Archive forJune, 2008

Streamlining the soy milk process and other soybean news, cookbooks, and catching up

The last time I failed to post for several days in a row, I had the excuse of being extremely busy. This time my excuse is exactly the opposite. There is a direct correlation between the day they finally fixed my pool filter and the day I stopped having anything to post here. I’ve pretty much been either swimming in the pool, or floating atop it in my inflatable barge, reading a book. In short, doing nothing. Dinner’s been a rushed affair every night as I’ve been making up for all the swimtime I’ve lost while the filter was broken. Although I don’t have any exciting food to share with you, my weekend has been pretty idyllic.

I did spend all of Saturday morning in the kitchen, though. It was a soy extravaganza on Saturday, in fact. I recently purchased The New Farm cookbook to see if it held any secrets that would help with my tempeh-making. I made tempeh per its instructions (the main difference being that I cooked the soybeans for an hour an a half instead of just half an hour or so). Success!!

I think the problem last time was definitely cramming too many beans into the baggie. I’ll just have to weigh them from now on and make sure it’s exactly 8 ounces of dried beans, which results in the perfect amount for one sandwich-sized bag. I used a higher quality, thicker baggie this time and not only was it much easier to pierce it with the needle, but I was able to remove the tempeh without cutting it, so I will be able to reuse it.

In other soy news, I’ve been noticing that when I make soy milk, the liquid drains through the okara bag that came with my tofu press faster than it does the bag I made myself out of muslin, which I concluded was because the weave of my muslin was tighter than that in the other bag, and since the faster the liquid drains, the easier it is, I’ve been wanting to find a fabric even more loosely woven. So Friday night I went to the fabric store and discovered chiffon.

If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, you may recognize chiffon as the stuff the bride made you wrap 200 tiny plastic bottles of bubbles, or Hershey kisses, or other wedding favors in. (No one had to wrap anything in chiffon for my wedding because my entire bridal party consisted of Fortinbras traipsing down the aisle carrying our rings on a wedding stick as we said our vows before all of six witnesses in a Scottish castle. I wore black, Mark wore a kilt, and there was no chiffon in sight!)

I may not have been interested in chiffon for bridal reasons, but I’m here to tell you it makes a great okara bag! Because it is slippery, it’s a bit of pain to sew, but it’s worth the small amount of trouble. The soy milk filtered right through it, and with just a couple gentle presses with potato masher, I had extremely dry okara. Not only that, but cleanup was a breeze! My other okara bags never get really clean, but the okara just slides right off the chiffon! And it dries very quickly. I also used a piece of chiffon to line my tofu press when I made the weekly tofu. This worked well because not only did the whey drain through it rapidly, making a firmer tofu faster, but it’s not as bulky as the big piece of muslin I had been using.

I think my tofu should marry my tempeh!!

Another new thing I’ve incorporated into the soy milk-making process is the Multiquick. It had never occurred to me to use an immersion blender to grind the soybeans; I guess I didn’t think they were powerful enough to do it. But one of the reviewers on Amazon said she used hers when making soy milk, so I tried it out, and it worked fine. So after they are finished soaking, I pour off the soaking water, add fresh water to cover, and blend them right in the same bowl I soaked them in. This is particularly helpful when making more than a quart of soy milk because I used to have to do it in batches in the regular blender.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m ashamed of how wasteful I am when I make soy milk and tofu. Because I haven’t had much success using okara, I usually just throw it away. Same with the whey when making tofu. This weekend, though, since the chiffon afforded me the opportunity to extract so much liquid from my okara with very little effort, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dry it as suggested by Maki at Just Hungry. So I spread it on a pan …

… and baked it at the lowest temperature my oven allows (170 degrees Fahrenheit) until it was completely dried out. I’m not sure how long it ended up taking because I sort of did it in cycles, being “busy” in the pool most of the day. It was maybe 1.5 hours total?

Then I ground it up.

Now I will do something with it. I think Bryanna was discussing dried okara as a parmesan substitute recently; I’ll probably give that a whirl. Maki suggests using dried okara in baked goods, but ugh, I’m so disgusted with using soy byproducts in baked goods! I’ve tried using okara before and it turned my bread into bricks! I wasn’t using dried okara, and Maki claims the texture is much better with dried, but after baking a brick this weekend using whey leftover from making tofu – because the New Farm cookbook said it was good to add to bread – I’m about ready to claim that soy products have no place in bread!

I’ve become a bit of a bread snob; I rarely bake any “straight doughs”, that is, dough made and baked all at once, with no pre-ferments or sponges. But since I was too busy Friday night playing with my chiffon to put together my usual doughs to bake on Saturday, I decided to try the whole wheat recipe in the New Farm cookbook (which, as you can see, has gotten a lot of use since I got it), and at New Farm’s recommendation, I added some of the tofu whey.

Big mistake! It didn’t proof very well, which was the first sign that things were going badly, but I thought maybe I’d just put it in too large a loaf pan. But when I removed it from the oven, I recognized that signature pale, deathly color I’d seen in my previous attempts to use okara in bread. Look at it, it looks sick:

I hadn’t mentioned my whey trial to Mark, from whom I have to hide fresh bread if I don’t want it devoured within two minutes, and who cut himself a slice after it cooled. He took a bite and promptly came to me with a skeptical look on his face, asking me to taste it and tell him if it tasted, well, tasteless. It did. It tasted like cardboard. Mark threw the slice away in disgust.

So today, I decided to bake the same bread, but without whey. Look at the difference:

Now, to be fair, the bigger loaf was much better kneaded, because my mixer crapped out on the bad loaf before it was fully kneaded, and due to an injury sustained while making the okara bags the night before (my thumb tangled with a rotary cutter and lost – ouch!), I wasn’t able to knead it by hand very effectively.

So, speaking of the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, on Thursday night, I was making Vegan Dad’s Green Enchiladas and decided that instead of using my usual “cheese” recipe from Simply Heavenly!, I would flip through the New Farm book to see if they had any “cheese” recipes I could try out. I found one and was shocked to find myself looking at the very recipe I almost always use from Simply Heavenly! I don’t want to say Abbott George Burke is a plagiarist, and I honestly think most of his 1,400 recipes are original, but I just found this weird:

Melty Nutritional Yeast “Cheese” from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook Yeast Cheeze from Simply Heavenly!
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water
1/4 cup margarine
1 tsp wet mustard

Mix dry ingrdients in a saucepan. Whisk in water. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles. Cook 30 seconds, then remove from heat, whip in margarine, and mustard. It will thicken as it cools but will thin when heated, or add water to thin it.

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water
1 Tbsp nondairy margarine
1 tsp wet mustard

Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk in the water. Cook over medium heat while whisking as it thickens and bubbles. Cook 30 seconds more and remove from the heat. Whip in the margarine and mustard. This thickens when it cools and thins when heated. Water can be added to thin it more. This keeps about five days.

I have made the recipe on the right so many times I have it memorized, so I recognized it the instant I saw it in the New Farm cookbook…which was published 22 years before Simply Heavenly. Incidentally, although I feel lost, confused, and misled – like I did when I realized that Bauhaus’s song Telegram Sam was really a T.Rex song – I actually recommend the “Simply Heavenly” version because it uses 1/4 the amount of margarine (it’s the only difference!), and it’s plenty. Also, this “cheese” was really good in Vegan Dad’s enchiladas, which you really must make. Mark has been absolutely rhapsodizing about them ever since. I’m a bit afraid he prefers Vegan Dad’s recipes to my own! I guess if I’m second best to anyone, Vegan Dad might as well be the one.

Whew…that was a lot of jabbering on my part without posting a recipe! I’m sorry I don’t have anything for you, especially after deserting you for so many days. I can show you a picture of the Sweet and Sour Tempeh I made tonight:

It’s from – surprise! – the New Farm cookbook. I’m probably the last vegan on the planet to buy this cookbook; it’s been on my wishlist forever, but I just never got around to it. Maybe because I think I have half of it in the form of printouts of recipes that have been posted on various websites, forums, and mailing lists over the years. So I guess it’s about damn time I bought a proper version of it. I was surprised to realize, too, that Tofu Cookery, which I have had for years, is also by Louise Hagler and the folks at the Farm. I had no idea!

That’s all the food news from nowhere. Here is a picture of a turtle we rescued from the pool yesterday, though:

Isn’t he great? I named him Prince Harry. I don’t know why I named him that because I have no special interest in the royal family and in fact can’t tell Harry from William, but that’s the name that popped into my head. Prince Harry didn’t think much of me, I’m afraid. He was so eager to get away from me and my animal paparazzi tendencies that he walked right into a chain link fence and had to be helped by Mark, who relocated him to a safe place. Then Prince Harry toddled off somewhere as far away from me as he could get.

I discovered wild raspberries growing by the pool as well.

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Kale and Corn Chowder

I got Mark to eat TWO servings of leafy greens in one meal!! Does the glee in my voice translate to the typed word?!

I wouldn’t call Mark a picky eater by any means: he practically demands to eat Brussels sprouts, for god’s sake, but unlike me who will eat pretty much anything vegan that is NOT a mushroom, he has his limits, and leafy greens are in most cases across the line. Whereas I love spinach, he hates it, or cooked spinach anyway. He will eat raw spinach in a salad. And forget about collard greens or kale. So although I like collard greens and kale, I don’t make them that often because I know he won’t eat them. (Spinach is so easy that I will often make it as a side dish for myself.) But I bought some kale tonight because, by golly, that stuff is awesome for your health and we are going to eat it! So I came up with the following recipe that satisfied my requirements of maximizing the use of my my new toy AND getting kale down Mark’s gullet. And he LOVED it! While it was still cooking, he exclaimed “I don’t know what you are making, but it smells incredibly amazing!” And it seemed to live up to his expectations when he ate it.

Kale and Corn Chowder

I tried – I really did – to get a picture of the ingredients either without Tigger or with him in his entirety, but it wasn’t working out for me, so unfortunately you are stuck with a picture that includes his butt.

1 leek, chopped (white and green parts are okay)
1/2 celeriac (celery root), chopped (or 3 stalks of celery, chopped)
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili pepper, minced (to taste)
4 cups water, veggie broth, or vegan “chicken” broth
1 small bunch kale, chopped
3 red potatoes, chopped (I had tiny potatoes and used however many are shown in the picture)
1-2 Tbsp vegan “bacon” bits (optional; adds a smoky flavor that attracts Smarks)
1-2 cans creamed corn
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish

Maybe it’s because I have lived without a proper food processor for, gosh, about five years now, but it rarely ever occurs to me to use a mini chopper or the mixie’s chopper blade, or anything other than my chef’s knife to chop vegetables. I like using my knife, even though my knife skills are not superior. But I wanted to test out the new Multiquick, so its chopping attachment got a little workout tonight.

It chopped the leek:

And the carrot, celeriac, chili pepper, and garlic:

Meanwhile, I heated up a Dutch oven (or large soup pot) and added a little olive oil. When the oil was hot I added all of the above …

… and sauteed until soft.

Then I added the broth, potatoes, and kale.

And the optional “bacon” bits.

Then I covered and cooked for half an hour, or until potatoes were very soft.

Blend to desired consistency with an immersion blender (or cool and puree in batches in a regular blender).

Add the creamed corn. I only had one can (and despite frantically searching for some frozen corn, which I usually have stocked in the freezer, I found no more), and the soup was definitely a success, but I wanted to add more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the fresh thyme.

Some food bloggers label their recipes as “kid-friendly” when their kids particularly like a recipe. If I were to invent a “Mark-friendly” label, this soup would definitely win the prestige. He polished off two bowls and complimented it profusely the entire time. I served it with a tossed salad made with a ton of baby spinach, which he also gobbled up. And that’s how I got two servings of leafy green vegetables – and a host of other veggies – into Mark in one sitting!

This made about 5 servings: I had one, Mark had two, I packed one for lunch tomorrow, and there is another one leftover.

PS Tigger is STILL in the box:

Comments (3)


Alexis, and subsequently a bunch of Amazon users, recommended the Braun Multiquick when I complained my stupid Cuisinart immersion blender had broken…again. The Multiquick arrived today and before even bothering to put my groceries away, I had it out of the box and was wondering what I could immediately immerse it in and blend. I decided to make a smoothie with some of the frozen bananas and strawberries in the freezer. The stick portion of the blender didn’t want any parts of my frozen berries, so I put them, as well as some soy milk and a squirt of flax oil, into the food chopper container. They were pulverized almost instantaneously. Woo!

My Multiquick didn’t seem to come with an instruction manual, but it does have some less-than-helpful pictograms right on the device itself. Apparently I can use the whisk attachment to make sombreros.

Making smoothies in the mixie isn’t a big deal, and in fact, I do it every now and then. It does sometimes leave chunks of frozen berry, though, which the Multiquick did not do. But I wouldn’t have purchased the Multiquick solely for its smoothie-making prowess since the mixie does an adequate job. It’s a little easier to use the Multiquick for the task though and it has a spout for easy pouring unlike the mixie. And I also realized that making myself a smoothie as soon as I get home from work is a fabulous idea. I usually come home completely starving, and although I’ll start preparing dinner right away, I end up shoving whatever I can find into my mouth while I do so. I don’t usually keep horribly unhealthy things around the house, but I still think that’s a dangerous habit because I often don’t realize how much I’m eating. Making a smoothie would stave the hunger off for a little while, without completely spoiling my appetite for dinner, and be healthy to boot! So I’m going to try to get into that habit.

Now I am going to figure out something to make for dinner that involves blending.

Oh yeah, and put those groceries away.

Uh oh, Mark just got home and demanded a smoothie…

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Zaru Soba

I’ve always wanted to try fresh shiso (a.k.a. perilla, a.k.a. beefsteak plant), the Japanese herb variously described as minty and basil-y. For a while, I seemed to keep coming across recipes that called for it. Unfortunately, it is one of the few things I’ve never seen at Super H, or elsewhere around here. So I bought seeds and tried to grow them. Twice they didn’t even bother sprouting. Then I went to San Francisco and enviously looked at the fresh shiso in the Japantown grocery. I almost bought it just to taste it, but I thought eating it plain and by itself would be pretty weird, so I instead bought yet more seeds from Soko Hardware. Those seeds did sprout, however, they didn’t grow more than an inch tall before dying. So I was very excited to come across both green and red shiso plants at the nearby herb store this spring. And weirdly, my shiso plants are just about the happiest plants I have right now! I realized, though, that I’d better get to eating them before I kill them.

Of course, now that I’m ready to harvest them, I have no idea what all those wonderful shiso-inspired dishes were. And since I’m not that familiar with the taste, I’m not able to dream up my own concoctions. So after considering this conundrum for quite a while tonight, I eventually decided to just make zaru soba topped with a lot of shredded shiso, to familiarize myself with the taste.

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles, often served cold (really, room temperature, I believe) in the summer with a dipping sauce. For the dipping sauce I would need dashi. Usually for dashi, I just soak some kombu into water for a while.

Sometimes in addition to kombu, dried shiitakes are suggested for vegan dashi.

I may be the only vegan on the planet, other than my husband, who hates mushrooms. At least it seems that way. But every now and then I’ll get brave and try something mushroom-related. Soaking a dried shiitake in my dashi seemed pretty innocuous, although I will not be attempting to eat that nasty thing after it’s served its purpose.

You can simply soak the kombu and optional shiitake in room temperature water for several hours or overnight. I use a kombu piece about 4″ square per 4 cups of water. I was in a hurry tonight, so instead of soaking, I simmered it gently for about 20 minutes, then removed the kombu and shiitake.

The resulting dashi can be stored in the refrigerator for about three days, or frozen.

Zaru Soba

1 bundle (about 3.5 ounces) soba per serving

Dipping sauce (tsuyu) (makes enough for 2-3 servings):
1 cup dashi
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
a couple of drops of stevia (or 1 tsp of sugar)

Toppings (choose any or all):
chopped scallions
toasted sesame seeds
shredded or torn nori
chiffonaded fresh shiso leaves
shichimi (Japanese 7-spice powder)
grated ginger

Cook the soba until al dente, being very careful not to overcook. Rinse under cold water very thoroughly, washing and rubbing it between your hands to remove any starch.

The “zaru” in zaru soba refers to the bamboo serving dish or basket the cold noodles are usually served on. If you have one, neatly arrange one serving of noodles on each zaru, otherwise use a pretty plate. I’m always interested in plating my meals in an attractive manner, even when only serving myself, but it seems particularly imperative with Japanese foods. So pick something nice! Sprinkle the soba with a few sesame seeds and top with some of the shredded shiso and/or nori. Set aside.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients; taste and adjust accordingly to your preference.

Place about 1/2 cup into each individual dipping bowl.

Place each of the toppings on individual serving dishes. Each diner adds the individual toppings to their dipping sauce or noodles, then dips a chopstick full of noodles at a time into the sauce.

One thing I did learn tonight that I didn’t realize before, is that the “sesame leaves” sold in the produce department at Super H are really Korean shiso! They look a little different – are flatter and darker in color – although it may be that what they have are just not as fresh as my living plant. They sell them shrink-wrapped on styrofoam so it’s hard to tell and I never really knew what to make of them.

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a few photos

My homemade chili oil:

My tempeh-making luck ran out and I ended up with another bad batch this weekend. I’m not sure why. The only thing I can think of is that the Ziploc bag was too full and the soybeans therefore layered too deeply. I didn’t weigh the soybeans; I just guessed at the 8 ounces I was going for, but possibly it was more than that and therefore too much. At any rate, here is what tempeh looks like when it doesn’t turn out. It didn’t smell that great either.

I want you to know that I am very careful about the food I buy and I would never, ever buy anything made of wheat flour that had been breached.

Here are two of my tomato plants. The one on the left is Roma and the one on the right is San Marzano. (Mark’s hot peppers are in the background.)

I grow them in Earth Boxes, which my mother-in-law turned me on to and which are great. In fact, here’s the San Marzano plant I put in a regular container:

It’s not nearly as big and healthy. Unfortunately, the Earth Box isn’t doing wonders for the two heirloom varieties I have, Mr Stripy (which I totally bought just because I wanted to grow Tigger Tomatoes) and Brandywine. Those plants don’t look as healthy.

While I was outside photographing the tomatoes, I scanned the yard for anything colorful I could photograph. The only color I could find in the entire yard was this tiger lily. Everything else is green, green, green.

Well, unless you count my tiny little tomato blossom:

Or the incredibly tiny flowers on Tigger’s catnip:

Much of our backyard looks like this:

As you can imagine, we have a lot of problems with pandas! And ninjas.

The cats can’t stand it when we’re outside without them. They sit forlornly at the door and meow piteously.

They often hang out on the patio with us, on leashes, but it was about to starting raining again, so instead of bringing them out, I went back inside and began pondering dinner…in which I hope to feature:

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Mark makes Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich

Mark saw Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich the other day and commented that he was going to have me make it for him because it looked so good. Vegan Dad responded that he was sure Mark could handle making it for himself. Well, neither Mark nor I were so sure about that, but we decided to try it and see. Follows are photos of Mark’s attempt to make Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich.

First he rinsed the beans.

Then he measured one cup of them and added them to the blender.

He almost turned the blender on and blended his hand with the beans.

Then he measured the water …

… and the oil …

… and paprika.

But tried to eat the salt. (He also furtively put a third teaspoon of salt into the blender, which resulted in a severe reprimand from me.)

I don’t know what he’s doing here.

Then he had to crush the fennel, which he enjoyed.

The molcajete is very heavy …

… but Mark is very strong.

He finished measuring the spices.

Then he got into my sugarcane.

He was bored with grinding an entire teaspoon of pepper, even with my super-awesome grinder. (Clearly he doesn’t know how to have a good time.)

So he tried to amuse himself.

At this point in time, he decided he was going to make the remainder of the meal while wearing my very dirty oven mitts.

He was very proud of his ability to measure a teaspoon of soy sauce wearing the mitts.

Yay for Mark!

He decided he needed a “chef’s hat” in order to properly blend the ingredients.

The blended ingredients:

Next he measured the vital wheat gluten …

… and added the blended ingredients to it.

Then he kneaded everything together.

Why does it look like he’s throwing his brain around?

Here he was singing, “It’s log, log, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. It’s log, log, it’s better than bad, it’s good!”

Then he wrapped the log in foil.

And smoked it.

Then steamed it.

Then he went to play video games while I cleaned up this mess:

A little while later he returned to the kitchen to make another mess, a.k.a. the barbeque sauce. I told him to slice the onion. But didn’t realize for a minute or two that I had to tell him to first PEEL the onion.

So he peeled it and started slicing it …

… until I got nervous and told him to cut it in half and then slice it. Then he moved on to the garlic.

At this time, the log was ready to go into the oven.

He added some margarine to a large pot, then the onions and garlic, which he sauteed for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile he measured the remaining sauce ingredients. He has this habit of adding things to the bowl from as high up as he possibly can, in what I believe is an effort to maximize the size of the mess he makes.

It drives me crazy …

… even though he assured me he’d clean the mess up.

He doesn’t learn his lesson, either.

He tasted it several times to make sure it had enough hot sauce.

When the onions were cooked down, he added the other ingredients to them.

Then he went back to video games. After a while, he was very anxious to see his “log” and asked if he was allowed to look at it yet. I said yes.

He seemed unsure at first sight.

But then he tasted it and his eyes lit up.

He was very proud of himself.

He cut some into chunks …

… and sliced a couple of the homemade kaiser rolls I had made earlier in the day (which, by the way, utilized a pâte fermentée).

He added some of the BBQ sauce to the seitan pieces and stirred them together, oblivious to my pleading to please put the bowl on the counter to stir so he wouldn’t drop it.

Then he made the sandwiches and added a “garnish” to his plate.

Overall, he was very pleased with himself.

Mark said that he couldn’t believe he had made something that tasted so good. I concluded that although it did taste very good, Mark should probably not be allowed in the kitchen without constant and direct adult supervision.

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Another cat in the box

Tigger has barely budged from the wok box. Even when I need to make room on the kitchen island and move the box to the dining room table, he just remains in the box as I carry it. He also purrs loudly while in the box and seems particularly happy and peaceful.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but Tigger hates Brachtune. After 14 years of living together, you’d think he’d have learned to tolerate her, but he still hates her. I don’t know how anyone can possibly hate Brachtune because she’s the sweetest, most good-natured cat on the planet, but Tigger’s a bit of an egomaniac and only likes himself. Brachtune, on the other hand, looks up to Tigger and often mimics his behavior. So when Tigger took a short break from the box this afternoon, I was only half-surprised to see this:

When Tigger then hopped up on the table and caught her, I was pretty sure he was going to smack her around.

Fortunately, Tigger got distracted by something else and Brachtune then decided that sitting in a box was overrated and got out of her own accord.



Mark’s parents lived in Korea for a couple of years just before he was born so it is no surprise that it is through him and his family that I first fell in love with Korean food. When Mark and I were living in Baltimore and his parents were an hour north of us, near the Delaware border, we’d often meet at a Korean restaurant halfway between us. Now that Mark’s family has moved to Charleston, SC (where there are apparently no Asian grocery stores, a fact I find perplexing and upsetting), we live in a part of Northern Virginia that has a huge number of Korean restaurants and grocery stores, which I find reassuring and great. I honestly don’t think I can live further than 10 minutes from a Korean grocery store.

I will soon have to put up a tutorial on my favorite Korean dish, dolsot bibimbap, but today I bring you instructions on making a food even more important: the ubiquitous kimchi. Kimchi is often, but not always, made with fish sauce. Although cabbage kimchi is the best-known in America, there are many different kinds, including radish and cucumber kimchi. I usually stick to making cabbage kimchi, although I think I may start branching out. The mysterious ingredient I posted earlier in the week was Korean chili pepper flakes.

Kimchi originated when Koreans of long ago – as many as 3,000 years ago – learned how to ferment vegetables to in order to prolong storage time. Special pots of the prepared vegetables would be buried underground to regulate the temperature (thus controling the rate of fermentation), a marker placed in the ground to facilitate location of them after snowfalls. Many modern Koreans have special kimchi refrigerators instead: they sell them at Super H, one of my favorite haunts, for hundreds of dollars. You absolutely do not need a special refrigerator or even pot to make kimchi. I bought a kimchi pot when Mark was going through one of his kimchi phases: he’d eat bowls-full at a time morning, noon, and night and even a gallon-sized jar didn’t hold a week’s worth of kimchi. Before I bought the kimchi pot, I used a huge gallon-sized pickle jar that I recycled during Mark’s earlier dill pickle phase. If you have something like that, great. If not, you can use four quart-sized jars instead, and then you can share a jar or two with a friend if you don’t happen to eat as much kimchi as we do.


1 head Napa cabbage
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 bundle mustard greens (optional)
1 daikon, shredded (optional)
1 large or two medium carrots, shredded (optional)
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1″ pieces
1 head garlic, pressed or minced (I recommend pressing in order to exude the juices)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated on a microplane grater or minced
1/2 cup Korean chili pepper: go out of your way to find Korean chili pepper as it tastes different than others, but you can use either flakes, coarse, or fine
1/4 cup soy sauce

Remove any unappetizing-looking outer layers from the cabbage, then cut it in half.

Remove the core from each half.

It happens that the prepared kimchi I find that is fish-free is often “whole cabbage” kimchi, which means I have to cut it into bite-sized pieces before serving, which irritates me. So I find one of the benefits of making my own is I can cut it to size before it’s marinated. Although you have to do some preparatory chopping, you also save yourself time later when you can just stir the marinade into the chopped cabbage instead of painstakingly coating each cabbage leaf with it. So I therefore cut each half into half again so I have quarters.

Then I cut each quarter into bite-sized pieces. Place a sieve into the kitchen sink (or a large bowl if you need to keep your sink free) and put the chopped cabbage in it as you go along. Periodically sprinkle some of the kosher salt over the cabbage pieces and toss thoroughly.

Most techniques I’ve seen instruct you to soak the cabbage in salted water for one to four hours, however, I like the technique I saw in this article (although I don’t particularly care for the rest of the recipe): place a weight on the rinsed, salted cabbage and wait 24-48 hours. It takes longer, but you end up with nice crisp, dry cabbage. As the article suggested, I use a large Ziploc bag filled with water:

Meanwhile, make the paste. Take the mustard greens, if using, …

… and chop.

Grate the carrot, if using …

… as well as the daikon.

Then take your scallions …

… and chop into 1″ pieces. I start off shorter at the white part and make larger lengths as I get to the tips.

Press or mince the garlic:

And grate the ginger. Place all of these ingredients into a large bowl.

Measure the chili flakes …

… and add to the bowl along with the soy sauce. Mix everything together.

Place into a jar until the cabbage is ready.

When the cabbage is ready, place it into your kimchi pot, a gallon-sized jar, or if you are using four quart jars, a large bowl (it’ll be easier to mix everything together at one time and then divide amongst the jars). Then add your paste ingredients.

Mix everything up very well.

Divide amongst the four jars if using quart jars. If using any type of jar with a lid that screws tightly, be careful not to pack the kimchi in too tightly, and leave some room at the top of the jar. It may bubble up as it ferments. I once filled a jar too full and woke up in one morning to find kimchi juice spilling all over my kitchen counter. Which is another reason I talked myself into buying a kimchi pot.

Set the jar or pot aside for a few days. I generally give it three days. It will look like this when it’s ready:

If you used a pot, transfer to clean jars. Otherwise, simply move your jars to the refrigerator.

I keep reading that kimchi is good for about 3 weeks, and after that it becomes too strong and you’ll only want to use it in soups and other cooked dishes, but I haven’t really found that to be the case. Of course, we both really like kimchi, so maybe the stronger taste doesn’t bother us. Frankly, I have a hard time keeping kimchi around for three weeks because Mark turns into a kimchi monster. I do make a lot of kimchi ramen though. You can also eat the kimchi before it ferments, although it will really be more a salad in its pre-fermented state.

Serve with anything. Particularly Korean food.

My mother-in-law said my kimchi is very good, and as her time living there qualifies her as an expert on the matter in my opinion, I was very flattered. Of course, my mother-in-law is the greatest mother-in-law ever and tells me everything I cook is very good, which can’t possibly be true, so you’ll have to make it for yourself and form your own opinion. Mark really does eat it by the bowl-full, though, so it can’t be too bad. (He’s also never gotten bird flu. Coincidence? I think not.)

On the subject of fermenting things, in bread baking, there is a technique in which you use a pâte fermentée, which is a starter dough that ferments for a few days before the rest of the dough is prepared. Because it seems I am always fermenting something, be it kimchi or bread or whatever else, I suggested to my friends that Renae Fermentée might be a good nickname for me. However, like Rimmer from Red Dwarf, I found that people don’t usually glom onto nicknames you choose for yourself, and the friends seem to be sticking with a resurrected nickname that was bestowed upon me in high school: Rogna Pasta. Which is fine. At least I’m not Ace-hole. But I still think that if I ever record an album, I’ll use the stage name Renae Fermentée.

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Jackfruit Tacos

I started hearing about the use of young green jackfruit as a meat substitute a few months ago, mostly in reference to veggie-friendly Mexican restaurants on the West Coast, I believe, and when The Urban Housewife posted a recipe for Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos back in February, I took note and started looking for jackfruit at my local Asian markets. Either I was too blind to see it during umpteen previous trips, or Super H JUST starting carrying it, but I finally scored some last week, and while I didn’t brag about it last night, in addition to making minestrone and seasoning my wok, I also prepared the taco ingredients for easy insertion into the crockpot this morning. Not because I have a fixed time I have to be into work that necessitates me rushing around in the mornings, but because I don’t always function well enough in the mornings to handle questions and decisions, even questions as seemingly innocuous as just how much smoked paprika is a good idea?

So this post is even less innovative than the last since I’m not using my own recipe or even putting my own spin on things. But I have been really curious about jackfruit, so I figured I’d share my first taste of it with you. Plus I’m getting better about remembering to take pictures! Maybe I’ll even get better at taking pictures!

Melisser’s recipe is great because it’s extraordinarily simple and can really be done in five minutes before you leave for work. Only someone as completely dysfunctional as I am in the morning needs to worry about this the night before. And I wouldn’t even have bothered if I hadn’t been so tired I was worried I was going to sleep so late I’d be late for my 11:30 conference call. (Yes, I realize how pathetic that is.)

So last night, I lined up the ingredients:

Eep! I put the Turkish oregano used in the minestrone in the photo instead of the Mexican oregano that went with the carnitas! Faux pas!

Then I removed the jackfruit from its can and rinsed it off:

So THAT’s what jackfruit looks like!

I tasted a tiny bit. It was pretty tasteless. Then I cut up an onion, pressed a bunch of cloves of garlic, and measured out the spices, all of which I threw in a container and stuck in the refrigerator.

When I got up this morning, Tigger was still enjoying his box.

He has a little mohawk because his head gets wet when he showers with us. He’s weird.

I put the jackfruit in the crockpot as directed by Melisser.

Yes, my crockpot is blue and ancient. I prefer “retro”, thank you. I then added the spices. My pre-planning had not been perfect because I’d just dumped the spices onto the onions last night, so I sort of scooped out the top layer of onions and just stirred everything together. I wasn’t up for massaging fruit at this stage – it sounds like a task I can’t handle until at least noon – so I didn’t rub each piece individually.

Then I added the remainder of the onions.

And the salsa.

Meanwhile, Tigger fell asleep in the box.

I wished I could curl up on some wadded-up paper in a box and take a nap, but instead I went to work and got on that conference call, my favorite thing. Eight hours later, I arrived home and anxiously checked the crockpot. The jackfruit, sort of pinkish, reminded me of ham.

Tigger got back in the box.

Then I messaged Mark and baffled him by announcing dinner was ready and he should come home. I’m sure his thought process was, “Huh? What? Dinner? At 7 p.m.? How is this possible?” I mean, it’s not unusual for me to spend two to three hours making dinner and we routinely eat at 10 p.m. or later. BUT NOT TONIGHT! So he came home and I set up a few dishes of toppings for the tacos. Then we ate them.

Here’s the bowl of jackfruit “carnitas”:

Here is Mark enjoying a taco:

Here is Brachtune thinking maybe she’d enjoy a taco (she didn’t):

Here is my taco:

And here is Brachtune being pretty while we ate:

As for the jackfruit as a meat substitute, it was pretty good. Mark said it tasted a bit like potatoes, but I didn’t think it had much of a taste of its own at all, rather that it absorbs the flavors its cooked in, like tofu. I like how healthy it is, particularly in comparison to most meat substitutes. It had a nice texture, sort of like very tender meat, I guess. I barely remember meat, if you want to know the truth, but it is sort of like what I imagine very tender meat is like. I have another can of it that I intend to be more creative with. Not that Melisser’s recipe wasn’t good, because it was quite good, and so, so easy, but I’d like to come up with something of my own.

As for Tigger, he’s STILL in the box:

How long can I drag out this Tigger-in-the-box thing? I don’t know; I really did intend this to be a food blog, not a Tigger blog, and certainly not a Tigger-in-a-box blog. Those cats, though. They have any number of specially-bought, comfy cat beds, a cat tree taller than I am, an antique velvet scratching post – no, wait, that WAS an antique velvet SOFA and was NOT intended for the cats, a fact with which neither one of them has come to terms – and a million toys, but all they really want is a free box.

Well, Tigger’s other favorite napping spot wasn’t free.

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I got home at a (relatively) decent hour today so I had a bit more time to devote to dinner, although recent poor eating habits and lack of exercise, both due to being extremely busy, made me want to focus on a salad for dinner, which in my exhaustion I obtained from Wegmans’ salad bar. But because this busy-ness caught me by surprise, I realized I had a lot of veggies purchased last week that I was running out of time to use, so I decided to also use a bunch of stuff up by making minestrone. Soup and salad is always a healthy and light, but filling, meal in my opinion. It does not make for very innovative blog posts, but I was knackered today and not at my creative best.


(That’s a rather Albuquerque-skyline kind of ingredients photo, isn’t it?)

1 leek or onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
6 cups veggie stock or vegan “chicken” broth (if using a high-sodium bouillon, make it half-strength)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 red potatoes, chopped
1 handful green beans, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup small pasta, such as macaroni, orzo, letters, etc.
1 handful fresh spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 drops stevia or 1 tsp sugar, optional

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped leek or onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.

If necessary, deglaze the pot with white wine, stock, or water. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.

Add the stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, potatoes, green beans, and zucchini.

Cover and cook for half an hour. Add the pasta and oregano and cook for 15 minutes or until pasta is thoroughly cooked.

Add spinach, salt, and pepper. Add the optional stevia or sugar if it needs a tiny hint of sweetness. Cook for 3 minutes.

Serve with a salad. I made the creamy Italian dressing from How it All Vegan.

The items balanced on my soup bowl are bread sticks. Mark thought they were chopsticks. Then he thought they were meant for spearing the annellini (rings) pasta I used. Then he figured out they were edible and ate ten of them. I actually bought them for you, dear readers, not to confuse Mark. I thought they’d add interest to what I knew was going to be a boring picture of soup. They did end up looking like chopsticks. (And it WAS fun to spear the annellini.)

Despite my fatigue, while making the soup, I seasoned my new wok, which arrived today. Tigger was very excited about the box. He sure loves boxes.

The first few times I captured the cats in mid-yawn, I thought it was an amazing stroke of luck. Then I realized that the cats are always yawning, and I am always taking their picture.

How does such a ridiculous cat sitting in a box end up looking so regal? Must be my fine photography skills.

In other news, Mark pointed out last night that I’ve left you hanging in regards to this post, but the fact of the matter is it’s not ready yet! Should be ready on Friday. Maybe tomorrow.

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