31 August 2011

Kimchi Soup with Tofu, Take Two

Both these kimchi soups fulfill my deep need for a warming, spicy cabbage soup but I wouldn't say they're interchangeable. The simpler kimchi soup makes a great meal for the Woman Alone. It's hot and quick and gets the job done. While the flavor isn't as rich as that of the complex kimchi soup, the simple kimchi soup dials up the heat and intensity and clears out my sinuses faster than you can say "Snakes on a Steamy Swim." And it still performs admirably 4 or 5 days later. That's value, folks.

On the other hand, this complex kimchi soup works well for company and also exudes a more comforting quality. Gavin really enjoyed it, and even George—for whom hot spice is anathema—gave it a lingering glance as it passed by. I made minor changes to Kindelsperger's/ Bittman's recipe and ended up with a subtle flavor and a delightful mélange (yes, I wrote mélange. what are you going to do about it?) of textures. In a mildly spicy thin broth swim spicy bits of kimchi, soft and chewy cubes of tofu, and soothing spoonfuls of white rice. It's like Chicken Soup with rice, if the chicken were tofu and the broth were scarlet with spiciness.  Nor does this soup actually take that long to make; it's just more of a hassle when shopping. Here's my version. If you eat gluten-free, check to make sure that all your condiments, especially the soy sauce, are gluten-free.

Kimchi Soup with Tofu


2 Tablespoons sesame oil
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 Cups kimchi, chopped into bite-size bits, plus some kimchi liquid
1 standard package firm tofu, packed in liquid
1 Tablespoon go chu jang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 Cup vegetable broth plus 4 Cups water
1 Tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
 1/2 Cup short-grain white rice (sushi rice works great)
a couple of handfuls of spinach
fresh ground pepper


1. Drain block of tofu. Press between two plates and top with a heavy jar. Wait 5 minutes, pour off liquid, and repeat with the tofu upside-down. Cut the block lengthwise so that it is only half as thick. Carefully cut all the tofu into bite-sized cubes. Set aside.
2. Sauté scallions in heated sesame oil for 1 minute.
3. Add kimchi plus liquid, tofu, and go chu jang. Cook 30 seconds, tossing to coat.
4. Add in water and stock plus vinegar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
5. Stir in the rice. Cook 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Five minutes before it's done, add the spinach.
6. Grind in some fresh pepper. Serve hot, but keeps well for a week.

Serves 6.

26 August 2011

Kimchi Soup with Tofu, Take One

Goodness, how I craved kimchi soup with tofu! Hot hot hot, cabbage-y, chewy, spicy…I knew it would obliterate my endless cold. Which recipe to try?  Two vegetarian kimchi soup recipes caught my attention. One was clearly easier. The other, probably tastier. Of course I enjoy my endless shortcuts, so I made the easier one first. The verdict: A good quick spicy soup, but nothing special to write home about. Tonight for Shabbat I will make the second soup and see if it both tastes better and is worth the trouble. Unbeknownst to Gavin, I have chosen him as my test subject. Mwa HA HA HA HA! George will safely elude my machinations with a harmless baked potato.

My version of the Easy Soup:

3 Cups cabbage kimchi, chopped
a bit of kimchi juice
1 tube soft tofu, sliced into half-moons
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sesame oil

In a pot combine chopped kimchi and kimchi juice. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer up to 30 minutes. 15 minutes in, add the tofu. Turn off the heat. Add scallions and sesame oil. Serve hot.

Stay tuned for updates!

24 August 2011

How to Cook Food with Alcohol in it While Pregnant

I was researching whether pregnant women should eat food with alcohol in it. The short answer is absolutely not. Unfortunately, I found website after website full of helpful people assuring pregnant women that it was totally fine because either 1) alcohol cooks away entirely or 2) a little wine is good for the fetus—at least it won't hurt. Yes, I'm looking at you, Yahoo! Answers. You're proof that truth by consensus doesn't work.

Every medical site or book I've read firmly states that after the first two weeks of pregnancy, even the smallest amount of alcohol can give your baby Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This is because with alcohol, the fetus drinks pretty much what you drink, but its organs haven't developed enough to process the alcohol safely. Plus, the fetus is tiny! Imagine you were a toddler and you drank a full glass of wine. They don't even let toddlers do that in France. Now imagine you're 1/8th the size of a toddler and you drink a full glass of wine! Not only would you pass out from blood poisoning, you'd probably suffer severe brain damage. In the first trimester, the fetus is smaller than an orange. It probably couldn't even handle a grape's worth of alcohol.

And yes, some lucky people drink a little wine during their pregnancy and nothing happens. Same with smoking and other risky behaviors. The point is, it's RISKY.

Keeping the dangers of alcohol in mind, how does cooking change the picture? Does alcohol cook away entirely because it has a lower boiling point than water? No. Here's a handy-dandy chart from the US Department of Agriculture:

Alcohol Burn-off Chart
 Preparation Method  Percent Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%

23 August 2011

Shakshuka and Roti

During our last night in Connecticut I craved hot comfort food. Meanwhile, Doug demanded I cook something that used up all his garden tomatoes. After some thought, I remembered that when George and I were staying in Queens, NY, we ate at an amazing little Israeli food haven called Mimi's Hummus. There I enjoyed my first shakshuka—a tomato-and-egg dish of North African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origins—with a basket of fresh-cooked pita. The meal warmed and comforted me so deeply that I felt it would serve perfectly to combat the latest family cold. However, the last time I attempted a pita recipe, it somehow morphed into matzah! So…to accompany my shakshuka I tried a different kind of quick-cooking bread, Indian roti. I altered a shakshuka recipe I found at Smitten Kitchen while Julia and I mostly adhered to one version of a roti recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

Doug's eating gluten-free again, so he enjoyed the shakshuka over a mixture of wild and basmati rice and asked for seconds…and thirds. He and George kvetched that the shakshuka was too spicy (they are sensitive), but I had specifically altered the recipe to be as mild as possible, and anyway they both ate a lot of it so it couldn't have been too painful.

Julia exclaimed at how quickly the roti came together. If you make the roti and an entree that only takes about a half-hour, you should have everything ready in a little over an hour. Make sure ahead of time that you have access to a wide, deep pan for the shakshuka, and for the roti you will need a broiler and also a smaller frypan that you can stick in the oven. The roti came out in pretty funny shapes, but we shrugged, called it "rustic," and presented it with the confidence that only a dimly-lit room can provide.

Serves 4-6 hungry people


a lot of fruity olive oil (don't waste your expensive extra-virgin on this)
3 cubanelle peppers, seeded and sliced into short thin strips*
1 1/2 to 2 large yellow onions, chopped into little pieces
1 head of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped into little pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
2 lbs. or a little more of fresh tomatoes
kosher or sea salt to taste
6 eggs, or as many as you can cook side-by-side in the pan
optional: chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

*or another large, mild frying pepper, like poblano

  1. Blanch tomatoes 30 seconds to a minute in boiling water. Peel and discard peel. Cut into wedges.
  2. With your hands, crush and break down the tomatoes. It's okay if a lot of juice goes into the bowl. It's all going into the pan.
  3. Cover the surface of the frypan with a good layer of oil. When it shimmers, add the onion and peppers. Sauté on medium heat until the onion softens and turns golden brown, about 7 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juice, plus 1/2 Cup water to the fry pan. Simmer and stir for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened a little. Add the salt to taste.
  6. Break the six eggs directly into the tomato sauce, one egg at a time, so that they distribute evenly across the surface.
  7. Cover the fry pan, reduce heat a little, and let cook for about 10 minutes until white and yolk have thoroughly poached in the tangy liquid.
  8. Sprinkle on the parsley, if desired.
  9. Spoon hot directly from the fry pan over hot rice or with fresh roti or pita.


1 Cup whole wheat flour
1 Cup cake-flour (not self-rising)

  1. Mix flours with less than 1 Cup of lukewarm water until it forms a dough. Knead for 7 minutes, then cover with a damp cloth and allow to sit for a half hour or more.
  2. Tear the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. For the next several steps, keep all the dough covered with the damp cloth unless you are working with it.
  3. Flour a wooden board or wax paper. Flour your hands and a rolling pin. Pat each ball into a flattened round. Then roll the dough out into a circle until it's quite thin and about 5 1/2 inches in diameter. Set aside and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat with remaining 11 balls of dough, but don't stack all 12 on top of each other or they will start sticking together.
  4. Heat up the broiler. Meanwhile, heat up a heavy fry pan on medium heat.
  5. Slap one of the rotis on the fry pan. After 1 minute, soft bubbles should have formed. Turn it over. After 30 seconds, stick the whole pan under the broiler. The roti should puff up in a matter of seconds. Remove from the pan and store the roti in a clean cloth-lined dish.
  6. Repeat with remaining 11 rotis. Serve at once with hot saucy food.

19 August 2011

Indian Stir-Fry

Today Julia and I suddenly decided to make stir-fry from scratch. We had never made one together before, and this dish twisted and turned in unexpected directions. First we turned on the rice cooker to perfectly cook Japanese white rice. Because the cooker was set to "Regular," we had only another 40 minutes to finish the stir-fry.

We quickly took stock of Julia's pantry and fridge. Julia likes cooking authentic Indian food, and she keeps a lot of Indian-type spices on hand. But stir-fries lean Chinese, at least in the U.S. Luckily the two cuisines overlap somewhat. After choosing peanut oil for the frying part, we hazily recreated the spice blend from a red lentil soup George likes: tamarind paste, peeled and chopped tomatoes, fresh ginger, cumin, coriander, and salt.

The last trick was to cook each vegetable the exact right length of time so that the flavors remained fresh and the texture not mushy. Julia had a goodly stock of broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and snap peas. Onions need the longest to cook to a gentle, mellow flavor. When they begin to brown, it's time to add fresh ginger, garlic and dry spices. These flavors sauté into the onions for one minute and then you add the next vegetable: broccoli. Well-chopped broccoli takes about eight minutes to cook uncovered. Three minutes after the broccoli, I add the sliced mushrooms. When ours had reduced to a savory juiciness, Julia added a mixture of tamarind paste and chopped tomatoes. At this point we adjusted the salt. Finally, we added the sliced peas for that essential crunch one minute before removing the frypan from heat.

Julia served the stir-fry over rice with a poached egg on top. Besides enjoying the complimentary mix of colors, flavors, and textures, we felt smug about eating something healthy. Doug, puffed with pride after having made his first gazpacho, complained that there was no garlic in the stir-fry. This was true. Then he complained that there were no onions. In fact we had added more than 1 large onion. So after that we ignored his opinion. After he gets over the cold I cruelly conferred upon him, I bet he will be able to taste things again.

15 August 2011

Blueberry Pie

Our blueberry pie!
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