Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi from Asian Pickles Korea

Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Kimchi is often synonymous with cabbage, but really it’s any kind of salted and preserved vegetable (or fruit, or seafood) on the Korean table. The humble cucumber, the iconic vegetable of pickling in many minds, does a new trick in this pickle. Stuff it, cucumbers!

Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi Recipe (Oi-sobagi Kimchi)

(from Asian Pickles Korea)

Time: about 1½ hours

  • 3 pounds English hothouse cucumbers or thin-skinned salad cucumbers on the slim side (not pickling cucumbers)
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and trimmed
  • 2 green onions, roots and tough tops trimmed and outer leaves removed
  • 9 cloves garlic
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup Korean chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ ounce dried shrimp, optional

Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard the ends. Cut the cucumbers into fourteen 2-inch sections. Stand each piece upright on a work surface and cut an X shape halfway (1 inch) down into each piece, leaving the bottom inch intact. Stand the cukes up in a shallow dish and sprinkle the salt on their bottoms and tops and down into the X cut. Let them sit upright for 1 hour to leach out some of their juice.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Dice the carrot and the green onion. You can do this by hand, or by cutting them into chunks and pulsing about 20 times in a food processor. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, ginger, chile flakes, fish sauce, sugar, and dried shrimp. Puree into a paste, pausing to scrape down solids from the sides. This should take about a minute or so. Once smooth, fold the paste into the carrots and the onion.

Drain any liquid that has pooled in the bottom of the cucumber dish, and lightly pat the cucumbers dry with a paper towel or kitchen cloth. Stuff about 2 to 3 teaspoons of the filling into each cucumber, working to get as much into the center as possible, and mounding a dollop on top.

These pickles are ready to eat immediately, or they can be served at room temperature for about 12 hours. Unused portions should be refrigerated and eaten within 3 days.

Thousand Slices Turnips Tsukemono from Asian Pickles Japan

ThousandSlicesTurnip“Thousand Slices” Turnips (Senmai-zuke) 

(from Asian Pickles Japan)

Tokyo turnips? Small. Kyoto turnips? Gargantuan. This pickle is the pride of Kyoto, as it’s customarily made from the massive orbs found in the region. That said, you needn’t pack your passport to make this. Any sort of turnip will work here; just go with the largest ones that you can find. If the skin is tough or bitter, just peel it off. Note that a mandoline or some serious knife skills are necessary for this recipe.

Time: About 4 hours

  • ¼ oz. of dried konbu
  • 12-14 oz. turnips, about 1 very large one (or several smaller ones), peeled if the skin is bitter or tough
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 T mirin
  • 1 T lemon juice

Let the konbu soak in water, covered by 2 inches, for 1 hour.

Using a mandoline, slice the turnip very, very thinly – to ⅛ of an inch (or 3mm). Toss the turnip with half of the salt, flatten it down, and then sprinkle the remaining salt evenly over the top. Cover with a drop lid and a 14 oz. weight. Let the turnip sit for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, vinegar, mirin, and lemon juice. Once the konbu is tender enough to handle (don’t worry, it will tenderize more later) drain it and pat it dry. Chop into 2” long slivers, and add it to the brine. Let this sit while waiting for the turnip to macerate.

Once the turnip is sweating liquid, remove the weight and lid and squeeze it very firmly, discarding the liquid, until nothing more drips from it when squeezed. Add the turnip to the brine and seaweed and stir well to combine. Cover with a drop lid again, and weight with a 1 lb. ballast. Let this sit for 2 hours.

Your Senmai-zuke is now ready to eat. Kept covered, this pickle will last in the refrigerator for at least a month.

Makes about 12 oz.

How to Make Homemade Vinegar

Pucker up, puckerpuss! We’re about to get sour. 

I wrote this really in-depth piece on making homemade vinegar for The Blender, the blog of Williams Sonoma, and I just wanted to share.

It starts off like this:

…Starting with good red or white wine is a step in the right direction. My guess is that you already know where to buy quality wine, champagne, sherry, or cider – the best flavored vinegars always start with well-flavored, highly drinkable alcohols that lean a little sweet.

To it, one must add our personal, bacterial friend Mycoderma aceti, better known as a “mother”—the spongy spore that turns all things alcoholic into vinegar. Beyond that, all else that’s needed is a storage vessel, maybe a little water, and weeks or months of patience…

Why not read the whole thing?

 

Korean Spinach with Sesame Banchan Recipe from Asian Pickles Korea

Spinach with Sesame (Sigeumchi Namul)

Spinach-with-Sesame

(from Asian Pickles Korea)

Is there someone in your house who won’t touch their greens? This pickle-ish, pungent side dish is a way to make them irresistible. The recipe is pretty straightforward, but I must implore you: don’t use the bags of prewashed baby spinach meant for salads. I mean, you can, but you will likely not be as happy with the results; the dish will end up too watery and bland, as it’s very difficult to squeeze those tiny baby leaves dry. Seek out dirty ol’ bunches of grown-up spinach with the roots attached for the best results. Makes 3 cups

TIME: 30 MINUTES

  • 1 pound 6 ounces fresh bunched spinach
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Korean chile flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, wash the spinach by soaking it thoroughly in a basin or sink full of water, swirling it with vigor and making sure to leave the root ends attached. Wash thoroughly as needed to ensure that the spinach gets really clean (spinach with the roots attached often hides dirt in the darndest places). Allow the washed spinach to drain in a colander.

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the sesame seeds until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the seeds immediately into a medium-sized mixing bowl to cool. Add the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, chile flakes, sugar, and vin­egar, and stir to combine.

Once the water is boiling, add the spinach all at once, using a utensil to submerge it in the water and to stir it for even cooking. Cook for 1 minute, just enough so the spinach wilts but retains its bright green color.

Drain the spinach through a colander and immediately rinse with cold water, stirring it with your hands, to cool the spinach and stop its cooking. Working in 4 batches, gather the spinach into bundles. Holding each bundle by its root ends, squeeze the greens to remove the water, starting from the stems and work­ing your way down to the leaves. Squeeze repeatedly and very firmly, until not a drop more liquid can be released. (Really—get in there and SQUEEZE!) Roll up the spinach tightly inside a clean kitchen towel (or two) and squeeze again to truly extract as much moisture from it as possible.

Lay the spinach flat on a cutting board and cut off and discard the root ends. Chop the spinach into 4 equal lengths. Add it to the marinade and toss well to coat. The spinach is now ready to eat.

“Wasabi” Pickled Carrots Recipe – from Asian Pickles Japan

Wasabi Carrots

Why am I using “quotes?” Because while this is bursting with wasabi flavor, there is no actual wasabi in it. Real wasabi is hard to come by. And the stuff you and I have access to in the grocery store—the green-tinged powder, or that gunk in the tube—is just dreadful; it’s full of artificial color, preservatives, and mysterious chemicals, and the flavor shows it. Instead, I hereby direct you to buy yourself a fresh bottle of prepared horseradish, close your eyes, and tell yourself it’s wasabi for this recipe and for any sushi you make at home. If you must, add a little green food coloring or spirulina powder for color. Leftover horseradish can be smeared on your roast beef sandwich, or saved for the gefilte fish on Passover. Makes about 2¼ cups

Time: about 1 hour

  • 1 pound carrots, preferable a mix of colors, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons very finely minced or grated fresh ginger (use a Microplane grater if you have one)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into ribbons, getting as much out of each carrot as you can; discard (or eat) the nubs. Combine the carrots with the horseradish, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, and ginger and toss very well, using a fork (or two, if necessary) to really work the seasoning into the carrot ribbons. Cover with a drop lid and 1 pound of weight and let sit for 30 minutes, retaining any liquid that falls to the bottom of the bowl. After a quick toss, the pickle is ready to eat; covered and refrigerated, it keeps at least 6 weeks.