Kimchi made easy

kimcheeI have to confess – I’ve always been intimidated by kimchi. Not by eating it, oh no, I’ll gladly eat plenty. No, my intimidation is in making it. Kimchi has held a long-standing reputation for me as something that is both quite difficult to make and something to be revered. Friends have shared that kimchi can be a rite of passage for some, and for many, can represent a lifetime pursuit in perfecting their personal recipe and making it truly their own. I think that’s what has always intimidated me… the gravitas of it all. Kimchi deserves respect. So recently, I decided to respectfully try my hand at it and since then, I’ve been making it non-stop. So much so that I’m probably at risk of becoming the subject matter in Portlandia’s infamous “We can pickle that” skit. I digress.

The great news is that kimchi is actually simpler to make than you may think. The most important step is really the fermentation and for that, the good bacteria does all the work. (We just need to make sure we do everything to help create the right kind of environment for it to do its job.) Still, I can see how a person can spend a lifetime perfecting their recipe. The one I’m including here is a basic one that’s good to start with, which you can add to as you make more. There are plenty of more robust and complex kimchi recipes out there that include things like rice flour and an assortment of herbs and vegetables to add different flavours, but I’m going to keep it simple – since that’s what worked for me.

What will make it unique to you are the ingredients and quantity of ingredients you choose to put into it, along with how long you choose to ferment it for. The longer the time you let the kimchi ferment, the softer the cabbage and more sour the flavour. The moment you finish “dressing” the cabbage, you can already eat it fresh.

One last thing to note before we get started. Kimchi takes a long time to make not because it’s complicated, but because of the brining that needs to take place initially. What I recommend is salting the cabbage the night before you want to make the kimchee. This way, the actual process of making it will only take around 30-90 minutes (based on how fast you are at chopping everything up). Brining takes a minimum of 4 hours – but like I said, it’s best if you leave it overnight.

Ingredients: (makes about 3-4 L of kimchi depending on size of cabbage)

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  • Initial salt soak
    • 1 nappa cabbage (the larger the cabbage, the more kimchi you’ll have)
    • 1/2 cup of sea salt
    • water (approximately 3 litres) Continue reading

Arugula + summer fruit salad

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The first days of summer always seem to smell the sweetest. The sun burns a little brighter and no one seems to notice. But even the best seasons have their off-days and summer is no exception. You know the ones – where the air is thick, thunderstorms are in the air, and so hot that you would hide away in the fridge if you could.

For those hard dog days of summer where lifting a finger threatens to bring on another shower, this salad is a quick chop and toss (thankfully mostly toss!) away to remind you of summer’s best. If you’re in a pinch, add 3 tablespoons of rhubarb compote to dress your salad and forget the oil. After all, it’s summer and you make the rules.

  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup pea tendrils (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, quartered
  • 1 peach, sliced
  • 1 cup Rainier cherries
  • 2 sprigs mint, julienned
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Gently toss together the ingredients and dress at the last minute. Serves 2-4.

Spinach and mushroom risotto

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Making a nice, creamy risotto had evaded me for years. My downfall in the past was my split attention span (I like to call it multi-tasking) and the assumption that making risotto is similar to making rice or congee: add water and boil. The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth and to think all it took as a little investigation into “how to make risotto”. So, to save you from the same sad fate as my past attempted risotto creations, this is how you really make risotto and it’s surprisingly easy. As an aside, risotto is not something to make if you need to be multi-tasking, as timing is of the essence. It’s not hard, you just need to be able to pay attention to it and have a little patience. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 4 to 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated

Ingredients if vegan: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped

Preparation:

  1. In a medium to large saucepan, heat up the butter, 1/4 cup of the cream, and olive oil (just olive oil if vegan) on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion (and garlic, if you’re using garlic). Simmer until the onions are translucent and nearly breaking down.
  2. In a large pot, pour your stock and wine. Simmer on low heat without a lid. It should not come to a boil.
  3. Back to your onion saucepan – add the rice and stir, still on medium heat. The edges of the rice should also turn translucent, while the centre will remain opaque. Stir the rice to keep it from burning. Lightly toasted is what we want but not burned.
  4. When the rice is translucent, ladle in a cup of broth and stir it into the rice. Keep slowly stirring. The rice will absorb the broth at which time you can ladle in another cup of broth. You will be ladling in a cup of broth at a time – only a cup at a time. This is where that patience and attention comes in. It’s important that you only do a cup at a time and wait until nearly all of the liquid is soaked into the rice before you add another. No need to rush. Too much liquid and your risotto could get really soupy rather than creamy and overcook.
  5. When your risotto is nearing completion – you’ll be able to tell as the kernels are nearly al dente and the consistency will be creamy (you’ll also only have about a cup or two left of your broth) – add the chopped mushrooms and spinach. Continue stirring.
  6. Finish adding enough broth to get your risotto to the perfect consistency and the rice just cooked. I encourage taste testing to make sure. Note that you may not need all the broth – or if you run out, use a little water or more stock. Add the grated parmesan cheese and the last 1/4 cup cream to the risotto, stir to have it melt in (ignore this last step if you’re vegan).

You’re ready to serve! Risotto is best served right away – buon appetito!

Jicama mango salad

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I fell in love with jicama in Mexico and have since looked for every opportunity to integrate it into a meal. Last night, we had baby back ribs for dinner and the refreshing, clean flavour of jicama was the perfect complement to the saucy, smokey flavour of the ribs.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5 people)

  • 1/2 jicama, peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 1 regular cucumber (not English cucumber), peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 2 stalks of cilantro (coriander), chopped
  • 1 green mango (mango that isn’t quite ripe), peeled and finely sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of cracked pepper, or to taste
  • 3/4 tablespoon of cracked salt, or to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine the sliced jicama, cucumber, and mango in a bowl and hand toss until everything is evenly distributed
  2. Juice the limes over the salad and toss again
  3. Add the olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper. Toss yet again. Note, you’ll need a lot of salt and pepper to flavour the salad

And that’s it, the salad is ready to serve!

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My love for Pad Thai

pad thaiPad thai is one of my favourite dishes that I can rarely get enough of. While in Thailand, my husband and I would frequently walk down the street from where we were staying to get dishes upon dishes of homemade pad thai made before our very eyes. The ingredients would vary slightly depending on the lady cooking for us, but the result was always delicious. What’s more, the dishes usually cost around $1 to $2 CAD. It inspired me to try to make my own.

The other night, I finally tried my hand at making it. This recipe outlines how I made my pad thai and is simple to follow and straight forward, but does take some time. I’d recommend setting aside about 2 to 3 hours for prep and cooking time if it’s your first time making it – about 1-2 hours once you become more practiced.

Ingredients: (serves 5)

  • 3/4 of a package of dried pad thai rice noodles (package will say “pad thai” on it)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of dried tamarind powder or 3 tablespoons of pulp (add more if you like a touch more of a tangy, sour flavour in your pad thai)
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 1 bunch of green onions (sometimes called scallions), chopped to 1 to 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 a large carrot, finely sliced into strips or quarters
  • 5 shallots, finely sliced in thin strips
  • 1 package of firm tofu (or deep fried tofu), cut into inch-long strips
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can also use a full cup of either peanut or vegetable oil)
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained

Continue reading

Pineapple potato tacos

potato tacosOne of my favourite meals while my sister and I were in Mexico were the street tacos (Vine video at the bottom of this post). We had no idea what the different options were, and weren’t able to find out past “carne” (meat) or “pollo” (chicken) with the language barrier. So, we would point to one of the delicious looking options… and devour the result. Of these options, the one that surprised me the most was one that looked highly-textured that turned out to be potatoes and pineapple. I liked it so much that when we got home, my hubby and I tried to replicate it. This is his recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium sized red potatoes, chopped
  • half a pineapple, chopped (or one can of pineapple nibblets, mostly drained)
  • 1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine (if you’re not vegan, you can use butter)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • Soft-shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • Grated cheese of your choice (we used Okanogan’s Soy Co. vegan mozzarella)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • 1/4 of a lime

Continue reading

Tomato gazpacho

Nothing shouts SUMMER like a fabulous chilled bowl (or cup) of gazpacho. Gazpacho is a chilled raw tomato-based soup that hails from Spain and Portugal – although some say that before that, it likely had Arabic roots. In any case, it’s a delicious, refreshing soup that fares well as a mid-afternoon snack, cocktail hors d’oeuvres, or appetizer. Even better, it’s incredibly simple to make. That said, note that this soup does need to chill for at least 2 hours, so if you’re crunched for time to serve something right away, it may not be the best soup to make.

Ingredients:

  • 14 large tomatoes
  • 1 green capsicum pepper
  • 1 red capsicum pepper
  • 1 red chili pepper, deseeded (unless you want your soup quite spicy)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 large basil leaves, fresh
  • 1 lime, fully squeezed
  • 2 slices of bread (wheat-based is best, but really, you can use any kind), toasted
  • 2 tablespoons of oliver oil
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey