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In my graduate program, we had a handful of students from Seoul, South Korea who had civil servant backgrounds. I served as a “conversation partner” for one of my classmates and quickly became friends with him and his wife. I don’t recall ever tasting kimchi prior to meeting my Korean friends. I had never been to a Korean restaurant and the fermented cabbage dish was not on my radar until Seongmo and his wife, Bora prepared beef bulgogi and kimchi for me to take home to my family in Iowa over Thanksgiving break. I never got the recipe from Bora, but one taste of the spicy, funky, salty, and pickle-y cabbage and I was hooked. I’m a fan of big, bold flavors and you can’t get much bolder than kimchi.

I’ve not made true kimchi before – though I’m eager to try Edward Lee’s recipe in his recent book, Smoke and Pickles, I have made Mark Bittman’s quick approximation of it. The kimchi for this simple stir-fry can be made the day before, instead of months before, doesn’t require hard-to-find ingredients, and still tastes spicy and salty, if not quite as fermented-funky.

Unfortunately my sous chef doesn’t like kimchi (or pickles or eggs). That’s about all he won’t eat so I’m really not that constrained. I love it though, and we recently received a head of napa cabbage in our CSA, as well as sirloin steak, so I made this dish. Chris suffered through about half of his bowl before rounding out his meal with cheese and crackers. I had my fill of kimchi and rice that week.

So here’s the recipe – I recommend making the rice and kimchi the night before you want to eat this – then for dinner all you have to do is quickly stir-fry the beef, then stir-fry the rice and add the kimchi. Easy and delicious, if you are into spicy, pickle-y things, but I still encourage you to befriend someone who knows how to make real kimchi.

Note for vegetarians: if you aren’t into beef, still make the rice and kimchi stir-fry, and serve with a fried egg.

Kimchi Rice with Beef, from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

serves 4

  • 1 small head napa cabbage (about 12 oz), cored and shredded (note my cabbage was closer to 24 oz. I upped the spices a bit and just ended up with a higher kimchi to rice ratio)
  • one bunch (6) green onions, chopped
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. minced ginger
  • 1 T. red chile flakes (I used about 3/4 T. in the hopes of lowering the spice for Chris)
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. beef flank or skirt steak (I used sirloin) very thinly sliced
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice

Put the shredded cabbage in a colander and toss it with 2 tablespoons of salt. Let it sit in the sink or over a bowl until it wilts, at least 2 hours. Rinse the cabbage and pat it dry.

Combine the green onions, garlic, ginger, red chile flakes, sugar and soy sauce in a bow or large jar. Toss the spice mixture with the cabbage. Make the kimchi at least a few hours and up to several days before you want to serve it. It will get stronger as it sits.

When the kimchi is ready, put a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the beef. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes until it is seared but still pink inside, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the beef from the skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Swirl it around and add the rice, breaking up any clumps and stirring it into the oil. When the rice is added, cook, stirring frequently, until rice is crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Return beef to pan and add kimchi. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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chicken n quinoa

One of the things I love about living in Kentucky, as opposed to my home state of Iowa, is that there are four, distinct seasons. Sure, the cold, relentless dampness that seeps into our bones in winter seems never-ending, and the oppressive humidity and heath of summer seems unyielding, but we have the lovely fresh breaths that are spring and fall to break up the misery. Iowa has four seasons too, but the springs and falls are much shorter – the winters much harsher. The summers, harsher than one would expect.

I’d declare this spring a nice one. We had some very pretty sunny days and some rain too. We had some cool evenings, and I had a CSA (yes – still doing that) box full of green garlic and swiss chard. I turned to my favorite cookbook for some seasonal inspiration. With a few minor tweaks the sous-chef and I enjoyed a great spring dinner. I even butchered my own chicken. In this case butchering means cutting a whole chicken into 8-ish pieces – a task that always seemed overly tricky and messy for me. I followed Mark Bittman’s very clear instructions in “How to Cook Everything.” Here’s a video too with clear instructions.

While this recipe relies on spring-like produce, with summer just about in full swing this recipe can be easily adapted. Don’t have green garlic? Use regular garlic. The original recipe calls for lemon thyme but I just plain thyme. Check back later this week for the recipe for the quinoa.

Adapted slightly from “Skillet Chicken with Green Garlic and Lemon Thyme” from Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark

serves 4

  •  1 (3 1/2 lb) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • a few sprigs of thyme (lemon thyme if you’ve got it)
  • 1 head of green garlic, thickly sliced (you can use 4 regular cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed)
  • 3/4 c. dry white wine
  • 2 T. unsalted butter

1. In a large dish or bowl, place the chicken, oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic. Mix to coat the chicken. Cover and chill in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken and seasoning mixture. Cook without moving the chicken for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces, cover the pan, and continue cooking with moving for another 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Check the breasts to see if they are completely cooked. If they are, transfer them to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. If not, keep cooking them for another 5 minutes or so until they are done. I had to cook mine longer.

4. After removing the breasts, spoon out some of the excess fat from the pan. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan until the sauce reduces and the remaining chicken pieces are completely cooked. Transfer the chicken pieces to a place. Whisk butter into the pan, whisking until it is melted and the sauce has thickened. Serve with the sauce on the chicken with the quinoa – recipe to follow later this week.

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I’ve been eating a lot of salad lately. Inspired both by this post about eating interesting salads every day for lunch, and a general desire to make sure I’m eating plenty of vegetables (and not letting our CSA vegetables go to waste). In the last few months, I’ve been roasting our CSA veggies, particularly squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnips, then layering them in a salad with a little dressing, cheese, and whatever greens I have around. Sometimes I’ll roast the vegetables in barbecue sauce and then pair it with cilantro, cheddar cheese, and a creamy dressing. Other times I’ll roast the veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper and mix with feta, and a drizzle of lemon and olive oil. Either way I end up with a versatile lunch that is filling yet light enough so I don’t feel sleepy afterward. There’s also limitless possibilities for lunch.

I’ve also been trying to have more interesting side salads at dinner besides a bag of lettuce and a bottle of dressing. Chris and I had a friend over for dinner last weekend. I prepared a rather involved CSA-supplied dinner of glazed lamb ribs with a yogurt mint sauce. I planned to serve salad with just balsamic vinaigrette when I remembered a recipe from my current favorite cookbook, Cook this Now by Melissa Clark. I cracked open the book and miraculously, had all of the ingredients – the salad was done in minutes.

The recipe calls for a dressing made of lemon juice, clementine juice, salt, pepper and brown butter. You can substitute olive oil – which I did that night. You then toss some greens, chopped mint, segmented clementines, and toasted almonds together with the dressing and the result is a light, juicy, very flavorful, entirely addictive salad. After I made it for our guest, I proceeded to make it three nights in a row, and continue to crave it.

Melissa Clark divided her cookbook by months and this salad falls in March – and clementines are readily available now – so make this while you can. Also – I’ve made this without the mint and it was still great. And while I preferred the brown butter version of the dressing, Chris preferred the olive oil version.

I followed Melissa Clark’s recipe closely – only using a little less of the olive oil and butter – I used 2 tablespoons instead of 3. I hope you make this soon and enjoy it as much as we have – with butter or olive oil.

“Butter Lettuce and Clementine Salad with Brown Butter Vinaigrette” from Cook this Now by Melissa Clark

for the vinaigrette:

2 (or 3) T. unsalted butter or olive oil

finely grated zest of one clementine

juice of one clementine, or about 1 1/2 T.

1 T. lemon juice

1/4 t. kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

for the salad:

1 head butter leaf lettuce (or other lettuce – I used a mix of spinach and spring greens) – torn into bite-size pieces

2 clementines, peeled, segmented, and segments cut in half cross-wise (just realized I forgot to cut the segments in half – still turned out well)

2 T. toasted almonds

2 T. chopped fresh mint

First make the dressing. If using the butter – melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until it turns brown. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Immediately pour into a bowl and let cool a bit while you prep the rest of the salad. When the butter has cooled a few minutes, whisk in the clementine and lemon juice, salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the lettuce, clementines, almonds and mint. Toss well with the dressing.

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turnip casserole

After a tumultuous November, I’m trying to settle back into a somewhat normal work and life routine. This means catching up on my growing stack of papers at work, and the growing supply of hearty CSA vegetables at home. I say “hearty” because these are the vegetables I chose not to cook during particularly busy weeks, opting to first cook the more perishable veggies, like kale and mustard greens.

Because of this logic, I now have four large winter squash sitting on my counter, and I had a produce drawer full of turnips, some shriveled, some still cookable.

I set out to use the turnips, because they were shriveling faster than the almost forever-lasting squash. I think I’ve talked before about how I can fall into cooking and cookbook ruts. Last Christmas, my cohabitant’s mother gave me a wonderful gift basket full of goods from New Orleans and Louisiana, including spices, beignet mix, and Tabasco. The overflowing basket also included the cookbook Crescent City Famers Market Cookbook, by Poppy Tooker. It’s full of Cajun and Creole-inspired recipes with a fresh, seasonal spin. I’ve looked through it before, but kept turning to my “usual” cookbooks for meals. I had yet to make anything from it until this week, and I’m sorry I waited so long.

Before the CSA, I rarely purchased and cooked turnips. I think I once made a roast chicken with roasted turnips, potatoes, and rutabaga. I also braised them with other root vegetables once. I was looking for a way to use up all my turnips in a substantial, main-dinner-dish kind of way. Then I found this recipe from the above-mentioned cookbook. It combined cooked turnips with a flavorful, cheesy white sauce, and topped with breadcrumbs. It sounded great.

And it was. Warm, filling, and healthful. I used low-fat milk and a moderate amount of cheese. This is a great meatless main-dish recipe to make if you are drowning in turnips, or want a new way to try them.

turnips casserole, from Crescent City Famers Market Cookbook, by Poppy Tooker

Serves about 6 as a light main dish

1 1/2 lbs. turnips, peeled and thinly sliced

2 T. butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/3 c. chopped celery (about 1 stalk)

3 T. flour

1 1/4 c. milk

1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar

1/4 c. grated Asiago

salt and pepper

3 T. fresh bread crumbs

creole seasoning, like Tony Chachere’s

First, cook your turnips. Place them in  a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender – mine took about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

If you haven’t grated the cheese, do that while the turnips are cooking. You can chop up the other vegetables during this time too if you haven’t yet done that.

Preheat the oven to 400. In the same pot you used to cook the turnips, heat the butter. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery. Saute until tender. Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend. Cook for about 2 minutes.

While stirring, add the milk. Cook and continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in cheese and some salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir until smooth.

Add the drained turnips to the cheese sauce in the pot and stir to combine. Then put mixture into a greased baking dish and top with bread crumbs and some shakes/sprinkles of creole seasoning. Cook until browned and bubble – about 15 minutes.

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With the amount of vegetables we have regularly been receiving and eating thanks to our CSA, I’ve been working hard to a) be resourceful with what I have around my pantry and kitchen already to avoid too many additional grocery store purchases, and b) combine the vegetables with good protein sources to turn them into more complete meals.

With the receipt of some beets a couple of months ago, I wanted to do something new with them that incorporated protein. Searching around on the internet, I came upon this recipe: Edamame Salad with Baby Beets and Greens. Looking down the ingredients list, I was a little skeptical. Soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and edamame all sounded great, but how would the flavor of the beets and beet greens work with the other flavors?

Very well it turns out.

I should have known after I noticed the recipe was “contributed by” Melissa Clark. I have yet to make something of her’s that did not turn out splendidly. The spices and flavorings made a tasty, bold, salty contrast to the sweet beets. And the edamame added a toothsome, filling quality to the dish. It made for a great take-to-work, make-ahead lunch. Super healthful and fresh. Great for when beets are growing and you have edamame in the freezer.

Here’s the recipe for Edamame Salad with Baby Beets and Greens, from Food and Wine.

4 small beets (about 1 ounce each), trimmed, 1/2 cup greens reserved, you could also use 2 or 3 larger beets

2 c. shelled edamame

1 T. rice vinegar

2 t. soy sauce

1 1/2 t. sesame oil

1 t. finely chopped fresh ginger

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 T. basil, julienned

[Confession from my kitchen: I try not to acquire too many kitchen gadgets. One that I do not have is a steamer basket. I’ve always worked around one before. It might not be a bad idea to add to my wish list. The original recipe says to steam the beets. I cooked them in a small amount of boiling water. Seemed to work well for me.

In a large saucepan, fill up to 1/2 inch with water. Bring to a boil. Add the beets, cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes for small beets or up to 40 minutes for larger ones. Check the water level in the pan halfway through steaming and add more as needed. Check the beets periodically. Some may cook faster than others.

Transfer the beets to a plate. Empty the water out of the pot and fill again with fresh water. Bring to a boil. Add the edamame and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse the edamame in cold water to cool, then pat dry with paper towels. Peel and cut the beets into wedges.

In a medium bowl, stir the rice vinegar with the soy sauce, sesame oil and grated ginger.

Add the edamame, beets, scallions and beet greens and toss to coat. Sprinkle the basil on top before serving.

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I’m not sure what inspired me to try this recipe for poblano peppers stuffed with chorizo and shrimp. Earlier this summer, we received chorizo sausage in our mixed meat CSA. I might have also had a green pepper, an onion, and garlic leftover from one of the weekly deliveries. After searching for chorizo recipes online, I found a recipe from Guy Fieri.

While I may defend Rachel Ray and her various shows on Food Network, I actively dislike Guy Fieri’s show, “Guy’s Big Bite.” I’m not sure whether it is his need to “de-bling” before getting his hands dirty, his cheesy lingo, or… well…. here is the description of the show from Food Network:

“Guy Fieri’s bleached blonde hair, goatee and skateboarder shorts make a strong statement – you are what you eat! Whether it’s his Mojito Chicken, Pepperoni Lasagna or Jambalaya Sandwich, one thing is certain – Guy Fieri’s food is as fun, fearless and fundamental as his larger-than-life personality. We hope you’re hungry because this Guy’s imagination knows no limits. Open wide for Guy’s Big Bite.”

To be fair, I’m sure I ‘m not his target audience, being as I’m not  a “bro.” I’ve seen the show a few times and the food always looked pretty tasty, if heavy on the oil and cheese, but I never had any desire to cook anything. Then, I found this recipe for the stuffed peppers. I immediately wanted to make it, despite the creator of the recipe. And I did make it. And it was good. Better than good, it was delicious. The combination of the sweeter shrimp and white wine contrasted nicely with the spicy chorizo and peppers. All of this was topped with a browned, crunchy layer of cheese that made for a filling and wonderful dinner. It also reheated better-than-expected for lunch. I think the key is to not overcook the shrimp initially. Guy Fieri didn’t disappoint. I also didn’t have to watch his show.

I didn’t make too many changes to the original recipe. I used one green bell pepper instead of half-red and half-green. I also significantly cut back on the amount of cheese used, used 6 peppers instead of 4, and didn’t use added oil.

Here’s what I did, adapted from Guy Fieri’s poblano peppers stuffed with shrimp and chorizo, from Guy’s Big Bite

1/2 lb. Mexican-style chorizo (this means not smoked)

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 c. short-grain rice

1 c. chicken stock

1/2 c. white wine

6 large, fresh poblano peppers

1/4 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 c. shredded Jack cheese

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, cut into 1/2 -inc pieces (If using frozen shrimp like I did, make sure to thaw first according to package instructions.)

In a large saucepan,  cook chorizo for 3 minutes. Add peppers, jalapeno, onions and garlic. Cook until translucent, then add rice and cook until all the grains of the rice are coated with oil. Add wine and stock and stir over high heat for 3 minutes.

Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes. Check the rice for doneness. Continue to cook a  bit longer if the rice isn’t cooked.

While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place poblano chiles on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, cut top 1/4 of chile off and remove ribs and seeds.

When rice is finished cooking, fluff with fork and stir in shrimp. Stuff  each poblano with 1/6 of the rice mixture. Place all the chiles on baking sheet and place into oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, mix cheeses together and cover pepper with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes to melt and brown the cheese. I was not able to stuff the peppers neatly. I ended up slicing them in half and laying them in a casserole dish, then layering the topping over the peppers and topping with cheese. It was a pretty dish, but it still tasted great.

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“Late summer…”

How did it get to be “late summer” already? I read the words in an email I receive from a food blog to which I subscribe. It seems like I was JUST making hearty stews and casseroles to ward off the winter chill. Then it seems like I totally missed the asparagus and strawberry season from Spring amidst THE move. Now, if I’m not careful, I will totally miss tomatoes and eggplant and the rest of the “late summer” bounty.

Especially since I have not been able to do a whole lot of cooking the last few weeks. Two weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C. for work, which you can read about here (my visit, not the city.) Then I spent a lovely week in the crisp, cool air of Vancouver, eating lots of delicious sushi, freshly-caught salmon, fancy Indian food, and too much pizza, beer, wine and cheese.

Here’s a picture of one of the many delicious meals my family consumed. This was an extensive picnic spread eaten in the gorgeous Stanley Park, heavy on the cheese and olives, there was also salmon salad I made with the leftover grilled salmon from the night before (caught by my brother Michael, Chris, and my sister’s boyfriend).

I did so much indulging that I just about died on the final day’s event: The Grouse Grind. I have now returned to reality with Chris in tow, only to face the warm, muggy days of “late summer” in Louisville.
Having put the CSA on hold for two weeks because of “my worldly travels” (ahem, Michael…), I was faced with little direction about what to cook next. A blank slate. I was also coming down from two weeks in a row when my dear BF went to the store just about EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for an ingredient for a meal that I had not planned until the last minute.

I’ve heard people complain that cooking for one is difficult. I think I honed that skill so well that I’m finding coooking regularly for two is much more difficult than cooking for myself ever was. Whereas I used to plan 2 meals + leftovers each week, I now don’t have the luxury (?) of eating the same thing for lunch every day. I now have to plan for 4 meals or so + leftovers. That extra planning and grocery shopping is getting to be tedious. And I don’t even have children to worry about.

In a renewed effort to plan meals accordingly and prevent the BF from begrudgingly lovingly running to the grocery store on my every whim, I planned out meals for the week, and worked to use up some of the meat stashed in my refrigerator. I’ll post more about those recipes later this month.
For now, here’s a dish I made prior to my travels, trying to use up some of the ingredients I had around. I also made this recipe up. Myself. Something I’d like to do more of. I made croutons using some stale bread. I then browned some Italian chicken sausage and then cooked the garlic and onions with the kale. I combined the sausage back with the kale, topped with the croutons and Parmesan cheese, and baked it for a bit. It all turned out pretty tasty. Not too bad for an impromptu, clean-out-the-fridge dinner.

Sausage and Kale Bake with Croutons by… me!

1 bunch kale

1 lb. italian sausage links

1/2 large white onion

1 garlic clove

2 T. olive oil divided

salt and pepper

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

1/2 loaf baguette bread, cut into bite-size cubes

1/2 c. chicken stock

1. Slice the sausage links cross-wise into disks, about 1/4 inch thick. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 T. olive oil. Cook the sausage until browned. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion to the pot and cook over medium-low heat. Add a pinch of salt. Stir occaisionally until softened and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir.

Add the kale to the pot of garlic and onions. Stir well. Add chicken broth. Cover and cook until kale is tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 T. of olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and carefully mix well.

When the kale is done, add the sausage back to the pot.

Stir well. Place the kale and sausage mixture into a 9×9 baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs and sprinkle with paremsan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until browned on top.

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