It's easy to cook in the summer. In fact, summer bounty means cooking is minimal, yet the possibilities abundant. Winter is a different story. Especially a winter here. Gone are tomatoes and eggplants. No more fresh chilies (maybe some of the dried if you prepared enough to make some).
Our winters mean minimal production for the home gardener. But for farmers with hoop houses and other means to extend the growing season like La Ney Ferme, it means a chance to stretch out the lives of tender young salad greens and herbs (who prefer the cooler climate anyway). Root vegetables thrive in times like this. Farmers like these create from soil so rich, even the humble vegetables taste sweet, complex, and nuanced. You shouldn't waste a thing.
But the problem is most of us have no idea what to do with a turnip or rutabaga. Even then root vegetables with leafy greens only yield a bit of bulb. What to do with the rest other than to throw it all away? So when I got a share from a cold December, I needed a bit more inspiration.
Enter the lost realm of kitchen knowledge and recipes. We all have a source somewhere down our ancestral line or through a quick google search. With a bit of superficial research we discover that there's more to life than potatoes (blasphemy, I know) and that in fact, a bit of winter root veg and leafy greens can yield a magnificently easy dish for cold and busy times such as these.
For me, it's a recipe for a Korean style of soup that requires a handful of aromatic ingredients, mostly local. And for the hardy bitter greens, they yield beautifully in a quick and simple kimchi.
Kimchi is apparently being touted as a bacon substitute in light of the impending Bacon Armageddon when shit is supposed to hit the price-fan next year. SF Gate and Food52 shared this recipe of a chef inspired charred Brussels sprouts dish mixed with chopped kimchi. A few things come to mind:
1.) Kimchi goes great with everything. Brussels' sprouts, sure.
2.) The dish would be even better if it had bacon in it (though the whole point of the piece was what to do with sprouts in light of a bacon shortage).
3.) Why not just make a kim chi out of Brussels' sprouts? Leave 'em whole or cut them in half. Eat it with pork belly (uncured/unsmoked cut of pig used to make bacon).
The inevitable question. I love food. I love to cook food. And my family is Korean. A fact of life when I meet new people and get to know them. I accept the reality. What I don't ever anticipate is the reaction when I say, "well, no not really." It's as if I spit in their food and cursed their patron saint and their mother. The look is sustained as I reveal further that, in fact, I prefer to cook and eat Mediterranean dishes than the things my mother cooks and feeds me.
Note the last part of the last sentence. Mom feeds me. Korean food. I've never had the necessity of simmering potent taeng-jang (soy bean paste) with plenty of garlic, green chili pepper with enough water to accomodate the potatoes and slivers of sesame oil-sauteed beef. It wasn't until recently that I started taking stabs at my ancestral cuisine. At first it was to avoid the inevtiable reaction that came with the inevitable question. Now, it's to come mouth-to-spoon with all the unabashed flavor.
A simple and bastardized example of my kitchen exploits: A fresh radish salad that can be called, well, "punchy."
Mom and anyone else who speaks better Korean than I do calls it sam gye tang. I call it Chicken Ginseng Soup which is a bit of harmless misnomer. Only because the chicken is actually a Cornich Rock Game Hen -- a long name for a tiny bird that's usually found rock hard deep in the freezer section. Along with a handful of ingredients, it transforms a pot of water from something merely hydrating to a healing pot of soft broth that can make you feel good down to your bones. And it's what I can only resurrect when I or the people I care about need something that tastes better NyQuil.