Fresh Cabbage and Cucumber Kimchi

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Ever since the Great Kimchi Disaster of 2005, where I naively thought that using pre-packaged kimchi flavoring powder on cabbage would result in the vinegared vegetables of my dreams, I’ve stayed away from trying to make kimchi.

Until now. This kimchi recipe is fresh rather than fermented, resulting in a crispy texture. Less funk, more crunch. The preparation couldn’t be simpler and the results are oh so worth it.

Cabbage, cucumber, and radish kimchi

Ingredients:

1 small head napa cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
5 Persian cucumbers, sliced 1/3 inch thick
3/4 pounds daikon, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
10 radishes, quartered
1/4 cup salt
1/3 cup ginger, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup gochugaru
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Place the cabbage, cucumbers, daikon and radishes in 4 separate bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt to each bowl and toss well to coat the vegetables. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine all of the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.

3. Drain the vegetables and squeeze out excess water. In a bowl, mix all of the vegetables with the gochugaru-vinegar sauce. Cover the kimchi and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Sigeumchi Namul (Korean Spinach Banchan)

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The best sigeumchi namul I ever had was during a hurried ten hour stopover in Seoul. My sister and I had just spent a week in Hanoi and were on our way back to San Francisco. Exhausted, we were determined to see — and eat — as much as we could during our day long excursion into the city. Our banchan spread during lunch in a nondescript Insadong restaurant included this spinach banchan. Jet lagged and half asleep, the bright, fresh greens perked me up and fortified me for the precious few hours we had in the city. The rest of the meal was just as good, but that’s another story.

Whenever I eat this simple but delicious spinach dish, I’m transported back to that rainy day in Insadong. This mild banchan comes together in less than 15 minutes. Perfect for when you’re exhausted but hungry.

Sigeumchi namul (spinach banchan)
Ingredients:

1 pound spinach, trimmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain and squeeze out excess water, then chop into 1-inch pieces.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the spinach and toss to coat. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Parippu

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Parippu is to Sri Lankan cuisine as adasi is to Iranian cuisine. They’re both lentil stews, but the difference is all in the seasonings.

I grew up with adasi, redolent with garlic, onions, turmeric, and angelica powder. These days, I’ve developed a taste for parippu, which soaks up the flavors of coconut milk, lemongrass, curry leaves, and chiles. This is comfort food at its finest. Best of all, it tastes even better the next day.

Parippu

Ingredients:

    1/2 pound red lentils
    2 cups water
    1 onion, chopped
    2 green chiles, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, sliced
    1/8 teaspoon pandanus/pandan leaf extract (optional)
    2-inch stalk lemongrass
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 cardamom pod
    1 clove
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    1/2 cup coconut milk
    salt
    1 sprig curry leaves
    1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
    2 dry red chiles

1. Wash and drain lentils.

2. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add lentils, half of the onion, green chiles, garlic, pandanus extract, lemongrass, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, clove, and turmeric. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and salt. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. In another pan, heat oil for tempering. Saute onions and curry leaves until onions are translucent. Add mustard seeds and dry red chiles. Fry until mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 or 2 minutes. Pour over lentils and mix well.

Sauteed Collard Greens with Caramelized Miso

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“These greens taste like fried chicken.”

That’s what Nishan told me the first time I made this dish. Collard greens and miso don’t traditionally go together, but I knew I’d hit the jackpot when this Bon Appetit Magazine recipe was more evocative of meaty goodness than chlorophyll-packed nutrients. I love vegetables just as much as the next Californian, but collard greens that taste like fried chicken? Pass the greens, please.

Sauteed collard greens with caramelized miso

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 stick butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt
2 large bunches collard greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces (about 8 cups)
pepper
1/2 lemon

1. Heat miso in a large skillet over medium, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize and brown (it will be very dark), about 3 minutes. Add mirin and vinegar, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to low and, stirring constantly, add butter one piece at a time; stir until emulsified. Transfer miso butter to a small bowl and set aside.
Wipe out skillet. Heat oil over medium and cook garlic, smashing with a spoon, until golden brown and broken into bits, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a small bowl; season with salt.

2. Working in batches, add collard greens to same skillet, tossing and letting them wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until all greens are wilted, bright green, and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add half of reserved miso butter and toss to coat.

3. Transfer collard greens to a large serving bowl and drizzle with remaining miso butter. Top with reserved garlic and a squeeze of lemon.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Miso

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Sometimes I don’t have time to cook, but the desire to create something delicious wins so I end up turning on the stove and thinking to myself, okay, I have twenty minutes. Let’s do this.

Adapted from a simple Food and Wine recipe, I made these salty, earthy peppers one afternoon when I wanted to bring something to a family picnic but was short on time. Fresh peppers aside, you probably already have most of these ingredients in your pantry. These little bites are perfect with a cold drink or even as a side dish.

Blistered shishito peppers with miso

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small dried red chile
3/4 pound shishito peppers
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1. In a small bowl, stir the miso and sake until smooth.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil with the chile until shimmering. Add the shishitos and ginger and cook over high heat, tossing, until tender and blistered in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the miso sake mixture and toss well. Transfer to a plate and serve.