boil 5 minutes. Prick each plum with a fork and pour syrup over fruit. Cover and allow to stand three days. Skim out plums; boil syrup 5 minutes. Add plums and heat to boiling; ladle into hot sterilized jars; can 20 minutes.

#3 salsa
Tomatoes were starting to take over the counters and fridge, as always seems to happen, so Kenneth and I also made salsa tonight. We'll simmer it all day tomorrow and then can it tomorrow night. The recipe is Kenneth's mother's recipe, slightly modified to our own tastes.

10 cups chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 small can of mild green chillies
3-6 jalapeno peppers, finely diced (suit heat to your own taste)
1 large tin (370 ml) of tomato paste
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T coarse salt (pickling or kosher)
2 t paprika
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro/coriander

Mix everything together except a couple of the jalapenos; bring to a boil uncovered; simmer at least 1 1/2 hours (longer is better). Taste and add jalapenos to taste. Can 20 minutes.

The salsa sounds like a lot of chopping, but we have a hand-turned food processor/chopper, so it goes pretty quickly. I'm sure it would be even faster with an electric food processor.

I'd love to hear your canning recipes!


pork spring rolls

Last night I used up the rest of the leftover pork shoulder steak and a lot of the new and old vegetables from the box. It was a pretty simple meal, actually, though a little messy to eat!

I sliced the pork, julienned pea pods, cucumber, and carrots, and chopped cilantro; everything went on the table in small bowls. I also made a bowl of vermicelli noodles, and added plum sauce (from Taproot), soy sauce, and Thai sweet and sour spring roll sauce to the assortment on the table. Then we had a pan of warm water, dipped rice paper wraps in right at the table, and assembled our own spring rolls. It makes dinner fun - and everyone can have the ingredients they want! Ria loved them - ate mostly vermicelli with plum sauce, had a couple of little rolls, and then when we were all done she ate her way through the rest of the pork. So much for the leftovers for lunches I had planned!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

potato day

Today seemed to be use-up-potatoes day - they've been accumulating in the bottom drawer of our fridge. I was going to make muffins for breakfast, but using up the potatoes seemed smarter. We still have loads left, but today made a bit of a dent.

So for breakfast I made potato pancakes. Every country/cuisine has a different recipe for these, but my mother never made them, and I happened to learn mine in Hungary. I think in Ireland and America they tend to make them with mashed potatoes, but this version is easier because it doesn't require pre-boiling or mashing. You just grate a few potatoes on a cheese grater (usually 3-4 does us - it makes more than you think), and mix in enough flour to stick them together (I usually use whole wheat). If they're for dinner, you can add garlic or other spices/flavours; for breakfast I keep it simple. Heat about 1/2 cm of oil in a pan until a piece of grated potato sizzles; shape the flour and potato into pancakes and fry until browned and crispy. Serve with yoghurt or sour cream if you're being authentically Hungarian; ketchup if you're having an American day.

With the potato pancakes we had meat-share sausage, eggs, and cooked half-tomatoes, all cooked in the same antique cast-iron frying pan. Not the healthiest breakfast ever, but it sure holds you longer than muffins do!

For dinner we ate the leftovers of Kenneth's meatloaf casserole, but that didn't seem quite enough, so I mashed up a few potatoes. I don't like most people's mashed potatoes - not sure why - but this is my way: chop potatoes into chunks (unpeeled), boil until a fork inserts easily, drain. Return to pot; add a hunk of butter, a minced clove of garlic, a couple of chopped green onions, and cream cheese if you have it (milk or cream if you don't, but not too much). Mash, taste, add salt and pepper, cook a little longer, and add more salt/butter/cheese/pepper if needed.

I was going to make spiced pickled crabapples tonight but might just pack it in.