Boy, I-J-K is really a hard stretch of alphabet to mow through. We bandied about a couple of options for K ingredients. Kale is the most obvious, but much as I've grown to like (not love!) kale, it just didn't call to me that much. We came very close to doing ketchup but ketchup kinda freaks me out at the best of times (I like a little on the side of some things) and basing an entire dish around it gave me the shivers. Kalonji (onion seed) didn't occur to me much later but I don't know if I could base a whole dish around it anyway...
As an aside: I wanted to tell you guys, I was going to do juniper berries for J-- found some interesting juniper-citrus sauces. But it turns out that juniper is not good for pregnant ladies to eat which I found out at the last minute, argh. Hence our switch over to jaggery!
Anyway, back to K! After I had discarded ketchup, I got the idea for kimchi. At first I wasn't really sure it counted as an ingredient (vs a prepared dish) but Josh lobbied hard for it to be considered a condiment, same as ketchup.
I love kimchi. It's one of those foods, like sauerkraut, that seems to have been invented primarily to keep from having to throw a food out. The entire time I'm eating kimchi, my brain is saying NO NO DON'T EAT THE TRASH FOOD but my mouth is saying yes, yes, yes. So pungent, so tangy, so sour, so salty, so wonderful. I could probably eat a bowl of it every day.
But as much as I love it, I've never cooked with it before today. Can you believe that?! It's just one of those foods that tends to enter my house and then my mouth without a whole lot of stops in between. For the sake of MoFo, though, I did a little research and found out about six thousand ways to make kimchi jeon, Korean kimchi pancakes. My recipe is not quite like any other I saw but I really like rice flour in pancakes and I thought it would be nice to post something that isn't all gluten all the time for once.
I decided to do a take on one of my favorite ways to cook swiss chard for our side dish... it's based on a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian but I've tweaked it quite a bit over the years. Since I happened to have kale in the fridge and not chard, I used that... then realized it started with K... then got excited and used kalonji to season the salad too. Recipe for that after the kimchi pancakes one.
Kinda Korean Kimchi-Jeon
makes 1 large pancake
1 c chopped kimchi
2 tbsps kimchi juice (the liquid in the jar) or however much you can get out
1 c brown rice flour
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp canola or other cooking oil
1. Mix all the ingredients together. You should have a batter of medium thickness... if it's too stiff to stir, add more water. If it's watery thin, add a little more brown rice flour.
2. Let stand for at least 10 minutes and check consistency again. (BR flour seems to thicken significantly while it sits, but maybe that's me.)
3. Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan (I used a 12" cast iron pan) over medium-high heat. Add oil and allow it to warm.
4. Once your pan is heated and your batter is at a consistency you like, pour batter into pan. Use a spatula to help it spread out to the edges of the pan or as close as you can get.
5. Cook for 2 minutes. Flip. If it tears/falls apart here, that's okay, just treat the pieces as mini pancakes.
6. Cook side two for another 2 minutes.
7. Flip again and cook another 2 minutes.
Cold Kale-Kalonji Salad with Tofu
serves 4+ as a side
1 bunch kale, chopped into strips
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c rice vinegar
4 tsps sugar
2 tsps kalonji, toasted
1 lb tofu, cut into small cubes
1. Boil water in a large saucepot. Add kale, cover, and reduce to a low boil. Boil for 4 minutes.
2. Remove kale from heat and dump into a colander. Rinse with cold water. Let kale drain.
3. Combine next five ingredients (soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, kalonji) in a mixing bowl and whisk til well combined.
4. Squeeze any remaining water out of kale.
5. Add kale & tofu to dressing in bowl and toss with hands (or tongs) to coat.
6. Put in fridge for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight, til it's time to serve.
How were the dishes? Really good, actually. The kimchi jeon wasn't quite as crispy as I wanted, because my oil wasn't really hot enough when I put the batter in the pan. Alas. I thought the pairing of the sorta spicy sorta salty kimchi pancakes with the nice cool kale salad worked really well. The kalonji is a little more bitter than I'd expected so next time I might increase the sugar slightly.
The Emperor ate nothing but a couple of tofu cubes. Go figure. Here he is going for an after dinner stroll:
We had little foot races up and down the driveway while he shouted RUN RUN! Very sweet.