Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Jar of Kimchi
With its signature fish or anchovy sauce, the traditional fermented Korean side dish kimchi (also spelled kimchee or gimchi) was an elusive concept to me, as a vegetarian, until a little over a year ago when I spotted a vegan version at Trader Joe’s. Packed in a handy re-sealable pouch and only $1.99, it was convenient and a bargain! I began eating it with everything—eggs, salads, sandwiches, in this, and this; you name it—everything was better with kimchi!

And then one day, horror of horrors, they no longer carried it, and I couldn’t get my fix. I asked the cheerful Trader Joe’s clerk, “Why oh why did you do this to me?” She told me they were getting complaints because pouches were bursting as the product fermented. Until they found packaging that could contain it, no more Trader Joe’s kimchi. The versions I’d find at other stores all contained the dreaded fish sauce. So sadly, I went without my spicy, funky Korean essential for many months.

I continued to search kimchi labels for the rare vegan version and lo and behold, I finally found it! A brand carried both at my co-op and a local grocery store. Happy once again, I resumed my kimchi love affair. The downside, though, was this wasn’t $1.99 like the TJ’s brand; it ranged between $9 and $11 depending on the store, making it a pricy habit.

It had never occurred to me to make my own until I saw The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi one day on Food 52. Who knew there were so many ways to make kimchi!?! I ordered it immediately and found a recipe that was similar to what I had been buying, but it included fish sauce. The book suggests a vegetarian modification of either mushroom broth (which they provide a recipe for) or adding some apple and salt to the paste, neither of which seemed to me like good substitutions. I ended up using capers and a little caper brine, an idea taken from a vegan Caesar salad dressing I love.

There’s nothing too complicated about making kimchi, but it is time-consuming. Lots of chopping (which I don’t mind), brining, packing, plus the fermenting time, results in at least a week before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, but believe me, it’s worth it! I was a bit concerned that the tops would blow off my canning jars—if the fermentation can burst pouches, I wasn’t sure. But no need to worry—just leave a good inch of space at the top of your container. Having never made anything fermented before, I was absolutely giddy to see the stuff bubbling and realizing the process was actually working! The finished product tasted even better than store-bought. Enjoy!
IngredientsSeasoning PasteMixed

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Adapted from The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi by Lauryn Chun

Note: Korean chile flakes (gochugaru) are not the same as crushed red pepper flakes. They are slightly sweet and smoky and have less heat that crushed red pepper or cayenne. If you can’t find them near you, they are easily available through Amazon.

2 medium heads (about 4-6 pounds total) napa cabbage

2 cups julienned daikon radish

2 cups julienned carrot

1/3 cup kosher salt

Seasoning Paste:
½ cup thinly sliced yellow onion

4 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon caper brine

2 teaspoons sugar

½ cup Korean chile pepper flakes (gochugaru)

4 green onions, green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces

¼ cup water

Half each head cabbage vertically, then cut each half in half to make quarters. Cut the core from each quarter, then cut each into 2-inch squares that are as uniform as possible.

In large bowl, combine the cabbage, daikon, carrot and salt and set aside for about an hour, stirring every once in a while. Drain the liquid and rinse the vegetables to remove any traces of salt. Let the veggies drain in a colander for 20 minutes or use a salad spinner to remove most of the water.

Meanwhile, make the seasoning paste. In the smaller bowl of a food processor (if you have more than one bowl size), pulse together the onion, garlic, ginger, capers, caper brine, and sugar until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the Korean chile pepper flakes. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors combine.

In a large bowl, mix together the green onions, seasoning paste and drained vegetables until thoroughly combined, making sure the seasoning paste is distributed evenly among the vegetables (I used my hands for the final mixing).

Pack mixture tightly into a two-quart container or 2 one-quart jars, pressing down as you pack it to ensure there are no pockets of air, leaving at least an inch at the top to allow for expansion.

Add the ¼ cup water to the mixing bowl and swirl the water around to collect the remaining seasoning paste. Add the water to the container(s), cover tightly, and set aside for 3 days at room temperature. The cabbage will expand and bubble as it ferments. After 3 days, refrigerate and consume within 6 months. The flavor will evolve and change over time with a steady, cold temperature. Keeping the kimchi tightly packed in the jar will ensure an even, slow fermentation. Makes about 2 quarts.

Empty jar

Carrot Top Pesto

Big bowl o' pasat
On Sunday while stocking up on produce for my first foray into kimchee making (more on that in a future blog post), I saw the freshest looking bunch of carrots, complete with lovely green tops still intact. I’m always drawn to carrots displayed that way rather than the trimmed and packaged ones, even though each time I end up cutting off those pretty tops and throwing them away, and feeling terrible about it.

This time was different. A little voice out of nowhere said, “Make carrot top pesto and stop being so wasteful!” And so I did. And I’m happy I did. And Pete is happy I did.

I made it pretty much the same way I’ve made pesto with other green stuff, not expecting to be wowed by it, but surprisingly, carrot top pesto is a wonderful thing! Last night we had it over whole wheat spaghetti with some red onion, grated carrot and red and gold cherry tomatoes. The flavor of the carrot greens is subtle and I think that allowed the other ingredients to not be overshadowed like they tend to be with the bolder flavor of basil or arugula.

In addition to serving with pasta, this pesto would be great on roasted veggies, taters, as a spread for a hearty sandwich, in scrambled eggs, drizzled in a hot bowl of soup, as a pizza sauce—there are unlimited ways! Have fun with it!
Spoon full of pestoPlated Pasta

Carrot Top Pesto

1 tightly packed cup carrot top leaves (stems removed)

½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place carrot top leaves, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. With food processor running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream and process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Keeps for a day or two tightly covered in the fridge. Enjoy!

Grilled Vegetable Tostadas

Grilled Vegetable Tostadas

This week the weather around here hasn’t exactly been the kind that gets you thinking about grilling out. But, hey, a warm day in January is colder than a cool day in April and we grill then, so why not now?

At least that was my thought yesterday when Pete asked me if I was interested in grilling. I inquired what he was thinking of, and his response of mushrooms got my wheels spinning. I know he was thinking of portabella mushrooms caps, marinated, grilled and made into a yummy sandwich, but my mind went in a slightly different direction—grilled vegetable tostadas. Spicy, smoky, and slightly charred, veggies of vibrant colors piled on crisp corn tortillas with some creamy guacamole as a crowning touch and maybe a bit of cheese—wouldn’t that be fabulous!?!

A quick stop at the store for crimini mushrooms (baby portabellas—they grill up just as meaty as the big ones) and a couple other items and we were set to get those veggies marinating. While all the marinade flavors were doing their thing, I made a quick batch of guacamole and Pete fired up the grill. Less than 15 minutes after the grilling started, we sat down to a delicious dinner.

You can vary the vegetables to your liking and skip the cheese if you want to keep it vegan—this packs plenty of flavor without it. Pomegranate molasses isn’t easy to find, but some Asian or Middle East food stores and larger super markets stock it. I ordered it from Amazon—a bottle lasts a long time and you’ll find yourself using it in all sorts of recipes (I’ve heard a few drops take a simple glass of champagne over the top!). But if you don’t have it, this will still be wonderful.

My only regret was that I didn’t make a larger batch; sadly, there were no leftovers. Enjoy!
Pomegranate Molasses

Grilled Vegetable Tostadas

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

½ teaspoon Korean chili flakes (can sub regular crushed red pepper flakes)

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

1 10 oz. package crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed and cut in half (keep smaller ones whole)

1 small green pepper, cut into chunks

1 small orange bell pepper, cut into chunks

1 red onion, cut into chunks

4-6 corn tortillas, brushed lightly with olive or grapeseed oil

1 mango, peeled, pitted and chopped

3 scallions, sliced diagonally

A handful of cilantro or Italian parsley, chopped

Guacamole (recipe follows)

Sriracha or other hot sauce

Shredded or crumbled cheese of choice, optional

Place prepared vegetables in a large zip-lock bag or large shallow container. Mix oil, lime juice, pomegranate molasses, chili powder, chili flakes, garlic, oregano and salt; pour over vegetables, toss and let marinade 20-30 minutes.

While veggies are marinating, prepare guacamole and prep your mango, scallions and cilantro/parsley.

Heat gas grill to 500 degrees F. or a charcoal grill to fairly hot (hopefully you know more than I do about charcoal grilling!). Spray a pan designed for a grill (has holes all over it, but small pieces can’t fall through) with cooking spray and place on hot grill. Dump the veggies onto the pan and spread them to a single layer. Cover grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir veggies and cook for another 5-7 minutes. During the last 3 or 4 minutes, place the corn tortillas on the upper rack of your grill (or away from the fire if you don’t have a shelf). Flip them after a couple minutes and continue cooking until crisp.

To serve, place a couple tortillas on a plate, slightly overlapping and top with a little cheese (if using). Spoon lots of grilled veggies over the cheese. Garnish with any or all: mango, scallions, cilantro, guacamole, hot sauce and more cheese.

Serves 2-3

Quick Guacamole

1 ripe avocado, pitted and removed from skin

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt, to taste

Mash avocado with garlic in a small bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice and salt and mix. Taste and add more lime juice or salt, if necessary.

Great Grandma’s Raisin Bread

One of my earliest food memories is my great-grandma’s raisin bread. When I was a kid, any time we visited, raisin bread toast was on the menu with breakfast. All I need to do is think about those days and I swear I can smell the aroma coming from the toaster. My mom tells me Great Grandma’s raisin bread was even served at the gift-opening breakfast the morning after my parents’ wedding. And after we moved far away and Great Grandma had passed, my grandma continued making this delicious bread and would send loaves to us for Christmas.

At some point, my grandma wrote down the recipe for me and I think I may have made it once years ago, before I really had any experience making yeast breads. Recently, I started craving it and dug out that old recipe.

Being a frugal Belgian, Great Grandma’s original version contained margarine (referred to as oleo back then) instead of the more expensive butter. As with most bread recipes handed down from that era, it contained white flour, but I figured it could be just as good if I converted it to whole grain and, of course, change the margarine to butter. I also reduced the sugar a bit, although I doubt anyone would miss it.

The end result is that lovely flavor I remember, with just a bit more heartiness from the whole wheat and every bit as comforting as Grandma’s and Great Grandma’s loaves of so long ago. They’ve both been gone for many years now, but when I think of them, warm fuzzy thoughts and special memories come flooding back. I still miss them.
DoughGrandma's RecipeRaisin Bread Toast

Great Grandma's Raisin Bread

  • Servings: two loaves
  • Print
½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

½ cup 2% milk, scalded

¼ cup butter, room temperature

¼ cup organic sugar

1 ½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups whole wheat bread flour

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and then drained

Mix warm water and yeast in large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes until foamy.

Meanwhile, scald milk. Stir in butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm.

Add 1 ¼ cups of the whole wheat bread flour to the yeast mixture and mix until combined. Add milk mixture; mix well. Stir in eggs. Mix in drained raisins and remaining half cup whole wheat bread flour. Stir in enough of the unbleached bread or all-purpose flour to make a stiff dough.

Either knead in the bowl of a stand mixer using the dough hook, or on a lightly floured surface, for about 10 minutes. Oil a large bowl and place dough in it and turn dough over to coat top. Cover bowl with a tea towel or oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size (about an hour).

Punch down dough. Divide dough in half and place into two greased bread pans. Cover with a tea towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaves for 30-40 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Makes two loaves.

Sweet Potato Tots

Tots and burger
These little nuggets of crunchy goodness came about in a what-to-serve-with-grilled-veggie-burgers quandary. I wanted a healthy vegetable side dish, but something that tasted as unhealthy as French fries. We made baked French fries over the weekend and they were amazing, but twice in one week seemed a little too often for something probably best eaten “in moderation,” especially since between the two of us, I think we at four whole potatoes worth!

While possibly a little more nutritious, baked sweet potato fries have always left me disappointed—they just don’t crisp like russets or Yukon golds do. And I refuse to deep-fry! The one time I made homemade tater tots they were pretty good, but I was afraid there’d be the same mush for texture if I tried “totting” sweet potatoes. Then I got to thinking about the crispy panko-coated eggplant in my Baked Eggplant Parmesan. Maybe panko-coated sweet potato tots!?!

So I gave it a shot. I undercooked the potatoes so they would be firm enough to shred, and included a small russet in the mix; just because. A pinch of cinnamon seemed like it might be a nice touch and I included a generous amount of sea salt to contrast with the sweetness of the taters.  The panko bread crumbs stayed put and with a spritz of olive oil cooking spray, the result was a lovely crisp exterior and a firm, not mushy, interior.

We loved them! They went perfectly with the burgers and now I’m excited to make them for company as a cute little appetizer. My mind is going crazy thinking of delicious dipping sauces to serve them with like spicy curried ketchup, kimchi aioli or a Cajun concoction with a kick. Your suggestions always welcome. I hope you like them as much as we do!
Tots from aboveTray o tots

Sweet Potato Tots

2 narrow red sweet potatoes, about halfway cooked and peeled

1 medium russet potato, about halfway cooked and peeled

½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

A pinch of cinnamon

½ cup (or more if necessary) cup panko bread crumbs, seasoned with additional salt and some freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. You can cook the potatoes in the microwave or boil them, but only cook them about halfway so that they are still rather firm. Once they are peeled and cooled enough that they can be handled, shred them on the small side of a box grater.

Place shredded taters in a medium bowl and add parmesan, salt and cinnamon and stir with a fork to combine. Place panko that has been seasoned with salt & pepper into a flat dish. Form potatoes by the tablespoon into the shape of a tater tot. Roll in panko until coated on all sides. Place tots on prepared baking sheet (at this point you can freeze them, on pan until frozen, then placed in zip-lock plastic bag—can cook from frozen, just increase cooking time).

Lightly spray tots with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for about 12 minutes. Turn tots and spray again. Bake another 12 minutes or so. Turn the oven to broil, and broil until tots are golden and crisp, making sure not to burn them—it will probably only take a minutes or two. Serve immediately. Makes enough for 2-4 as a side dish.

Avocado Lime Cupcakes with Avocado Lime Buttercream

Cupcakes from overhead
The weather here in Minnesota is creating an epidemic of spring fever and we have not been spared. Dinner has been from the grill a couple times in the past few days and yesterday Pete hauled out some of our patio furniture and lit the fire table. We went hiking in a nearby park, and then experienced our first patio dining of the year at a local restaurant/bar. Today, more time spent outside and Pete even went kite-flying. As much as we love winter, this early spring is great and everyone seems to be in a fantastic mood!

The last couple years when St. Patrick’s Day approached, we’ve still been knee-deep in snow, so we feel especially giddy with shirt-sleeve weather to celebrate the holiday. While not a dessert you’ll probably find in a Dublin bakery, the light green hue of these cupcakes makes them perfect for that St. Patrick’s Day office potluck where all the food is supposed to be green, and yet no yucky artificial coloring is required.

The avocado lends a moistness and buttery aspect to the cupcakes and the lime offers an unexpected burst of citrus. With a lovely light green color, the frosting is wonderful with its subtle lime tartness and avocado creaminess. Pete and I each ate one and agreed they are delicious! The rest I’m packing up to take to work tomorrow—we can’t be trusted to keep our hands off them the additional day until it’s actually St. Paddy’s. Enjoy!
Lime ZestJuicing LimeCupcakeCupcakes

Avocado Lime Cupcakes with Avocado Lime Buttercream

 Adapted from Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan


1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons lime zest, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup mashed avocado

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1 cup organic granulated sugar

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup mashed avocado

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening (Spectrum is the brand I use)

3 cups powdered sugar

To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin papers or grease and flour the cups.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, lime zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl or blender, puree the avocado until very smooth then mix in the oil (this can be done with a whisk if you don’t feel like dirtying the blender). Stir in the granulated sugar, then the milk, lime juice and vanilla. Stir the liquids into the dry mixture, mashing if there are any lumps, just until combined, taking care not to over-mix. Divide batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a rack. Remove from pans once cooled.

To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), mix the avocado and lime juice until smooth. Add the shortening and powdered sugar and mix until combined. Increase mixer speed to high and beat for a couple minutes until smooth and fluffy, scrapping down the sides when necessary.

Pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with additional lime zest. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature before serving. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Korean Eggplant Tacos with Kimchi Mayo

Korean Tacos

Sometimes I feel guilty about my cookbook collection. Not that I have so many (really, can one EVER have too many cookbooks?!?), but that I ignore some and go years without opening them. Such as been the case with Vedge, from the owners/chefs of the vegan Philadelphia restaurant of the same name. I’ve had the book for well over a year, and today is the first time I’ve made a recipe from it. Resulting from a purposeful pledge to make something from those cookbooks I’ve neglected, what better way to start than with one I’ve yet to use.

One of my favorite TV food shows is “Chopped,” on the Food Network. Four chefs compete through three rounds of appetizer, entrée, and dessert using the “mystery basket” ingredients. A chef is eliminated each round and the one remaining after dessert wins $10,000. Typically not vegetarian cooking, this show often features animal foods such as beef tongue, rocky mountain oysters (bull testicles), or a whole fish. Occasionally something like tofu or tempeh is in the basket, but not often.

About a year and a half ago, while watching the chef intros at the beginning of a “Chopped” episode, I thought I heard them mention this chef by the name of Rich Landau was chef/owner of a vegan restaurant. Wow, how was he going to compete? If I remember right, the appetizer and entrée rounds mystery baskets didn’t include any animal products, so he was safe, and his dishes really impressed the judges, advancing him to the dessert round, which contained honey (technically, not vegan). Chef Landau reluctantly incorporated the honey into his dessert and ended up winning the ten grand. Impressed, I Googled him and his Philly restaurant and found he had a cookbook coming out. Shortly after, when my mom asked what I wanted for my birthday, I immediately told her Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small that Redefine Vegetable Cooking.

Not sure why I waited so long to actually make one of the recipes, but judging from how good this first one was, it will definitely not be over a year before I make another one!

The recipe calls for Japanese eggplants and mentions an Italian eggplant can be substituted in a pinch. Surprisingly I could not find Japanese eggplant, so the Italian variety is what I used, and they were still fantastic. This truly is one of those dishes that gives you a crave-generating food memory long after it’s gone.

A couple side-notes: The recipe calls for gochujang, a savory and pungent fermented Korean condiment. It can be found in Asian grocery stores, some well-stocked conventional supermarkets, some natural food stores, and also online (I first wrote about it here). Kimchi is also an essential part of this recipe and many brands contain fish sauce, which, of course, isn’t vegetarian. I have found vegetarian kimchi at Trader Joe’s, but lately they haven’t had it. I did find a veg version at a local grocery store, so just keep looking, you’ll find it eventually, if it’s important for you to have a fish-sauce free variety. Also, because I’m not a big cilantro lover, I used Italian parsley, and it’s a good substitute if you’re cilantro-averse.

Eggplant is one of those “meaty” vegetables that satisfies even carnivores in heartiness, and with the gochujang heat and spicy kimchi funk, non-vegetarians won’t even notice they’re eating vegan. Enjoy!
Gochujang GlazeRoasted Glazed EggplantTacos open

Korean Eggplant Tacos with Kimchi Mayo

From Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small that Redefine Vegetable Cooking by Rich Landau & Kate Jacoby

1 tablespoon gochujang

2 teaspoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce—much better than regular soy sauce)

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and julienned (substitute 1 Italian eggplant, peeled, seeded and julienned, if necessary)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

½ cup vegan kimchi, drained, chopped fine

1 cup vegan mayo (Earth Balance Mindful Mayo is so good!)

Four to six 6-inch whole wheat flour tortillas

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves (or Italian parsley)

½ cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make glaze by whisking together the gochujang, tamari, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, toss the eggplant in the sesame oil.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. It is important to get a nice sear on the eggplant, so arrange the strips in a single layer across the bottom of the pan and let them get crisp, turning after a couple minutes, cooking for a total of about 5 minutes. You may need to do this in two or more batches, depending on the size of your pan. Transfer the cooked eggplant to the bowl of glaze and repeat until all eggplant is seared.

Toss the crispy eggplant in the glaze, then transfer to a sheet pan. Roast until the glaze bakes onto the eggplant, being careful it doesn’t burn, 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, fold the kimchi into the vegan mayo in a small bowl.

Warm the tortillas in the oven, directly on the rack for about 2 minutes.

Assemble the tacos by spreading about 1 tablespoon of the kimchi mayo down the center of each tortilla. Top with a large spoonful of the roasted eggplant, dress with the cilantro and scallions. Serves 2-4.