Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Kimchi Chronicles

The kimchi making bug still has me obsessed, which means that dinner still consists of some sort of grilled meat, short grain brown rice, and an assortment of banchan. Since summer in the Bay Area is having an extinction burst, these meals are perfect for a day when you just want to throw something together and call it dinner, especially if the rice was made earlier and only requires a jaunt in the microwave. The banchans are made on different days, but they are all meant to live long, nonperishable lives. At various times I've thought about how lovely it would be to have a refrigerator dedicated to banchan, a staple in so many Korean households, but those thoughts are shortly chased away by the reality of my living situation: only 2 people to feed, we already own an extra freezer in the garage, no room to put a chest refrigerator anywhere, and I have no idea how much longer my banchan obsession will last.

The last round of cabbage kimchi consisted of Napa cabbage, radish, and carrots as the base vegetables. I used up the last of my Mexican chili powder (I think it was ancho?), so I treated myself to a trip to the Korean grocery market to pick up some more staples: gochujang, doenjang, and some Korean chili flakes. (For those of you in the Bay Area, Koreana Plaza is a fun field trip, but beware alert in the parking lot because there's a lot of backing up without looking going on!)
Grocery shopping with the boy means that we'll end up with some random food item that will require some research to use up. During this trip, he grabbed a bag of dried fiddlehead ferns and this bag of either dried squid or dried cuttlefish. He could not resist the drinking squid or the promise that this squid would go good with beer. What a sucker.
Thankfully, a little web search pulled up plenty of recipes for the dried squid. Maangchi is a wonderful resource for Korean food, and the added videos and cute commentary can easily absorb your afternoon. I used her recipe for seasoned dried shredded squid (ojingeochae muchim), and I'm happy to report that it is delicious! The squid is right: it is perfect with beer. My only change to the recipe was to substitute brown rice syrup for the corn syrup, and I used canola oil instead of olive oil (olive oil? really?).

Another banchan I made are these stewed black beans (kong jang). These are what I go nuts over at Korean BBQ restaurants, and they turn out to be a snap to make. My only changes to the recipe was to omit the corn syrup and to add an equal amount of sugar towards the end of the cooking time. Also note the the black beans are black soybeans (edamame), not the black turtle beans commonly available here. If you cannot find dried black soybeans, you may substitute regular soybeans. The tricky bit is that when you go to a Chinese or Korean market, "black beans" usually refers to the black soybeans. If you want to make sure, inspect the package of dried black beans. The skin is black, but the flesh underneath is a pale green.

Can anyone explain to me why there is so much corn syrup in Korean recipes? I tried to buy a gochujang without it, and it was impossible. I'm sure that Korean grandmothers weren't using the stuff 100 years ago, so what gives? Is this simply a matter of economics? I notice that other recipes use malt/barley syrup, too. Luckily, I have a jar of brown rice syrup from some long ago recipe, and that does the trick.

Since I bought a package of Korean chili flakes, I was chomping at the bit to make this cucumber kimchi (oisobagi kimchi). It's currently sitting in the back office, the coolest spot in the house, fermenting for a day. It was good right away, but it will be even better once it the flavors meld more and there's a bit of lactic acid in the mix.

Now, it's time for props. There are a number of fantastic Korean websites out there that I have been reading over and over again for recipes, brand recommendations, and inspiration.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I am complete in-mind!

I get some of the best email and comments from people who are convinced that I spend my free time thinking up ways to torture my poor, abused cats. This last round of comments were just too good to not share.

"Well, I think that was ridiculous. I mean, no one cat need any hat, it's just a animal. You're complete in-mind."

"That poor little cat, they using to do stupids things, as being a model
or something more foggy. You should be embarrass about it. "

"Excellent way to make a comic blog, that little cat isn't cute with that hat, maybe you're sick or something, I really was deception about it. "

So, folks, if you only remember one thing, let it be this: no one cat need any hat!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

See? I am knitting!

Currently on my needles is a sweater for the boy. It's a boring man sweater, with excitement only derived from going at it sans pattern. I'm making a top-down raglan using the guidelines from Custom Knits.  Now, the exciting parts are over, with "exciting parts" being loosely defined as swatching, calculating gauge, figuring out how many stitches to cast on, and separating the armholes and calculating extra stitches to cast on for the body after that.

I've begged to add cables. Nope. I've asked to make it ribbed. Nope. How about a v-neck? I've never made a v-neck before! Nope. He wants it plain, and he hates ribbing for some reason, so I'll finish off the cuffs and neckband with either moss stitch or crab stitch. If it weren't for the fact that he remodeled the bathroom and pretty much painted two rooms by himself, I'd scoff at the idea of making him a plain sweater. However, he did concede to letting me add some green racing stripes to one sleeve, and I'm also thinking about adding a little green skull and crossbones somewhere. It will be a surprise!

Anticipating the miles of stockinette I'll have to knit to complete the body, I tried to convince him that tight sweaters look super sexy on men. Nope. In fact, the he wanted positive ease. And did I mention that this is knit up in Hempathy, that yarn that is a skinny DK?

Last night, I tried the sweater on him now that the armholes are complete. Success! Of course, it looks like he's wearing some sort of top that goes well with Daisy Dukes (sadly, he wouldn't let me take a picture), but the critical parts are all done.

Now, back to knitting miles of stockinette...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursdays are for Pickles and Kimchi

After starting off the morning taste testing yet another eggs Benedict , this time from Jimmy Beans  (I had the Eggs Blackstone and it was not stellar, but solid), I did my produce shopping, and then spent the rest of the afternoon making pickles and kimchi.

This afternoon's batch of kimchi features daikon, carrots, and of course Napa cabbage as the stars, and loads of garlic, ginger, green onions, fish sauce, and tiny dried shrimp as the supporting actors. Also, there was a healthy dose of chili powder. I'm almost through with my package of arbol chlii powder, and once that is gone, I'll treat myself to the real deal chili flakes from the Korean market. Although, I do like the idea of sourcing some California grown dried chili flakes, so I'll take a look around before loading up my cart at the Korean market.

I also put together another batch of Mexican carrot pickles, this time with more garlic cloves. Surprisingly, until my friend popped one of the pickled garlic cloves into her mouth, I never had the guts to try them myself. I imagined that they'd be overwhelmingly pungent and that people would part like the Red Sea when I approached. However, to my delight, they had a crunchy texture and the garlic "bite" was mild. Yum! I won't be pushing the garlic cloves to the side of my plate anymore.

One little trick I tried was to soak my whole garlic cloves for a couple of hours before taking off their papery husk. When I cook with garlic, I usually smash them with the side of my knife and then remove their husk, but for the pickles I wanted them to be intact and pretty. It was so much easier to peel the garlic after their water bath!

Another batch of Japanese cucumber salt pickles are on the counter, too, in my cool pickle press. I'll probably mix them with some dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes tomorrow.

One impulse buy were these gobo (burdock) roots. They were advertised as organic, and since I find so many Asian vegetables hard to find in organic form (lotus root, for example), I pounced on them. I'm going to make a gobo root kinpira tonight, using the same technique and marinade as my lotus root kinpira.

When I went to feed my pet worms all the vegetable food scraps, I happened upon the worm invader. It's stupid, but I am terrified of this slimy salamander. I'm getting better - I can take a picture of it now instead of slamming the lid on the worm bin and screaming for the boy to feed the worms.

Mingus remains unimpressed with this afternoon's activities, but he's a dog. What does he know? (He knows that he doesn't like kimchi or pickles. You can bet if I was making a batch of pork potstickers he'd be sitting outside of the kitchen sniffing the air with a happy face.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

There are 4 Critters on the Bed

Can you spot them all?

Weekend mornings, I've gotten into the deranged habit of waking up on the early side. I blame this on the many projects I have going with morning people, meaning that work meetings starting at 7 in the morning is not so unusual. Combine an early morning meeting with an annoying freeway drive chock full of accidents, and that means I have to wake up at dark o'clock to ensure I'm not late to said meeting.

All this waking up early business wouldn't bother me if I could sleep in during the weekends, but sadly it's becoming harder for me to do so. Obviously, the boy does not share this same disease. And if I forgo my bed spot, there are four volunteers who will gladly take it over, clearly taking advantage of the boy's impaired discipline.

The bright side of this is that I've come to a new appreciation of weekend brunch. If I can rouse the boy, we can easily slip into some of the more popular brunch spots around town without a wait. I think I've had eggs fancy variations of eggs Benedict now at least one day of each weekend for the past month.

So far, my eggs Benedict ranking is as follows:
  1. The Sunnyside Cafe: They have a daily eggs Benedict special that features local meat and produce. This is my favorite spot by miles.
  2. Cafe M: I had the crab cake Benedict. It was served only with pan fried potatoes, so the whole meal was heavy. The crab cakes were fried, which I suppose is normal, but I would have rather had lump crab meat.
  3. Cafe 1491: Straightforward eggs Benedict. It's not bad, but it's not the best thing on the brunch menu. Next time I'll get the duck confit hash - that was delicious.
I still have to try the eggs Benedict from Buttercream (unfortunatelythey closed before I had a chance to try them). Better yet, I should make it myself, but I'll freely admit that so much of the allure of weekend brunch is starting my weekend by having someone else cook for me and clean up the dishes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vespa Vesper

Originally, I named this project after Vespa because it was going to be black and tan, but no tan was to be found when I was in search for my contrasting color of Hempathy. Vespa is not black and green, but since I love this top like I love my dog, I kept the name.

The hints of fall weather, instead of making me yearn for a cup of cocoa and sweater knitting, is making me sad. This summer in the Bay Area, we haven't had much of a summer! My cherry tomatoes are just ripening, and now that I'm finally tasting summer, it's over. Boo. So, I'm not especially bloggy right now. You can find more project notes about this project and my modifications on my Ravelry project page.


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