Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! Normally I would be dressing up in some elaborate costume that I had been conspiring over for months, but not this time. I would also be attending some party and having a swell time eating and drinking with others who have dressed up, but Halloween isn't really a big thing in Korea. Okay, it's not a thing at all. So, I know it's a Friday but I had decided to stay indoors tonight. After last weekend it is probably a good thing that I'm taking a little rest.

Tonight I just prepared a nice little meal and watched a film. Sometimes it doesn't get any better than that, and tonight's menu was pretty nice. I marinated a bunch of pork last week and threw it in the freezer in little single serving baggies. So tonight I cooked a serving up. This marinade was on sale and tasted pretty good. Not very spicy at all though, but that's what you have gochuchang for!

I was lucky because I had some good little side dishes to serve with my rice and pork. Ideally it would have been customary to serve lettuce leaves so I could wrap the pork up with some garlic and rice, but I didn't make the time time to pick any up after work. Getting around to do simple things like run to the store is a chore here without a car readily available. Anyhoo, back to the side dishes.

I was lucky to have a variety. I had some cabbage kimchi but that is reserved for soup in my house. I eat it plain sometimes, but not too often. Tonight I had my green olives stuffed with garlic (love those!) which I picked up from the commissary, and then the other stuff was local fair. The little tiny fish are excellent. These are the really small ones, but they are cured and slightly sweet and taste a bit like fish jerky. The pickled garlic is not strong at all and has a nice tangy crunch, as well as the yellow radish. Finally the onion. Who could forget that. Sliced up in chunks and just served raw. I have always been a huge onion fan!

My movie was "The Manchurian Candidate" and I ate and had some Sprite and watch my flick. Like I said, sometimes it just doesn't get any better than this. Well...a nice bottle of Cass beer would have topped it off quite nicely but you know the old saying. You can't always get what you want. Well, I was damned close. Talk to you all soon with my next food adventure!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Incredible Edible Egg (even the teeniest ones)

I was turned on to eating these when I was here in Korea in 1997. They are a popular snack food and I was thrilled to see them commonly available as any white chicken egg. In fact a flat of 40 eggs was really only about three or so dollars. That's cheap! I've seen these babies in gourmet shops in the states for a lot more money and you get maybe a dozen. Maybe.

I am an egg fan. I love them. I've photographed them, I've made giant sculptures of them, I've eat hundreds maybe even thousands of them. Hell, I even dressed up as a fried egg for Halloween! So when I ate tiny little quail eggs for the first time I immediately took a liking. They are so cute and so delicious!

I began to ponder while I was boiling up my pot of mini eggs. Where are the farms for these little egg sweat shops? I know they are around, but it's just an odd thing to imagine hundreds of these little itty bitty birds cranking out itty bitty eggs on a daily basis. Do you suppose they televise these farms on TV for Korean children?

You know like the ever popular little "how do they do it?" and "where does it come from?" snippets they showed American young 'uns on Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo. Little snippets like...this is how peanut butter is made....this is where your milk comes from....this is where they make chocolate bars.

Only here in Korea they can do little snippets on...this is where those little tiny eggs come from... this is where they raise the dogs for that tasty dog meat that thousands of Koreans are so fond of... see where they harvest the thousands of silkworm larvae for that street vendor favorite, bundagee. This is how we make kimchi!

I think Korean television for children would be very interesting to venture into! With my love of food, my love for the bizarre and off the wall, and my love for photography and the cinematic I think I could pull of a very entertaining and educational program.

My first snippet that I would produce would be on "this is where they make the squat toilets!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kimchi Chigae a la Diane

I am learning to like traditional Korean cabbage kimchi. It's very strong, but the more I eat it and the variety of ways to eat it I find I'm getting rather fond of it. I've always loved kimchi fried rice (will have to make that soon) and I really like kimchi soup (kimchi chigae) and it's really easy to make.

When we went out to the field my KSCs (Korean civilians who work for the US Army) would cook for all of us and one day they made soup. I just watched what they did and realized it's just cut up cabbage kimchi and water and sausage/SPAM, really whatever you want. I put a few extra in to make it my own.

Diane's Kimchi Chigae (김치찌개)
(serves about two or one giant Diane serving)

About 1/4 cup cabbage kimchi, cut up (seems to me the older the better!)
About 3 cups water
1 tablespoon Korean style beef seasoning powder (it's not as salty as buillion but you can use that if you have to)
1 tablespoon gochuchang (Korean red pepper sauce)
A couple of thick slices of SPAM (my meat of choice, you can use hotdogs too but it really should be super processed to have that real Korean flavor!)
I threw in leftover mushrooms that I had the fridge, a few little boiled quail eggs, and a handful of the rice cake that I love so much.

Throw all of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil and then simmer. Serve piping hot with or without Korean style white rice. You could change up the recipe every time you make it. Yum yum! Nothing tastes better on a cool or cold day!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I <3 Jap Jae

Jap Jae is one of my favorite Korean dishes. Well, okay one of many favorite dishes!

I have always wanted to know how to make it and well I just figured it out today. Due to my culinary skills and keen palette I was able to recreate this lovely noodle dish. My friend, Ms. Oh also helped me a while ago by telling me what the ingredients were.

It's fairly simple, but the key is to find the correct noodles which one can find in Korean grocery stores or most larger Asian supermarkets. If you go into a Korean store just ask for the noodles to make jap jae and they will know what you're talking about. Plus a lot of the packages have a picture of a sweet potato on the package or a picture of the finished dish. So it's fairly easy if you don't read Hangul (Korean language).

They are made from sweet potato flour and cook up clear. I love eating them because they are springy and a bit...well...rubbery, but a good rubbery!

Korean Jap Jae

1 Large package (400) Korean Starch Noodle (Korean vermicelli, sweet potato starch)
Large amount of fresh spinach (I bought one bag but would like two bags next time)
1 large carrot (julienned)
1 medium white onion (julienned)
1 Bundle green onions (use as many or as little as you'd like. I used 6)
2 Cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Fresh mushrooms (any kind you like)
Dry shitake mushrooms, rehydrated and wring out water
1 lb. beef, (julienned into about 1 inch strips, cut it while it's slightly frozen)
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the noodles and another pot of water to wilt the spinache. Do all of your prep work first while you are boiling the water for the noodles. Cut up the carrots, white onion, green onion, and garlic. Marinade the beef with the garlic, 1 Tbl of soy sauce, sprinkle about 1/2 Tbl sugar and mix well then set aside.

Boil the noodles. This will take about 5 minutes or so. They will turn clear and feel like soft little rubber bands. Not very appetizing huh? Try one you will find that they are quite good! You'll know when it's done when you can chew it with ease. Drain the noodles and place in a very large bowl. Drizzle sesame oil and a little soy sauce on top and toss to coat. Set this aside to cool. Cut up the noodles with scissors. Korean use scissors all of the time while cooking. They are handy little buggers. Cut into manageable lengths. It's not rocket science, just so you don't have extremely long noodles but not super small.

Wilt the spinach in the boiling water for a minute and drain and rinse in cold water. Squeeze out as much water as you can and put this in the bowl with the noodles.

Heat a bit of olive oil and saute the carrots just a bit and then add the onion. You don't want to overcook this. Throw this onto the top of the spinache and noodles in the bowl. In the same pan heat a bit more oil and cook the beef and garlic, add the mushrooms and cook until they are just cooked. Throw this on the top of the noodles too.

Drizzle more sesame oil and soy sauce on top the the veggie, meat, mushroom, spinace and noodle pile and sprinkle a little more sugar on top. Not too much. About 2 tsp or less. With clean hands, and BE CAREFUL, toss until all coated.

I like my jap jae a bit on the dry side but you could add a bit of beef broth if you wanted to make it a bit more moist. Season to taste with black pepper and a teeny bit of salt. Remember, the soy sauce is practically all salt! You can eat it right a way or store it over night and like most noodle dishes get better as they sit. This makes a large quantity so it's good for sharing or eat it all yourself!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Iron Chef

The secret ingredient is....

...what ever is left in my refrigerator!

I am getting ready to leave for a year and I've discovered that I've got a bunch of food in my fridge. I tried not to buy to much since I've been home from Virginia, but lo and behold there is still stuff.

This morning after a vigorous workout at the gym I decided to whip up this pseudo frittata using the ingredients in my fridge (leftover grilled shrimp, fresh herbs, and cheese). It was delicious!

Iron Chef Diane's Pseudo Frittata

Four Eggs (two yolks, four whites - this is what I like if I'm going to eat that many eggs at one sitting)
Chopped up grilled shrimp (about 10 or so)
Two slices Muenster cheese, torn up
Chopped chives
(I put a tad chopped tarragon and realized that it's not the best with eggs, so omit it)
A few heavy dashes of dried onion flake (I like these for some reason)

In a large nonstick skillet spray with cooking spray and put over medium heat. Beat up eggs with the chopped herbs and onion flakes. Put chopped grilled shrimp into pan and heat up a bit, making sure to spread them over the pan evenly. Pour over egg mixture. Sprinkle torn up cheese on top and heat until eggs are cooked on the edges and the top is slightly jiggly. Flip. I used a big nonstick spatula and flipped but you can do the Iron Chef wrist flip in the pan thing if you can. Cook for one more minute.

Invert a plate on top, and flip the whole pan so your pseudo frittata is right side up. You could also put this under the broiler for a minute.

Really, you could add any ingredients that your little heart should desire. Enjoy!

This is a huge portion and you could share it with someone or eat it up all by yourself. That's what I did, but had to leave a little behind.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

America's Oldest Brewery

I discovered a new beer while I was out in Virginia. Well, new to me any way. It claims to be America's Oldest Brewery. I'd never heard of it. When I had first heard the name of it I asked if it were Chinese, but it's actually brewed in Pennsylvania. It's good, and this Black and Tan is really good. I don't know if you can get this out here in Colorado but I am going to keep my eyes peeled for it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Balsamic Marinated Cipollinis

Balsamic vinegar marinated cipollinis (small onions) are one of my favorite things. I love these and need to learn how to make them. They aren't too expensive ($8.99 lb) but for how often and how much I eat these it would be more economical for me to make them myself.

I have always had a love for onions. Anyone who really knows me knows this fact, and I remember eating raw scallions from our garden when I was a little kid. Most kids don't like strong stuff, but I did. I still can't get enough of these aromatic and flavorful allium cepa (that's Latin, baby for onion). When I tried these little gems, I was hooked.

They are sweet yet tangy and they have a wonderful crunch to them. Very refreshing and very savory. You can't just eat one. I've warned many friends who reach out with their fork for one of these. "Watch out, those are addictive." and they look at me with a doubtful eye. The next thing I realize is that they've gone and eaten the rest of the contents of the bowl. I told them!

My love for these delectable beauties has not been a long lived love. I first discovered these while shopping for groceries on a trip to Kaui, Hawaii. I was vacationing with my sister, Dori and her friend, Kathy. We had a luxurious condo with a large kitchen, and all of the comforts of home so we decided to cook when we didn't eat out. Of course you need munchies and snacks while we did the cooking. We bought a ton of olives and crackers and cheese, and Kathy is the one that said she wanted the marinated cipollinis. Oooooh, they were heaven.

So, one of my many quests in life will be to formulate a recipe for the perfect Balsamic vinegar marinated cipollinis so I may stuff myself to contentment. Now, I just have to figure out who's going to clean and peel all of those little tiny onions!

Go out and get some of these now!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I consider myself an instant noodle soup connoisseur, and when I was at Par Avion today I picked up this udon soup made by Annie Chun's. It looked pretty good, and I was pleased that it had the fresh style noodles and all you added was boiling water to the flavor base and dry veggie "brick". I was even happy that it came with a good sturdy bowl that was made from biodegradable materials. Once the cooking commenced, my hopes had diminished.

I'm not sure if Annie Chung is a real person, but obviously she does not know what flavor is. Let alone Asian flavor so the package boasts. The soup was easy to make, but after the 2 minutes were up with the steeping I found that the soup had gone cold. A biodegradable bowl does not offer much insulation as it seems. I nuked it a few minutes to put the heat back into it and started eating with a side of roasted kim (Korean seaweed). The broth was bland, the veggies were tasteless and chewy. The noodles stayed a nice consistency, but woman can not survive on noodles alone with no flavor. I nearly threw in more soy just to kick it up a bit, but did not. I thought maybe the subtle flavors would soon reveal themselves. Nope. In fact I still have a strange aftertaste lingering.

So, I downed the soup, slurped the noodles, and even threw in all of my kim, but I am still wanting something. A quick lunch is one thing, but feeling like you need more satiation is another. I would give this instant soup a 2 on a scale of 1-10. It was $3.99 and well, didn't really taste anymore than the package it came in.

Gourmet On The Go

I'm heading off to Virginia for two months tomorrow. The drive will be long, but not too bad. Last time I drove to Alabama I ate a lot of crap. Junk from gas stations and whatnot. So, when I would fill up on petro I would also fill up on "bad-for-you" stuff like pizza, fast food burgers, Lunchables, and the like. Not very nutritious and it really left me feeling a bit logy. Not a good feeling while you're driving!

So, this time I'm packing my own sandwiches and homemade "Lunchables". I made two scrumptious looking sandwiches that I can't wait to tear into. One is with rosemary ham and the other pastrami, both with super creamy Havarti cheese, yellow mustard, and white onion. Lots of onions. I made them ahead of time because I am a quirky sort of person and kind of like the sandwiches a day old. I grilled the buns so they shouldn't be too soggy, and there is no green stuff to wilt and get...well, something that I would be sure to pick off later!

I also put together a spicy salami and cheese "Lunchable" with some crusty bread. I can munch on that when I get a bit sleepy. Eating always seems to perk me up a bit. Must be the chewing motion, and since I don't smoke anymore I need to be kept alert for as long as I can! I've also got a ton of gummis. Love those, and they are great road trip candy.

Now, all I need is some fresh Fuji apples, a juice, and I'm good! Oh, and I need to download a new book onto my iPod.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Soup (Yet Again) On This Cold Evening

I went to dinner over at Albert and Joe's house last week and Joe made a succulent chicken called Chicken In Milk by Jamie Oliver. We were all curious how this would turn out as the name of the recipe sounded a bit unconventional when it comes to chicken roasting. It was divine! We cleaned the chicken up with no problems!

I asked them if I could have the carcass as I always ask for a carcass or bone for soup or whatever. They gave it to me of course! I threw it into my freezer for a later day. Well, today I was out and about shopping for clothes in an outside mall and it started raining. Down pour! Then in switched to freezing rain. So needless to say I was a bit chilled when I got home, and when I was figuring out what to have for dinner...soup came to mind.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
(serves 1-2)

1 chicken carcass (any leftover will do, those store-bought rotisserie chickens are perfect, just be sure not to pick it clean)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 t fresh thyme, remove stems
1 cup pasta (preferably small, soup friendly size)

Throw the carcass in a large and heavy pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling lower heat to medium and simmer for...oh...half an hour. Pull out carcass and put on a shallow bowl or plate. Let cool till you can handle it comfortably with your hands. Keep the chicken stock simmering. Once carcass is cool pick off as much meat as you can. I pull off everything, neck included. Be careful to not get any little bones in with the meat. Remove stock from heat and strain and return to pan. Bring to a boil and add onions, garlic, chicken meat, and pasta. Cook until pasta is tender and enjoy.

The stock will become richer as you simmer it longer. As Alton Brown likes to coin good stock as having an unctuous mouth feel to it.

This soup was wonderful as it had the subtle flavorings from the original dish. I tasted slight cinnamon, cloves, garlic, and sage. It was very nice, but it will be just as good with any leftover chicken. So, next time you cook a chicken or tear into a store-bought rotisserie chicken, don't throw the bones away. Make soup! It's really very easy and tastes so much better than getting your can opener out. I know, too much work. Not really and the reward is well worth the minor effort.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

For The Birds

Tonight I had a grilled ostrich burger. I prepared it medium rare and it was delicious! Better than beef and it was so juicy. It's a bit expensive but I thought well worth it. I have had ostrich before but never as a burger. I must say that I'm not passionate about burgers in general, but I could be so for these!

I dressed my burger with some baby field greens, onion, mustard and ketchup (mixed of course). I made a bowl of crab (imitation of course, which I like) and pasta salad and had a very cold Bass ale to wash down my feast.

Along with all that and watching a very moving and inspirational "We Are Marshall" I would say that it was an evening well spent.

Now what's for dessert...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Good Food, Good Fire

I had a small dinner party tonight and it was really fun and very casual. I had my dear friends, Joe and Albert over, and my neighbor, Clint joined us. The food turned out really well, and there was plenty to go around with some leftovers.

After the meal I had to roast my Hello Kitty marshmallow sucker that Carmen, Chris and the boys gave me for Christmas. It was hard as a rock, but surprisingly it roasted and grew puffy. It was pretty good. The royal icing front was fireproof and didn't even melt. I peel it off. It was like eating plaster. Clint made the fire and he did a good job. That baby put out a lot of heat, and we sat around it and chatted.

This was all that was left of the feast. We dug in so furiously that I didn't even get a decent picture of fantastic it really was. This stew was so good and hearty, and very flavorful. It's very easy to make, but you have to have some time to kill. I took an hour long walk while the stew was stewing away. It was well worth all of the cooking time.

Corsican Beef Stew

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
6 garlic cloves
2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
4 ounces lardons, or thick bacon cut into strips
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1-1/4 cups dry white wine
2 Tbsp passata (or use tomato paste, I boosted this amount to about 3 Tbsp)
pinch of ground cinnamon
sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf ( I threw in 2 small ones)
2 cups large macaroni
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper

Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain, set the mushrooms aside and reserve the liquid. Cut three of the garlic cloves into thin strips and insert into the pieces of beef by making little slits with a sharp knife. Push the lardons or pieces of bacon into the beef with the garlic. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, add half the beef and brown well on all sides. Repeat with the remaining beef. Transfer to a plate. Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Crush the remaining garlic and add to the onions with the meat.

Stir in the white wine, mushrooms, cinnamon rosemary and bay leaf and with salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Strain the mushroom liquid and add to the stew with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer very gently for 3 hours, until the meat is very tender. I cooked my for 4 hours. It doesn't do anything to the integrity of the dish. I think it made all the more better.

Cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling, salted water for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Lift the pieces of meat out of the gravy and transfer to a warmed serving platter. Reduce the gravy to a nice consistency. Drain the pasta and layer in a bowl with the gravy and cheese. Serve with the meat.

I served this with roasted asparagus and we had the tiramisu afterwards. Oh, a little antipasti was the appetizer. We only drank one bottle of wine. Hmmm...probably for the better!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Warm & Satisfying Soup

I love making soup, and I make soup out of virtually anything. Today was a bit chilly and I was doing some house cleaning so I wanted something warm and easy. I took some leftovers from my fridge and some staples from my pantry. It was awesome!

Easy Turkey Sausage Soup

1 cup jarred spaghetti sauce (whatever you have on hand, I had basil and garlic)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon dried porcini mushrooms
1 spicy turkey sausage link, pulled out of casing
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (or more if you like)
1 cup elbow macaroni
dried herbs (use what you like, I used rosemary, basil, oregano, and my favorite fennel)
fresh ground pepper
large pinch kosher salt
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Put about a quart of water in a pan and add dried mushrooms. Bring to boil and add sausage and let simmer. Break into smaller chunks if needed. Add garlic, onion, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and herbs. Bring back to a boil and add macaroni. Cook until pasta is tender and the soup has reduced a bit. Drizzle on some olive oil and serve hot.

Serves 2 or 1 large, large portion.

It's so simple to make, and it's basically having pasta, sauce and meat, but you've added water and enriched with a little more tomato paste. You could add a bit of leftover red wine as I think the slight fruitiness would be tasty.

It's filling and very satisfying on a cool day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Just For Old Times Sake

While I was away at school my physical activity went way, way, way up. I had to keep my food intake up just to keep from feeling weary. So, every morning I would have this lovely meal. Breakfast was the best meal of the day. Army dining facilities aren't the best thing around, and even though lunch and dinner can be lacking breakfast is still something that they can't really mess up.

Today after I went running at the gym I decided to make this but only in a healthier version. I used Egg Beaters instead of whole eggs, chicken sausage instead of ham, low-fat cheese, and turkey bacon. Then I threw raw onions all over the grits and went to town.

I LOVE grits. They really grew on me. It was about 15 years ago when I first tried them. Me being a Northern girl had no idea what grits even were other than Flo on the TV show "Alice" used to say "Mel, kiss my grits!"

When I first had them I wasn't impressed, but it was like sushi and it grew on me. I crave them sometimes. Love them with salt, pepper, bacon and butter! Yummmm, butter makes everything taste good. Bless Paula Deen.