Using Kim Chee

Oddly, I find myself using kim chee frequently.  Maybe you attended my lacto-fermentation class, or read an old post of mine, Anticipation,  where you learned about it.  You got a bunch of napa cabbage, and kohlrabi, and various other greens, and you made a lot of varieties.  And it is all in your fridge.  You aren’t eating Korean food every night, so now it is just sitting there.  In this world of diversity, there is more to do with this spicy side dish than merely pairing it with bulgogi!  You can mix things up and put some on a burger or hotdog.  Not things we would normally put kim chee on, and I do not know what possessed me to try it, but I did and both were really great.  Scrambled eggs benefit from a dollop, as well.

Here are some other recipes I came up with that use kim chee as an ingredient:

Kim Chee Slaw

  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup of kim chee

In a large bowl, mix this all together.  I know, I know.  It sounds gross.  Mayo and kim chee.  Please trust me on this.  It is the best slaw.  So, so good!

Changed Overs

Do you have members of the family who won’t eat leftovers?  Here’s a way to recycle leftovers:

  • 2 cups leftover meat, cut up in bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 cups leftover vegetables
  • 1 cup of kim chee

In a large bowl, mix all of this together.

If your family prefers hot food, you can put this in a casserole dish and heat it in the oven, just until it is heated through.

In the summer we like this room temperature or cold, served over hot rice, or tossed into pho (rice noodles) that have been soaked in boiled water for about a minute.

Don’t think about kim chee as a stand alone side.  Think about it as a way to flavor other things!  In the winter, I love to heat up some stock (make your own — Stock Going Up!) and add about a 1/4 c of kim chee.  Fast, easy, delicious and really good for you!

Living La Vita Locale 7/12: Peaches

Ok, FINE! I’ll give Georgia THEIR peaches, because if you live in Georgia, and can get those gems tree-ripened, they are wonderful.  But in mid-July in New Jersey? It is all about the Jersey peach, especially white peaches that squirt juice all over when you bite them.  We like to pick peaches at the same orchard where we pick our apples, Strawberry Hill.  We bring home about a bushel of peaches and I can some, and lacto-ferment some, and dry some, and make fruit leather out of some.  And yes, we eat the rest of them: peach cobbler, yogurt with peaches, or even just a plain peach as a snack.  While I will buy “bump-and-dent” tomatoes to can into sauce (because sometimes I do not get enough tomatoes from my garden even with what is supplemented by the CSA share), I will not skimp on peaches.   They must be perfect specimens and perfectly ripe.

Peaches are number two on the list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods as defined by the Environmental Working Group.  Because they are fuzzy, peach skins retain much of the topical fungicides and pesticides that farmers spray on the fruit.  And because they are fuzzy, it is nearly impossible to get all of the chemicals washed off of the fruit.  And it is very difficult to grow a soft fruit that is susceptible to a plethora of pests and fungi without the use of chemicals.  That is why organic peaches are hard to come by. Additionally, with peaches being publicized as part of the “Dirty Dozen” more people are choosing organic over conventional.  This is why organic peaches are so expensive.

Of course I went in search of a local organic orchard!  Did I find one?  Yes.  But they did not grown peaches.  As a matter of fact, I could not find one local organic peach.  Not one.  The organic orchard I found only grew organic apples — the soft fruit orchards were on another property they owned about a mile down the road, and were not organic.  They, like Strawberry Hill, use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system that minimizes the use of chemicals.  They do not use antibiotics (Yes! There are some pesticides that are antibiotics!), they release lady bugs and parasitic wasps to manage insect pests, but they do have to spray sometimes. Usually fungicide, and usually when it has been very wet.  My advice is to call the orchard and ask questions.  Most farmers and orchardists will be very happy to talk to you — they will be surprised that you are interested.  So while Strawberry Hill is a conventional orchard, I still buy fruit there because I feel that their practices are environmentally sound.

The absolute easiest thing to do with peaches is to lacto-ferment them.  Lacto-fermenting fruit can be a little tricky because the ferment can go “boozy” very quickly.  This is one I check about every 12 hours.  As soon as you feel a little effervescence on your tongue, it is time for this to go into the fridge!

Lacto-Fermented Peaches

2-3 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into chunks catching as much juice as possible

1/2 C fresh berries (blackberries and blueberries are usually coming in around the same time as the peaches)

1/4 C cilantro leaves

1 T salt

In a scrupulously clean quart jar, combine all of the ingredients.  Secure the lid and shake the jar until all of the ingredients are combined and the peaches and berries are broken up.  Leave this on your counter for 1-2 days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  This needs to be stored in the refrigerator, below 42° F.

This is delicious as is, or mixed with fresh chopped tomatoes and sweet onions as a salsa, spooned over grilled fish or chicken, or blended with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil for salad dressing.

Not a fan of cilantro? Try some basil instead.  Don’t have blackberries?  Use strawberries.  This is just as wonderful without the berries.  If you want an amazing topping for ice-cream, leave out the herbs!  Have fun experimenting.  If you come up with a new combination, please share it in the Comments!

Another Snow Day, Another Activity

DSC_6068This winter has been ridiculous.

I was joking with my students the other day that they might have fireworks at graduation, since it might not be until the 4th of July!  They weren’t amused.

Are you out of snow day activity ideas?  How about mixing up some granola.  It is an easy activity that my children can do with a little supervision from me (translation: I can sit at the kitchen table and grade papers while they take care of this one).

Fast Granola Recipe

  • 4 C rolled oats
  • 3 C chopped nuts of choice and/or seeds (we like a combination of almonds, sunflower and pecans)
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1/3 C melted butter
  • 1 C chopped dried fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 275° F
  2. Combine honey with melted butter
  3. Combine oats and nuts/seeds and coat with the honey butter mixture
  4.  Spread in a 9 x 13 baking dish and put in the oven for 15 minutes
  5. Take out and stir the mixture.  Put back in the oven for 15 minutes. Repeat until mixture turns golden (not brown). 45 minutes to one hour total cooking time.
  6. Remove from oven.  Stir in dried fruit
  7. Let cool and enjoy.  Store in refrigerator.

I have a slow granola recipe as well.  We have found that soaking grains has made them more digestible for some members of the family.  If you have some trouble digesting grains, try soaking the oats overnight and then dry on screens in your dehydrator, or by spreading the oats on cookie sheets in a very low oven (150° F).  We also soak our nuts and seeds in a salt water solution and dry them in the dehydrator or low oven.  We like this because it makes a “salty-sweet” snack!

Stock Going up?

With all of the snow and damp, cold weather, this certainly has been soup-time.  We make soup for dinner at least once a week, and sometimes more.  I understand that most people’s idea of making soup is that if it doesn’t come from a can, it is just too much trouble.

So let’s cut the nonsense — homemade soup is actually very easy. However there are a couple of tricks:

1. You must use good stock.  The base of most soups is a good stock.  And good stock is so easy to make, and so inexpensive, I don’t know why people pay out the nose for canned or boxed stock that is watery and/or too salty.  I know that most people don’t buy whole chickens — unless the chicken is going to be roasted.  Usually people buy chicken already parted, which leaves you without the stock-making parts!  Don’t be intimidated by a whole chicken!  The per pound price on a whole chicken is generally less than the parts, and there is not a lot of waste if you are saving the parts you aren’t cooking immediately for stock.  There are plenty of good videos on the internet that will show you how to cut up your chicken.  In addition to the neck and back, we add the wing tips to the stock parts. Another wonderful addition to chicken stock is chicken feet.  If you can get them, add them to the pot (and save a raw one for your dog!).

If you have a butcher shop near by, go in and ask for bones — knuckles, etc.  The butcher shop at the grocery store probably won’t have them because most grocery chains purchase the meat from distributors that send it cryo-vac packed with most of the bones already removed, but it is worth asking.  A local butcher shop sells bones for .25/lb.  We get our meat directly from the Nolts and always ask for the bones.

Chicken Stock:  Put frozen back pieces, wing tips, etc, in a large pot with a carrot and an onion that has been spiked with 2 whole cloves.  Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and simmer gently for 6 – 10 hours.

Beef stock: Roast the bones in a 400F oven for 45 minutes.  Put the roasted bones in a pot with some raw bones. Cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down and simmer gently for 10 – 12 hours.

OK, yes, time consuming, but well worth it.  Once the stock has cooked, let it cool down overnight, strain out the solids and put the stock in containers and put it in the freezer.  We make quarts, pints and cubes (from ice-cube trays).  The cubes are great for when a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of stock, r a 1/4 cup of stock — one ice cube = 2 tablespoons!

2. Don’t overcook your soup.  Some people make the mistake of throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot and then leaving it on the back of the stove for the day.  They are disappointed because the soup has a nondescript flavor and the stuff in the soup is all mushy and baby-food gross.

True, most of the soup we make we like better the next day, but that isn’t from cooking for long periods!  Read recipes and pay attention to the cooking times!  As an example, when I make chicken noodle soup. I cook the stock with a carrot and an onion and a stalk of celery.  when all of that gets mushy, I process it with a stick blender — it works as a natural thickener, and makes the soup taste great.  20 minutes before I am going to serve it, I bring it to a boil and add egg noodles.  I lower the soup back to a simmer and simmer it until the noodles are cooked.  Yes, the noodles are mushier the next day (if there are leftovers), but they don’t fall apart.

In making vegetable soup, even if the vegetables are cut to similar sizes, not all vegetables cook at the same rate, so we add the veggies in order of cooking time — potatoes first, then carrots.  A while later corn, peas and green beans.  And again, the veggies in the soup don’t cook all day, just for enough time for them to be done.

Here’s a really fast soup recipe:  Heat up some stock and add a few dollops of your favorite lacto-fermented vegetables!

There is more snow in the forecast, here on the east coast, so rather than stocking up on bread, milk, and toilet paper, get some soup making supplies.

What is Probiotic Preservation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProbiotic preservation, also known as Lacto-fermentation, is probably one of the oldest forms of preservation. All of the research I have done has led me to believe that Probiotic preservation precedes even oral history. As soon as someone figured out that the cabbage that got splashed with seawater tasted good for a long time after most cabbage was a moldy mess, Probiotic preservation was practiced! No matter which corner of the world you choose, if you look into the culinary history, you find a form of fermentation. Besides preserving the food, the process of Probiotic preservation changes the chemical structure of the food so that it is actually more nutritious. It delivers more vitamins to the body and an abundance of good flora to the intestines.

My own interest in Probiotic preservation was sparked by what to do with the whey I had left from straining yogurt, and was then furthered by Sally Fallon and Sandor Ellix Katz. I did extensive research on the web and I want to encourage you to try fermenting your own vegetables. I was not really much of a sauerkraut fan before I started making my own kraut. If you worry that you won’t like the flavor of lacto-fermented foods, start by eating them “young, “ when they have just finished the initial fermentation. The foods are less sour.

Probiotic preservation requires the use of salt. I recommend Celtic Sea Salt, because it dissolves readily and does not make the brine cloudy. If you want to cut back on the salt, you can use whey as an inoculant to get the fermentation process started. Where does one get whey? Well, while you can get it form many sources on the web, I do not recommend that. It is VERY easy to make your own whey as a by-product of making homemade Greek style yogurt.