I've been making a lot of kimchi, Korean fermented cabbage pickle, lately because I made the collosal (AND BRILLIANT) "mistake" of joining not one, but two CSA's this year: the charming Caretaker Farm, where you actually contribute to the labor of the farm and reap all its benefits, and Mighty Food Farm, with its terrific array of produce.
It's not so much that it's too much food—I manage to put it all to good use—as much as I find myself gravitating to different vegetables than I normally would because, really, how many Boston lettuces do you need in your fridge at one time? (Answer: a lot.)
So: Napa cabbage. A vegetable that my mom cooked often when I was a kid and—sorry mom—I always hated. But between the overabundance of produce and the fact that I had a bag of Korean red pepper and Korean salt in my pantry (recently dug out during an inventory), kimchi it was.
As you'll see from the recipe below, kimchi is pretty straightforward to make, at least in my (likely not super authentic but pretty legit) version. But the best thing about having it on hand is that it will inspire you to figure out how to eat it—which will lead you down many delicious culinary rabbit holes.
So far, I've put it in bowls of ramen to add some nutrition to an otherwise utterly devoid-of-healthful-qualities meal, I've made kimchi fried rice (which was so good I asked it to go steady; it said yes), I've made cold spicy soba noodles, I've even tucked it into a grilled cheese sandwich (I have no idea why this works but it does). But the pièce de resistance was the grilled BBQ pork belly that we ate last night, with kimchi as an essential condiment.
Makes 2 quarts
You'll need to make a trip to an Asian store for Korean chili powder (gochugaru) and, if you'd like, Korean sea salt. You can also use kosher salt or sea salt as long as it has no added iodine or anti-caking agents, which will inhibit fermentation. Pickling salt is also an option, although use an increased amount because it's bigger. I use a 2 quart mason jar for this, with a plastic lid; any glass jars with lids will do, but don't use plastic. Make sure you use kosher or coarse salt, or things will end badly. The recipe comes from Julia Moskin at the New York Times.
1 Napa cabbage, about 1.5-2 lbs
4 heaped TB coarse or kosher salt
1 TB soy sauce
2 TB fish sauce
3/4 c Korean chili powder (gochugaru)
1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
2 TB garlic, minced very finely (I grate it on a coarse Microplane)
2 TB ginger, minced (see above)
4 c thin carrot sticks, about 3" long, or 2 c sliced red radishes, or 2 c thin strips of daikon radish (optional)
1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters, and then crosswise into 1" wide ribbons. Put it into a big bowl and add the salt; toss with your hands to make sure the salt is distributed. Add cold water until it just reaches the top of the cabbage, and then put a plate or other weight on top of the bowl to keep the cabbage submerged. Let it sit for 12 hours or so (overnight will do).
2. Pull the cabbage out of the saltwater and put it directly into another big bowl. (Reserve the saltwater for now.) To the cabbage, add the rest of the ingredients, and with your hands toss everything together really well—you want everything distributed evenly and thoroughly.
3. Pack the cabbage into the squeaky clean jar(s) (preferably ones that have been run recently through a hot dishwasher cycle). Push it all down as far as it will go; you'll see that juice will start to come out. Leave 2-3" of empty space at the top of large jars (or 1" at the top of small ones), as the contents will expand. Once the cabbage is in the jar(s), add whatever liquid is left in the bowl to completely (but just) cover the cabbage—if necessary, add some of the reserved salt water to get the level right.
4. Close the jars and place on a tray (in case of drips). Leave them on your counter for a few days to ferment. (If it's hot in your kitchen, leave them out for a day then transfer to the fridge; they'll keep fermenting in there.) Open the jars occasionally to "burp" them (like a baby!) so the gas doesn't cause leaks; push the cabbage back down into the liquid using a clean wooden spoon.
5. Once the kimchi starts smelling good, transfer it to the fridge. You can let it cure for as little or as long as you'd like—you really should just start eating it when it tastes good to you. The fermentation will cause it to sour and to get really umami-flavored, and the longer it sits, the longer those flavors will develop. But it's been going in our house pretty fast, so I really can't say much about that.
Easy and satisfying. I dare you to come up with a better weeknight pantry meal. The recipe comes from this site.
1 TB canola oil, plus 2 tsp
3 c cooked brown rice (this is perfect for leftover rice)
1 c kimchi, chopped
1/4 kimchi liquid
1/4 c water
2-3 TB gochujang, spicy Korean miso-chili paste
3 tsp sesame oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 green onion, chopped
1 TB roasted sesame seeds and 1 sheet nori, shredded, OR 1 TB Japanese furikake (rice seasoning)
1. In a small bowl, combine kimchi liquid, water, and gochujang and stir till smooth.
2. Heat oil in large pan. When hot, add kimchi and heat until sizzling. Add rice and stir until heated and sizzling. Add sauce and stir-fry until everything is combined, hot, and aromatic. Sprinkle sesame oil on top and stir till combined. Divide among two bowls.
3. In another small pan, fry the two eggs, sunny-side up, in 1 tsp of oil each. Add one to each bowl.
4. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds/nori or furikake.
This recipe comes from My Korean Kitchen and is ordinarily made with somen noodles; I used soba noodles because I seem to have a lifetime supply squirreled away in my cupboards. It's really refreshing on a warm summer night. My kid devoured the leftovers, but I think it tastes best right after the noodles are mixed with the other ingredients. It's traditionally topped with a hard boiled egg, but I was craving shrimp.
3 bundles soba noodles (about 6 oz)
1/2 c (or more) kimchi, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 c julienned cucumber, with skin left on
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs to serve on top of the noodles (optional)
For the sauce:
2 TB gochujang (Korean miso-chili paste)
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB sugar
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB roasted sesame seeds (you can roast them on a dry pan until they start to turn brown)
1. Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl.
2. Boil noodles. Drain and rinse under cold water.
3. Toss noodles with sauce and kimchi.
4. Top with halved eggs.
This is hardly even a recipe.
This isn't even a recipe so much as a method for a dish that is something like the Korean somgyeopsal, barbecue pork belly. It's traditionally made on a tabletop grill, and you could also make it on a stovetop grill, but for ease of clean-up and the smoke I like doing it on my charcoal grill outside. Just be sure to have a long pair of tongs and a spray bottle handy to tamp down the flames on the grill. (That sounds scarier than it is.) You basically plop a piece of pork belly in a lettuce leaf, add condiments as you wish, and gobble it up; I've given some idea for condiments here, but you can add or delete at will.
1/2 lb pork belly, placed in freezer for 30 mins
kimchi (see above)
scallion sesame salad (see below)
radish and onion salad (see below)
whole Boston lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1. Take partly frozen pork belly out of the freezer, and slice into slightly thicker than 1/4" slices.
2. Build a charcoal fire in your grill. Bank coals on one side, so that you have a cooler side to move meat to when things get to flame-y. When grill is hot, add pork belly slices to the hot side of the grill. Move them around so they don't get charred; they should only take about a minute or two on each side. Transfer the pieces to a platter.
3. Stick the other condiments on the platter. Grab food from platter, wrap in lettuce, and eat.
Makes never enough
I swear to god I could eat this forever. The only trick is slicing the scallions very VERY thinly, like threads. It takes a bit of patience, but your knife skills will improve. Toss scallions and dressing together shortly before eating. Recipe from My Korean Kitchen.
1 bunch of scallions, ends trimmed and cut into 3 inch lengths, then lengths cut very finely into thin slices
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
2 tsp unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
1. Slice scallions. Rinse in a colander under cold water very well. Shake the colander and let drain.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Add the scallions and toss with dressing. Serve immediately. (It tastes just fine the next day, but best if freshly tossed.)
Radish and Onion Salad with Sesame
2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 medium red onion
8 red radishes
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB sugar
2 tsp unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 crumbled dried red chili or dried chili flakes to taste
1. Toast sesame seeds on a dry skillet until golden. Set aside.
2. Slice onion into very thin slivers and radishes into very thin rounds; I use my trusty Kyocera slicer (a Japanese mandoline that costs about $15 dollars) to do this.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a small serving bowl. Add vegetables and toss to combine. Just before serving, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.