Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now that it's officially cold, I've had the weirdest craving to come home to a warm, sweet beverage after work. I mostly don't sweeten my tea/coffee anymore (weaned myself off of that years ago), except for the odd flavored latte splurge or "Polish-style" black tea with sugar and lemon. Since my big (5lb) jar of farmer's market honey finally ran out (and since I'm convinced at this point that I was duped, and it wasn't raw--though it was still so damn delicious), I got myself what felt like an overpriced experiment gone wrong: Y.S. Organic Bee Farms Super Enriched Honey. It's raw honey with pollen, propolis, and royal jelly mixed in.

I was expecting a sort of creamy translucent (not transparent, not for raw) gooey goodness. That's not precisely what I got, but, oh man, this stuff is intense. It's got the sexy greenish tint from propolis, and a heady kick of slightly bitter pollen. There's just a hint of textural change from the royal jelly, but it's very firm, firmer than crystallized honey. It just tastes like an old-school apothecary, in the best of ways. I wouldn't want it on, say, a piece of fruit, and don't even think about mixing it into yogurt etc, but this is perfect for my after-work sweetened beverage craving. I made a mugful of Yogi Tea Chai (Black) and while I'm still on the market for a better prebagged chai (for when I don't feel like making it from scratch), a dessertspoon of the hardcore honey in this is delicious, and lends a perfect savory note to the spices. I also feel like I'm getting a tiny nutrient boost out of my sugar.

(I'm a huge proponent of shopping around online for the cheapest prices, and right now I'm finding a lot of good deals on iHerb, where in the past Amazon was cheaper for the same products. If you're so inclined and want to take a look, you can use coupon code FEF016 for $5 off your first order--and yeah, I'd get a tiny kickback from it, but I wouldn't whore myself out if I didn't genuinely like the site enough to recommend it regardless.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kimchi recipe! (Because yes, it worked!)

Who doesn't love a little funky fermentation in their life? If you've ever had kimchi and loved it, and wondered at how it's made, wonder no more: it's surprisingly easy to make at home. Alright, it takes a couple special ingredients, and it takes a tiny bit of prep work, but it also means you can brag about making your own stinky joy at home. Did I mention it's stinky? Just use air-tight containers and you'll be fine.

This makes a smallish batch of kimchi (I didn't weigh it; it fills two four-cup containers comfortably), but feel free to double/triple/etc. Heavily adapted from Maangchi.

1 head Napa cabbage (approx 2.5 lbs)
1/4 c sea salt or Kosher salt
3/4 c water
1/8 c glutinous rice flour/sweet rice flour/mochiko
1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar (or natural sweetener of your choice--honey, maple syrup, cane sugar)
1/3 c fish sauce
10 Tbsp gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes; cannot substitute with regular hot pepper flakes)
1/4 c garlic
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
1/4 c onion
1 bunch green onions/scallions
1/2 of 1 large daikon radish
1/2 of 1 large carrot

1) Remove or trim any damaged leaves from the cabbage. Cut into quarters; remove entire core. Slice at approx. 1" intervals. Place into very large bowl; cover with cold water to rinse. Remove cabbage (leaving behind any grit in the water) but don't dry it. Rinse out the bowl. Put the cabbage back in it, combine evenly with the salt. Set a timer. Every 30 minutes, mix the cabbage around with your hand to mix well with the salt. Do this 3 times, for a total salting time of 1.5 hours. (You can feel free to put together the rest of the recipe while the cabbage is salting!)

2) After 1.5 hours, fill the bowl up completely with cold water. Swirl around with your hand; drain the water off. Repeat 3 times, for four total rinses. Make sure you get as much of the water as possible on the last drain, without needing to drain the cabbage on a colander. It should still be pretty damp. (For saltier kimchi: do 2-3 rinses only. For less salty kimchi: 4-5. I find that four is not very salty at all,  once the fermentation is complete.)

3) Make porridge: combine 3/4 c water with 1/8 c glutinous rice flour in a small pot (I used an aluminum camping mug). Mix well; bring to a boil. Stir until bubbles appear, then add in sugar. Don't use a substitute sweetener (Stevia, Xylitol, etc). Cane sugar is best, but coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc will all work just fine. Lower heat. Cook until porridge is translucent, about 3-4 more minutes. Set aside to cool.

4) Make kimchi paste: In a large bowl, combine fish sauce, gochugaru, garlic, ginger, minced onion, peeled and shredded (or julienne) daikon, peeled and shredded (or julienne) carrot. Add in your cooled porridge; combine well. Wash your scallions. Cut off the bulb ends, trim any dry ends at the top. Cut scallions twice, into three approx 3" pieces. Cut each section lengthwise in half. Mix into your kimchi paste gently.

5) Combine your kimchi paste with your cabbage; I use a glove for this step (or your hand will smell like garlic, fish sauce, and spicy chili--sexy). Mix very thoroughly.

6) Place into air-tight locking containers (Lock'n'Lock, glass jars, or glass containers with an air-tight plastic lid). You can technically eat right away, but I like to let it ferment. Leave on counter for two-three days; once a day, use a CLEAN spoon to gently stir, and then press down so all the kimchi is covered by liquid (optional, but fun). After 2-3 days, you will have gently fermented kimchi. For a stronger taste, leave out to ferment longer, or put in the fridge to slow the fermentation process. Kimchi never really goes "bad", but very strong kimchi is sour and is best used in soups or when fried with fatty meat, like pork belly.


Primalicious Pad Thai

Pad thai is one of my favorite cheat dishes, since I unfortunately have a place just around the corner that makes it just right. I figured I would try to get as close as possible to the pad thai flavor without incorporating too much "bad." Do keep in mind that the peanuts really are sort of necessary for all the flavors of this dish to tie together, so if you can't handle that particular legume, this unfortunately won't work. I suppose you could try to make it with almonds or macadamia nuts; if you do, and it works, let me know.

This is by no means a "traditional" recipe, though it does use several key ingredients. I wanted to add more protein and more veggies, as well as keep the carb level low. I think it's even more delicious this way.

Note: Please feel free to use this as a jumping off point. Play with the proportions if you want, certainly play with the add-ins. I also wanted to write this as a "how-to", because this is the type of recipe in which you really need your mis-en-place firmly en-place. Trust me on this! It's smooth sailing from there.

Primalicious Pad Thai
serves 2-3 as main course

1/2 c tamari (or coconut aminos, or light soy sauce)
3 Tbsp natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp fish sauce (I like Squid brand, but use your favorite)
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Thai bird chili pepper (optional), or 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
juice of half a lime

1 spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
2 eggs (whatever size you have is fine)
1 c bean sprouts
1 lime, in wedges, to serve
1/2 c fresh coriander/cilantro, plus more to garnish
4 oz firm sprouted tofu
1/2 lb shelled deveined shrimp
1 c green beans, snow peas, or snap peas
1/2 c grated carrots (optional)
1/4 c sliced red onion or shallots
3 Tbsp raw peanuts
coconut oil

1) Cook your spaghetti squash. My favorite method is to roast it in the oven, but if you don't have the patience, this is just as good: Wash squash and cut in half lengthwise (watch those fingers). Scoop out seeds and fibers. Place cut-side down in microwave-safe container; add about 1/3 c water. Cover with kitchen towel. Microwave on high approx 15 minutes, until completely soft. Leave it in there for at least 10min, it'll be too hot to handle. When cool enough to handle, remove from container and shred with fork into spaghetti strands. Set aside, in colander, to drain while assembling remaining ingredients.

2) To reconstitute tamarind paste: combine 1 Tbsp dried tamarind pulp with 1-2 Tbsp boiling water. Mash up; cover, and set aside for 5-10min. Mash a little more; strain through sieve. This is your tamarind paste.

3) Make sauce: Mix tamari, fish sauce, peanut butter, and tamarind paste with a whisk. Add the juice of half a lime. (If omitting tamarind paste, add a little more, or just adjust to your liking.) Mince chili pepper finely, taking proper precautions. Whisk together with sauce; otherwise, whisk in chili powder. Set aside.

4) Set up your mis-en-place. Trust me. You will need lots of small bowls. The following should each go in their own bowl:
- minced garlic and grated ginger
- lightly whisked eggs
- bean sprouts
- tofu, drained and dried, cut into approx. 1/2" cubes
- shrimp
- beans or peas, julienne (slice green beans in half, julienne snap or snow peas)
- shredded carrots
- finely-sliced onion
- peanuts

I use a steel wok that I seasoned myself, with a curved bottom; you can use any deep skillet or pan. Make sure it can take a high heat well, and that it's easy to lift one-handed. You're going to be picking it up and emptying it between each fried bowl. You don't want it to be too heavy to do that comfortably.

5) Heat wok over high heat. Add 1 tsp coconut oil to wok, swirl around. Add in contents of one bowl; don't touch it. Let it fry for 10-15 seconds, then stir with a wooden spoon or wok spatula until golden brown and cooked through. Return cooked food into the bowl it was in (exception: eggs should go into clean bowl, or into another bowl with already-cooked items). Repeat for all the ingredients above.

6) Place 1 Tbsp coconut oil into wok. Swirl around to coat. Add in drained, shredded spaghetti squash. Leave alone for 20-30 sec. Stir-fry briefly. Pour prepared Sauce over; stir-fry briefly. Add in all remaining ingredients: everything from the bowls, as well as minced coriander. Stir-fry to combine.

Serve immediately with lime wedges, more coriander sprinkled on top, and Sriracha on the side (optional).


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I just made this.

Oh yes.

My mis-en-place. (Fish sauce in a cup: looks like whisky. I'm brave.)

Gorgeous gochugaru.

Mmm... poooorridge. Actually, this was sort of delicious, like melted mochi.


I'm stupidly proud of myself. Uh, I'll post the recipe once we learn if it's edible or not.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Primal Sweet Potato Bisque (with bacon!)

This is a very forgiving, flexible recipe, so feel free to adjust as you go.

3-4 sweet potatoes (I used Japanese white-fleshed)
chicken stock to cover (home-made, yum)
1 tart apple
2 cloves garlic
(1 shallot, optional)
1/2 Tbsp favorite dry herb mix (I used Herbs de Provence)
1 tsp dried sage (or 2 tsp fresh sage)
2 strips bacon

1) Cut bacon into thin strips. Fry over medium heat until all fat has rendered out and bacon pieces are crispy. Reserve 1 Tbsp bacon pieces and approximately 1 Tbsp bacon fat in medium saucepan; place rest of bacon on paper towel to drain, and save remaining bacon fat for another purpose.

2) Mince garlic (and shallot, if using) finely. Fry over medium-low heat with bacon, stirring constantly, until just fragrant. Do not brown.

3) Add peeled + cubed sweet potatoes, and peeled, cored, cubed apple. Cover with chicken stock; if you don't have enough stock to cover, add enough water until just covered. Add herbs.

4) Bring to boil; immediately reduce heat to lowest. Leave to simmer, uncovered, 1-2 hours to allow flavors to meld. Turn off heat. Puree carefully with immersion blender; adjust seasonings to taste. Serve topped with remaining bacon.

This recipe is endlessly adjustable: you can use any starchy or non-starchy vegetable (broccoli, kale, yams, carrots, tomatoes, celery root, etc). If you want to do a "curried"-type soup, omit the dry herbs and add 1/2 can coconut milk after cooking as well as 1 Tbsp of your favorite curry or masala; you can also add a hot pepper of your choice to the sauteeing stage, and a bit of grated fresh ginger. If you want a "cream"-type soup, leave in the herbs, add 1/2 can coconut milk, and maybe double the garlic (or add roasted garlic, yum), and proceed as usual.

This recipe depends very strongly on using a good, well-balanced home-made stock, simmered low and slow with lots of veggies for flavor. I also recommend using organic veggies for most pronounced flavor.