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).
I know, I'm not helping the bacon situation.
One of my favorite food books is Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. Not so much a cookbook versus a collection of essays that serves as a salve for anyone who feels alone in a plethora of recipes, entertaining tips and other general advice on tablewear and decor you'll never use.
Laurie Colwin talks to you and with you about cooking. Successes and failures. Foolproof, straightforward dishes and ways to elevate them depending on who's coming over for dinner. Some of her recipes didn't turn out well, but I can't hold it against her. The accompanying essay nourished me enough. The title of this post is also the title of one of my favorite chapters in the book and more recently, the title for another modern cookbook. In honor of Ms. Colwin, her writing and her recipes with varying degrees of success, I played alone in the kitchen with an eggplant. This is what happened.
There are those with their secret paths, their weather pattern forecasts, their barometers AKA bad knees, and secret language of trees.
And there is me who cares not for mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and the like. I still have yet to grasp why I would pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to go through terrain I can damn well travel through on my own two feet. With shoes. It makes me go slow. It doesn't make feel like an awkward, uncoordinated git which I usually am. (True story, I recently rolled my ankle walking down my STAIRS).
And it allows me to pay attention to the leaves, the dirt, the sky, and sometimes I see things that I like to eat. Sometimes I bring them home. Other times I just gather them because they are gorgeous and mysterious.
Some people call this foraging. I call it walking with benefits. Someone asked me how I forage. My answer: "Fuck if I know. I just go for a walk."
I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a thing for boxed macaroni and cheese. I've had since I was the mini sumo wrestler 2nd grader who looked forward to mom fixing up Velveeta shells and cheese or the Kraft cheese and macaroni. The "cheese" came first because it was supposed to be so cheesy. When you're 7 and demanded the caloric intake of a 6' 7" athletic superstar it was just that. I couldn't get enough. When my mom would place a modest portion in front of me I'd look at her indignantly.
"Where's the rest?" I'd ask in my best squeaky Korean.
"You can have that and save the rest for later," my mother would plead, willing the obesity out of me.
We talk passionately about vine-ripened tomatoes and the tender peaches whose juices run down our chins and arms. But what of corn? Especially when it's whole, intact on what we call the cob. Corn for the most part has come up in news and current events in the form of high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified crops for animal feed. Gourmet.com even weighed in, with transcripts from editors on whether or not corn is a bad thing.
For me, it's a no brainer. Corn on the cob is just as valuable to me as the heavy Brandywine, deep purple raspberries or juicy Suncrest peaches. I can't imagine a warm season without it. Along with my love of automotive self-autonomy, my love of corn is rather patriotic. Most of the world sees it as a grain to grind and transformed into delicious flatbreads or simply as fodder for swine and other animals. Speaking purely from a glutton's point of view, they're missing out. If anyone insists on debating corn's ethical place in the food chain, let's talk it over a grilled cob or two.
There's the saying that you eat with your eyes. Nowhere is it more true in times of self-imposed ascetism, balancing out the bouts and binges of all the things we love to love in excess.
Some call it a diet. Others doll up the word "diet" with intended feelings of well-being/smugness and call it a "cleansing." Whatever the title, often, it's an integral part to eating and living. The spring clean was a long time ago, as my kitchen attests. But every so often between my lusty affairs with bacon and butter, my heart calls out for crisp precise bites of verdant things.
There's the saying that you eat with your eyes. Nowhere is it more true in times of self-imposed ascetism, balancing out the bouts and binges of all the things we love to love in excess.
Some call it a diet. Others doll up the word "diet" with intended feelings of well-being and call it a "cleansing." Whatever the title, often, it's an integral part to eating and living. The spring clean was a long time ago, as my kitchen attests. But every so often between my lusty affairs with bacon and butter, my heart calls out for crisp precise bites of verdant things.
An oldie, but a goodie. In honor of those of us in less-blessed and more earnest climates, I offer something to use up the proliferation of greens. As much as one enjoys sauteeing, sometimes, a bit of creamy texture is necessary to break up all that roughage-monotony. A food processor is your friend here - one of the few gadgets I will forever and ever extoll. - Vanessa
The solution for professed vegetable-haters is to make something vegetal appear distinctly not. Case in point, a sauce of broccoli and spinach for a jumble of linguine. Not that I have issues eating any matter of vitamin-suffused roughage, but there's only so much steaming and sauteeing a girl can take on the plate. And given the blossoms on the branches, the warmer temperatures and sporadic rain, it's a nice dish to make on a quiet night-in, to thank the stars it's finally spring.
Let me preface what I'm about to say with "I love creative, adventurous food. Cooking and dining, give it to me."
But after a marathon of 5-page recipes and multiple mini courses of culinary-combination genius, I dare you to find anyone who would say no to a simple roast chicken or a heavy bowl of lentil lamb soup.
Simply put, we underestimate the power of simplicity.
I've often been in kitchens of friends and friends of friends who slather on their impressive skill and relish in a 3-day orgy to create a good cassoulet. I've been asked for recipes for a "complete" dinner. When I hand over a first course of nothing but good charcuterie (awesome cured meats), I get a disappointed frown as if I had let them and every other home cook down. Poser, their looks seem to say.
It is not my job to stress over what I cook for myself and friends. Yet, we've all become rather pros at it. Nevermind the orchestration of technically-challenged and awe-inspiring dishes for your book club. I'm talking even getting a meal on the table to foster conversation flowing around it.
So we "do" take-out. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my pastrami burger and gyro as much as the next person. But, the stuff is not the sustenance of a life. We think it's easier to commute, order, pick up, and serve. We think if we have to cook, we have to sweat considerably.
My delcaration to you all now: THAT. IS. SOOOOOOO WRONG.
The best cooks I know are the relaxed sort. They aren't harried when you come over. They take their time in the kitchen and dig it when you join them there as they prepare cheese and dried fruit plate for the sliced baguettes. Voila. An appetizer.
They don't tarry about finding toothpicks to secure neatly rolled bacon dates. They're aren't half-assed in listening to you bitch and moan about the latest batch of middle-class troubles.
They are fully invested in the moment of having you around. Fully invested in their glass of wine and still mindful of the cauliflower roasting alongside an untrussed chicken.
They believe that a good meal can be nothing more than a piece of fruit with all the ripeness nature can truly muster, a hunk of good bread, and perhaps some cheese or prosciutto.
To them and those who have inspired me in my lazy eating, therefore lazy cooking, I owe every dinner party and self-indulgent meal.
I cannot even begin to tell you about the bliss of radishes, fresh from my friend's garden and their greens still rugged and wrinkled, simply washed and piled onto a plate. Serve them with another small plate of room temperature, cloud soft butter, the best you can get your hands on, and a mound of coarse salt. Dip, sprinkle and crunch. If this is the bulk of your meal it's nice to have a baguette around. My friend, the pastry goddess known as Amber, likes to thinly slice hers and shingle them daintily atop a sliced baguette already slathered with butter. Sometimes there is herbage involved. Sometimes not. But always, the sandwich is enjoyed.
If you insist on some sort of gussying, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt before going into a hot oven revealed a treat I have only recently known -- roasted radishes.
Radishes and butter are the most unusual and satisfying pairing, the herald of a season characterized by lazy cooking. Assembly is more like it when you have the bosomy vine-ripened tomatoes, just snapped beans and ears of corn that should really be categorized with candy. When we proceed to eat these things there should not be a trace of shame for not having done a step 1, 2, or 3 in order to enjoy it.
Some things are so simple, so pure and too good to embellish with flair and ego. Food tastes better without anxiety, even if it is nothing but a meal of fresh radishes and amazing Italian butter.
A few other such virtuous recipes ...
LENTIL LAMB SOUP * simple summer joys * PANDORO FRENCH TOAST * german pancake * SOFT BOILED EGG & BUTTERED TOAST * spicy anchovy greens * corn on the cob slathered with feta and many things * CREME FRAICHE * feta biscuits * ROASTED APRICOTS WITH BRIE * ajvar cracker * CHOCOLATE CROSTINI
I know. The title sounds like a bad '70s easy listening hit. But even now with bouts of sun and cloud duking it out for seasonal dominance, I'm rooting for the sun, betting every single metaphorical and metaphysical buck I have on the warmth and the life giving, soul-drenching sunlight.
My argument: Sunlight brings me fresh chili peppers from small pots on a patio. Little lightning strikes of fiery reds, yellows and oranges. Some are as hot on the tongue. Others wonderfully mild and perfect for dipping like a carrot stick in something as simple as olive oil and salt or my mom's favorite, a paste of Korean miso paste, Korean chili paste, rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
Sunglight also brings me a basil plant. Strike that. A basil tree. From one lowly plant that managed to outlive the once thriving tomato, it gave me bushels and bushels of fragrant greenery. Some I plucked as I needed for the lazy summer cooking (assembly is more like it) for a salad here and there. Maybe some goat cheese.
When the sunlight started to fade, I rushed all the tender leaves inside for one last good-bye with the help of my food processor and some ice cube trays. Fresh pesto is simple enough -- take basil by the handful (the way Scrooge McDuck would grasp handfuls of his cash), wads and wads of it, stuff it into a food processor bowl that has already in it some fresh garlic cloves, pine nuts and salt already pulverized.
Pulse until the leaves are no longer leaves, but confetti. Slowly stream in a waterfall of extra-virgin olive oil. Something sweet and mild like almonds, versus punchy like a radish and cut grass. Stir in some grated pecorino cheese (I love Fiore Sardo). Season to taste. I kept one jar in the fridge. The rest in tupperware or ice cube trays to deliver some warmer memory in the depths of winter.
Sunlight also allows me big ripe tomatoes from friends and neighbors (I am not a good gardener. Thankfully, my friends are) that I stuffed with goat cheese, chopped basil or whatever other fresh herb was abundant. Sometimes I added in some fresh corn kernels to pop like sweet candy with the soft fresh tomato. Olive oil and some sliced zucchini into the same pan before going into a hot oven. To be flashy, I finish it off under the broiler until the cheese reaches this gorgeous cosmetic flourish. It tastes good, too.
I look out my window and imagine these flavors the moment I tasted them. The pesto is almost gone. The chili peppers in my fridge from some other place. And tomatoes? The ones I've come across are more appropriate as blunt force weapons as opposed to seasonal bliss.
But even as the memories fade like the morning fog, the sunlight usually shows up just in time. I no longer have to rely on memories for the promise of sunshine because it will be here.
I'm not a religious person in any sense. But I can see how people for generations on end prayed for and to the sun. We might not have temples for it or ceremonies to exalt it, but as I look around me the throng of responsible adults look out their own windows and long for the same thing the ancients did.
Bring us light.
We take for granted the lemon. Without thinking much of it restaurant kitchens strategically place a slice for no reason other than cheap looks. Waiters garnish someone's Pellegrino because that's what she's seen everyone else do.
Completely underrated my favorite fruit is. Yes, it is a fruit. Albeit an aromatic one that we use more as a condiment to enliven and invigorate a recipe or a food instead of biting into it whole and raw. But I cannot imagine my kitchen life without it.
A squeeze from the fresh fruit can elevate a dank lentil soup into a balanced, nourishing bowl. The kind of food that staves off winter chills but reminds you of the upcoming promises of sunshine. My Microplane grater I use mostly for grating cheese and also zest. Usually, I'll add both to a pasta that I've made too bosomy with cream. The whiff of delicate zest strands somehow makes my carbonara actually seem somewhat healthy.
I'm a fan of all things tart and sour. I've been known to go on Sour Patch Kids or sour rope binges at the movie theatres because that's the only place nowadays I can find the flat, ribbon like type instead of the shoelace strings. I love tart fruits - passion fruit, beguiling and flamboyant, pink grapefruits. But I have to have my lemon. It's sunshine incarnate, the friendliest way to stare at the sun. And the only way I know how to actually lick sunshine.
I'm not ashamed to say I put it in just about everything I cook. I consider a half juiced lemon, crusting away on the counter, or molding silently away in the fridge a felony. Throw away a lemon that's hardened because you used the zest in a tea cake, but forgot to squeeze the juice into some sub par tap water, and you've just committed second degree solecide. At the very least, skin-conscious people can rub the juicy pulp onto elbows for a quick "exfoliation" thanks to citric acid and other things you might find in an Aveda treatment.
In the winter, it's a salve, balancing out the cold and dark. And in spring, it's the harbinger of the flavors to come. Both the workhorse and the purebed that always elicits compliments, especially when it's cooked. Preserved lemons, salted and cured until the rind is soft and briny, are something more people should use and adore. Sliced and roasted with chicken until the schmaltz and acid are one -- the easiest gravy known in kitchendom.
When I found myself chicken-less, I threw the lemons into the roasting pan anyway. Only this time, there were large chunks of potatoes to keep them company. Roasted tender and fluffy, it's comfort food spiked with a smile. The greenery came about thanks to a friend and her amazing grow box whose abundance guarantees me a special delivery when the sun first starts to peak through. The lemon cooks to an oozing softness. The edges caramelize a bit, blunting the sharp acerbic character of the fresh stuff. Like going from Doris Day to Lauren Becall.
How appropriate then to marry the comfort of starch with this sunshine and the coming green of warmer times? I eat this alone, no meat necessary. But it's completely at home in the company of a spring roast chicken or the Easter roast lamb.
LEMONY ROAST POTATOES WITH SPRING GREENS
You can adjust the cooking temperature just by changing the size of the potato chunks. If you've got a leg of lamb in the oven for a few hours, it's worth it to have the potatoes in large chunks (I love cutting into them with a knife and fork as if they were a steak) transforming slowly but surely with the meat. But if you're in a hurry, a fine dice works just as well.
Serves 6 to 8
6 to 8 large potatoes, peeled and chopped (russets or the gargantuan Yukon golds I've seen at the market lately; figure one potato per person if you've got more folks to feed) * 4 cloves of whole, unpeeled garlic * 1 to 2 lemons, washed well and sliced thinly * 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil * fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, marjoram (optional) * 3 big handfuls of washed spinach leaves * salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the potatoes, garlic, lemons into a large baking dish (glass and ceramic ones are ideal), in a single layer, if possible. If not, it's just an excuse to spy into the oven every so often to rotate the jumble with a fork. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat the pieces. Add the herbs. Place in the oven and let cook about 30 minutes (for larger chunks). Press on the spinach leaves and use a piece of foil to now cover the pan. You're steaming the spinach with the lemony juices. Return to the oven and cook another 10 to 15 minutes until spinach has completely wilted from the gentle aromatic steam and the potatoes are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a spring roast chicken, a leg of lamb, or even with a hunk of your favorite stinky ceese.
Anchovies are much maligned. Despite the prominence in the title, the little anchovy here is quite demure. In fact, nearly hidden. A couple of small fillets is all this recipe needs to transform simple sauteed greens into something deeper, richer and far less ascetic than "greens" signals to the modern eater.
It's part of the title only to avoid the surprise and potential wincing when you read through the small ingredients list. Don't let stereotypes of bad fillets on even worse pizza or popular sentiment (in America, anyway) prevent you from trying this just once. This poor little fish makes these greens sumptuous and (as much as I hate to utter it) healthy. Yes, you can put those two words together, thanks to the little anchovy.
"Do you cook Korean food?"
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."