Radish Kimchi

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We love kimchi. Along with Korean food in general. When I am feeling hungover, or gloomy, I always crave mung bean pancakes, sizzling beef, and little sides of pickled sprouts and tofu.

The husband's kimchi trials started several years ago. There were horrible days of burning hands, pungent smells, clay pots, and many fights around kimchi making. The cons always outweighed the pros when it came to this process. I would often throw my arms up, and say, "let's just buy it at that market already!" We did have a tiny Korean near us that sold homemade delicious kimchi. For $5 a jar, you get all the flavor, without any of the headaches. I was all for it.

After several failed efforts, and probably to keep marital harmony, the husband put his clay pot up in the cabinets above the fridge, and there was a long sabbatical from Korean pickling. Then, we came across The Korean Kitchen: Classic Recipes from the Land of the Morning Clam. We found this book at our local library bookstore. When we moved, the clay pot made an appearance again. And the third factor was that the husband planted rows of Daikon radish at one of his satellite gardens.

What do you do with 10 lbs of radish? You make kimchi. I tried making it on my own. It didn't turn out so well. Then, the husband made a small batch, and I was impressed. We decided, we would use the entire 10 pounds, and make a giant batch, together. After peeling and trimming the radish, we ended up with close to 8 lbs. We followed the recipe, making minor adjustments. The second fridge in the garage was a lifesaver.

Below is the recipe straight out of the book. Enjoy. But beware, making a successful batch can only lead to more kimchi making in the future.

Kaktugi Kimchi (Pickled Radish)
Makes 1 quart
1 lb Diakon radish, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 scallions, cut into 2 inch strips
1 head of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
3-4 tbsp of hot red Korean chili powder
1 tbsp fine-chopped salted tiny shrimps (or fish sauce)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Mix everything together and store in a glass or pottery container with a tight cover. Allow to ferment for 24 hours, then refrigerate. It is ready to eat immediately, but it may be stored in the refrigerator for several months.

Potato Gnocchi with Bacon and Peas

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When I run out of peppered Hungarian bacon, I panic a little. I like to keep a chunk, or rather little chunks, in my freezer at all times. This bacon can make a meal. As it did here. I wasn't sure what I wanted to make this evening, but I knew I had one small chunk of bacon left in my freezer. I also had peas. And it had been a while since we've had gnocchi.

My local Super King market sells peppered and regular Hungarian bacon chunks. I look for the one with the most pepper. When I bring it home, I cut it up into smaller chunks, good for serving 2-4 people, and freeze them individually for emergency and non-emergency dinners. It reassures me to open my freezer and see little plastic bags with bacon.

On another note, I'm not the biggest fan of dried gnocchi. But, I'm also not really interested in making my own anytime soon. You can usually find decent frozen ones at Italian markets, but sometimes I get lazy and buy a dry package from Trader Joe's in preparation for additional laziness that is likely to happen when it's almost 6 pm on a weeknight and I haven't started dinner yet. I guess the lesson here is, if you're going to be lazy, plan for it better with frozen gnocchi. This might make it on to my 2011 resolution list.

It feels like it's been a while since I've actually typed out a recipe here. And although this dish came together naturally from the freezer/pantry, I will do my best to summarize it in recipe form.
Potato Gnocchi with Bacon and Peas
Serves 4

1 package of dry or frozen potato gnocchi (a little over a pound)
1 cube of peppered Hungarian bacon (a little smaller than your fist), sliced into whatever size you like
1 large can of whole tomatoes (20 oz or so)
2 tbsp of tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
handful of dried basil, I use purple and green
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1/2-1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil

1) Boil gnocchi according to package instructions, drain and set aside in a casserole dish.
2) Meanwhile, brown bacon in large pan. When bacon is almost done, add garlic and tomato paste, and cook an additional 3 minutes or so.
3) In a large bowl, smash you tomatoes to break them up. (I do not like large tomato chunks. The husband does. I try to compromise.) Add tomatoes and juices to the bacon. Season with salt and pepper (remember bacon is peppered, so don't over do it).
4) Add basil, and peas and simmer for about 10 minutes.
5) Add bacon and peas sauce over the gnocchi. Top with cheese.
6) Bake at 350 degrees covered for about 15 minutes, then turn heat up to 400 and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Enjoy this steamy, cheesy dish. It is rather comforting on a cold night.


Chorizo, Take 3

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Don't the holidays say "chorizo" to you? This holiday season we've decided to give our friends and relatives the gift of sausage. We've gotten pretty good at making chorizo, after attempt 1 (original recipe) and attempt 2, so we knew we wouldn't embarrass ourselves.

The process was not easy in our smaller, new kitchen. And we couldn't find a red chili pepper anywhere, but we made do, and six hours later, our sausages were cased, the grinder washed, and we cursed ourselves for our thoughtful gift-giving idea.

We couldn't say with certainty chorizo 3 was better than 2. But it is good, although a little different. We will wait for the critics to provide their feedback.


Stir Fry Noodles, Two Ways

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I love Shanghai-style noodles. They are so thick and silky, and absorb sauces really well. Recently, I made two stir frys with them. One with shrimp, scallops and bok choy (grown by the husband). The second, beef, broccoli and napa cabbage. Although both were tasty, the seafood noodles were the best. My beef was kind of tough.

Both dishes start with plenty of garlic and ginger. Then I use oyster (lots), soy (little) and hoisin (some) sauce. Sesame and peanut oil, and a few drops of chili oil. The noodles cook quickly (about 6 minutes or so) in boiling water, then I drain them and add them to my pan at the very end. Everything else is cooked according to size and hardness. I did steam my broccoli for a couple of minutes to cut down on its cooking time. And you want to make sure and not overcook your shrimp and scallops. No one likes rubbery seafood.


Turkey Noodle Soup

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After Thanksgiving dinner, I started cleaning as my guests and the husband, enjoyed drinking and chatting. I cleaned for a while. Then, when the guests left, the husband insisted we keep the turkey carcass so he can make stock. It was a pain to break it up, find a large bag, and store it. Afterwords, the husband napped on the couch, while I finished dishes and more cleaning.

So a couple of days pass, and the carcass is untouched. I ask the husband what the plan is. Stock, he says. I'm going to make stock, remember?

A couple more days pass, I remind the husband of the carcass and his stock, because I do remember. The reply I get this time, "You should really make the stock today. I don't want that thing sitting around longer." Great. I couldn't really argue since I'm home all day, being a housewife and all. But I felt tricked.

So, I made stock. And froze it.
Then on Monday, we went to Schreiner's for sausage casings and lunch. There we picked up a fine-looking, smoked turkey drumstick for my turkey noodle soup.
I have never made chicken or turkey noodle soup. But I've eaten plenty of it. And it starts with good stock. As it turned out, my stock was really good. I didn't do anything special to make it. Just added bay leaves, an onion, celery and carrots, throwing in some parsley at the end. Simmer, strain, and you get stock.
In making my soup, I added carrots, celery, and some meat of the drumstick to my simmering stock. I was surprised at how much meat was on the drumstick. I hardly used half. In the end, I added my egg noodles, seasoned it, and enjoyed a delicious bowl by the fire.

When the husband came home, he had two bowls, and was impressed at how tasty my soup was.Of course, I said, you made such a good stock.


Black Bean and Cheddar Quesadillas

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There's not much easier, tastier and more satisfying than a quesadilla. I normally wouldn't use cheddar as my first choice for a quesadilla, but I had tons of it left over. And in the end, it really didn't make much difference. It was deliciously cheesy.

Along with cheddar, my quesadillas were filled with black beans, green onions, black olives, hot sauce and salt and pepper. Then, I topped up them with salsa and sour cream. Yum.