Tag Archives: dinner

Soft Tofu Kimchi Stew

23 Aug

The neighbor’s dog keeps wandering into our yard.  Two days ago he made it all the way into our house where we half-heartedly attempted to kidnap him.

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Yes, we are the kind of people who kidnap dogs.

Okay not really.  But this dog is too precious.  And I mean, if you’re going to let your dog wander the neighborhood when you live on a busy road…

I’m just saying, we’d be very benevolent kidnappers.

Actually, my mom went next door to tell the neighbors we had their dog and were hanging onto him so he didn’t wander into traffic.  At first, it seemed like no one was home, so she came back, not having tried too too hard, reporting that they had an enormous tub of kimchi on their porch.

Our neighbors are new, and also Korean.  Well, the wife and the mother-in-law are, anyway.  The dog is not, as far as anyone can tell.

She wrote them a note and returned, and I shouted after her to demand the kimchi in exchange for the dog.

It turned out that someone was home, just didn’t hear the knocking, and came to collect the dog.  No kimchi was gained from this event, to my deep regret.

This is all to show how much I love kimchi.  I like that dog, too, but really I am the kind of person who tries to hold people’s pets hostage in exchange for their fermented cabbage.

Now you know.

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So on the off chance you find yourself in a similar situation, or you acquire your kimchi through more reputable means, here is my favorite recipe involving kimchi.  The recipe is simplified (out of laziness, typically) from Chow Hound.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (you can substitute broccoli, in which case nix the oil)
  • 1 cup kimchi, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups broth, beef, chicken, or vegetable
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 2 whole scallions, chopped
  • steamed rice for serving

Recipe:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the zucchini for about a minute, seasoning with salt.  Add the kimchi and cook for an additional two minutes.

Add the broth and soy sauce and cook until boiling.  Season with salt (or chili paste, a the original recipe recommends).

With a large spoon, shave off chunks of silken tofu and drop them into the stew, being careful not to squish the chunks to pieces.

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I love this stuff.  At first I thought it sounded gross even though I love firm tofu, but then I tried it and wow it is so good.  I need to find more recipes calling for it, or find an acceptable way to snack on it.

Anyway, simmer the stew for about three minutes, letting the tofu soak up flavor and blending the ingredients together.

Garnish with the chopped scallions.

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The original recipe recommends serving the stew in its own bowl with rice on the side, but I like pouring the stew over a pile of rice (partially because it’s spicy and I’m pathetic), so serve however you want.

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This keeps for about a week when refrigerated and is perfectly delicious when reheated.

I just finished a really excellent book called On the Noodle Road, by Jen Lin-Liu.  It’s part travel book, part noodle anthropology.  Lin-Liu’s six month trek from Beijing to Rome began as a search for the origin of the noodle.  Was it Chinese or Italian?  Did it originate in Iran or Turkey and slowly become replaced by pilaf?  Spoiler: she doesn’t figure out where exactly noodles come from, but it hardly matters in light of the food and the people she writes about.  There’s so much food anthropology in this book, from the origins of certain dishes to the traditions associated with cooking in each country she visits, to the food-laden hospitality of everyone she meets, to the mores surrounding each dish.  I also appreciated that, as a woman who recently married and was trying to negotiate married life and professional and emotional independence, she paid extra attention to women’s roles in relation to food and the husband-wife dynamic across cultures.  Travel books are sadly dominated by men, particularly when talking about Asian and Middle Eastern countries, and much as I love the books I’ve read by male authors, I always wonder how their experiences would be different if they were women.  Basically, this book hit all the right buttons for me, and best of all, included a ton of really delicious-sounding recipes that, if all goes well, I’ll be testing shortly.

Homemade Vegetarian Dumplings + Announcement!

8 Aug

I have some news to formally announce to you since I have just looked back through my recent posts and realized I have not mentioned it previously.

As of September this blog will be on tentative hiatus for an entire academic year because I am moving to Beijing to study abroad at Tsinghua University.  My apartment in China will have a fully decked-out kitchen but because I’m unsure of the availability of certain ingredients and also myself (school + trying to explore the city and go to concerts and parks and museums and such = probable mess), I don’t know how frequently I’ll be able to update.

That being said, I have a blog dedicated to my China experience, which will be found here and will also have links to some of the other things I do across the Internet.

Before September, though, I have a nice long month that will be filled with posts beginning with this insanely simple and delicious dumpling recipe!

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You can fill dumplings with pretty much anything, but I made half of the dumplings kimchi-filled and the other half filled with an egg + spring onion mixture that I found in Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking.  Fuchsia Dunlop’s book has a lot of really great filling options, and also is just plain excellent so I highly recommend getting it.  I’ll probably hunt down a copy whilst in China so I have things to cook.

 

Ingredients:

  • Package of dumpling skins.  You can make your own, but why bother?  These are really cheap and it’s hard to make good skins.
  • 2 eggs
  • ~4 spring onions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup kimchi
  • Ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

Recipe:

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For the first set of dumplings, scramble two eggs.  When just cooked, transfer to cutting board and chop finely.  Also chop the spring onions finely.


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For the other set of dumplings, drain 1/4 cup kimchi.  I salted the kimchi and put it in a wire strainer to draw out the moisture and let it sit over the sink for a few minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the eggs and onions.  Chop the drained kimchi finely and place in another small bowl.

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Now, the fun part!  Folding dumplings is monotonous on its own, so put on a podcast or a show or something while you make these.  I think I was watching Orphan Black…

For folding directions with pictures, I highly recommend this step-by-step from Appetite for China.  Once you start folding it totally makes sense, but it seems very confusing at first.

Hold a dumpling skin in one hand and drop a spoonful of filling in the middle.  Wet the tip of your finger with water and run it along the upper half so the skin will stick to itself.

Fold the skin like a taco.  Starting from the right of the dumpling taco, pinch the end and fold the dough over.  So you’ll be pinching on the right and folding the dough over from your left, progressively working leftwards.

Does this make sense?

Sorry.

I would follow the link if I were you.

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I was going to make my own pictorial, but I was learning while folding and didn’t want to try to make an instructional thing on top of that.

Maybe next time?

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So do this until you run out of filling.  I had about two dozen by the end.  You can boil them all at once, pan fry them, or freeze them for later.  If you boil them, heat a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop in the dumplings.  You should cook them for 4-5 minutes, dropping in a cup of cold water every time the water starts to boil rapidly (according to Fuchsia Dunlop’s book) so they don’t fall apart.

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You know, it really thrills me to make things that you most often buy pre-made.  Like dumplings or ravioli, pumpkin purée, etc.  It feels self-sufficient, I think.  Like you’re putting effort into your life instead of being a passive consumer and accepting what is given to you without question or curiosity.  Perhaps this is too heavy for a blog post about dumplings.  Perhaps it is just heavy enough.

In any case, we have 26 days together until I leave, and many recipes to cover!

 

But before I go, a recommendation.  I have been giving more and more consideration to joining the Peace Corps, and my consideration recently turned much more committed after reading Rajeev Goyal’s A Spring in Namje.  Goyal was a PC volunteer in Nepal about 10 years ago teaching English.  However, the town in which Goyal was stationed (Namje, way up in the mountains) and the surrounding area was experiencing a crippling water shortage by dint of being way up in the mountains, far above the river.  All day people would have to trek down to the river and then trek back up hauling containers of water.

Goyal proposed building a water pump.  The water pump ended up being 21 feet taller than the Empire State Building, assembled by the people of Namje, engineered by a few men from the town who didn’t even have a complete high school education, and financed by serious lobbying of the Nepalese ex-pat community in New York as well as some other sources by Goyal.  The pump was successful and the town has since prospered (for a given definition; you’ll have to read the book).

That, however, is only half the book.  The other half covers Goyal’s tenure as a UN translator and his current career as a Congressional bird-dogger who lobbies for increased Peace Corps funding.  His book–and career and life and abilities–is incredible and I highly, highly recommend it for everyone.

Pasta with Spinach, Feta, and Mushrooms

26 Jun

I always feel vaguely lazy/guilty for writing up posts like this involving simple pasta dishes because… do you really need a recipe for this?  I literally just threw things into a bowl of pasta.  And then drowned it in feta cheese.

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And yet, I go looking for recipes when I want to make pasta, so I suppose there’s some merit to this?  I think the problem is that I’ve been running this thing as a baking blog for so long.

Baking is a science, you know?  Of course you do, because a) duh, and b) I make science posts sometimes. It’s pretty exact and you need to follow the damn instructions if you want to make something really good.

Cooking definitely requires the same level of love and care, but it’s more of an art, less of an exact science like baking.  Depending on the dish, of course.  Cooking is more forgiving.  So I always feel like I don’t really need to write up a cooking recipe because hey, you can figure it out.

But that’s a stupid viewpoint because I run a blog dedicated to recipes.  So get on with it, right?  I would say that this is so different that it’s not even adapted anymore, but I went to the grocery store intending to get things for this recipe at The Kitchn, so credit where credit is due.

Ingredients:

  • some olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 large handfuls of spinach (or more if you really like spinach)
  • 6 oz white button mushrooms
  • 1 lb short pasta
  • 1/2 lb/a fuck ton of feta cheese

Recipe:

Boil water for the pasta.  Slice the mushrooms and onion while you wait.  Once you’ve started cooking the pasta, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet until simmering and cook the onions until starting to brown.  Then, add the mushrooms and cook until they also brown a little and begin to smell awesome.

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Throw in the spinach.  Cook until wilted.

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In a large bowl, toss together all the cooked ingredients with the pasta.  If you’re serving it all at once, sprinkle the feta on top just before serving (unless you like your feta a bit more melted, in which case… ew).  If not, add the feta to the individual portion you’re about to eat.

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Ta-da!

 

So I am reading this novel about South Africa that was mentioned on the Sinica podcast… sometime in the past year, maybe.  It’s called Absolution, by Patrick Flanery, and it comes very highly recommended.  I’m not too far in, but I’m enjoying it and will make that my book recommendation of the day!

Coconut Rice

21 Jun

So I have a confession about this recipe, and it’s sort of awful.

It’s a great recipe.  It’s adapted from Joy the Baker, so of course it’s great.  The woman can do no wrong.

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(These pictures have nothing to do with anything, I’m just quite proud of them.)

This rice is just too rich for me.  The first bowl I had was awesome and now the thought of it makes me nauseous.  I know objectively that it’s really delicious, but I think the coconut milk is too much for me.  So, lesson learned.  But I still recommend this recipe!  Hence this post.

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I’ve been trying to eat all of this rice (it makes a lot!) by frying it with a fuck ton of soy sauce and kimchi, but you shouldn’t need to do that because it is actually quite delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper powder (or a chili pepper, finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 6 cups rice, cooked (I used brown jasmine)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut (I used those coconut chips you can get at TJ’s)
  • 1/2 cup bok choy, chopped
  • zest and juice from a lime

Recipe:

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In a large-ish saucepan, heat the oil until simmering and then toss in the onions.  Cook them until they begin to brown.  Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk and stir until everything’s well-coated.

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Reduce heat and stir in the rice, mixing until everything comes together.  Add the bok choy, lime zest and juice, and toasted coconut.

DSC_0087Toss together and cook until the coconut milk is absorbed.

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So the original recipe is actually for coconut crab rice, but I can’t afford crab, so this particular incarnation would work well as a side or with some fried tofu or steamed broccoli on top.

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(gratuitous pictures of my vacation thus far; you should probably be jealous)

I haven’t read anything for days (it feels like weeks; I’ve only been out of school for one week) and am not really feeling any of the books I picked up, so I’m just going to go ahead and recommend the TV show Suits.  It’s on network TV (when did network TV start doing amazing shows??  Seriously, I am impressed.)  Suits is a lawyer show, but it’s less about legal drama than about the characters.  The dynamic between all the characters is really well done, and the whole show is very well written in a subtle kind of way.  It’s not flashy and suave and impressive like Sherlock, Hannibal or Game of Thrones, but it’s just damn good.  Also, hello, it’s called Suits, so at least half the reason to watch it is the eyecandy.  Also also, one of the main characters is smoking hot and his characters owns it.  (I care about the plot.  I do.  I love lawyer shows.)  There is, in summation, no reason you should not watch this.

Chicken, Rice, and Kale Skillet

21 Apr

Well, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’ve had a very busy weekend, but not a particularly eventful one…  I’ll save all of that for next weekend when I go to some gallery openings and see some folks.

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(i got a new camera!!)

Mostly I’ve just been quietly settling into the quarter, getting acquainted with a new paper on Japanese avant garde fashion and feminism and continuing work on my sustainable architecture piece because it blossomed into a fledgling career path when I wasn’t looking.  Instead of doing a new paper for my Chinese politics class I’m expanding the old one into a writing sample fit for grad school.  Or something.  And discussion of the Federalist Papers abounds.  Bet you’ve never heard anyone say that before.

So enough non-news.  This recipe is insanely good, and actually adapted this time, not just followed to the letter like usual.  The original recipe is from How Sweet It Is and is a bit different in some fundamental ways.

You can make this vegetarian by substituting tofu for chicken or skipping the chicken completely, in which case it will be more of a side than a main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb chicken, breasts or thighs
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-ish cup rice (basmati works really well) or cooked pasta
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale (I don’t actually know how much that is), chopped
  • 12 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I love all of these action verbs)
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce

Recipe:

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Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat and throw in the chicken after seasoning with salt and pepper.

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This is me standing on a chair, by the way, trying to avoid being splashed by the oil which was shooting off EVERYWHERE.

Cook until golden brown on both sides, or about 6-7 minutes per side.

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I am so afraid to cook chicken because I’m paranoid about undercooking it (I do not have this problem with beef, which I like rare), but look how gorgeous that turned out!

Anyway, put the chicken on a plate somewhere, reduce heat a tad, and sauté the onions in the skillet for a few minutes.

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Then add the mushrooms and kale for 5-6 minutes.

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Then add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add sauce and cook until it gets hot.

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Stir in the rice and mix until everything is combined.  Then put the chicken back on top, reduce heat a tad, and cover until the chicken is heated through (a couple of minutes).

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Isn’t it lovely??  I don’t cook as often as I bake, so this is still thrilling for me.

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So good!

 

 

Okay, so.  There’s a movie that you should absolutely see if it’s playing near you, and it is called Upstream Color.  I will only tell you a little bit about it because it’s sort of a special film that needs to be seen in isolation.

So the guy who did this movie did a stunning sci-fi movie 9 years ago that he wrote/produced/directed/starred in/composed/etc. and that was insanely excellent.  He disappeared for a bit and came out with Upstream Color, releasing teasing tidbits little by little that revealed absolutely nothing but got a certain group of people beyond excited.  He also did just about everything on this movie, which is part of the reason why it’s so good–it’s totally independent, it’s totally in his control, and it’s totally sublime.

The score is my favorite part.  Sometimes I lay down somewhere and just listen to it the whole way through, all 45 minutes of it.  I hesitate to recommend the movie because most people won’t like, but like the director said, the people it’s made for will come to it eventually, and if you’re one of those people… what an experience.

Chinese Chicken Soup

21 Mar

In three weeks I’m presenting my paper on sustainable architecture in China at my first political science conference.  Do you remember that paper?  You must, I think it’s all I talked about from September-November.  A movie I’ve been waiting four years for is also finally coming out but instead of being in Chicago seeing it and the director at the Music Box I will be in Normal, Illinois talking about buildings and the environment and China to people who are probably really confused about why architecture has to do with political science.

Ah well, I’ll see Upstream Color the day after I get back and it’ll be amazing and wonderful, and I won’t get to see the lovely director/writer/composer/co-star, but I can live with that.  I suppose.

I can feel this becoming a career, though.  Green architecture in China.  I’m already thinking about paper topics for next quarter, but I’m leaning heavily towards how contemporary art in China is an invaluable form of resistance against the government, particularly against the central government’s urban planning policies.  HOWEVER, I have to finish this quarter first, and I’m so close to the end now.

This quarter I actually had the foresight to make one dish that I could eat all week long and that didn’t require a lot of effort, and it has really helped sustain me.  I just finished it off a few minutes ago, and so now I bring to you: Chinese chicken soup!

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How is this different from American chicken soup?  Well the broth, for one thing.  The Chinese version has a lot more flavor, using rice vinegar and soy sauce instead of just chicken stock.  Also, the vegetables, which is the biggest draw for me.  I’m not hugely fond of vegetables, but will always eat them in Chinese food.  They’re just better.  Better variety and better cooking methods.

I got this recipe from a very lovely site called A Spicy Perspective and adapted it out of laziness, taking out some ingredients I didn’t feel like getting.  If you really want the full experience, check out the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, cracked
  • 1 lb boneless chicken… I used breast, but the recipe calls for thighs.  I don’t know what the difference is.
  • 5 oz rice stick/mai fun noodles.  You could use any noodles though.
  • 1 large bunch/1 package green onions
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • whatever other vegetables you want to throw in there

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To do:

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock, water, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic to a boil.

Throw in the chicken and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Stir, or the chicken will clump together and it’ll  be weird.  Trust me.  Chicken clumps are weird.

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Add the noodles and then remove from the heat.  Mai fun don’t need to be cooked so much as soaked.  I actually don’t like these noodles, but it’s what the recipe called for and I was on the phone in the grocery store so I wasn’t really paying attention… Also I went to the local grocery store which only sells mai fun.  I should have gone Uptown to the Asian grocery store… They have an entire aisle of noodles.

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When you’re getting ready to serve the soup, chop all the vegetables up and put them in little bowls if you’re sharing with a group.  If you’re just keeping it to yourself, chop whatever you need as you need it.

DSC_0336This can be stored… probably indefinitely, but I’ve had it for a week and a half now.  You just have to microwave and then throw some vegetables on top and you’re golden.

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Ta-daaaa.  (I went to sleep at 7 am, okay, so don’t judge me based on my coherency right now.)

 

 

Now, books.  I’m reading a bunch right now, but what I really want to recommend is this French book.  If you don’t speak French… sorry.  Because I don’t think it’s been translated.  To preface this, I saw a movie a few days ago called Monsieur Lazhar, which is this exceedingly lovely Canadian movie staring a gentleman by the name of Mohamed Fellag.  I really liked him so I looked him up and found out that he was also a comedian and a writer, and my library system happened to have his books.  Luckily I can still read French, and luckier still Fellag is a brilliant writer who is completely readable and very talented.

I’m reading his short stories in C’est à Alger.  They all have to do in some part with Algeria, whether with the Kafka-esque government or the mythology of the area combined with the current political climate.  I would compare it to Persepolis, actually, in the way it shows you this very beautiful portrait of a place in turmoil and its people who are trying to make a life in extreme circumstances.  Anyway, if you can find a translation, hurray, and if you can read French, even better, because the book is great and his writing is even better.