Saturday, July 25, 2009

The American Beauty - sweet corn and red quinoa soup

Corn, quinoa, and potato all things from in calm broth, truly beautiful, truly sweet, and truly American, I think.

I was blessed with few ears of beautiful sweet corn. I know in English writing, same word should not be used too often. But what can I say? They are glorious, gorgeous, and beautiful.

I felt always guilty whenever I threw away sweet corncobs. They are still sweet but does not make good compost. So, it went to waist bin. One day, I came up with an idea. It looked like bone of corn, so why didn't I treat them as chicken or any other bone?

So, I cut off all the lovely sweet yellow corn, and drop the corncobs into the sauce pan. Add cold water, and brew it for a while with bruised garlic. Water turned into broth with sweet and lovely milky hue. Took them out and threw them away, feeling less guilty but still apologizing that I couldn't give proper burial.

Added potato and corn and quinoa, and drop of good Spanish extra virgin olive oil on top. Mixed in little bit of dried chili and ground cumin seed. Green onion for its sharp but not over powering onionness. Lime and cilantro were dearly missed.

That day, I discovered all things America. (Not United states, but the continent of America)


1/2 cup of red quinoa, 3 medium size potato, 2 ears of sweet corn, 3 green onions, 1 garlic clove, fresh cilantro (up to your liking), 4 cups of water, dried oregano 1/2 t, crushed red chili, salt and pepper up to taste, zest and juice of half lime, good extra virgin Olive oil,

1. Cut off corn from the corncob, set a side corn. Do not milk the corncob.

2. Peel and dice potato into bite size pieces. Submerge them in cold water.

2. pour 4 cups of cold water in to good size sauce pan. drop corncob alone with tough part of cilantro, bruised garlic (whole) and put it on low heat. Brew about 30 min.

3. Take out corncob, garlic, and cilantro stems. Add potato, salt, chili, pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano and cook till potato is almost cooked.

4. Add lime zest, quinoa and sweet corn. cook till quinoa is fully cooked.

5. Take off from heat. Add lime juice, half of chopped cilantro and all of green onion. Put the lid back and let it sit for 5 min.

6. Serve with lime wage, olive oil and remaining chopped fresh cilantro.

This soup is good either cold, warm, or room temperature.

Adding chopped tomato is also a good option.

And of course, you can just grill sweet corn.

If you have good sweet corn in its beautiful husk, here is a suggestion.

Remove thread, and sock the corn in cold water for thirty miniut. tare off little bit of the corn husk and tie the end with it. Grill it as it is on the grill about 30-35 min, turning them once around 15 min point or so.

grilling corn in its husk enhances the corn taste, and of course, the corns are beautiful to look at.

Aren't they? :)

Garlic chive and cucumber, Hot and cool, rescue for the summer night

We have not been blessed with such delight, but it is often too hot to do anything in summer. So, here is one quick dish doesn't require any heating.

Few days ago, I got garlic chives and cool cucumber. Cucumber is so fresh, it is almost sweet. Chive is pungent, it has too precious to be heated. So, here it is.

This is quick form of kimchi called "Gutjulee". The word Gutjulee means salting before other seasonings as a part of preparation. It also means kimchi intended to be eaten fresh, like very spicy salad.

Garlic chive gutjulee is often served with meat dish such as Korean BBQ. Meat dish in Korea is rarely eaten by itself. It always have greens served with, often spicy, to cut the heavy taste of meat.

But I found this serves very well with many other things including tofu. Tofu has subtle taste so goes with anything that it gets. Heat up tofu in microwave for a min and eat it with Kimchi or Gutjuless to go with. Very fast, very good, not to mention, guilt free.


serves 4 as main dish

Two package of firm tofu,

one cup of garlic chive, chopped in two inch length

one cucumber, skinned and cut into strips

1T toasted sesame seed

1 1/2 T soy sauce

1t or up to taste, Korean chili pepper flak**

1/2 t sugar (optional)

1. Mix soy sauce, chili pepper flake, sesame seed and sugar. Let it sit for at least five minutes.

2. Mix cucumber and garlic chive. Let it sit in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. It would first look have too little moisture but cucumber will soon let its water out, making dish just enough.

3. Slice tofu block in half length wise and cut each halve into five to six pieces. Heat it for one minutes.

4. Serve together.

** if not available, use chipotle or cayenne pepper. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) also works well. use about 1/4 t or add up to your liking. If you have none of these, add arugula. The point here is sharp spicy flavor.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stereotyping ourselves? on garlic and chili peppers

candied lotus root and carrot, Korean tea food

It was pleasure to see someone with Korean Background competing for the spot in major TV: Debbie in the next food network star season 5. However, I can not help cringing whenever she says "because I am Korean" in the same sentence with chili peppers and garlic.

lotus root stewed in soy sauce

That is not always true. chili peppers and garlic do not represent entire Korean cuisine as they do not for the Mexican culinary culture. Yes, it has big influence and seemingly ubiquitous but it is just part of Story. Korean style BBQ and Kimchi was most popular. But that is not the whole story.

Korean food can be and it IS quite subtle. For the many spring greens, the seasoning kept minimum, in order to the taste of spring greens to shine. It is true for the root vegetables, too. There are countless food that does not involve either garlic or chili peppers or even heavy seasonings. Best example is found in various Buddhist temples in Korea.

chilled noodle in soybean broth

I wish, only wish, it is known to outside of Korea as much as BBQs and kimchi.
And my fellow Koreans, let's think about stereotype that we hold about ourselves. This is not the first time I encountered stereotyping of ourselves. Self-image is important. It is part of identity. However, the self-image should grow with the discovery of new side of 'self', both as a person or as an ethnic group. Let's don't judge ourselves too quick. It does not leave room for the new realization of culture that we built and adored for several thousands years.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A culinary case of mystery greens – greens with tofu & shiitake mushroom en papillote

Often we encounter mysterious looking greens unexpectedly. It is sweet but challenging surprise. Last summer, I encountered one of mystery greens that I haven't figure out what it is till now.

My dear friend got this green on her hand but had no time to cook.

So, she generously offered it to me. I accepted the greens along with lots of other goodies but exactly don’t know what to do with it. I bited into it. It has certainly taste of leafy green and quite tender: a good mixture of little bit of bitterness and hint of indescribable tastes.
It was too tough and grassy to eat as salad. So, it should be cooked.
Instinctively I went back to what I know best; sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger. I haven found any green that didn’t work in this mixture.
Next, I needed to decide what is best cooking method: steamed, blenched, or sautéed.
Since the leaf was tender, I didn’t want to cook it too much. Also it was too hot to boil water or tend sauté pan. I needed something that let me stay out of kitchen while it cooked. So, I steamed it in the parchment paper pouch: en papillote.

Ingredient (for two people): half package of tofu, one cup of sweet potato greens or others cut into two inch length, 3-4 dried shiitake mushroom, 1 green onion cut into two inch length, sesame oil 1/2 tea spoon, soy sauce 1 Table spoon, white wine 1/2 Table spoon, grated fresh ginger 1/2 Table spoon, pinch of freshly cracked pepper, parchment paper 2 feet in length

1. Preheat oven for 380 F.
2. Wash lightly dried shiitake mushroom and soak them in cold water for 30 min or till the stem part become tender. Cut off the stems and squeeze gently out the excess water.
3. Cut tofu into 6 pieces.
4. Fold parchment paper into 3.

5. Arrange hard part of greens (stems) and white part of green onion in the center. On top of it, arrange tofu and shiitake mushroom. Cover it with remaining greens and green part of green onion.
6. Fold the edge of parchment paper tightly in length first and fold one of wide end, forming an envelop (or pouch) with one-end opened.
7. Add mixture of ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and white wine through one open end and crest it tightly. 8. Place it on top of cookie pan and bake it for at 380F for about 20 min.

9. Wear oven mitts and open it with kitchen scissors right before serving (watch out for hot steam!!!)

10. Serve it with steamed rice.

So far I found this methods works for most of tender greens including spinach, yu choi (edible rape), dandelion greens, and sweet potato greens. Adding bean sprouts and sugar snap peas is also good variation. En papillote is also good method to impress your guest with minimum effort. Not to mention, it makes excellent vegan main dish.