Vietnamese Chicken Congee in the Pressure Cooker

The dish I have been most obsessed with in the past few months has been Vietnamese Chicken Congee (Cháo Gà). The combination of black pepper and fresh herbs over a rice porridge is simple yet has amazing flavor.

Prior to getting a pressure cooker, I made the dish a few times using my rice cooker. It was good, but because the rice cooker works by steaming off the liquid, it wasn’t soupy enough. Too clumpy. Plus it took forever. The pressure cooker solved everything. Not only could I dial in my liquid level prior to cooking, but it was now cooking much faster.

pressure-cooker

I use the Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker.

Not Authentic, But Just as Good

I’m not Vietnamese and this is not an authentic recipe. My goal was to replicate this dish in a way that is easy to make and can be done quickly. My recipe is optimized to taste amazing with minimal time. Doing this over the stove without a pressure cooker can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours. With the pressure cooker, including prep time, it will take just 20 minutes.

  • Texture: The texture of the congee is personal preference. You can make it thick like oatmeal or soupy. I prefer it somewhere in the middle.
  • Chicken: Almost every recipe says to use a whole chicken. If you have one and feel like cutting it up and dealing with that, then go for it. I’ve discovered that thinly sliced chicken thighs are perfect. Chicken breasts were dry and distracted from the dish flavor, so don’t use just breasts.
  • Rice: Many recipes call for mixing two types of white together. I do this, but the important thing is to use short grain white rice. With congee the goal is to really break down the rice. When the rice breaks down, the starches in the grains thicken the dish.
  • Ginger: Required. I go overboard on ginger myself.
  • Garnish: Black pepper and fish sauce are must haves. For herbs, you can use cilantro, but for me nothing beats Thai basil. Slicked green onions is nice if you have them, but not necessary. For sweetness, most congee dishes add a pinch of cut up Chinese donuts. As someone that avoids both wheat and deep fried foods, I don’t add that ingredient. But if that is your thing, add away.

What I learned is the key to making good congee is that the rice required more cooking than the chicken. To make efficient use of my time, I begin cooking the rice before I start any of the other prep work.

Ingredients

My congee is heavy on the chicken and ginger. Use less if you like. This is a loose recipe, so use this as a starting point and then dial in your own customization.

  • 1.5 cups short grain rice. Jasmine and/or sushi rice. Use one or blend two.
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (~1 pound).
  • 1-3 inch ginger. Peeled, cut into very small or crushed pieces.
  • 2 cups of chicken stock.
  • black pepper
  • fish sauce
  • Thai basil (or cilantro or sliced green onions)

Step 0 – Soak the Rice (optional)

If you aren’t ready to start cooking yet and you have some time, throw the rice in a bowl of water or the pressure cooker itself. This will help the rice break down more. If you are ready to cook, skip this step.

Step 1 – Start Cooking the Rice

Put the rice in the pressure cooker, cover with water. Turn the flame to high. The water level should cover the rice by 1-2 inches. You aren’t using the pressure cooker as a pressure cooker yet. Leave the lid off and monitor. You don’t want all the water to boil off. If you need to add more water, do so.

While the rice is cooking, you’ll be preparing the other ingredients.

Step 2 – Prep Work

Peel and cut up the ginger. Slice up the chicken. Locate the chicken stock.

Step 3 – Cook the Congee in the Pressure Cooker

By this point, the rice should be boiling and cooking away. Add the ginger, chicken and chicken stock. Look at the liquid level and decide if this is the consistency you want for your congee. You can more water or chicken stock if you like. Close the pressure cooker and once pressurized cook for 10 minutes on High.

Turn off pressure cooker. Grab and bowl and serve.

Step 4 – Serve and Garnish

Add black pepper, fish sauce and the Thai basil. Enjoy!

chicken congee

Vietnamese Chicken Congee. This bowl also has sliced scallions (green onions). 

Once you’ve had congee, with the flavor mix of ginger, black pepper, fish sauce and Thai basil, I can’t imagine ever eating something as boring as oatmeal ever again. Congee is my favorite breakfast food, although I’ve had it for dinner as well. 10 minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of pressure cooking is all it takes to make this classic dish.

The Pressure Cooker is a Game Changer

Shortly after arriving in Seattle in 2007, I broke down and bought a good coffee grinder. After years of thinking my old grinder was good enough to grind fine and consistent for espresso, I spent the $350 for the Rancilio Rocky. I’m frugal, so the purchase was tough to make. I’m the guy that tries to squeeze ever ounce of life out of something before replacing it. So even though I had the money to buy a nice grinder, I waited until my old grinder was on life support.

I still the recall that feeling I got when I pulled those first few shots. They were beautiful.  Thin rat tails of espresso poured out of the espresso machine. In a second I knew everything had changed. And in a second I knew I was a fool for wasting years with that old grinder. In one day, the quality of my espresso went up 10 fold. My education and appreciation of espresso went through the roof starting at that moment.

espresso rat tail

The Stream by Mark

Pressure Drop

Last week that same feeling hit me again. We got a pressure cooker for the house. I’ve been cooking with it every day. Sometimes twice a day. It is a game changer. Dishes that took hours are now done in minutes. Stock that took a day to make is now finished in one hour. I can bake potatoes faster in the pressure cooker than it takes to preheat the oven.

I’ve spent the last 6 years or so teaching myself cooking. And although I am proud of what I’ve learned, I now realize that learning curve would have been greatly accelerated had I purchased a pressure cooker years ago. When you reduce the cooking time by magnitudes, you cook more. When you cook more, you experiment more and you learn faster. Not to mention you eat better and save money.

After doing a bunch of research, we decided to go with the recommendation of America’s Test Kitchen. They preferred the Fagor 8-Quart Pressure Cooker over other models.

Fagor 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker with Steamer Basket
Fagor 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker with Steamer Basket

When I first considered getting a pressure cooker, I had safety concerns. What I learned is that the engineering of 2nd generation pressure cookers is far superior to the old models. The article New Valve System for Pressure Cookers details the differences between modern and old school pressure cookers. The short version is new pressure cookers are completely safe.

What about nutrient loss? The site hip pressure cooking has an article that makes the case more nutrients are retained when pressure cooking veggies over boiling, steaming or microwaving. And the article also explains why the high temperatures in the pressure cooker don’t create carcinogen compounds that occur with frying or grilling. Also, Dr. Stephan Guyenet of Whole Health Source, who is also a fan of Weston A. Price, loves his pressure cooker. Good enough for me.

My First Week of Pressure Cooking

Here is an overview of a few things I’ve made so far and how long it cooked once the pressure gauge popped up.

  • Chicken noodle soup (I use Korean rice cakes instead of wheat noodles) – 7 minutes
  • Beef stock – 60 minutes
  • Lamb stew w/ potatoes – 50 minutes (used to take 5-8 hours on slow cooker)
  • Spaghetti Squash – 12 minutes
  • Risotto – 8 minutes
  • Baked potatoes (halved)  – 9 minutes
  • Beets – 15 minutes
  • Pulled pork – 55 minutes (not a typo!!!)

Can you tell I’m excited? I feel like someone just added years to my life. I’ve spent the last week looking up ideas for the pressure cooker. Each time I see a recipe, my first reaction is disbelief that it could cook that fast, followed by excitement. And the quality of everything I’ve made so far has been as good and usually better than other cooking methods I’ve used. This is especially true for the beef stock. Super rich and gelatinous. No more babysitting a stock pot for 24 hours.

If you’ve been considering a pressure cooker but haven’t purchased one yet, all I can say it GET ONE!

Faster Pho 2.0 – A Little Slower, But More Tasty

I wanted to do a quick follow up to my Faster Pho recipe. If I have an extra hour, I alter the recipe to provide a richer and more flavorful dish. In the prior recipe I explained how using Chinese 5 Spice you could quickly hack your way to faster pho. Well, maybe my palate is now expecting more, because I began experimenting with an alternative method.

Faster Pho 2.0 Revision

  1. Still make or purchase a base beef stock. I make my own and use it for stews and other dishes.
  2. Char a piece of ginger under the oven broiler.
  3. Instead of using Chinese 5 Spice, fill a spice pouch with star anise, cloves, fennel, cinnamon stick, whole cardamon and the charred ginger.
  4. Place pouch into stock and let it warm up to a low simmer for about an hour.
  5. Remove pouch and proceed with the original Faster Pho recipe.

One idea I did recently was put the stock inside a slow cooker on low. Then I hung the spice pouch from the lid of the slow cooker. I ran errands and came back to a very flavorful stock. Also don’t let the fact you don’t have all those spices prevent you from proceeding. Get as many as you can. You can also add a tap of Chinese 5 Spice to round out the broth.

Regency Spice Bags for Bouquet Garnis with Drawstring Tops, set of 4
Regency Spice Bags for Bouquet Garnis with Drawstring Tops, set of 4

Maybe this no longer qualifies as Faster Pho? Since it takes about a minute to fill the spice bag and turn on the slow cooker, I think it still does. You decide. You can always return to Chinese 5 Spice.

Simple Soup Idea – Posole

Recently I went to a local Mexican place and instead of getting my normal tacos, I tried the posole soup. I never had it before. It was great, so I decided to go home and make my own. I figured it would be hard to replicate the flavor, but it turned out to be very easy.

Posole soup is made using cubed pork, hominy, peppers, garlic, onions in a broth covered with cilantro. That’s it. I used a beef stock, but I suspect even water would work well. Cook the veggies, brown the meat, throw into liquid, add hominy, cook for 15 minutes, serve and top with cilantro.

If you need more details look at Posole Recipe on The Reluctant Gourmet.

cubed pork

hominy

posole soup

Kimchi Spam Soup

Ready for a super easy Korean soup recipe. Here it is.

  1. Heat water.
  2. Add chopped kimchi.
  3. Add sliced or cubed SPAM.
  4. Serve when warm. I heated mine for 10 minutes.

You can also throw in any cooked rice if you like. Super easy, super fast and tasty.

kimchi spam soup

I didn’t measure anything. Old kimchi would be better than fresher, but all should work. In the event you need to dial up the heat more, you can add some gochujang or sriracha sauce. Add fish sauce if more salt is needed. And if you run out of kimchi, top the served soup with chopped scallions.

Natto 2: Fermentation Boogaloo

For the second edition of making natto, I traded my homemade incubator (styrofoam cooler with a light bulb) for a slow cooker. You can read about that in the post How to Ferment Natto. This one didn’t go so well.

Natto needs a stable temperature between 100-113 F for optimal fermentation. Slow cookers, even on the warm setting, will get too hot with the lid closed. So I placed a dish towel over the slow cooker and set the control to WARM.

At first it was losing too much heat, so I added a second dish towel. This seemed to be working. It was keeping a perfect temperature of 106 F for the first 8 hours. Then I went to sleep. When I woke up and checked on the natto, the temperature had jumped to 131 F. I was able to get the temperature back down to a safe range for the last few hours, but the damage was done.

Natto that exceeds the optimal temperature range doesn’t have the slimy gooey texture that makes it natto. It tastes rather bland and boring. I’m thinking that the high temperatures either killed or greatly damaged the natto culture.

Natto too hot!

You can see that the natto started at 106 F and then spiked to 131 F. Not sure if the humidity plays a role in natto fermentation, but you can see it got to 99% under the dish towels. Not sure why it spiked. I’m guessing that the water bath evaporated and this made the inside of the slow cooker hotter. This is an old slow cooker I got at a yard sale for $5.

I suppose at this point, I could pimp out my slow cooker by adding some electronics to get an optimal temperature, but I have zero skills in electronics. Plus I already have that working incubator method. But I do like the elegance of using the slow cooker.

How to Ferment Natto

I want to thank Stephan at Biohacks.net for sending me an email about natto. I was well aware of how healthy the Japanese ferment was, especially its very high vitamin K2 levels. What I didn’t know until I researched it further was the fermentation time was just 24 hours. For some reason, I had always assumed it was much longer.

If you are interested in learning more why Vitamin K2 is so important read the article Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient by Chris Kresser. Fellow Weston A. Price fans that read his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration will recall the author theorized there existed a vitamin like activator. That “Activator X” turned out to be Vitamin K2. Chris Masterjohn wrote On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved for the WAPF site.

You May Not Like the Taste

Natto is fermented soybeans. They are slimy and have a weird texture. Most people I talk to have either never heard of the food or dislike it. Natto was one of the few non-animal parts foods to make it into the book Yuck! The Things People Eat. Here is how that book describes natto:

Sticky, smelly, slimy and with an unpleasant aftertaste.

Although I agree the texture is odd, it has always tasted fine to me, especially over rice with some mustard or soy sauce.

Why Make Your Own?

Before we proceed, I though I’d mention my two motivations for making my own natto. The primary reason is the pre-packaged nattos sold at the Asian grocery store are loaded with crap we don’t want to eat. Seattle’s Uwajimaya is a nice grocery store and they sell probably 20 different brands of natto. However, they all have some nutritional defect. Soybean oil, MSG, wheat, or things listed I can’t even spell. For my natto, I picked the cleanest one. I wanted it for culture. Once I was up and running, I wouldn’t need to return to Uwajimaya for more natto.

The second reason I decided to make my own is because I love to ferment. It is a cool hobby. Check out my Fermentation page for other ideas.

Enough with the background, let us make some natto.

Supplies Needed

  • organic soybeans – I got mine in the bulk section of a local grocery store
  • a single packet of natto for the culture
  • an incubator that you can use to hold a temperature of ~104 F for 24 hours
  • stock pot and steamer
  • foil
  • thermometer
  • container to hold ferment – I used a small glass Pyrex pan

I live in a city with a Japanese grocery store, so acquiring some pre-made natto was not a problem. Look for it in the refrigerated section. If you can’t acquire natto where you live, there are places online that sell cultures, including eBay.

I used a little over 6 ounces of soybeans. This is a small amount, but I wanted to error on the low side for my first ferment, in case I messed something up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t mess anything up. :)

Build the Incubator

According to Natto King, the fermentation needs a stable temperature between 100-113 F. My oven is too warm as is my slow cooker. Although some slow cookers with a Warm setting might work with a water bath. See Making Natto in North America on Umami Mart for info on that method.

I decided to use a directed light inside a styrofoam cooler. I got the idea from chicken farmers that build their own egg incubators. Mine would be a simple version of theirs.

natto incubator

About 15 minutes after I turned on my lightbox lamp light, the inside of cooler jumped to 107 F. Perfect

Soak the Soybeans

After rinsing the soybeans, I covered them in filtered water and let them soak overnight. They will triple in size.

soak soybeans

Steam or Boil the Soybeans

I steamed the soybeans in my stock pot for 1 hour. You could also boil them or use a pressure cooker.

steam soybeans

Mix Natto Culture into Cooked Soybeans

Before I forget, while the soybeans were steaming, I put my Pyrex pan in the oven at 250 degrees to sterilize it. Got that idea from Umami Mart. Mix the cooked soybeans with the package of natto. I added a little bit of hot water to the packaged natto to loosen it up for stirring.

Mix natto into soybeans

natto mixed into cooked soybeans

Cover and Ferment

I covered the Pyrex with foil, poked a few hole so it could breath and set it into my incubator. I monitored the temperature and let it ferment for 24 hours.

ferment natto

12 hours natto

Here is the natto after 12 hours.

natto

Natto at 24 hours

Refrigerate and Wait

I had a small sample at the end of the ferment that I was pleased with. However, most of the online resources say that the flavor of natto continues to develop for a few days to two weeks. That it did. More gooey fun!

During the fermentation, I didn’t smell anything. That could be because I used a small amount covered or maybe its odorous reputation is unwarranted. I’ve never considered it a stinky food. Slimy yes, stinky no.

Next week I will make my second batch of natto using a culture from the natto I made. I will also attempt the WARM setting on my backup slow cooker, although I am concerned it will get too warm. I’ll be certain to update this post with that information.

Resources

Natto King – Start here.

Umami Mart – Another excellent resource.

A Fast Way to Thaw Frozen Stock

Every so often I’ll get inspired to make a dish that requires stock before I have time to pull one out of the freezer. When this happens, I create a little warm water bath for the jar inside the sink. This process seems to take forever. I’m always adding more warm water to speed up the process. Today I faced the same dilemma and thought there had to be a better way.

That is when I saw the idea to steam the jar over on The Cardamom’s Pod. I was skeptical, but I needed to know. So I placed a steamer on the bottom of my large stock pot, added some water, put in a frozen jar of my beef broth and turned on the heat.

Thaw Stock

It worked. In about 30 minutes with no work on my part, the entire jar was thawed. No more warm water baths! Do you know any other ways to quickly thaw frozen liquids?

Making Pemmican Cajun Style

It has been almost two years since I last made pemmican. Today I made another batch, only this time I used some Cajun spices. It was a last minutes decision to throw in the Cajun spices. I knew that I didn’t want to use the Montreal Steak blend, so I reached for the Cajun blend. I found that Cajun spices rock on popcorn, so why not try it on pemmican?

cajun spices

The taste was not bad. Somewhere between OK and good. Better than my earlier attempts. I’ll call it a victory. The Cajun magic worked. For this trial pemmican I used the following:

  • 3 ounces rendered tallow
  • 3 ounces dehydrated lean beef (chopped – use a food processor if you can)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of Cajun spices (I used Punch Ya Daddy)

Mix everything together and then mold into meatballs.

pemmican

Each pemmican ball is about 20 grams. If I did my math correctly that works out to just under 100 calories for each one. 9 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein.

Meatloaf Rebooted – We Don’t Need No Stinking Breadcrumbs

Last year I posted my gyro meatloaf recipe. It mimics the flavor profile of gyro meat in convenient meatloaf format. Unlike commercial gyro meat, my recipe is 100% gluten free. I discovered you don’t need bread crumbs. A single egg is enough to bind the meatloaf. However, I started experimenting with bread crumb substitutes to thicken the meatloaf.

The first thing I used was instant potatoes. It works very well and I’ve made probably 10 meatloaves with instant potatoes. But I got a better idea recently. I was reading a Persian cookbook I got from the library. The book was terrible, as every recipe required way too many ingredients and at least 2 hours. But I did get one good idea. Mixing cooked rice into meatballs. If it works for meatballs, it should work for meatloaf. And it did.

I am now mixing cooked white rice into my meatloaves and it works great. I’m still working on the optimal mix. My first meatloaf, I underdosed using 1 cup for 3 pounds. Below is a photo using 3 cups of basmati for 3 pounds. Probably a little too much. Will use 2 cups next time.

Meatloaf

Gyro Meatloaf with Basmati rice

Another brilliant thing about this idea, is I don’t need to cook up a starch side dish. It is literally baked in the meatloaf. Wrap some foil around it and you have a perfect portable meal.

Faster Pho Recipe

A year ago, I made pho for the first time. Since then I have been making it regularly and hacking away at the recipe to make it faster and better tasting. Fewer steps and minimal ingredients. I’ve seen other Quick Pho or Faux Pho recipes online. They are a good start, but I believe mine is even easier.

The key is Chinese 5 Spice, which includes two critical pho flavors: star anise and cinnamon. I discovered this by accident when I started making pho one day and I realized that I was missing some spices. I pulled down my Chinese 5 Spice and checked the Wikipedia and the rest is Pho history.

Pho

Faster Pho – Not a great photo, was taken with a phone. 

Other hacks include:

  1. Get thinly sliced beef from Asian markets. My Chinese market sells Carne Asada to its Latin customers and my Korean markets sells bulgogi sliced beef. 
  2. If you make your own bone broth, do it ahead of time.
  3. Sriracha and fish sauce are the 1-2 punch needed for spice and salt.
  4. The only herb you need is basil.
  5. Save the bean sprouts for the vegans. Fill bowl with more meat.
  6. Lime juice for limes.

Ingredients

  • Beef broth (make your own – like me – or get a box)
  • Chinese 5 Spice
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Thinly sliced beef
  • Fresh Basil (Cheap at Asian markets, expensive at cracker grocery stores)
  • Rice noodles (use dry, “fresh” ones can have added wheat and soybean oil)
  • lime or lime juice

How much meat or noodles you use is up to you. I vary their ratio all the time. It is all good. Also, you can use other cuts of beef. Keeping it simple with the thinly sliced beef. It also cooks the fastest.

Step by Step

  1. Heat broth in pot.
  2. Mix in Chinese 5-Spice, Sriracha and fish sauce to taste. I measure nothing. Dump and stir.
  3. Prep basil and set aside
  4. When broth is simmering, add rice boodles and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add in meat and turn off heat. The thinly sliced meat will cook quickly.
  6. Serve and top with basil and lime juice.

Less than 20 minutes and you’re done. What makes pho traditionally take longer to make is the care and attention paid to the broth. The Chinese 5 Spice is the hack that reduces that time. Now I make this recipe using my homemade beef stock. I’ll be interested to hear from others in the comments that try this recipe with store bought boxed broth.

And yes I realize that I did not include roasted ginger. My homemade broth is pretty awesome, so I didn’t find it added much to the flavor, so in an effort to make the recipe faster, I removed that step. I suppose one could always toss some ginger into the broth after Step 2. Your call.

One additional tip is because the basil tends to go bad first, get the basil as close to the time you are making the recipe as possible. Also, I’ll sometimes make pho 3 days in a row. As long as I still have basil and beef, I can always make another bowl of Faster Pho.

Fermented Celery

In the comments of the post Celery Resurrection, I got an idea from Mark to ferment celery. I sliced a bunch of celery and placed into a jar. Then I added a tablespoon of sea salt, covered with water and sat on the counter for 10 days. The taste was OK. It retained most of the crunch and was nice and salty. On the Facebook group Traditional Foods and Natural Home, it was suggested that celery worked well in a mix of veggies.

I actually prefer the taste of fresh celery. If I ferment celery again, I’ll add some other vegetables.

fermented celery

finished celery

Kimchi Chips – Super Delicious But Ridiculously Impractical

Sunday morning a friend of mine posted a photo of Kimchi Chips now being sold at Trader Joe’s. Instead of strolling over the one mile to the store to try them out, I pulled out my food dehydrator and proceeded to make my own. Using this article as a template, I was able to convert an entire tray of kimchi into a handle of kimchi chips in a mere 10 hours. :o

kimchi chips

If you decide to make kimchi chips, don’t use that liner. The dried kimchi sticks to it.

They tasted amazing, but 10 hours for a handle of chips? And that isn’t counting the 6 days it took me to ferment the kimchi. I decided to try it once more using Cortido sauerkraut. I packed the tray and another 10 hours later, I had 2 handfuls of cortido chips. The flavor was intense and crispy, but 10 hours for 2 handfuls of chips? And the cortido ferment took almost 3 weeks.

cortido chip prep

Getting ready to start the dehydrator. If I were to do this again, I would do a special ferment only using larger pieces of cabbage and no carrots.

dried Cortido chips

The end result shows just how little the yield is from dehydrating fermented veggies. But they tasted great! ;) 

Making my own kimchi or cortido chips was an interesting experiment. Tasted great, but too impractical to make at home. I’ll be heading to Trader Joe’s later today to try their version. Commenter jtoPDX likes them.

Why My Kimchi is Awesome

I’ve now been making kinchi for three years. During that time I have made it different almost every single time. Also during this period, I have shared my kimchi with many people. The feedback has been extremely positive.

One of the compliments I have received several times is that some people that state they normally don’t like kimchi, like mine. For years I’ve just considered this statement to be a polite gesture. I don’t consider my kimchi superior to others. I am a kimchi fan and have liked something about most kimchis I’ve tried. Even that sweet kimchi I had in Ohio that used paprika instead of Korean red pepper chili flakes was an enjoyable experience.

Lately I’ve been asking for more detailed feedback about my kimchi. I’ve also gone back and looked at where my method deviated from traditional kimchi. And I think I found the answer. At first I thought it was an ingredient in my kimchi or even the length of ferment, but it isn’t. When I first started making kimchi I used a salt water brine to soak the cabbage. When it came time to pack the kimchi, most of the salt used didn’t make it into the jars. When I moved to the “rub the salt in by hand”, which is more common for sauerkraut, I never rinsed the cabbage.

You can do a search for kimchi recipes and you will see almost all have you rinse the salt off the cabbage before packing the jars. The logic is that the salt has done its job of pulling the water out of the cabbage and is no longer needed. But I think it is needed for taste and texture. I’ve also discovered that salt compliments the Korean red pepper flakes. Too little salt and the heat dissipates too fast. Also I’m not using just any old salt. I’ve been using the great tasting Redmond Sea Salt. Why would I want to rinse that down the drain?

The reason my kimchi is awesome is because I use a superior salt and I don’t rinse it off prior to packing the jars. My most recent kimchi recipe is Kimch 2.0. Actually, if you want to try my latest idea, add some Chinese chives to Kimchi 2.0. It adds a nice touch of sweetness, which compliments the mustard leaf bitterness.

kimchi

One of my many kimchi creations.

Making Dairy Kefir is Super Easy

I started making dairy kefir again in December and I’m loving it. Not only do I like the taste, but I’m no longer buying containers of yogurt, which means I’m saving money. And unlike the crap kefir products sold at Whole Fools and other grocery stores, I don’t use low-fat milk. Full fat dairy for me! Just be sure NOT to buy ultra-pasteurized. Regular pasteurized or raw is what the kefir grains want.

Once you’ve acquired some kefir grains, you’ll need a jar and a non-metal strainer. Unlike yogurt which requires a temperature range of 105°F to 112°F, kefir ferments just fine at room temperature.

Making dairy kefir is super easy if you have good grains. Here are the basic instructions on how it is done.

#1 Add Grains To Empty Jar

I don’t measure anything. I’ve used between 50 grams and 100 grams. It all works.

Milk kefir

#2 Add Milk, Cover and Wait

Fill jar with milk. Don’t use ultra-pasteurized. Cover with lid, but not too tight and then wait 1-3 days. The ferment is finished when the kefir is as thick is you like. Ferments will go faster in a warm kitchen and slower when it is cold. If your kitchen is too cold, then sitting the jar on a heating pad set on low might jump start the ferment.

milk kefir ferment

#3 Filter and Jar

Once the kefir is ready, grab your non-metal filter and separate. Jar the kefir and place in the refrigerator. As for the grains, start your next ferment. If you don’t need to start the next ferment, place the grains in a jar with a small amount of milk, cover and place in the frig.

filter kefir

kefir grains

#4 Drink

I like drinking kefir plain or as a smoothie with blended blueberries.

Troubleshooting and Sourcing

If you are having trouble with your kefir, check out this FAQ. The basic rule I use for ferments that are slow is to increase the temperature. A heating pad can kick start ferments in cold kitchens.

As for sourcing, I got my most recent grains locally. These grains are growing about 10% in size with every ferment, which means I’ve been able to give grains away to friends here in Seattle. If you aren’t a Seattle friend, have no fear, it looks like Amazon is selling grains. The link below is a from Lifetime Kefir, which has good reviews

Kefir Grains – Living Probiotic Enriched

Beef Heart Stew Rebooted (Slow Cooker Recipe)

Two years ago I posted a recipe for Beef Heart Stew. Although it was better than my beef heart curry attempt, it was just “offal good“, not “awfully good“. So I revisited this recipe and came up with something far better. This time I added some potatoes and red wine. I also removed the Thai peppers, added cumin and extended the cooking time.

Recipe: Beef Heart Stew Rebooted

Summary: A rich stew made from beef heart using a slow cooker.

beef heart stew

Ingredients

  • One beef heart cut into smaller bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 small red potatoes (or substitute)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-1.5 quarts of beef stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Instructions

  1. Cut up the onion and caramelize in pan with your favorite fat. I used tallow. Add to slow cooker.
  2. Cut up carrots and potatoes and put into slow cooker.
  3. Dice garlic and add to slow cooker.
  4. Cut up beef heart and add to slow cooker. Details here.
  5. Add spices.
  6. Top off with beef stock and red wine.
  7. Cook on low for 8 hours. I like to cook the first hour on high.

Quick notes

Because of the 8 hour cooking time, start this one early. I no longer believe 5 hours is enough time.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s) Cooking time: 9 hour(s) 20 minute(s)

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Gluten Free Korean Bulgogi Tacos

I was reading the book The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, which had the history of Korean tacos in the Los Angeles area. My mind started to wander. I didn’t care about the economic lesson. I just wanted to eat those tacos. :) So I put the book down and drove to the nearest Korean grocery store.

Gluten Free?

For those that are strict gluten free, Korean food can present a problem. Bulgogi is the thinly sliced marinated meat used for grilling and fast cooking. It can be beef, pork or chicken.

The problem comes in the marinade. If the meat is spicy, then it likely has been marinaded in gochujang or red chili paste. I’ve been to almost every Asian market in Seattle, including four Korean grocery stores. I’ve looked at every single brand of gochujang. They all have gluten in them. This means you need to make your own gochujang if you wish your dining experience to be gluten free. I seriously doubt those food trucks are hand making gluten free gochujang. Have no fear, I have made my own gochujang without gluten. See Making Gluten Free Korean Chili Paste (Gochujang) for the recipe. You’ll need it to continue. If gluten doesn’t bother you, buy any brand. You’ll save some time.

In addition to gochujang, most restaurant and food cart marinades will use soy sauce, which also has wheat. Making your own will allow you to swap out soy sauce for Gluten Free Tamari.

gluten free gochujang

Homemade Gluten Free Gochujang

Heading to the Korean Grocery Store

I’m no expert in Korean cooking, so I decided the best place to get the bulgogi would be from a Korean grocery store. They are more likely to have the paper-thin sliced meat than your average grocery store. I also trust their butchers are selecting the cuts that work best for what their customers are cooking. If you don’t have access to a Korean grocery store, the post Bulgogi: Korean Fire Meat has a good discussion on the best cuts for the beef variety. For pork, you can use shoulder. Just have the butcher slice it thin.

Pork Bulgogi

Pork Bulgogi – Perfectly sliced

Marinade

Here is what I used for my marinade. I had about 2.5 pounds of pork. Adjust accordingly.

  • 1/2 cup of Gluten Free Tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons of gochujang (red chili paste)
  • 1 medium sized onion chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of ginger finely chopped or grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil*
  • 0.5 – 1 Tablespoon of Korean red chili powder
  • toasted sesame seeds (optional)

 * Yeah, I know seed oils are evil, but the taste of sesame oil is so unique and important to Korean cuisine. If you know a way to get that awesome flavor with a healthy fat, please leave a comment below. 

After mixing the bulgogi in the marinade, I put it into the refrigerator for a few hours, but I’m guessing an hour would be fine as well.

Cook It and Serve

For the taco, I used the broiler to heat up some corn tortillas. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn. The meat will only need 1-2 minutes per side on a grill or medium-hot on the stove. Place the meat on the taco and then add your toppings. I used cilantro, kimchi and Sriracha sauce. You could use sliced cucumbers or lettuce as well.

Korean tacos

Gluten Free Korean Bulgogi Tacos 

As you can see from the photos above, I didn’t use tiny food truck portions on the meat. 8-)

Making Ghee in a Slow Cooker

For my latest batch of ghee or clarified butter, depending upon where you draw the line, I put away the saucepan and plugged in the slow cooker. I loaded up the slow cooker with 2 pounds of unsalted butter and put it on low with the lid off.

butter in crock pot

melted butter

Once the milk solids separate and it develops a dark yellow color, filter and jar.

I used cheese cloth, which didn’t remove all the milk solids. I also tried a coffee filter, but that didn’t allow the ghee through at all. I also experimented with a gold mesh tea filter, which did a fine job. On other websites, you will see times for making ghee in a slow cooker range from 2 to 8 hours. Mine was closer to 8 hours.

ghee

ghee ready

Two pounds of butter made 2 pint jars full of ghee.

Potato Soup with Bugs

I’ve been loosely following the series of posts over on Free the Animal on how potatoes might useful hack in accelerating fat loss. Now that I’ve porked out from my month without coffee, I decided to try his potato soup recipe. Read Richard’s post The Latest Diet & Exercise Hacking Towards a Goal for an explanation on why regular potatoes might help you drop a few pounds.

I did make a few changes to the recipe.

  1. I only used beef stock.
  2. I love adding Korean sea vegetables to my soups.
  3. A splash of heavy cream (optional).
  4. And then I added some bugs. 

I used silkworm pupae, which I posted on earlier this year. Instead of frying or roasting the insects, I used a food dehydrator, which was an idea I got from commenter Brady. After two hours in the food dehydrator, these little fellows are perfect to add to soups or salads.

The soup was outstanding and the bugs had a light nutty like flavor, which complimented the soup. You are most likely to find Silkworm Pupae in a Vietnamese grocery store, such as Viet Wah in the frozen seafood section. You won’t find them at Whole Fools. :)

Korean Yellow Croaker Soup

One of the most impressive sections of Korean grocery stores is the seafood section. Lots of care and attention is placed on the seafood options. Up until recently, I hadn’t purchased any fish and instead focused on the beef and pork dishes. Last week I bought some salted yellow croakers. I had no idea what to do with them, but I quickly learned that they are used for soups. The croakers I bought already had their fin removed and were ready for cooking. And unlike fish served at American grocery stores, the heads were still attached. Eyeballs and all!

I kind of followed the recipe posted in the description of this YouTube video. I didn’t have the cooking wine or hot pepper oil. I also was out of anchovies used to make the Korean Anchovy Kelp Stock. It didn’t matter, as the soup tasted awesome. My fish had lots of little bones, but it didn’t bother me to remove them as I ate the soup. I also made some rice which I added to the soup.

Korean Yellow Croaker Soup

Octopus Take 2

Back in August I had my first attempt cooking octopus. The result was a little on the chewy side.

I followed this advice for the first few octopus and 3 minutes was too much. Way too chewy. The remaining ones took about half that time. The chewiness was far less, but still not absent. Even though my marinade was 6 hours, it seemed the flavors never soaked in to the octopus. The Korean spices tasted like more like a topping.

I got a few comments suggesting that the 6 hour marinade wasn’t enough. I would also need to massage the little guys. How much? 40-50 minutes. Well, there was never a chance that was going to happen. So a friend of mine and my cooking mentor told me about a Chinese hack. Add baking soda to the marinade. I used about half a teaspoon of baking soda and reduced the marinade time down to 3 hours. The result was my dish wasn’t chewy. Still not awesome, but much better.

Korean Octopus

Chive Talking Kimchi

It was just 2 months ago that I posted Kimchi 2.0. It was my “major release” of all the tricks and ingredients that had been working for me since my original kimchi recipe. It is probably too soon for a Kimchi 3.0, but I just recently made my favorite kimchi to date. I removed the mustard leaf and added chives. I’m going to dial this in some more, but I think I’m on the right path. Chives have a flavor that is sweeter and more mild than garlic or onions. After 4-6 days of fermenting, it really delivers a flavor punch to the kimchi.

My theory is when you add chives to kimchi, you do not need to add any garlic or onions. It does the job of both and does it better.

Making Gluten Free Korean Chili Paste (Gochujang)

Recently I started teaching myself Korean cooking and I noticed that one of the core ingredients – Gochujnag – has gluten in it. Gochujang is the Korean chili paste used in several dishes including Bibimbop. I went to many different Asian markets, including the Korean H Mart, and read the labels of every brand. Every single gochujang I saw sold in Seattle has gluten in it. It is very likely that you will be getting gluten exposure when ordering any dish at a Korean restaurant that uses chili paste. Sneaky gluten filler is exactly what I discovered when I researched commercial gyro meat.

For this post, I want to thank Gluten-Free Veg-heads UNITE for their post Gluten-Free Victory!! Spicy Korean Bean Paste. They spotted in the Wikipedia how commercial production of gochujang took over in the 1970s and this was likely when gluten became a staple ingredient. Probably because it is cheap and acts as a preservative. Why it is there is of no concern to me. The important thing is that I am able to make my own gluten-free version. Using the recipe from Shizouka Gourmet converted by Veg-Heads and then adjusted my me, I made my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Korean chili powder
  • 1 cup miso paste with no MSG or Gluten
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Directions

The directions are posted with photos on Korean Cuisine: Home-Made Gochujang. Here is the summary.

  1. Add water and brown sugar into pan. Heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add Miso and keep heating until dissolved. Use a wooden spatula. Keep going until everything is smooth.
  3. After most of the water has dissolved, add the Korean chili powder and stir.
  4. When big bubbles start appearing, turn off heat.
  5. Let the paste cool and little and then stir in salt and rice vinegar.
  6. Jar paste. Shizouka Gourmet says it should keep for a year.

I avoid soy, unless it has gone through a fermentation such as miso or natto.

Korean red pepper flakes.

Making the Gochujang.

Finished Gochujang.

I’ve made 3 clay pot dishes using my gochujang. They tasted great and without gluten. My gochujang was a little more on the sweet side than spicy. When I make this again next time, I will increase the amount of of chili powder. At some point if I continue to be interested in Korean cooking, I may ferment my own gochujang. Note that the Maangchi tutorial is not gluten free, so the recipe would need to adjusted.

UPDATE November 2013: There now exists a commercially available GF gochujang.

Beef Sweetbread Recipe

When I go to the Farmers Market, I walk past all the produce and head for the meat vendors. When I get to the meat vendors, I go straight to the cooler with the nasty bits. Nasty bits is a term used to describe offal or organ meat and other less popular cuts of meat. This is where nutritional density is the highest. They also are the cheapest cuts of meat. Win win.

Recently I opened the Olsen Farms cooler and found something I had never seen before. A package of beef sweetbread  I had never heard of this animal part. Of course I had to buy it. Turns out my sweetbread was the throat and thyroid area. Before cooking it I decided to eat a small piece of it raw. This is something I do with liver and kidney. Eating a small piece raw gives me clues on how long it needs cooking and what flavors might compliment it. Note that whenever I eat raw meat, I make sure that it has been frozen for at least 2 weeks first. Then I thaw and taste it no more than a day away.

Sweetbread actually did taste sweeter than kidney or liver. Similar texture too.

My kind of bread. And gluten-free too!  :) 

Raw beef sweetbread.

My recipe is pretty straightforward. Mix chopped up garlic, ginger and sweetbread over a warm pan of melted butter. Cook for around 5-10 minutes. Hit it with some salt if you like.

Beef sweetbread with garlic, ginger and lots of butter. 

I liked this dish and will having it again. Tastes a little better than liver or kidney and I enjoy those dishes.

Pig Uterus – Still an Offal Idea

Back in January I posted Pig Uterus Recipe: An Offal Idea.

When I went to Ranch 99, I knew wanted a new kitchen challenge. Something that I never had before. Something exotic. When I saw the package of pork uterus, I hesitated for a moment and then threw it in the cart.

The rest of the post was how I attempted to make a curry using the pig uterus. The result was that I over cooked the uterus slightly and it had a rubbery taste. Still it didn’t taste bad enough to prevent me from finishing the dish. In the comments, I got feedback that I needed to do a fast cook. I put off trying this dish until last night.

Things didn’t go well.

I did the fast cook and it tasted awful. It smelled bad too. I can usually power through most dishes, but this one went into the trash. When it comes to cooking pig uterus, I’m going to surrender on this dish. If I see it at a restaurant I would try it just to know if it is possible to make this dish taste good. I’m skeptical.

Onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and oyster sauce couldn’t save this dish. 

Anchovy Kelp Stock

Making beef stock is something I’ve been doing regularly for a few years now. As wonderful as that magic elixir is, I have been meaning to make a fish based stock for a long time. My motivation came recently when I started teaching myself Korean cooking. One of the base stocks for Korean recipes is the anchovy kelp stock. If you have access to a Korean grocery store this stock will be super easy make. If you aren’t sure, do a search for H Mart in your city.

I averaged several recipes online and then threw out their measurements and just winged it. All you need for this recipe is a container of dried anchovies and a package of DashimaDashima is a large seaweed kelp. My guess is that if your Asian market doesn’t carry this, you can substitute with another packaged seaweed. Then again I’m from Ohio and my entire Korean cultural experience was from a layover in Seoul three years ago.

My photo of the Dried Anchovies didn’t turn out well. This photo is by Kevin Chan. 

To make the Anchovy Kelp Stock, I dumped a container of dried anchovies and several pieces of broken up Dashima into a stock pot. Then I covered it all with cold water and let it soak for 2 hours. After the soak, I slowly brought the water up to a very light boil for 7 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let it cool for a while. At that point, I removed the fish and seaweed and jarred the stock. That is it. I threw away the used fish and kelp, because I couldn’t find anyone online that had a use for them. Please add a comment if you know of a second use.

If you desire measurements or more detailed instructions, check out this page or this page. I didn’t measure anything. In the spirit of stock, I just guessed and to no surprise it turned out great.

Anchovy Kelp stock is often added to Korean dishes prepared inside clay pots. Guess who bought his first Korean clay pot this weekend? :)

Beet Kvass, Fermented Salsa, Red Clover Infusion

I few weeks ago I kicked off three new food projects. From left to right:

  1. Beet Kvass – Basically ferment some beets for a couple of days and then drink the juice. It tasted fine, but since I have nothing to compare it to, I don’t know how well my ferment went. The remaining beets were later roasted and then blended into a soup. I seemed to have lost my notes, so the next time I attempt this, I will start from scratch.
  2. Fermented Salsa – This was my first vegetable ferment that used whey. The ferment went three days and tasted great to me. I didn’t measure anything. Just added salsa like ingredients such as tomatoes, cilantro, hot peppers and salt. Then I took an immersion blender and topped it off with whey from the top of my yogurt.
  3. Red Clover Infusion – Did you know those red clover “weeds” can be infused to make a tasty beverage? Supposedly there are health benefits as well. Just add 1/2 to 1 ounce red clover into a quart jar, add warm water, let it sit overnight, strain off clovers, refrigerate and then drink.

Beet Kvass, Fermented Salsa, Red Clover Infusion

Another Asian Pork Slow Cooker Meal

Back in June, I posted An Asian Alternative to Slow Cooked Pork. A few days ago I forgot about that recipe and made Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Shoulder from Real Simple, which is a little bit different. This one is more sweet and less spicy. If you make this recipe, I think you can reduce the soy sauce (or whatever substitute you use) by about 50%. I also didn’t think adding sliced scallions upon serving made the dish any better, so you can eliminate that step.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Shoulder

Bone Marrow and Cauliflower

I finally got around to cooking up some bone marrow. Instead of putting the gooey center on toast, I cooked up some cauliflower and onions. Butter was also added. The bones were cooked for 15 minutes at 420 F, although I’ve seen recipes that use as low as 350 F. The marrow tasted creamy and wonderful. Afterwards, the bones were tossed into a stock pot and used to make beef stock. I used a butter knife to remove the marrow.

Bone marrow is a prized food in traditional cultures and appears to be an excellent source of Vitamin K2, which is good for dental health. See Vitamin K2 in Marrow at Whole Health Source.

 

Eating Silkworm Pupae (aka Ground Cucumber)

One of my favorite hobbies these days is looking for interesting food at Asian grocery stores. Recently I was looking through the frozen seafood section at a Viet Wah grocery store when one item caught my eye. It was labeled “Frozen Ground Cucumber”, but it appeared to be bugs. I pulled out my phone, did a quick search and confirmed that I was holding a package of frozen insects. I had to buy it.

Ground Cucumber aka Con Nhong aka Silkworm Pupae

Beside the “Frozen Ground Cucumber” label was the Vietnamese name of Con Nhong. The bugs turned out to be Silkworm Pupae. I had no idea how I was going to prepare them. My only bug experience was eating some crickets prepared Oaxacan style two years ago. I figured the best way to approach a recipe would be to eat one thawed out. It tasted like moist cashew meat. I shared this thought on Facebook and got a suggestion to pursue it from both a sweet and spicy angle. For cooking I used a combination of pan frying and high temperature roasting. Of the very few recipes I located, most appeared to favor deep frying.

Brown Sugar Candied Bugs

I woke up the day after eating the thawed silkworm pupae and thought about how some people candy roasted nuts. Would it work for bugs? Using the steps and the 3 to 1 nuts to brown sugar ratio outlined in the post DIY Brown Sugar Candied Walnuts, I proceeded to candy my insects.

Add brown sugar to pupae.

Cook down brown sugar. Stir with wooden spoon. 

Yummy! Candied silkworm pupae.

It tasted pretty good, which is what you’d expect with that much brown sugar. But it lacked any crunchiness, so I made a second batch that involved a 10 minute oven roast at 400 F. After the roast, I placed the pupae in the pan and repeated the brown sugar candy instructions. These were better, because in addition to the sweet taste of brown sugar they have a slight crunch with a little toasty flavor.

Cajun Style Ground Cucumber

For the spicy version, I also did a 10 minute oven roast at 400 F. Once the bugs were cooled, I added some Cajun spices. This is my favorite topping for popcorn, so I figured it would work here as well. And it did. Although not nearly as crunchy as popcorn, the bugs did take to the Cajun spices.

Roasted “Ground Cucumber” mix with Cajun spices.

The Winner?

The spicy version was more convenient, but I slightly preferred the sweeter tasting candied version that used the 10 minute high temperature roast prior to pan candying.

Nutritional Superfood

Something seems wrong about the nutritional label on the back of the package of Con Nhong. It says a serving is 43.6 calories with 35 grams of protein. If protein is 4 calories per gram then that would equate to 140 calories per serving. Other web sources for nutritional data are for the canned version which is loaded with unhealthy cottonseed oil. Regardless of the calories, this food is a protein powerhouse.

From the study Silkworm Pupae (Bombyx mori) Are New Sources of High Quality Protein and Lipid:

Consuming 100g (dry weight) of silkworm pupae would be equal to ingesting approximately 56 g of protein, which satisfies the recommended dietary allowance of protein for adults.

By comparison 100 grams of ground beef (75% lean) yields 16 grams of protein. Each package is 454 grams, which I don’t know if it is considered dry weight. Even if you cut the number in half that is well over 100 grams of protein for about $3.50. Pretty impressive. This is serious Paleo.

For more ideas on edible bugs check out the post Insects: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore on Marks Daily Apple.

Celery Resurrection

I love celery, but it annoys me how quickly it loses it crunch and goes limp. The trick to bringing celery back from the dead is to soak the stalks in cold water. For a while I was doing 30 minute ice baths for the celery in a flat tray. Then a few days ago I got a better idea. I cleaned and chopped the celery. Then I stuffed the stalks into a wide mouth quart jar. At that point, I filled the jar about 1/3 full of water and placed into the refrigerator.

After about 30 minutes, my near dead celery was a crunchy as if it were just pulled from the Earth. Having it in a jar on the top shelf instead of buried in the crisper also means I’ll be snacking on more celery.

Celery Resurrection!

Kimchi 2.0

I’ve been making kimchi on a frequent basis now for almost three years. Each time I make kimchi, I tweak the recipe. I’ll add something new or take something out. Then I’ll increase or reduce the quantity of other ingredients. I play with the salt level and the spiciness. My tweaking has landed me on a new recipe which I am calling Kimchi 2.0.

As great as my old kimchi recipes have been, this one is has a more complex flavor. I love it and some of the early feedback I’ve gotten from friends has been very positive.

Here are the changes I’ve made.

  1. Green cabbage vs Nappa cabbage: Koreans use Nappa cabbage and FireFly Kitchens uses green cabbage. For the most part I actually prefer green slightly. Then I started mixing the two and came up with my ideal ratio which is 2 parts green cabbage (sliced thin) and 1 part Nappa cabbage (larger pieces).
  2. More Ginger, Less Garlic: I’m learning that garlic is really not that important to kimchi. I discovered this when I ran out of garlic and continued making the kimchi. I didn’t miss it at all and it turned out excellent. As for the ginger – add more.
  3. Two Spices: Korean red pepper flakes in my opinion can sometimes need help when it comes to developing a deeper more complex spiciness. If you add more Korean red pepper flakes, it doesn’t get that much more spicy, it just gnaws at your gut. These days I’ve scaled back on the Korean Red pepper flakes and I add a small amount of Extra Hot chili powder, which I acquired at an Indian grocery store.
  4. More Salt: In early posts I mentioned using 1/2 tablespoon of salt per pound of cabbage. Besides preserving crunch and extending fermentation times, I’ve discovered that adding a bit more salt accents the Korean red pepper flavor. When you use too little, the flavor tends to disappear too fast. Now I use 2/3 to 3/4 tablespoons of salt per pound of cabbage. I use more salt in the summer and less in the winter when my kitchen is cold.
  5. Mustard Leaf: My secret weapon. When I was sampling the different kimchi options at the great H Mart store, I discovered the wonderful bitter flavor of fermented mustard leaf. You will likely have to go to an Asian market to find this item.
  6. Only use Green Onions: When I started making kimchi I used regular onions. Not anymore. Green onions are so much better.

Recipe: Kimchi 2.0

Summary: A major version release for my kimchi.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of green cabbage
  • 1 pound of Nappa cabbage
  • 1/2 pound of Daikon
  • 2 tablespoons of Sea Salt
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1/2 bunch of mustard leaf
  • 4 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Extra-Hot Chili Powder (optional)
  • a few garlic cloves (optional)
  • sliced carrots (optional for sweetness)

Instructions

  1. Slice green cabbage into ribbons and place into bucket.
  2. Cut Nappa Cabbage into large bite size squares and add to bucket.
  3. Add sea salt and mix in with hands. Rub that salt into the cabbage. Get in there. Spend a good 10 minutes doing this.
  4. Dice daikon and place in bucket.
  5. Add the Korean spices and chili powder to bucket.
  6. If using garlic, chop it up and throw in bucket.
  7. If using carrots, slice thin and throw in bucket.
  8. Mix ingredients.
  9. Take a 20+ minute break.
  10. Pack kimchi into jars or crock. Make sure the containers have at least an inch at the top and that the veggies are below the water line. That means you must use the juice from the bucket.
  11. Allow kimchi 3-10 days to ferment (see notes below).

Quick notes

Every day you will check on your kimchi. You will push the veggies down (yes, I prefer this method to adding weights, but both are fine). Starting around day 3 taste a little bite each day. It will start very crunchy and then soften up. Whenever it tastes good to you is when the ferment is done. I’ve had summer ferments finish in 3 days and winter ones that go 2 weeks. You could go longer. As long as the veggies are below the water line, the ferment can continue. Once you like the taste, move the kimchi into the refrigerator, where it will store fine for many months.

For a more detailed explanation of making kimchi see the post Kimchi 101

Preparation time: 1 hour(s)

Culinary tradition: Korean

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

My First Octopus

Each time I visit an Asian grocery store I make it a point to buy something foreign to me. I want the challenge of taking home a food item that puzzles or scares me. On a recent adventure, I bought a box of baby octopus. I had no clue how I was going to prepare them. Fortunately for me, a Korean cooking blog that I subscribe to provided an idea.

Eating and living posted the recipe Jjukkumi Gui (Spicy Grilled Baby Octopus). I love Korean food, so I took on this new cooking test.

The recipe says:

Heat a lightly oiled grill or a grill pan to medium high and sear for about 3 minutes, turning a couple of times. Do not overcook.

I followed this advice for the first few octopus and 3 minutes was too much. Way too chewy. The remaining ones took about half that time. The chewiness was far less, but still not absent. Even though my marinade was 6 hours, it seemed the flavors never soaked in to the octopus. The Korean spices tasted like more like a topping.

The four octopuses I ate didn’t taste bad, but they didn’t taste good either. Very neutral. Better than pig uterus, but not nearly as delicious as sheep testicles. I saved half the box of octopus so I can try a second recipe.

Vietnamese Fermented Carrots

One of the easiest things to ferment is carrots. Earlier this year I posted Fermented Carrots and Ginger as a kid-friendly sweet tasting ferment. I make this frequently, especially when I buy too many carrots and they look like they are going to go bad before I can consume them all. Fermentation is an outstanding way to preserve fresh vegetables.

In the new book The Art of Fermentation there is sentence about a Vietnamese take on this recipe. It mentioned adding thai peppers, lemon grass and lime to the carrots and ginger. The first time I made this ferment I discovered that lime will totally dominate the flavor and make the entire ferment taste sour. So I made this ferment again only without the lime.

Anyway, this Vietnamese “adult version” of fermented carrots tasted great. A perfect balance of sweet plus spicy. I’m glad I made 10 pounds of it! I stopped the ferment after 7 days for half my jars. I’m going to let the rest ferment a few more days. The key to knowing when to end the ferment is tasting as you go. There is no wrong answer.

This ferment is not only an excellent side dish, but works as a salad dressing substitute. For the recipe, just review Fermented Carrots and Ginger and then add the thai peppers and lemon grass (video: How to cut lemon grass). As much or as little as you like.

Carrots + ginger + lemongrass + thai peppers + sea salt

Fermenting begins. As the ferment continues the water will become more cloudy.

Lessons From Two Failed Ferments

This summer I’ve made some of my best ferments to date, however this week I had two failures. It happens from time to time, especially when you are trying something new. I’d like to share what I learned.

Photo by Hans Gerwitz

#1 Earl Grey Pickles = Yuck!

Fresh off the success I had using tea bags to make my pickles crunchy, I made an error. I was loading up my ferment when I discovered the only black tea I had in the house was an Earl Grey teabag I got for free from last years Northwest Tea Festival. I own lots of green oolong and puer teas, but no black tea. Earl Grey is a black tea with added bergamot oil. Don’t use it for making pickles. Regular black tea doesn’t impart its flavor onto the pickles. Earl Grey does. Another thing I noticed was I was scrapping surface mold every day. That didn’t happen with regular black tea.

Keep Earl Grey out of your pickle ferments.

#2 Paprika is Unpredictable

When I visited Ohio last December, I had kimchi at a grocery store food court. The pepper wasn’t hot. It had a sweet finish. I went back and talked to the guy who made the kimchi and he shared with me that they used paprika instead of Korean red pepper flakes. Since then I’ve tried to make a sweet kimchi using paprika a few times. It never tastes the same. Sometimes it tastes gritty, sometimes it is slightly sweet and my last batch tasted brackish. Night and day. Maybe something is wrong with my paprika?

I need to experiment with another pepper to get a fruity sweet taste other than paprika. Any ideas?

Gluten Free Lasagna

I’ve never made a lasagna before, but I love the dish. When I gave up the gluten a few years ago, I also gave up the lasagna. Well I got to chatting with a local gluten free chef that mentioned using wide rice noodles for the pasta portion. The wide rice noodles are available in some Asian markets. I’ve seen them before, but never purchased them. A quick search on a lasagna recipe that uses wide rice noodles pulls up my favorite nutrition site Perfect Health Diet. Using their recipe as a template, I sat out to make my first lasagna.

The first problem I ran into was finding the fresh wide rice noodles. After about 7 visits, I found some at the HT Market. Note that although similar in name to H Mart, it is completely different. H Mart is Korean and amazing. HT Market is Chinese and pathetic. But HT happens to be the closest to me. If can’t love the Asian market you want, love the one you’re with. :)

Anyway, it turns out that the fresh wide rice noodles made in Seattle have wheat and soybean oil added to them. Uggh! Well I found an interesting substitute in the dry noodle aisle that worked. Made from rice alone.

Unlike the fresh noodles, these noodles are soaked in very warm water for several minutes prior to use. That softens them up.

To no surprise, I discovered HT Market did not have ricotta cheese or a full fat mozzarella. I had no interest in visiting yet another grocery store, so I turned an HT strength to my advantage. HT Market has an excellent section of Mexican cheeses. If you’ve read Tyler Cowen’s latest book An Economist Gets Lunch, then you’ll already have an appreciation for these cheeses. If you haven’t read it, do so. Probably the best book I’ve read in a year. Full review coming soon. Anyway, I grabbed some Oaxaca cheese. New to me.

For the rest of the recipe, I followed the guidelines on the Perfect Health Diet recipe. I did add some oregano, basil and sea salt.

I baked it for 30 minutes at 325F degrees.

It was outstanding! Maybe it was the cheese or the grass feed beef or the rice flakes. Whatever I did, it worked. This was one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had and it was 100% gluten free.

Beef Brisket Curry From Pakistan

The Perfect Pantry posted a slow cooker recipe for nihari, which is a curry from Pakistan. It also has the nickname of “old clothes”, which is what the beef brisket looks like when you pull the meat apart with forks after hours of cooking .

Recipe for Pakistani “old clothes” beef curry (nihari) in the slow cooker

I made this dish twice. It is super simple and I think they got got the spices correct. However, I have a few ideas on making this even better.

  1. Swap out the canola oil for either a slab of butter or ghee. The canolification of Indian cooking sickens me.
  2. Cut the garlic requirement in half, unless you really like garlic.
  3. Instead of cooking for 9 hours on low, I cooked it for 5 1/2 hours with just the first hour on high. BTW, that is a trick I use with most slow cooking recipes. Cooking for 9 full hours will certainly have the meat melting in your mouth, but I don’t mind a little bit of chewing. Plus I subscribe to the theory that we shouldn’t be over cooking our proteins. This is something often discussed on The Bulletproof Executive podcast.

Beef Brisket Curry

Kimchi Stew – Kicking It Korean Style

When I first starting making kimchi I thought I would never make a soup or stew using that prized ingredient. The reasons were it takes a decent amount of effort to make kimchi and that the heat from the soup would kill off all the probiotic benefits. So in other words, why bother going through the fermentation process?

A few weeks ago I made a ridiculous amount of kimchi. One of the variations had a little too much red pepper in it and I probably fermented a day too long. It had a texture that was softer than I prefer. Because I had so much kimchi and I was eager to try new fermentation ideas out, I had a need to use it up quickly. That is when I decided to use it for a stew.

The basics of Korean Stew can be found at the wonderful site Beyond Kimchee. I decided not to use their recipe and just wing it with something far more simple. Someday I’ll do their recipe minus the tofu. All I did was add kimchi to a skillet mixed with cubed pork shoulder. Then I added some water and let it cook for 20-30 minutes. Done. I served it over rice. I also did this recipe with cubed lamb. It works just as well.

Cooking with fermented food did bring out a nice flavor that one wouldn’t get using fresh ingredients. The recipe on Beyond Kimchee and other sites recommend using over ripe kimchi. Apparently it adds more flavor, which makes sense to me now. One trick to over ripe a ferment is to place it out on the counter for several hours or longer before starting the stew.

If you ever end up with either too kimchi or a kimchi that doesn’t taste great on its own, throw it a pan and start building a soup.

Ghee and the Canolification of India

My Indian cooking project is still going strong. Yesterday I decided to make my own ghee. It was even easier to make than paneer. I can’t believe I used to buy $7 jars of this stuff. Never again. Here is how you make it.

  1. Slowly heat unsalted butter on a low for about 30 minutes or until it is clear.
  2. Take off as much foam as you can.
  3. Filter the rest through cheese cloth. Done!

Isn’t it pretty?

Minor Rant

In the past three months I have checked out about 10 Indian cookbooks from the library. EVERY SINGLE ONE THEM is downplaying ghee. They all suggest using canola or some other vegetable oil. Like Americans, they have become saturated fat phobic. The author of one cookbook states that ghee and other fatty components of Indian cooking are some how responsible for the diabetes crisis in India today. Huh?

It is sad when traditional food preparation techniques get blamed for modern health problems. My hope is that these cookbooks that advise using canola oil over ghee are just aimed at the American audience still afraid of real fat. It would be a tragedy if our misguided view of saturated fat made it back to India, because it will only make their health issues worse.

UPDATE September 2012: I learned there exists a difference between regular clarified butter and ghee. With ghee you let the milk solids brown a little bit so it gives a toasty flavor.

Making Paneer

When I first read the recipe for paneer, my initial thought was “it can’t be that easy”. So I checked a few other recipes and confirmed that it was really a ridiculously easy thing to make. QFC had a gallon of full fat milk marked down to 99 cents. Perfect price for practice!

Here is my first attempt at paneer. I might need a little more practice with the presentation, but it tastes good. My next batch will use the spice recommendations in this video. But for now, I need to acquire some spinach to make Palak Paneer.

Spam Sushi

I just had to try this recipe. I never could find the masubi maker locally, so I rolled the sushi together by hand. I also left out the furikake, as every type I located at the Asian market had either MSG or gluten.

Spam may not be the greatest quality of pork. Oh well. This recipe sure tasted great.

The double-decker Spam Sushi was definitely the way to go.

 

Pho Photos

My latest food project moves to Vietnam.

I used the average of a few pho recipes online. It turned out to be very tasty. The funny thing is that I never actually had pho before*, so I can’t tell you how authentic my version turned out. I suspect I did OK.

* I’ve been to Pho restaurants twice before and had the vegetarian option both times. Youthful indiscretion. ;)

Fermenting Vegetables – Taste As You Go

There a few schools of thought when it comes to making vegetable ferments. One is to create the anaerobic environment using stronger seals or air locks. Someday I plan to experiment with those, but for now I don’t do that. The fermentation is taking place below the water line. The worst thing that could happen is some surface mold, which I scrap away without concern.

The reason I don’t use a tight seal is that I want to taste my kimchi and sauerkraut throughout the ferment. The evolution of flavor will vary from ferment to ferment. This is a lesson I learned from Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Workshop DVD. I want to experience that transition and stop the ferment when I believe the flavor has peaked. Those using tight seal systems don’t get that experience and have to guess when flavor is optimal. Either that or they are continually breaking the seal.

You will get much better much faster at fermentation if you taste as you go. That includes trying the ferment in its raw state before jarring, especially when trying a new recipe. The saltiness will mellow a little during the ferment, but you can get a good idea if you need to make a change before you jar.

Recently I made cucumber kimchi for the first time. By tasting it daily, I learned a lot about how the taste evolved. It turned out good. The next time I expect it to be even better.

Sweet Potato Soup – So Simple, So Yummy

Recently, I was gifted a large amount of sweet potatoes. They were getting old and had already started to grow little vines. I needed to make use of them quick, but I didn’t have the appetite to roast them all. Soup! The great thing about making soup is whatever I can’t eat right away can be stored in the freezer. Got to love making meals in advance.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup

Summary: An easy soup made with sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • Sweet potatoes or yams
  • Cooking oil (coconut oil, tallow, or lard)
  • Onion
  • Ginger
  • Stock or Water
  • Curry Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Chop up onion and ginger.
  2. Caramelize onion.
  3. Peel and dice sweet potatoes.
  4. Add sweet potatoes to stock pot.
  5. Cover potatoes with stock or water.
  6. Add all the other ingredients.
  7. Simmer until soft (~20 minutes).
  8. Use an immersion blender to blend into soup.
  9. Taste and add any additional spices.

Make lots of soup at once and store the rest. Note that you shouldn’t freeze jars like the two in the back row, because they have soup above the bend. See Lesson on Freezing Canning Jars

Quick notes

How much of each ingredient should you use? Whatever you like. This soup is very forgiving and you can always add more spices at any point.

Variations

For more sweetness, you can add brown sugar. I do this when served, not in the cooking process.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Indian Style Spicy Cauliflower

I was poking around on Kayotic Kitchen and I found a recipe for Slow-Cooked Bombay Potatoes. It was a great idea, but I didn’t have any potatoes. What I did have was a lot of cauliflower. Instead of making a single dish, I loaded up my slow cooker and made the dish in bulk. Usually I never would do a larger quantity the first time I make a dish, but I was fairly confident that it would turn out good. And it did.

Cauliflower cooks faster than potatoes, so this dish was done in just 2 hours. All slow cookers are different. Taste as you go and stop the cook when it has the texture you like.

Indian Style Spicy Cauliflower

I was proud of the dish but it needed some protein. So I threw in some sardines. Sardines are super healthy provided they aren’t soaked in soybean oil. They also mixed nicely with the spices. Just remember to drain the water before adding them to the cauliflower.

Indian Style Spicy Cauliflower with Sardines

An Asian Alternative to Slow Cooked Pork

A month ago I outlined all the food restrictions involved in a low histamine diet. One of the no-no foods is vinegar, which is a sneaky food ingredient. I was just getting ready to load up the slow cooker with pork and BBQ sauce, when I realized that vinegar was in the sauce. I didn’t want to go to the store, so I improvised. After going through every bottle in my kitchen, I discovered my oyster sauce had no vinegar in it. My dish would be Asian style.

I’m not going to post this in recipe format, because it was a version one that I’m sure could be improved upon. Basically, I lined the bottom of the crock pot with onions. Added the pork shoulder. Then I made a paste of the following:

  • diced ginger
  • diced garlic
  • oyster sauce
  • some chili powder
  • Chinese 5 Spice Powder

I added that to the pork and mixed it up. Then I added some chicken stock and cooked it for 4 hours, with the first hour on high and the remainder on low. I served the dish on rice. It was excellent.

For an improvised version one, I’m quite proud of myself. And I was able to avoid vinegar and stay low histamine.

Asian style cook slowed pork

Cajun Style Sheep Testicles

I wonder if anyone has ever combined Cajun spices with Icelandic sheep testicles before? :)

Besides the fact they taste great, why would anyone eat animal testicles? They are loaded with protein and high in cholesterol. Cholesterol has been demonozed as being unhealthy and a cause of heart disease. That is a myth. Several books have been written on the topic. That is old news.

The recent news is how dietary cholesterol can help build strong muscles. Check out Research Update: Eating More Cholesterol Makes Muscles Stronger by Anthony Colpo if this topic is of interest.

Fermenting Vegetables and Salt Levels

Probably the most asked question to me about making kimchi or sauerkraut is about salt levels. How much salt should one add to their ferment? My experience tells me that there isn’t a single perfect ratio. It depends upon a few factors, with the most important variable being personal taste. If you like or dislike salt, adjust your levels to whatever pleases you. Salt is not even necessary to make vegetable ferments, because the cultures are already on the vegetables. Sandor Katz covers this in his Fermentation Workshop DVD.

1/2 Tablespoon Salt Per Pound of Vegetables

I met someone that attended a fermentation competition. While he was there he chatted up a lot of the competitors and tasted their recipes. He shared with me that the most common salt ratio used today is 1/2 tablespoon per pound of vegetables. This is lower than what it was just years ago. I like this ratio as a starting point and I never go lower, because the result lacks the flavor and texture I enjoy. If you are salt sensitive, by all means go lower.

There are a few cases where I will increase this salt ratio.

  1. More Spicy – I’ve made kimchi over 100 times. When I was trying to increase the heat, I kept adding more Korean red pepper flakes but it didn’t seem to stay on my tongue. The spiciness of the kimchi was disappearing too fast. When I increased the salt level from 1/2 to 3/4 Tablespoon per pound, I found I could use less Korean red pepper flakes for spicy level that was more consistent. If you want your ferment to hold the heat better, my advice is to slightly increase the salt level.
  2. Warm Kitchen – Once summer hits and our fermenting environment gets warm, I like to increase the salt level. This will slow down the ferment and allow more flavor to develop. It never gets too hot in Seattle, so my upper limit in August is 3/4 Tablespoon per pound. Play with this ratio and dial in what works best for you.
  3. More Crunchy – Increase your salt ratio if you are making ferments that aren’t crunchy enough for your taste. More salt = more crunchy.
  4. Long Storage – If you are storing your ferments inside the refrigerator this won’t apply. However, if you keep your ferments in a cellar or basement and you wish to keep them longer, add more salt. The role of salt is to preserve the food and slow the ferment. If you are keeping the food for months, striving for a longer ferment should be your goal. That means more salt. How much will depend upon how long you are keeping the ferment, what is in the ferment and the storage temperature. Taste as you go and take notes.

Impatient?

If you want the benefits of higher salt levels, but are impatient and want to speed up your ferments, the trick is to add anti-microbial ingredients. Garlic, ginger, peppers and especially dill will increase the speed of the ferment. At the same salt level I’ve taken 4 weeks to make a sauerkraut using juniper berries and only 6 days using dill.

Making some ferments.

Making Lentil Dal

I’m continuing my journey into Indian cooking. My most recent challenge was the lentil dal. I’ve always loved this soup when I’ve gone to Indian restauaunts, but I had not tried to make it at home yet. Glad I did, because not only was it super tasty, it was super easy.

Not Paleo! WAPF to the Rescue!

Paleo diets are very much anti-legume. From the article Foods to Avoid on The Paleo Diet:

Legumes have a similar story to grains; they weren’t consumed by the paleo hunter-gatherer because they needed to be cooked in order to be edible. Legumes also have similar traits to grains in their make-up; they contain phytates which inhibit nutrient absorption and cause inflammation. They also contain lectins and play with healthy hormonal functions.

I don’t disagree with the above statement, however the WAPF (Weston A Price Foundation) focuses more on food preparation. They have learned how traditional cultures prepared legumes to deal with those problems. Our ancestors used soaking, sprouting and fermenting to lower the anti-nutrient properties of legumes. Soaking and sprouting also reduces the cooking time, which would have been important to traditional cultures without supplies of easily accessible energy.

Nutrition aside, I feel much better after consuming beans that have been soaked and sprouted. You don’t experience any of the negative issues often associated with eating beans.

sprouted lentils

Sprout those lentils!

When I went to make dal, like so many other Indian recipes I found an endless and often contradictory advice. But I summoned my David Lynch wisdom and created this wonderful soup. Don’t let a missing ingredient (other than the lentils) stop you from making this soup. Dial up the heat with spices or the creaminess with coconut milk. It all works.

Recipe: Lentil Dal

Summary: A soaked and sprouted lentil dal recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of dry lentils (they will expand after soaking/sprouting)
  • 3 cups of filtered water
  • 3 gloves of garlic
  • 1-2 inch piece of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-2 hot peppers (your call on the heat, use what you got)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cooking oil (butter, ghee, coconut oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder (optional)
  • 1/3 can of coconut milk or coconut cream (optional)
  • chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak and sprout lentils (see the tutorial on I Believe In Butter).
  2. Add lentils, turmeric, salt and water to saucepan and bring to simmer.
  3. In a skillet, toast cumin seeds 1-2 minutes then grind (or set aside ground cumin).
  4. Chop up garlic, ginger and hot pepper.
  5. Cook garlic, ginger and hot pepper for a few minutes and then toss into lentil saucepan.
  6. Add cumin into lentils.
  7. Add coconut milk/cream to lentils.
  8. Add cayenne/chili powder to lentils.
  9. (optional) Use an immersion blender on the lentils for a few seconds if you like a more creamy texture. (I did)
  10. I cooked the lentils for about 20 minutes. Let taste decide.
  11. (optional) Add chopped cilantro to top.
  12. Serve.

lentil dal

Lentil dal soup.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s) (plus sprouting time for the lentils)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Culinary tradition: Indian (Northern)

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Sheep Testicles Taste Wonderful

Some people go to the Farmers Market to buy colorful and overpriced produce. I used to play that game, but not anymore. My primary interest is to get the highest nutritional density per dollar. Paying $4 for a bunch of kale doesn’t cut it for me.

The most nutrient dense food you can buy comes from the nasty bits. Liver, kidney, heart and marrow bones come to mind. Well recently I had the opportunity to try something completely different. The same booth that sold me the Icelandic Sheep Liver also sold Icelandic Sheep Testicles.

Not sure what the blue tint is from. Maybe it is an Icelandic thing? :)

For a mere $3, I walked away with 4 frozen sheep testicles. I had no idea how to cook them, but just days before I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he was eating testicles in some wonderful far away land. Good enough for Anthony Bourdain, good enough for me. I love exploring traditional cuisine. Growing up in Ohio my traditional cuisine was canned SpaghettiOs and peas.

My research told me that I could either deep fry the balls or grill them. I chose the grill.

grilled testicles

Sorry the photo blurred. I’ll try and replace it the next time I make this dish.

Here is the recipe. Put on grill, let it cook and flip it so it cooks evenly. Add salt and pepper and eat. Actually, I don’t have a recipe. But simplicity works. Don’t over think this.

serve sheep testicle

Yummy!

The taste was unique. The outside had a meaty crispiness to it, but the inside actually tasted like a scallop. And I love scallops. Bon appétit!

Shrimp Risotto

Years ago I attempted to make risotto and it didn’t turn out that well. I don’t recall what I did wrong, but after seeing the Creamy Vegetable Risotto recipe on dishes and dishes, I decided to try again. I’m glad I did, because it turned out great. I was missing a few items when I went to make the dish, so I made the following substitutions.

  • No onions.
  • Used peas instead of green beans.
  • Used chicken stock instead of veggie stock.
  • Used less Parmesan cheese, but added a splash of cream.
  • At the end, I threw in some shrimp.

My guess is the key to making great risotto is gradually adding the stock to the Arborio rice and cooking it slowly. What veggies or protein you use or don’t use is probably less important. The creamy texture can come from butter, cheese, cream or some combination.

The next risotto I make will be loaded with mushrooms.

Shrimp Risotto

Shrimp Risotto

Cucumber Kimchi and the Sardine Solution

Recently I made my first ever cucumber kimchi. I’m still dialing in the recipe, so I have nothing to post at this time. This is a shorter fermentation than regular kimchi, because there is no cabbage. I pulled mine after two days. It is sliced cucumbers, chopped garlic, Korean red pepper flakes, sea salt all topped with water. Optional ingredients include chopped ginger, fish sauce and sugar.

Making cucumber kimchi

Mine had a nice sweet taste and I knew it would make an excellent salad dressing. Much better for you than the vegetable oil based salad dressings you find at the store. Anyway, I found an alternate use. I mix the cucumber kimchi with canned sardines. Note that you only want to buy the sardines packed in water. 99% of the other ones are packed in soybean oil.

Sardines and cucumber kimchi

This is a highly nutrient dense meal that can be made in 30 seconds, assuming you already made the cucumber kimchi. Tastes good too!

Icelandic Sheep Liver

Did you know that Seattle is just a 7 hour direct flight from Iceland? That means I was able to score some Icelandic sheep liver at my local Farmers Market. Thank you little buddy!

I’ve had pastured beef liver many times and goat liver a few times. It tastes closer to goat liver, but I found the flavor superior. I cooked it just like I did my Beef Liver + Asparagus + Garlic recipe, only without the asparagus. My side dishes were steamed sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with some butter.

If you are unaware of just how awesome liver is nutritionally, check out the post on FreeTheAnimal titled Nutrition Density Challenge: Fruit vs. Beef Liver. As great as liver is, I figured that some of vitamins were getting destroyed during the cooking process so I started a habit that may gross out some people. Prior to cooking the liver, I cut off an inch or two and eat it raw. Whereas beef liver has a harshness when eaten raw, the Icelandic sheep liver had none. Had I not already chopped up the garlic, I may have eaten the entire liver raw.

I also believe this to be safe, since the liver was frozen for more than 2 weeks. MarksDailyApple has an article on raw meat, which does advise against this practice for specific groups.

…pregnant women or those trying to conceive, young children, “the elderly” (not our word), patients receiving chemotherapy or those who are taking immunosuppressant medications, and people with weakened immune systems

Anyone else eating raw organ meat?

Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, Icelandic sheep liver

Pork Vindaloo in the Slow Cooker

My quest to tackle Indian food continues. Since my 5 Spices, 50 Dishes review, I’ve made two vindaloo dishes in my slow cooker. I read several recipes online and used the spice guidelines in the 5 Spices book to come up with this recipe. The first one used pork shoulder and then second used lamb. The recipe below works equally well for both. Both were outstanding. Easily restaurant quality.

The sequence of steps in this recipe were inspired by The Lean Green Bean. The approach to spices came from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. My selection of spices was inspired by what I had available to me when I started cooking. :)

Recipe: Pork Vindaloo in the Slow Cooker

Summary: An Indian curry recipe using a slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 medium white potatoes (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound of pork shoulder (chopped into bite sized pieces)
  • 3-6 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1-2 inch piece of chopped ginger
  • 1 tomato
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of cumin *
  • 1 Tablespoon of coriander *
  • 1 teaspoon mustard *
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 cups of broth or filtered water

Instructions

  1. If you are using the optional ingredient potato, chop them into bite-size pieces and line bottom of slow cooker.
  2. Chop onions and lay on top of potatoes.
  3. Lay pork pieces onto onions.
  4. Toss chopped ginger and garlic onto pork pieces.
  5. * If you have whole spices, which I recommend, toast up the cumin, coriander and mustard. Then grind and add to bowl with the remaining spices. Otherwise add ground spices to bowl.
  6. Chop tomato up into tiny pieces and add to bowl. Stir to make paste.
  7. Add paste to slow cooker. Stir into meat.
  8. Add red wine vinegar.
  9. Add broth or water.
  10. Turn crock pot on high for 30 minutes and then drop to low for 3-4 hours. Or just keep it on low for 4-4.5 hours.
  11. Serve.

Step #6 – Make a paste with the ground spices and chopped tomato. 

Serving the Vindaloo. 

Variations

There are many spice variations on vindaloo. Some use ground cardamon or curry powder. Use what you have.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 4 hour(s)

Culinary tradition: Indian (Southern)

UPDATE: Shortly after posting I got a helpful hint from my friend Rishad that has made this dish many more times than me. He states that in order to be a “true vindaloo” it requires vinegar. The name “vindaloo” itself comes from Portuguese for vinegar. I also learned that potatoes are optional for the dish and that traditional Portuguese / Goan recipes don’t have any potatoes at all.

Slow Cooking Another Cheap Delicious Meal

This week I made the recipe Unbelievable Crockpot Apple/Onion Pork Butt. The only thing I changed in the recipe was I added fennel. It was cheap and tasty. Let me run the numbers.

  • 2.76 pounds of pork butt = $5.76
  • 1 onion = $0.40
  • 1/2 can of apple juice concentrate = $0.75

Total cost was $6.91 and it made 4 meals for an average meal cost of $1.73. The time it took to chop the onion, load the crock pot with pork butt and top off with apple juice was 10 minutes. I prepped the meal mid-morning and it was ready by evening. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Seems I didn’t take a photo once it was finished cooking.

Even though I liked this recipe, I prefer using BBQ sauce to apple juice. I used conventional pork for this recipe. Had I ordered ahead of time and got pastured pork, the price would have been $4.59/lb. This works out to $13.81 for the entire crock pot or $3.45 per meal. Still cheap.

Taco Meatloaf Recipe

After my success in creating a meatloaf recipe that has the flavor of gyro meat, I decided to continue my research in advanced meatloaf studies. This week I give you The Taco Meatloaf. A super simple recipe that yields a meatloaf that tastes like taco meat.

Why would you make a meatloaf that tastes like taco meat instead of just making taco meat? I’m glad you asked.

  1. The least healthy part of a taco is the shell. Soft tacos use flour wrappers, which are full of gluten. Corn is better, but many brands are made with vegetable oil. The Ortega brand uses partially hydrogenated soybean oil. No thanks! Industrial seed oils are toxic.
  2. It is easier to bake a 3 pound meatloaf than standing over a stove browning 3 pounds of ground meat.
  3. Cooking protein slower and at a lower temperature is better for you. It produces fewer Advanced Glycation End Products.
  4. I can eat a hunk of meatloaf while driving my car a lot easier than a fist full of taco meat. :)

Recipe: Taco Meatloaf Recipe

Summary: A meatloaf that tastes like taco meat.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1/3 onion, diced, dried in paper towel
  • 3 Tablespoons of New Mexico Chili Powder*
  • 1.5 Tablespoon of Mexican Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 330 F.
  2. In a large bowl mix every ingredient together thoroughly.
  3. Place mix into a baking pan. I like the larger Pyrex baking dishes.
  4. Cook for 35-40 minutes (internal temp to 160 F).
  5. Serve.
taco meatloaf

Quick notes

* I used the New Mexican Chili Powder Blend from World Spice Merchants. It rocks. If you can’t get this, do your best finding a replacement. Look for a brand that mixes peppers and cumin. Or if you are skilled in the spice arts, you can always make your own custom blend.

Now for the toppings. Add cheese, sour cream, salsa or guacamole to the finished meatloaf. Or eat it plain. Both ways are extremely tasty.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Diet tags: Gluten free

Culinary tradition: Mexican

Cajun Chicken Drumsticks

Trader Joe’s sells packages of organic chicken drumsticks for about $3.30. That yields two meals. This week I made the absolutely best chicken drumsticks I’ve ever had using a Cajun Seasoning spice sent to me by Aviva, who lives in the New Orleans area. This Cajun Seasoning spice blend includes salt, garlic, red pepper, paprika and green onion.

This meal is silly simple and at $1.65 per portion, it is also very affordable. And I used organic chicken. If you decide to use conventional chicken you can make this dish for under a $1.

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Pour some olive oil or melted butter on thawed chicken.
  3. Add Cajun Spices to the chicken. You can rub it in if you like.
  4. Put chicken in oven. Let it go 10 minutes and then drop the heat to 350.
  5. My oven takes about 30 minutes before the internal temperature of the chicken hits 160 degrees.
  6. Remove from oven. Let it cool for a few minutes and then serve.

My side dish was steamed broccoli with a little butter.

Cajun Chicken Drumsticks

The Gyro Meatloaf Recipe

Last month I created a meatball recipe that mimicked the taste of gyro meat in the post My Gyro Obsession and The Meatball Solution. Well I have taken the same principles and applied them to meatloaf for even better results. This is the best tasting meatloaf I’ve ever had. It tastes like just gyro meat.

Recipe: The Gyro Meatloaf Recipe

Summary: A meatloaf that tastes like gyro meat.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 pound of ground lamb
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 onion, diced, dried in paper towel
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of marjoram
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of ground rosemary
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of thyme
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 330 F.
  2. In a large bowl mix every ingredient together thoroughly.
  3. Place mix into a baking pan. I like the larger Pyrex baking dishes.
  4. Heat for 35-40 minutes.
  5. Test internal temperature for 160 degrees.

Quick notes

I’ve made this recipe using all ground beef and it tastes great that way as well.

To make it even better, add some Tzatziki Sauce. Feta cheese and tomatoes too!

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Diet tags: High protein, Gluten free

Spaghetti Squash Now With Italian Sausage

I’ve long since given up regular spaghetti. These days I use the spaghetti squash. I detailed my pasta journey in the post Spaghetti Evolution The Road to Paleolithic Pasta. This week I was inspired by a recipe online to swap out the ground beef for Italian Sausage. It turned out great, both as dinner and for leftovers the next day.

Spaghetti Squash and Italian Sausage

Spaghetti Squash and Italian Sausage

The only variation I did with the recipe is I now cut the spaghetti squash and scoop out the inner guts prior to baking. I found you can reduce the oven time down from an hour to 35-40 minutes. The downside to the fast method is I think it makes the result a little more watery. I’ll keep experimenting.

Beef Liver + Asparagus + Garlic

This week my plan was to cook up beef liver with a side of asparagus, but I realized I was short on pans. So I decided to cook everything together. It totally worked and I had one less dish to wash.

Recipe: Beef Liver + Asparagus + Garlic Recipe

Summary: A simple way to prepare beef liver.

Ingredients

  • Beef Liver cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Chopped garlic
  • Thyme
  • Salt (I use Redmond Sea Salt)
  • Cooking Fat (tallow, butter or ghee)

Instructions

  1. Chop the asparagus and set aside.
  2. Chop the garlic and set aside.
  3. Chop the liver and set aside.
  4. Heat the pan to medium and add some cooking fat.
  5. Toss in the garlic for a minute or so.
  6. Then add the asparagus for a few more minutes
  7. Finally put in the liver
  8. As it cooks down you can add water, beef broth or red wine.
  9. Add salt and thyme.
  10. Cook until done.
  11. Serve.

beef liver and asparagus

Quick notes

I used tallow, but after reading the comment left by garymor – the next time I plan to try ghee

Variations

I think adding mushrooms would make this dish even better.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Shrimp Jambalaya

Last night I decided to make Shrimp Jambalaya. When I visited New Orleans in 2009, I was completely underwhelmed by the food there. It was either too salty, too bland or when it did taste good the portions were too small. Before I get comments, let me say that I’m sure there is good food in New Orleans. I just didn’t find it during my trip. Every home cooked Cajun meal I’ve made has exceeded the quality I had during my stay there.

I used the recipe posted by Seattle’s World Spice Merchants with a few changes.

Shrimp Jambalya Recipe

  1. I didn’t have their Cajun Black spice mix. I meant to buy it on Sunday, but I forgot. So I hacked my own version of paprika, thyme, salt and hot sauce.
  2. Their recipe calls for the shrimp to be cooked for 30 minutes. That is insanity. The shrimp would taste like rubber cooked that long. I cooked the main dish a little longer and then threw the shrimp in at the end for about 5-7 minutes.
  3. The recipe doesn’t specify the type of rice. Other recipes say to use a long grain rice. Not me. I love my sushi rice. It soaks up flavors extremely well.

shrimp jambalaya

Shrimp Jambalaya

Although I still plan to purchase their Cajun Black Spice Mix the next time I’m downtown, I was very pleased with the outcome. Better than any meal I had in New Orleans.

My Gyro Obsession and The Meatball Solution

The past few years I have really taken up the hobby of cooking. Not only has it increased the quality of my health and saved me money, but I honestly love reverse engineering recipes. The one dish over the past few years that has eluded me has been gyro meat. Gyro meat is mix of ground lamb and ground beef. It is ground very fine, packed together with spices and slowly cooked on a vertical broiler. Some of these gyro cookers cost over $1,000. Yeah, I’ve priced them.

That is how much I love gyro meat.

You can follow Alton Brown’s recipe for baked gyro and I have. However, it does require a kick ass food processor. Mine is so ghetto, I don’t think it could cut through cotton candy at this point.

For the past few years I haven’t tackled this problem head on. When I do go out to eat, I mostly go to Greek restaurants to get my gyro meat fix. Until recently this didn’t bother me. But I’ve started to notice the quality around Seattle is dropping and the portions are getting smaller. Plus I got a suspicion that some might be using vegetable oil in their sauces. In January, I left one of the Greek places in the University District extremely disappointed in the quality of their gyro salad – plus I left still hungry.

Now I was motivated to solve the gyro riddle. That is when I got the idea to replace the spices in the meat and make meatballs. It wouldn’t have the same texture, but it would share a lot of the taste. Plus I could source higher quality grass pasture meat and save money. Game on!

Recipe: Gyro Meatballs

Summary: Gyro flavored meatballs. Add them to a pita or a salad.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 onion, diced, dried in paper towel
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon ground rosemary
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 390 degrees.
  2. Mix every ingredient above together. Mix it up real good.
  3. Make meatballs
  4. Bake for 20 minutes

Quick notes

Bread is evil, so I add my Gyro Meatballs to salad. To compliment the salad, make a nice Tzatziki Sauce. Feta cheese and tomatoes too!

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Culinary tradition: Greek

Conclusion

The texture for the meatballs is nothing like gyro meat, but the flavor matches. This will absolutely work for me. This dish is going into my rotation. At least until the day that own my own gyro broiler. :)

Fermented Carrots and Ginger Recipe

I decided to take a break from the spicy ferments and focus on making something sweet. Something kid friendly! This ferment is super easy to do. You can adjust the salt and ginger level up or down and it will still taste good. It tastes good with a 3 day ferment or a 10 day ferment. If you like the taste of carrots and ginger, it would be really hard to mess this one up.

Ginger is super healthy too. It is one of the starred foods in the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. It has antimicrobial and antiviral benefits, which we can all use during this time of the year. Last week I got a cold and thankfully I had this ferment on hand to nurse myself back to health.

Another good thing about this recipe is I never have to worry about buying too many carrots and then having to throw them away because they went bad before I could use them. At the moment I know I can’t get to the carrots fresh, they become ingredients for the next carrot and ginger fermentation. My home is on a zero carrot waste policy.

Recipe: Fermented Carrots and Ginger

Summary: A sweet vegetable ferment using carrots and ginger.

Ingredients

  • carrots
  • ginger
  • sea salt
  • filtered water

Instructions

  1. Thinly slice carrots. I love my Global Knife.
  2. Finely dice ginger (some recipes say to grate, I find this sometimes makes the finished product too mushy). I use a 1 inch piece of ginger per pound of carrots. Use more or less. Let your taste be the judge.
  3. Add 1/2 – 2/3 tablespoons of sea salt per pound of carrots.
  4. Mix everything together.
  5. Jar mixture and top with filtered water. Make sure the veggies are below the water line.
  6. Cover jar and wait 3-10 days. Taste a little every few days. Once it is where you like it, stop the ferment and place in the refrigerator.

Fermented Carrots and Ginger

Quick notes

How many days you take the ferment all depends upon your taste and how warm the fermentation environment happens to be. If you prefer your carrots more crunchy, use a shorter ferment.

There is no wrong answer!

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

UPDATE (Feb 14, 2011): I discovered that this ferment makes an excellent substitute for salad dressing.

Beef Kidney With Mushrooms and Garlic

I just cooked beef kidney for the first time and it came out great. I decided not to look at other recipes and instead take my best ideas from cooking beef liver and apply them to the kidney. My plan worked! I enjoyed the flavor even more than beef liver.

Why would anyone want to eat beef kidney? Like beef liver, kidney is very nutritious.It is high in protein, Vitamin B12 and riboflavin (B2). Beef kidney is also cheap. I was able to buy a pound of 100% grass pastured beef kidney from my neighborhood farmers market for just $4. When it comes to organ meats, always seek out the highest quality.

Also this recipe is for beef kidney, it will absolutely work the same for beef liver.

Beef kidney chopped into bite-size pieces with most of the excess fat removed.

Recipe: Beef Kidney With Mushrooms and Garlic

Summary: A tasty way to cook up beef kidney.

Ingredients

  • beef kidney
  • garlic
  • mushrooms
  • tallow (or other healthy cooking oil)
  • thyme
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim excess fat off kidney and chop into bite size pieces.
  2. Chop garlic into tiny pieces
  3. Heat pan and add cooking oil (medium heat).
  4. Add garlic to pan and let cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Throw in beef kidney and mushrooms together.
  6. Add liberal amount of thyme.
  7. Add salt and pepper.
  8. Cook until done (pull out a piece and cut in half to test).

beef kidney with mushrooms and garlic

Quick notes

Some organ meat recipes say to add a splash of red wine. You can do that. I’ve found water works too.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Diet tags: High protein

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Thai Pumpkin and Broccoli Curry (Vegan)

It was not my intention to make a vegan friendly recipe, but this turned out so good that I had to share it. I’ve made this Thai curry twice now and I love it. And as good as it tastes, the best part might be that it costs very little to make. In fact, I received the pumpkin for free. Once you dig into a pumpkin, it is shocking how much “pumpkin meat” is inside. My freezer still has a few pounds of pumpkin waiting for my next curry.

When it comes to making curries, I don’t measure anything. Just throw in as much or as little as you like. You really can’t go wrong. If you like the ingredients and the spice level, it is very likely you will like your curry. I’ve made curry well over 100 times and the combination of pumpkin and broccoli stood out to me as a personal favorite. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Pumpkin and broccoli are super healthy too. Both made the cut in the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.

Recipe: Thai Pumpkin and Broccoli Curry

Summary: A vegan friendly Thai curry that uses a lot of pumpkin.

Ingredients

  • Coconut Oil
  • Cubed pumpkin
  • 1 can of coconut milk (or cream)
  • sliced onion
  • Thai Curry Paste (Massaman, Panang, Red or Yellow all work well)
  • chopped broccoli
  • cabbage or bok choy (optional)
  • rice (I like white sushi rice best)

Instructions

  1. Heat pan with coconut oil.
  2. Add sliced onion and caramelize.
  3. Add Curry Paste (however much you want, you always add more later)
  4. Add Pumpkin Cubes
  5. Pour in can of Coconut Milk
  6. Start making rice in another pot.
  7. Add broccoli to curry and lower heat to simmer.
  8. Let it cook until veggies are soft.
  9. (optional) add a few pieces chopped pieces of cabbage or bok choy.
  10. Serve curry over rice!
  11. Salt to taste or you could use fish sauce if you don’t care about the vegan angle.

pumpkin and broccoli curry

Quick notes

I like to mix the sushi rice into the curry at the end and then let it sit for 15 minutes. The rice soaks up more of the pumpkin flavor and provides an almost cheesy like texture.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Culinary tradition: Thai

Mae Ploy Thai Red Curry Paste - 14 ounce per jar
Mae Ploy Thai Red Curry Paste – 14 ounce per jar

Making Lau Lau

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I met up with a friend that grew up on Oahu. She taught me about the traditional Hawaiian dish of Lau Lau. It is very simple to make provided you don’t mind waiting 3 hours for it to steam cook.

Recipe: Lau Lau

Summary: The traditional Hawaiian dish.

lau lau

Ingredients

  • pork butt
  • steak
  • sweet potato
  • fish pieces (cod or salmon)
  • collard greens (or taro leaf)
  • sea salt

Instructions

  1. Chop up meat, fish and sweet potatoes into cube sized pieces.
  2. Salt the meat.
  3. Place a collard green leaf on top of a piece of foil large enough to wrap it (think burrito).
  4. Add pieces of pork, beef, fish and sweet potatoes.
  5. Wrap up leaf into foil.
  6. Finish wrapping all leafs.
  7. Place wrapped lau lau into stock pot with steamer.
  8. Steam for 3 hours.
  9. Unwrap and eat!

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 hour(s)

Culinary tradition: Hawaiian

Note: I have made this dish 3 times now. I prefer to have twice as many pieces of pork butt and sweet potatoes as beef. Personal preference is best.

Pig Uterus Recipe: An Offal Idea

When I went to Ranch 99, I knew wanted a new kitchen challenge. Something that I never had before. Something exotic. When I saw the package of pork uterus, I hesitated for a moment and then threw it in the cart. After I got home, I went looking for a recipe. There really isn’t much out there. What I did find frightened me a bit. The post Scary Food on Bay Area Bites lists Pig Uterus as the #1 Scary Food sold at Ranch 99. From that post:

And it began to cook.

And it began to smell.

“Jesus Christ, there is NO WAY, I’m tasting that,” Tristan shouted. The smell got worse, perhaps mixing with eau de fermented mudfish. “It smells just the way a cooked [uterus] probably should smell,” he cried above the hiss of the oil and the mass of sizzling pink-grey tubes.

The author proceeds to put the entire dish in the trash and then take the trash out after the cat showed too much interest.

Now I was worried. I had to assume the taste would not be to my liking, so I’d need to surround the pig uterus with heavy tastes that I already enjoy. My weapon of choice would be curry made from coconut cream.

Ranch 99 Pork Uterus

Recipe: Pig Uterus Curry

Summary: Hiding the taste of pig uterus in a Thai Curry.

Ingredients

  • Pig Uterus ( I used 1/2 pound)
  • Onion
  • Curry Paste (I used Massaman)
  • Coconut Milk or Cream
  • Yam or Sweet Potato (for sweetness)
  • Cabbage

Pork Uterus

Be sure to chop up uterus meat.

Bite sized uterus

Instructions

  1. Saute onion in oil (I used coconut oil).
  2. Add curry paste (as much or little as you want).
  3. Add coconut milk or cream
  4. Peel and dice yam. Put into curry.
  5. Cut uterus into bite sized pieces. Never thought I’d write that sentence.
  6. Chop cabbage into pieces.
  7. Once the yam is soft, put in the cabbage.
  8. After a minute or two, add in the pig uterus.
  9. Cook until done (this is your call, I’m no expert!)

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

The Verdict

I slightly over cooked mine. The taste was rubber like, but not terrible. Not quite as good as chicken hearts. I didn’t get a foul smell. The curry most likely overpowered it. Also, I suspect I used a lower cooking temperature than Bay Area Bites. To reduce the possibility of overcooking, I adjusted the recipe so the cabbage has a 2 minute head start on the pork uterus. The good news was the curry had some heat and sweetness, so I powered through lovingly consumed two bowls of it. And I have leftovers for tomorrow. Don’t they always say how leftover uterus tastes best? ;)

Ghost Pepper Kimchi Recipe

I’ve been making kimchi now for over two years. I’d say that about 90% of the people that have tasted my kimchi have found the heat level to be perfect. But I have yet to win over that last 10%, who feel it could be hotter. The problem isn’t easily solved. Adding more Korean red pepper flakes does not increase the heat much. And if you add too much, not only is it not that spicy, but it can irritate your stomach.

What I needed was a second spice to assist the Korean Red Pepper flakes. First I tried the basic dried red pepper used often in Italian restaurants. It increased the heat, but dominated the flavor. Then I tried Thai chili peppers. Although it added some heat, the taste clashed with the other ingredients. I needed another source of heat.

Bring on the Ghost Peppers

In September, I developed a spicy sauerkraut recipe called Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut. If ghost peppers worked for regular sauerkraut, then it was worth trying for kimchi. Last week I tested it out and I love it. When you first bite into Ghost Pepper Kimchi, you taste the Korean red pepper and then slowly the ghost pepper chili sneaks up at the end and adds a wave of heat. Snap!

Warning: It May Be Too Hot!

I’ve made this recipe three times. It may be too hot. The last batch I made was so intense, I needed to cut it with rice. What I discovered is that the heat level is controlled by the ginger. The more ginger, the more muted the heat. So my advice for creating a hot kimchi is to first reduce the amount of ginger before increasing the ghost peppers.

Recipe: Ghost Pepper Kimchi

Summary: A Spicy Kimchi

Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon of Sea Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of Korean Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 ghost peppers
  • 1 Carrot (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of chopped ginger
  • A few cloves of Garlic
  • Dakon (however much you like, also optional)

Instructions

  1. Chop up cabbage to the size pieces you wish to eat.
  2. Add Sea Salt to cabbage and rub in by hand.
  3. Wait an Hour.
  4. Add chopped garlic, ginger and dakon.
  5. Mix in Korean Red Pepper Flakes.
  6. Mix in Chopped Ghost Pepper (be safe, read preparation info here)
  7. Pack in jars
  8. Allow Fermentation to complete (5-7 days) (read Kimchi 101 for fermentation details)

Preparation time: 1 hour(s)

Culinary tradition: Korean + Seattle!

2 types of kimchi

Ghost Pepper Kimchi (left) has less Korean Red Pepper flakes than regular Kimchi (right) and a more orange color.

Fermentation Flop – Smoked Sauerkraut

They all can’t be winners. After successfully reverse engineering Firefly’s Cortido Sauerkraut on the first try and my amazing Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut invention, I was on a fermentation hot streak. Even my Dill Sauerkraut was pretty good and my green cabbage kimchi also was amazing. But I did have one dud.

This summer I bought some Alderwood Smoked sea salt. My goal was to make a sauerkraut with a nice smokey flavor. On my first attempt, the conclusion was it needed more smokiness. So for the second batch, instead of using a 50% Redmond and 50% Alderwood sea salt mix, I used 100% smoked alderwood. The result was underwhelming. It had the smokiness, but it didn’t taste that good. Not bad. Bland.

Alderwood Salt

Smoked Sauerkraut

Even the darkness from the salt made the sauerkraut visually unappealing.

If you used a search engine to seek out a recipe for smoked sauerkraut and you found this page, my advice is don’t waste 1-2 months of your life attempting this ferment. There are much better fermentation ideas you can do.

 

Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut

Are you ready for a sauerkraut with some heat? If you fear spicy, you can stop reading now. The Bhut Jolokia chili pepper is also called Ghost Pepper. How hot is it? According to the Wikipedia, it is 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. It is so hot that India announced plans to use this pepper in non-lethal hand grenades to deal with terrorists. In the words of Paris Hilton, “That’s hot”.

ghost pepper

It was pure curiosity that possessed me to try to use it in a fermentation. I’m glad I did, because it turned out great. It has a strong heat on the front end with a fruity finish. Although it is hot, the heat doesn’t linger like a habanero pepper. It hits, quits and then ends with a sweet finish.

Below is a recipe for this sauerkraut. Pay attention to the safety issues regarding handling hot peppers.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of green cabbage
  • 1 – 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt (I use Redmond Sea Salt)
  • 1 ghost pepper (you can start by using 1/2 pepper or if you really want heat – use 2 peppers)

Prepare the Cabbage Fermentation

  1. Slice the cabbage into ribbons.
  2. Mix the sea salt into the cabbage.
  3. Rub the sea salt into the cabbage by hand.

Prepare the Ghost Pepper

Before we start, it is important that you not touch the ghost pepper with your hands. Use plastic gloves. It isn’t that the pepper will burn your hands. It is to protect you, should you accidentally rub your eye or mouth after handling the pepper.

ghost pepper water

  1. The pepper is dried and will need to be reconstituted. Place the pepper in a bowl and pour warm water over it. In the photo above, I am holding the pepper under the water using a spoon.
  2. While wearing your gloves, cut off the stem. Slice open the pepper and remove the seeds.
  3. Dice the pepper into very small pieces.
  4. Put the peppers into the cabbage mix and stir. It is important that you’ve already rubbed in the sea salt prior to this step. Do not try and rub in the sea salt after adding the ghost pepper pieces.

Waiting and Jarring

Now we allow time for the cabbage to release its water. This takes about an hour or two. Once this happens, it is time to pack the cabbage mix into jars. Again, because of the ghost pepper you should be wearing gloves. Pack the jars tight. You want all the veggies below the liquid line. If you don’t have enough liquid to keep the veggies under water, make a brine. Mix 1 teaspoon sea salt with water, stir and slowly pour over the veggies until the cabbage is submerged.

Fermentation

This fermentation took about 3 weeks during the summer. It most likely will take an additional week or two during the winter. During the ferment, either use a weight to keep the veggies submerged or do like I do. Every day, I remove the loosely fitted lid on the jar and push down on the veggies. Bubbles will rise, mostly in the first week. This is a good thing, as it means the ferment is working.

To judge when the ferment is done, just taste it. It shouldn’t be too crunchy. Once it gets as soft as you like it, then seal up the jar and place into the refrigerator to end the fermentation.

ghost pepper sauerkraut

This is 2 days into my latest batch of Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut.

Hope you enjoy the ghost pepper sauerkraut as much as I did.

Beef Stock Remouillage

My latest kitchen project came from an idea I read in the comments the Beef Stock post over at brilliantly named blog CheeseSlave. I’d had already been making beef stock for a while now, when I read this from commenter riceinmay.

Ouch! My heart hurt when I saw you throw those bones away!!!!! Did you know you can use them more than once? I use mine 3 times. The second and third time its called a remouillage (its french for rewetting). Anyways- the stock isnt as strong- or as gelatinous. Its still flavorful, and a great way to get extra broth and nutrients from that original investment of bones!

Yesterday I completed another batch of bone stock, which I took out 48 hours. After I finished jarring everything, I decided to take the advice of riceinmay and make remouillage. I took mine about 16 hours, although there are recipes online that say you can go a short as 4 hours.

The verdict? As riceinmay stated it was not as gelatinous as the original stock. However, it did have an excellent flavor. I drank a full glass of it this morning for breakfast. No Jamba Juice for me!

remouillage

Goat Bone Stock Remouillage

Dill and Caraway Sauerkraut

My latest vegetable ferment is a dill and caraway seed sauerkraut. Even though the standard advice is to use fresh dill, I used a spice jar of dill to see what would happen. Dill is known to be anti-microbial. I have discovered that vegetable ferments that use anti-microbial foods such as peppers, garlic and ginger ferment faster.

Many sauerkrauts can take weeks to ferment. This one can be ready in 6-7 days. Maybe faster if you like it more crunchy. If you want to get started making sauerkraut and thought of waiting weeks bums you out, then this is the sauerkraut you want to make. Dill speeds up the ferment.

Dill and Caraway Sauerkraut

Here is how I made it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of green cabbage
  • 1/2 to 2/3 tablespoon of sea salt (I use Redmond Sea Salt)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of dill

Directions

  1. Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons.
  2. Place the cabbage into a bowl and rub in the sea salt.
  3. Let the cabbage sit for an hour or two. It will release water.
  4. Add in the spices and stir.
  5. Pack the mix tightly into your jar or jars.
  6. Make sure the veggies are below the water line. If you don’t have enough water, mix a teaspoon of sea salt with a 1 cup of water. Stir to create a brine. Pour over veggies until covered.
  7. Start tasting the ferment around day 5 or 6. Because of the dill, this ferment will go faster than traditional sauerkraut. Once the ferment tastes good to you is when it is complete. I’ve completed this ferment in as fast as 6 days. During the summer, the ferment will go faster.
  8. Once the ferment is complete, seal the jar tight and place in the refrigerator.

Fermentation Tips

Check on your ferment daily. You will want to push the veggies down below the water line. Another option is to get a weight. The important lesson is knowing the fermentation is anaerobic. The veggies need to be under water for the good bacteria to win the war against the bad bacteria. If you see white foam, take a spoon and scrap it out.

You will also want to cover the jar with a towel or an upside down paper bag. This keeps the environment dark, which is a good thing for fermentation.

Since it is unlikely that your cabbage will be exactly 1 pound, just multiply out the ingredients to meet your needs.

Another Successful Sauerkraut!

UPDATE APRIL 2012: This post was rewritten to reflect the anti-microbial properties of dill. I also shortened the duration of the ferment.

Bacon Egg Cupcakes

Earlier this week I saw a video showing how to make bacon-wrapped egg cupcakes. I was so inspired that I made the recipe twice. The first time I did a scrambled egg version, The second time, I took the advice in the video and did the eggs “sunny side up”.

I had made up bacon ahead of time. My jowl bacon didn’t wrap as well as the bacon did in the video. Having more uniform sized pieces would have made the cupcake more pretty, but won’t make a difference with the cupcake taste or structural integrity. To prevent the cupcake from sticking to the tray, I smeared in some bacon fat first.

Wrapping the cupcake tray with bacon.

Here I added the scrambled eggs.

bacon egg cupcakes

Bacon Egg Cupcakes Take #1

The next day I didn’t scramble the eggs and just placed them in whole.

egg bacon cupcakes

Bacon Egg Cupcakes Take #2

The video states to bake the eggs, but never states a temperature. I did these at 385 degrees for 15 minutes. Take #1 tasted good, but Take #2 was excellent. For Take #3, I am going to sprinkle in some red pepper flakes.

Rendering Lard in a Crock Pot

My latest kitchen project was rendering lard using my Crock Pot. After all, lard is healthy. Using the slow cooker allowed me to leave the house and even go to sleep while it did its magic. Note that I had hoped to be finished with my lard before bedtime, but miscalculated how long it would take.

How to Render Lard in a Crock Pot

  1. Source some pork fat at the Farmers Market. Look for leaf lard or back fat.
  2. It will most likely be frozen, so set it out and allow it to partially thaw.
  3. Once it is soft enough to chop, cut it into little cubes.
  4. Toss cubes into Crock Pot and put it onto the Low setting.
  5. As it heats up, the solid fat becomes liquid. Several hours later, the fat will have separated from the hardened stuff.

  6. Remove and throw out the hardened stuff.
  7. Filter the liquid lard through a cheese cloth or coffee filter and into jars.
  8. Place the jars into the refrigerator or freezer.

My one tip would be to start this project in the morning. I foolishly started it in the afternoon and then woke up twice to monitor the progress. My 2 pounds of pork fat took about 12 hours. I may have been able to speed this up by cutting the cubes smaller. Learn your Crock Pot and adjust your start time accordingly.

The 2 pounds of pork fat yielded me almost 2 full pint jars of lard.

pork fat

Pork Fat from the Farmers Market

Cut pork fat into cubes.

pork cubes into slow cooker

Pork fat cubes make it into Crock Pot.

rendering lard

Rendering Lard

lard

Finished lard.

cooled lard

After cooling, the lard will look like this.

You can also use your Crock Pot to render beef tallow.

White Kimchi

If you find kimchi is too spicy or have a food intolerance to nightshade vegetables, you will want to make your kimchi without red pepper flakes. The first time I made White Kimchi, I was unimpressed with the flavor. Kimchi without red pepper flakes can be rather bland. I’ve learned a few tricks since then.

You can learn how to make kimchi from my post Kimchi 101. To make White Kimchi, just remove the red pepper flakes. To make the White Kimchi taste better, here are a few ideas.

  1. Add more ginger. This will give it the bite to overcome the blandness.
  2. Add more carrots. This is will give it a little more sweetness.
  3. Add some sugar, sliced apples or sliced pears. Doing this will accelerate the fermentation to about 2-3 days and add a little sweetness.

White Kimchi heavy on the ginger and without carrots. Carrots would have made it better.

Note that this recipe will not have the great flavor found in a longer sauerkraut type ferment. One of the things I really like about Napa cabbage kimchi is the short fermentation time. If you find white kimchi too bland and have 4 weeks, then I suggest making sauerkraut. My Cortido Sauerkraut recipe can just as easily be made without jalapenos and red pepper flakes.

Grain Free and Dairy Free Almond Butter Cookies Recipe

Here is my go to recipe when I want something sweet. It is Almond Butter Cookies made without any grains or dairy. The inspiration for this recipe came from the Gluten Free Girl. My version uses less sugar, less baking powder and doesn’t include chocolate chips.

Almond butter cookies without grain or dairy

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup of almond butter
  2. 2/3 cup of sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1 egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix all ingredients.
  3. Form little cookies and place on cooking tray.
  4. Once oven is ready, cook for 10 to 15 minutes. All ovens are different.
  5. Let cookies cool for a few minutes.

That is it. This is a super simple recipe that is hard to screw up. You can add chocolate chips if you like, I found they dominate the almond butter flavor. You can also add cinnamon, but anything more than 1/4 teaspoon will make the cookies taste too much like cinnamon cookies.

Cortido Sauerkraut Recipe

I just sampled my best fermentation to date. It took 3.5 weeks, but it was worth it. Inspired by Firefly Kitchens, I decided to make my own Cortido Sauerkraut. This is a Latin American style sauerkraut. It is has some heat, but not as much as kimchi. The Mexican Oregano really brings out the flavor. If you have the patience, I highly recommend making this amazing sauerkraut.

cortido sauerkraut

Cortido (also spelled Curtido) Sauerkraut

Ingredients

  1. 1.5 pounds green cabbage (sliced into thin ribbons)
  2. 1 jalapeno (cut into tiny pieces)
  3. 6 oz onions (small pieces)
  4. 1.5 teaspoons of Mexican Oregano (and no more!)
  5. 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  6. 1-1.5 tablespoons of sea salt (I use Redmond, but Celtic works too)
  7. 1 carrot (cut into very small pieces)

If you are sensitive to heat, reduce the red pepper and jalapeno portions.

Preparing the Fermentation

  1. Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons and place in bowl.
  2. Add sea salt and rub into cabbage.
  3. Let it sit for an hour. The cabbage will release water.
  4. Slice up the carrot, jalapeno and onion into little pieces.
  5. Add veggies and the red pepper flakes to the mix.
  6. Now add in the Mexican Oregano.
  7. Stir and then pack into jars.
  8. Use the water released by the cabbage to top off the jars.

The Fermentation

When packing into jar, make sure the veggies are below the liquid line. In order for the fermentation to work, all the veggies must be under water. If you need more water, make a brine with a teaspoon of sea salt in a cup of water and top off.

The Fermentation will take 2.5 to 4 weeks, depending a lot on ambient temperature and personal preference. A warmer environment will result in a faster ferment. During the fermentation you will check to make sure the veggies are below the liquid line. You can use a weight or do what I do and just push the veggies down. During the first week, I will push the veggies down twice a day. Then once every 2 or 3 days. You will see bubbles rise to the surface. This is the fermentation at work.

If you use glass jars, cover them with a towel or upside down paper bag or box to block out light. Also, avoid keeping your ferment in a hot kitchen, as they do much better in cooler areas.

When the fermentation is over, seal the jars and place them into the refrigerator. Enjoy!

UPDATE November 2011: It is OK to increase the red pepper and jalapenos, however don’t increase the oregano portion. Too much oregano will impart a “soapy” and harsh taste.

Homemade Beef Broth

Update: This is technically a beef stock, as it uses roasted bones.

I’ve recently discovered a magical elixir. It helps me recovery from workouts faster, protects me from incoming radiation, keeps my skin looking great and it tastes awesome. The magical potion is a homemade beef broth. It takes 24-72 hours to make, but is worth the effort. I use the recipe found in the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Put knuckle bone into stock pot. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar. Cover with water.

Roast Beef Soup Bones for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cut up a few onions, carrots and celery sticks. Add them and the roasted meat to the stock pot.

Cover with water. Turn on the heat. Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat until you achieve the slowest simmer possible. Cover the stock pot.

Periodically you want to skim off the large bubbles with a spoon. These are impurities. I do this maybe 5 times in the first few hours and then leave it alone.

Let it sit on the stove with a very low simmer for 24-72 hours. The simmer should be slow enough that you can easily count the bubbles as they rise to the surface. With 10 minutes remaining, add a handful of parsley.

Turn off the heat and let it cool. Using tongs, pull out the large chunks of meat and bones. Throw that away. Then using a strainer, filter out everything else. Pour the broth into jars. Unless you plan on using the broth in the next day, put the jars into the freezer.

There you have it. I do this about once a month. I then add some broth to whatever stew or soup I am making.

 

Ground Pork and Cabbage Recipe

Yesterday I cooked up some ground pork and cabbage. This is a low carb twist on a classic Irish dish that uses potatoes. If you just got back from lifting weights at the gym, add the potatoes back into the recipe. Otherwise proceed as described.

Before I get to the recipe, I want to discuss the economics of this recipe. The pound of ground pork came from local pastured farm and cost me just $4. All the veggies and spices combined cost about $1.50. The total cost of this dish was $5.50 and it made 3 servings. That works out to less than $2 a serving. I could have added more onions or even potatoes if I wanted to stretch out the servings for even greater value.

Whenever the media reports that poor people can’t afford to eat healthy, I just shake my head in frustration. They are repeating the same old disempowering message, which is simply not true.

Recipe: Ground Pork and Cabbage

Summary: A low-carb twist on a classic Irish dish.


Ingredients

  1. 1 pound of ground pork
  2. 1/2 head of green cabbage shredded
  3. 4 thinly sliced carrots
  4. 1 sliced onion
  5. 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. black pepper to taste
  8. Lard, tallow or other healthy cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Heat up onions and carrots in skillet with cooking oil. (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add salt, turmeric, cabbage and pork.
  3. Cook until pork and cabbage are done (about 15 minutes)

Cooking time (duration): 25

Diet (other): Reduced carbohydrate, Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 3

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Irish

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Beef Heart Stew

UPDATE Feb 2013: This recipe has been updated. See Beef Heart Stew Rebooted (Slow Cooker Recipe)

I recently bought my first beef heart at the farmers market.

Then I watched the video below, which detailed how to trim the meat.

Cleaning a Beef Heart by offalchris

Once it was cleaned and trimmed, I cut the meat into little dice sized pieces.

Threw it into my Slow Cooker with some beef stock and assorted veggies. Onions, garlic, carrots are some ideas. I added a few Thai peppers, which gave it some serious heat. For Crock Pot dishes, I do the first 30-60 minutes on high and then drop the temperature to low. Five hours later it was done.

The taste was nothing like liver or chicken hearts. It just tasted like lean beef.

Why would you eat beef heart? Not only is it pretty cheap, but it is a nutrient dense. The article The “Weird” Types of Meat with the Highest Nutrient Density by Catherine Ebeling – RN, BSN and Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist cited these properties on beef heart:

  1. Very high levels of CoQ10, which is excellent for our own heart health. This is another example of “like cures like“.
  2. Good source of selenium, phosphorous and zinc.
  3. Contains essential amino acids for muscle building.
  4. And the article states beef heart contains “twice as much collagen and elastin than regular meat”. This is good for your skin, tendons and cartilage. It fights wrinkles.

If you aren’t up for a stew, the article suggests adding beef heart into your ground beef. Are you ready to add beef heart to your diet?

Kimchi 101

Several people have asked that I post an updated kimchi recipe. I’ve learned a lot since my original Bok Choy kimchi recipe was posted. One of the things I learned is there are infinite ways to make kimchi. In this post, I want go over the basics for creating your own custom kimchi recipe. It is not meant to be complete, but instead serve as a foundation for beginners.

Ingredients

The most common ingredients I’ve used include:

  • Nappa cabbage, bok choy or some combination
  • Onions – regular and/or green onions
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Daikon (often referred to as a radish in Korean cookbooks)
  • Carrots (not in traditional kimchi, but they add a nice sweetness)
  • Sea Salt (I use Redmond Sea Salt)
  • Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  • Sliced Asian pear (for sweetness – optional)

Chop Up the Cabbage

The cabbage should be cut into whatever sized pieces you want to eat. Traditional kimchi will often have very large pieces. The smaller you chop, the easier it will be to pack the jar later. There is no wrong answer.

Starting the Fermentation

To make sure the good bacteria win the battle against the bad bacteria, you’ll be mixing the sea salt into the cabbage. There are 2 techniques that I am aware of that accomplish this.

  1. Make a Brine – This is the technique I used in the Bok Choy Kimchi Recipe. It involved mixing a lot of sea salt into clean water and then letting the cabbage soak for a few hours. The cabbage takes in the salt. The brine is drained. I’ve made many excellent kimchis with this method, but it does require the most salt and the kimchi may not be as crispy as you prefer.
  2. Rub in By Hand – These days I add the salt to the chopped cabbage and then rub it in by hand. Then I leave it alone for an hour. The cabbage softens during the this time. It is ready for the next step.

How much salt should you use? If you look at other recipes, you will see wildly different salt recommendations. Who is right? They all are. I’ve done lower salt and higher salt and they both taste good. Currently I am using a little more than 1/2 tablespoon per pound of cabbage.

If you have salt concerns, I have read recipes that suggest gently rinsing the cabbage after you’ve rubbed in the salt and allowed it to sit for a few hours. They say that the salt has done its job and can be rinsed. I have not tried this, so I can not comment. The salt has never bothered me. The Fermentation Workshop DVD mentions that you can use seaweed in place of salt.

Add The Other Ingredients

Some recipes say you should put the other veggies in with the cabbage when you add the salt. I don’t do that. I use the time the cabbage is softening as my time to prepare the other ingredients. Chop everything however you like, however I do have a few tips.

  1. Don’t grate the ginger. Chop it into tiny pieces. Grated ginger loses its flavor and tastes mushy in kimchi.
  2. Daikon works best when cut into little cubes. Like baby dice.
  3. If you don’t have Korean red pepper flakes, you can use Italian Red pepper flakes. I found it is hotter, so use less. It is also less flavorful.

Mix and Pack in Jars

Mix all the ingredients and pack tightly into jars. Make sure there is about an inch of room at the top. You also want to make sure all the veggies are underneath the water. Fermentation is anaerobic. If the veggies peek their head out then the bad bacteria could be invited back. This is a minor concern with kimchi, but important with longer ferments like sauerkraut.

Push those veggies down. They need to be below the liquid.

For more ideas on managing multiple or larger ferments read the post My Fermentation Station.

Pushing Down the Kimchi

Most recipes use some sort of weight (crock) that sits on the top. This keeps the veggies under the liquid for fermenting. Another option is to do what I do. Twice a day I push the veggies down. Doing this triggers a release of bubbles to the surface. I’m not against using the crock method, it is just that I don’t have one that works well with my jar.

Here I am using a coffee mug to push down the veggies.

Leaving the Kimchi to Ferment

You will want to put a plate or bowl underneath your kimchi jar, as the juices can over flow. You’ll also want to cover the jars with an old towel or upside down paper bag to prevent light from hitting it. The best temperatures I’ve found for ferments are in the mid 60s to low 70s. Once it get warmer than that the fermentation speeds up, so you’ll want to add more salt to slow things down. Cold temperature ferments are the more the traditional ones that take much longer.

This leads us to the question on how long to ferment? Recipes online range from 2 days to months. I have found 6 days is my usual ferment period. Some things to consider:

  1. The longer the ferment, the more the cabbage will move from crisp to soggy. Not a bad thing. Just personal preference.
  2. The warmer the area you are fermenting in, the shorter the ferment takes. This is a summer concern if you have a warm kitchen. Move your setup to a basement if you can during the heat of summer.
  3. Doing a “jump start” can reduce your ferment by a day. If you mix in a little kimchi from your last batch into the new one, the ferment goes a little faster.
  4. Adding sugar or fruit, such as an Asian pear, will speed up the fermentation. It may be ready in as little as 2-3 days. If you are in a hurry, use this method.

Done

I highly recommend tasting as you go. By eating a small amount at different points during the ferment, you will learn the taste profile that you like best. Once the fermentation is to your liking, just seal up your jar, wipe it down and put it into the refrigerator. This slows down the ferment. Good luck!

Mini Quiches With No Crust

This is for all you cereal eaters that don’t have the time and energy to make eggs in the morning. Make a tray or two of these crust-less quiches in the evening. Place them in the refrigerator and eat them on the way out the door.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Cook up some veggies.
  3. Mix up some eggs. Add cream or bacon bits. Crushed red pepper is good too.
  4. Line cupcake pan with some fat (I used tallow).
  5. Set the veggies in the bottom.
  6. Pour eggs on top of veggies. Leave some room.
  7. Cook until done. About 10-12 minutes. Time will vary.

Keep your breakfast low-carb and throw away your cereal.

Rendering Beef Tallow in a Crock Pot

Today I rendered beef tallow from suet. The beef fat came from 100% grass pastured animal. I used the instructions from the post Make Your Own Beef Tallow with one exception. Instead of using an oven, I used my Crock Pot on the low setting.

Here are the delicious crunchy remains (aka “the cracklins”).

The benefit of rendering tallow in a Crock Pot is you can leave the house and go for a walk. This is what my neighborhood of Ballard looked like today.

Chicken Hearts with Brussels Sprouts

Version 1 = Chicken Hearts + Bacon + Apples + Onions.

Version 2 = swap out the apples for Brussels sprouts.

The dish was outstanding. For whatever reason, the chicken hearts tasted much better. It had none of the liver like gamy and bitter tastes that were slightly present before. The meat was sweeter and more tasty. The Brussels sprouts worked just as well as the apples. I plan to make this dish again soon.

Chicken Hearts + Bacon + Apples + Onions

I got this recipe idea from my friend Sue in Portland. Turns out chicken hearts are loaded with that miracle nutrient Co-enzyme Q10 (aka Co Q 10). According to the Wikipedia, it is really good for heart health (yours, not the chicken). :)

Chicken hearts taste like a milder version of chicken livers, which is why adding the apples and bacon helps round out the flavor.

Toscana Goat Sausage Soup Recipe

I received this recipe from a vendor at the farmers market. I used raw milk in place of cream and adjusted the ratio of ingredients. This soup was super delicious. Give it a try. If you don’t have goat sausage, go ahead and use a quality pork sausage.

Recipe: Toscana Goat Soup Sausage Soup

Summary: A Toscana soup recipe using a spicy goat sausage.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced goat sausage (spicy is better)
  • 1 large organic potato (or 2 medium)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup of sliced leek
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup of raw milk or heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Saute the sliced goat sausage.
  2. Put broth and cream in soup pan.
  3. Put soup on medium heat.
  4. Chop potato into 1/2 bite size pieces.
  5. Add goat sausage to soup.
  6. Add sliced leeks to soup.
  7. Add chopped kale to soup.
  8. Add crushed red pepper.
  9. Let soup simmer for 40 minutes, stir occasionally.

Cooking time (duration): 60

Diet (other): High protein, Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 3-4

Culinary tradition: Italian

My rating: 5 stars: ????? 1 review(s)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

New Kitchen, New Kimchi

Today I broke in my new kitchen by making a 3 pound batch of spicy kimchi. Since I am now spiking the fermentation using a few tablespoons of the previous kimchi, I expect it to be finished in 5 days instead of 7 days.

Making Meatloaf Using Pet Food

I buy the majority of my meat from Thundering Hooves. This is a pasture farm in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington that sells beef, lamb, pork and chicken. One of the items they sell is for pets. It is 1 lb of Beef and Organ Meets for Pets. The description reads:

A nice blend of 85% ground beef, 10% ground heart, and 5% ground liver is a fantastic source of protein to add to your pet’s diet – all made from Thundering Hooves 100% grass fed beef. This is one pet food your dog or cat is going to love! (Comes in 1 lb. pkgs. – Reg. $3.50/lb.)

My roommates and I have figured out that – despite what the label says – is it perfectly fine for human consumption. Organ meats are extremely healthy when the animal is pasture raised. And you can’t beat the price. The one thing we have learned is that it doesn’t taste good as burgers. Chili or meatloaf is ideal. No medium rare. It tastes best at medium well.

Below is my Pet Food Meatloaf recipe that was a huge hit recently.

Recipe: “Pet Food” Meatloaf

Summary: Using pastured “pet food” ground beef to make meatloaf.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground beef w/15% organ meat (“pet food”)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • coconut flour (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 340 degrees
  2. In a food processor blend onion, pepper, carrot and garlic.
  3. Combine beef, spices and veggies into bowl and mix by hand.
  4. Place mixture into an oven safe pan.
  5. Cook for about 35-40 minutes.
  6. Test with meat thermometer until center is 155-160 degrees.

Quick Notes

This is a very fatty meatloaf. You can pour off some of the liquid if you like. Also using a coconut flour will add some thickness.

Variations

The “pet food” is of course optional. Feel free to use regular ground beef for the entire meatloaf if you like.

Cooking time (duration): 60 (15 min prep, 45 min cooking)

Diet (other): Reduced carbohydrate, High protein

Number of servings (yield): 6

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

My rating: 5 stars: ????? 1 review(s)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Primal Tuna Melt

Who needs bread? Not me. I created a primal tuna melt using a carved out red bell pepper. Topped it off with some cheese and then put in under the broiler for a few minutes. Very tasty. I’ll be making this again.

Primal Tuna Melt

A tuna melt made without bread.

Ingredients

  • Tuna
  • Red Bell Pepper (or Yellow, Orange or Green)
  • Cheese

Instructions

  1. Make Tuna
  2. Carve out Red Bell Pepper.
  3. Place Tuna inside Red Bell Pepper
  4. Top with sliced Cheese
  5. Broil until done.

UPDATE (July 28, 2010): Because the cheese melts so fast, I have found heating the pepper for a few minutes prior to Step 2 improves the flavor.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cooking Time: 10 min

Number of Servings: 1 Portion

Recipe by MAS

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Bok Choy Kimchi Recipe

UPDATE October 2011: I no longer use the Brine method described in this recipe. Instead I prefer the “Rub in by Hand” method, which I outline in the post Kimchi 101.

My bok choy version of the classic kimchi recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1.5 tablespoons of Redmond Sea Salt
  • 4 cups of spring or filtered water
  • 1 pound bok choy
  • 2-3 carrots (optional, adds sweetness)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of dried red chili flakes
  • 2-4 tablespoons of fresh chopped ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix salt and spring water until most of the salt is dissolved. (the brine)
  2. Chop the bok choy into large bite size pieces.
  3. Slice carrots too.
  4. Submerge bok choy and carrots into brine for 3-5 hours. Use a plate and weight to weight the veggies down. They must remain under water. It is OK to add carrots later, this step is mostly for the bok choy.
  5. Chop up onion and garlic. Grate ginger.
  6. Drain the brine. Doesn’t need to be perfectly dry. Save a little bit in case you need to top off the jar.
  7. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chili flakes into the bok choy/carrot bowl. Mix well.
  8. Stuff mix into a glass jar. Pack tight. Get your hand in there and push down. Pack it tight!
  9. Cover with cheese cloth or paper towel.
  10. Once a day for a week, push down on the kimchi. Force the air bubbles up and out.
  11. After 5-7 days, cover and move to refrigerator.

Diet (other): Low calorie, Gluten free

Culinary tradition: Korean

Prep Time: 1 Hour (+ 3-5 hours soaking)

Cooking Time: 1 week (fermentation)

Recipe by MAS

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Inspired by:

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

UPDATE (October 2011): The original recipe called for 4 tablespoons of Sea Salt. Way too much.

Cajun Style Pumpkin Seeds

I know I’ve said it before, but I just love making Cajun Style Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Here is how I make mine.

  1. Preheat oven to 385F
  2. Take rinsed pumpkin seeds and place into bowl.
  3. Add some olive oil.
  4. Add some Cajun spices.
  5. Mix it up. Look at photos below to see how covered the seeds should be.
  6. Place on tray evenly.
  7. Cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Pull seeds out and move them around and reset evenly.
  9. Cook for 7 more minutes.
  10. Remove tray from oven, let them cool and eat!

Making Spaghetti Squash – The 1 Page, Zero Ad Tutorial

I just made spaghetti squash for the first time. It was super easy and delicious. There are numerous tutorials online that take this simple dish and convert it to multi-page tutorials littered with advertising. Not necessary. Here is my 1 page, 0 ad tutorial on making spaghetti squash.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 390F.
  2. Poke holes in the squash.
  3. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Let it cool.
  5. Cut lengthwise.
  6. Scoop out the seeds.
  7. Using a fork, gently pull out the spaghetti.
  8. Add your sauce and meatballs.
  9. Eat.