Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kimbap - Korean sushi rolls

I first learned how to make kimbap (Korean rice rolls that are most similar to Japanese sushi) from a friend's mother when I was in Korean dance. Most of us were adopted, so Jinhee's mother taught us to cook a few Korean dishes. This was also one of my favorite street foods when I lived in Korea.

Kim (also sometimes pronounced gim) is the Korean word for seaweed, and bap (also pronounced pap) is the word for rice (also sometimes the word for meal or the general concept of eating or having eaten), but in this instance it means rice.

You can put pretty much whatever you like in kimbap - like bibimbap, it's a way for ajummas to clean out their refrigerator. I used carrot, cucumber, picked daikon (dan-muji), imitation crab stick, and fried egg.

You start with your filling ingredients sliced thinly, about the length of a sushi nori sheet. I also sauteed a bunch of spinach with garlic, pepper and sesame oil, and finely chopped the leftovers from last night's bulgogi dinner. Other options are ham or spam, tuna, kimchi, fish cake (odang), pickled burdock root, ground beef, and so on.

Jake was nice enough to take these action shots of me making a kimbap roll. Jinhee's mother (and every other Korean I've witness making kimbap) was very good at expertly rolling all the filling up so tightly, it wouldn't budge. I, on the otherhand, don't always get enough rice, and sometimes roll mine too loosely.

You want about 2/3 of the nori (shiny side down) to be covered with sticky rice. Dip your fingers in water before pressing the rice down. Make sure the rice covers the kim all the way down to the corners and edges. Dress your rice with about 1/2 TBS sugar, 1 TBS rice vinegar and freshly ground black pepper and cool to room temperature before starting.

Lay your flat ingredients first - the spinach (squeeze as much moisture out as you can) and the meat.

Then add the rest of your ingredients, trying to keep them as close together as possible. Make a thin line of rice at the very top of your sheet, this will act like glue and seal your roll.

Hold the ingredients as far to the bottom edge as possible as you roll upward, squeezing tightly to form the roll.

Use a very sharp knife to slice the kimbap. Brush them with sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with a dipping sauce.

Dreaming? of hot, fresh kimbap off the street stands in Seoul

A healthier Parmesan artichoke dip

Saturday while preparing my recreation of Momofuku Ssam bar's spicy rice cakes and pork, I was a little peckish, so made this dish to have something to snack on while assembling all the pieces of the Chang dish.

I saw this box of baby artichokes last week and H Mart and just couldn't resist picking them up. I'm always amazed at the amount of waste these little things can produce once you pull the tough outer leaves and stems.

I'm also not a believer in dunking your hearts in vinegar or lemon juice to keep them from browning. One of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman has written about this.

They steamed for about 12 -15 minutes, or until fork tender. When I sliced them in half, I found I hadn't quite cut away enough of the prickly parts, so quartered the hearts and trimmed them at a diagonal to remove the sharp tips.

I tossed the still warm quartered baby hearts with 2 pats of butter (less than a tablespoon), 1 TBS grated Parmesan cheese, some salt, pepper and chopped dill and taragon (you could, of course use any fresh herbs you had in the house).

The butter and the cheese made it seem a little creamy, and the herbs made it taste so fresh. I suppose you also could have thinly sliced some baby spinach to boost its veggie count. I served it on some water crackers, but they were good plain too. Way healthier than restaurant artichoke dip, but filling and delicious!

Parmesan Artichoke Dip
1 box baby artichokes, trimmed of tough outer leaves and prickles (about 2 dozen)
2 small pats of butter (just less than 1 TBS)
1 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
2 TBS freshly chopped herbs (I used taragon and dill)

Steam baby artichoke pieces for 12-15 mins until fork tender. Quarter and trim any remaining prickles.
Toss with melted butter, cheese and herbs.
Serve with crackers or toasts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Momofuku Ssam Bar: Spicy Rice Cakes and Pork dinner

Top: Momofuku Ssam Bar's spicy rice cakes and pork // Bottom: My weekend re-creation

The tteokbogi dish at Ssam bar was absolutely awesome. Jake and I, of course, are big fans of anything that involves eating tteokbogi as a main course of a meal.

This dish adds pork and some veggies to round out the rice cakes and sauce, making it a bit more like a meat sauce for spaghetti.

I knew as soon as we got home I wanted to recreate it using the recipe in the Momofuku cook book.

It turned out to be fairly complex, so I saved it for last weekend's big cooking project.

The sauce was so much more than my usual tteokbogi sauce - starchy water from boiling the tteok, gochuchang, a spoonful of sugar, drizzle of sesame oil boiled down until it coats the back of a spoon. No, this sauce was a masterpiece. 2 sliced onions, seasoned pork, scallions, greens (the restaurant uses Chinese broccoli, I used the cores of baby bok choy) mixed with gochuchang, some water, doengjaeng (Korean soybean paste) and silken tofu.

Now, I took a few liberties with the sauce -- I don't keep things like "Schezuan peppercorns" around the house. I also misread the tofu requirement and only had firm tofu - the kind you fry, not the kind you stir into sauces. That turned out to be an easy fix, I just put a few tablespoons of the firm tofu in the food processor with a few tablespoons of boiling water until it was silky and creamy.

I pan fried the tteok giving it a crispy outside to the soft chewy inside then drizzled with some sesame oil. 

Here's the sauce with the onions mixed in. It's much lighter than my usual sauce because of the tofu.

The other thing I misread was about the fried shallots that topped the meal. Turns out the recipe calls for using packaged ones -- which I have never heard of, nor seen at a grocery store. I just fried 2 shallots until they were crispy (though a little burnt on one side) and they tasted fine.

Overall, this dish was totally worth the effort. Mine had a lot more sauce than the original at the restaurant, which was fine by both me and Jake. The sausage was spicy and salty from the gochuchang and doengjaeng. The tteok was crisp to the bite, then chewy inside.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pitas, hummus, and falafel dinner - almost like New York

Sunday dinner (clockwise from the pitas): pitas, parmesan couscous salad, hummus (smaller red bowl) w/ paprika garnish, tzaiziki, tahini and falafel.

This was the first time I had ever worked with dried chickpeas, but found it to be just as easy as everyone else has said. I covered them with boiling water and kept them on low heat for a couple of hours. Had I planned far enough in advance, I could have used cold water and just left them over night.

I used half the chick peas to make hummus, which I made using homemade tahini for the first time. About halfway through, I found a full and unopened can of tahini in my fridge, but found I like the homemade version so much better. It's richer and nuttier and less oily. The food processor really was my kitchen workhorse for this meal - and because all of the flavors were blended together, I didn't bother to wash between making the tahini, hummus and falafel mixes. Here's the hummus spread on some bagel pieces:

Next, I rolled my pita dough and let them rise. They're so cute and fluffy.

I also made a tzaiziki sauce with yogurt, cucumbers and dill to serve with the falafel.

Jake caught some awesome light photographing the pitas while they cooled. We just used the grill pan (Jake acted as grill master while I rolled each little pita)

The falafel themselves were a mixed bag. I didn't take the time to chill the mixture as suggested, so they were fairly crumbly. After frying each side for a couple of minutes to brown, I popped them into the oven on a baking sheet for another 10 minutes. The second half of the dough went into the fridge over night, and I baked them for 12 minutes on each side the next day. They held up considerably better, and I was glad not to have all the oil fried into them.

The end result was not as exciting as it had been the weekend before at Karavas Place in Greenwich Village, but still tasty when paired with a couscous and avocado salad.


2 1/2 cups soaked chickpeas
3 cloves garlic
2-3 spoonfuls of tahini (homemade optional)
3 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
pinch of salt, to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Squeeze a quarter lemon over (removing seeds) then combine again. Serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 TBS sugar
1 1/2 c warm water
(combine and leave in a warm place for up to 10 minutes until foamy and expanded)
4 c flour
2 TBS olive oil
pinch of salt

Mix yeast with flour and salt then drizzle olive oil. Knead until smooth and elasticky (I do this by hand). Invert a bowl over the dough and allow to rise for up to an hour.
Punch down, then knead briefly and shape into 12 balls. Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise again until nearly doubled in size.
Roll balls until about six inches in diameter and thin. Grill over medium high heat until browned on both sides.
Serve warm.

2 1/2 c of soaked chickpeas
1/2 a medium onion
3 TBS chopped cilantro
3 TBS chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
salt/pepper to taste
1 tsp baking powder
4 TBS flour

Combine all ingredients in food processor until coarsely chopped. Use hands to gently shape small golf-ball-sized balls, then flatten slightly.
Optional - fry on each side 3-5 minutes until browned
Transfer to a cookie sheet at bake 12-15 mins on each side at 300 F.
Serve with pitas, tahini, hummus and tzaiziki sauce.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New York food adventure

Last weekend for Easter, I decided to drive up to New Jersey to spend some time with both sides of my family, and also try to sneak in a day in the city. Awesome, awesome choice.

First, I got to experience a day of Polish cooking with an aunt on my dad's side. Sadly, not many photos of this exist, as I was up to my elbows in the sink squeezing cabbage like my life depended on it.

This is about the first half of the gwumpkies, and we also made perogies - using a different recipe than the one I tried before. The dough was WAY better, but I wasn't as crazy about the cabbage filling (nor the process of squeezing 10 lbs of cabbage).

Perogie dough:
5 c all purpose flour, more for kneading
1 egg
2 TBS sour cream
1 c water
1 c milk

Whisk together the liquids, make a well in the flour, combine, and knead until smooth and elasticky. Keep chilled and covered until ready to use.

The other very awesome aspect of the trip (besides getting to indulge in two beautiful Easter dinners) was having a food adventure in New York. I don't usually write about restaurant experiences, but this was a bit out of the ordinary.

First we stopped in Greenwich Village, where I was able to purchase Amateur Gourmet's book and Jenny 8. Lee's book together for $15 at a small second-hand shop. AG saw my Tweet about it and even offered to find a time to meet to sign my book!

We picked Karavas Place on a whim for lunch and it turned out to be awesome. We had the hummus and falafel platters - both were fresh and delicious. I don't think I've ever had falafel that good before. It's definitely going on my list of things to try and re-create.

I can't resist a good piece of baklava, so imagine my surprise when the woman (whom I think may own the restaurant) plunked this beast down in front of me. NOM. 

Dinner had to be David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village -- I've been dying to go here ever since I bought the cookbook. We met up with Bao, a MN transplant living in NYC and a fellow food enthusiast. We didn't have enough people for the ssam dinner (plus we eat bo ssam fairly often), so Jake and I both ordered the "spicy sausage and rice cakes" which turned out to be an amazing variation on our beloved tteok bogi.

After splitting some cookies from Milk Bar (the compost cookie actually made it back to NJ, then back to DC where it made up half my lunch on Monday afternoon), Bao brought us to Chikalicious for dessert. I *wish* I had thought to photo my desserts. They were adorable. Needless to say, if you can afford the $14 prix fixe menu you should definitely try to make it. They were beautifully crafted, and such a fresh and clever blend of flavors. Who knew pink peppercorns could make an ice cream flavor? Or that it would be brilliant paired with a port sauce?

This weekend it's back into the kitchen for me! Possibilities: Momofuku steam buns (they were to die for!), compost cookies, pitas....

Dreaming? of my next NYC food adventure!