Friday, December 31, 2010


My camera lens broke this last week, so I am working with limited material here. It is a shame because I have been cooking up a storm for several catered dinner parties, and would love to share what has come out! I am taking a break as we speak from preparing a Thai New Years Eve dinner for a group of 12 neighbors and friends. I can still smell the lemongrass on my fingers. Yum.

Oh well, it gives me a chance to share my kimchi recipe which I was hesitating to do. This is not a recipe for everyone, in fact, it literally scares Gregg, so I recognize that some of you will be excited while others will be completely uninterested. But maybe, just maybe, you will give it a try and be pleasantly surprised.

I remember when my landlord in Santa Cruz brought over my now kimchi container as a gift and I was so excited at my beautiful new piece for "when we bring soup to a potluck". Gregg looked at me as though I had lost my mind. Turns out I don't actually bring soup to too many potlucks, but now it has grown into a new role of housing saurkraut and kimchi production. Perfect.

Kimchi is a fermented condiment used in Korea. Simular to saurkraut, it contains potent probiotic properties (good bacteria) that aid digestion and help keep our internal flora healthy and ready to protect against foreign invaders. It has a very strong flavor and is meant to be enjoyed in small quantities as a component of larger meals. Completely raw, it is loaded with energetic enzymes, Beta-carotene (which our bodies turn into Vitamin A) and Vitamin C. As a cruciferous vegetable, cabbage has been shown to protect against a wide range of cancers as well as possess the ability to lower cholesterol levels. The remaining ingredients are pretty flexible so feel free to tailor it to your personal taste.

Fermented vegetables typically need 3 weeks to fully process, although they can sit for much longer. Most say that the flavor develops with time and advocate for longer fermentation periods, although I believe it is completely to taste and worth testing at different points.


1 medium head of Napa Cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced
6 inch piece of daikon radish, grated
1 inch piece ginger, grated with a microplane
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs. sea salt

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Fill a large ziploc bag with water and seal tight. Place on top of mixed vegetables and cover with something heavy-ish (to apply downward pressure). Let rest for 15-20 minutes, or until you notice that the vegetables have released their juices and are mostly submerged. If this does not seem to be happening naturally, use a meat hammer to pound the vegetables to encourage them along.

At this point, transfer kimchi to a large bottle with a tight sealing lid (a 1/2 gallon mason jar works well). Press down firmly to submerge the vegetables in their own juices. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for 3 weeks or longer. Once it has reached your optimal flavor, store in the fridge and enjoy a little bit each day.

Save some of the liquid from each batch and use it in the next batch to spur the lacto-fermentation. This way you can use less salt without running the risk of bacteria taking over before the lacto-acid has a chance to build up.

Relax. Eat Well.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sweet Pea Dumplings with Fresh Mint Dipping Sauce

I have been busy in the kitchen this week testing recipes for upcoming holiday events. Despite the endless pile of dishes, I really do enjoy spending the day in sweats and rocking out to christmas pandora while exploring previously unchartered terrain. Even though it does require a bit more recipe following than I usually practice, creativity and personal touches seem to work their way in pretty naturally.

This adorable appetizer origins began on Heidi Swanson's blog Keeping the basic idea the same, I tweaked some ingredients and techniques and found a dipping that paired beautifully. Appetizers are usually a little high maintenance for my style, but for special occasions, this is well worth the effort. The most tedious step is the rolling and layering, but take your time because the presentation pays off. Make sure to give each dumpling plenty of room in the steamer as they will quickly stick together when cooling, resulting in a sad mess of your hard work if overlapping.

The edamame in the filling offers high quality protein and fiber, while the ricotta and parmesan create a luxurious richness without being heavy. With a touch of lemon zest, the result is fresh, light and flavor packed. I loved this fresh mint dipping sauce as well, which contains no oil or salt, and compliments the peas beautifully.

A quick tip on lemon zest before I dish out the recipe: even if your recipe doesn't call for it, zest your citrus with a microplane or zester and freeze it in a ziplock bag for later use. This way you always have some zest in a pinch to brighten up sauteed vegetables, dressings, sauces and salads. Although the white pith is actually packed with bioflavanoids, it also tends to be bitter, so stick to the colorful outer layer using lighter strokes, unless using therapeutically.

Sweet Pea Dumpling with Fresh Mint Dipping Sauce

Makes about 30 dumplings


2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups frozen peas
½ cup shelled edamame
2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt

1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup grated high-quality Parmesan

zest of one large lemon
ground pepper
a dash of nutmeg
1 package of spring roll wrappers

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peas and edamame and cook until bright green in color, about a minute.
Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Pulse the peas, edamame, ricotta, olive oil, and salt in a food processor to a a chunky puree. Add the shallots, Parmesan, lemon zest, pepper and nutmeg and pulse a few more times. Taste and add more salt if needed.

To roll the dumplings, cut each wrapper in half on the diagonal to create two triangles. Drop a tablespoon of filling in the center and wet the two sides with a quick swipe of water. From the most obtuse angle, toll wrapper up, trapping the filling inside. Next fold each side over and wrap as you flip the dumpling, crossing the tips on the opposite side and pressing to seal. See pictures to the left for a visual aid. I tried several different rolling techniques and this was my favorite, but by all means, feel free to be creative to reach the size and presentation you most fancy.

I like these dumplings best steamed, but you can pan fry them as well in a tad of olive oil for a crisp golden case. If steaming, set up your steamer (bamboo works nicely) and arrange the dumplings in a single layer, being careful not to overlap. Steam for about three minutes - until the dumplings are tender and translucent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and serve with Mint Dipping Sauce.

Fresh Mint Dipping Sauce

1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 dates, pitted
serrano chile, minced, to taste
fresh lemon juice, to taste
zest of one lemon
olive oil (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly. Start with a small amount of minced serrano and add more to taste, as they can vary substantially in heat. Thin sauce with water or olive oil to reach desired consistency. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blueberry Walnut Muffins

I recently realized that as the daylight slowly wanes, it is more and more difficult to capture cooking moments in natural light. That is my excuse for slacking, take it or leave it.

It has been a busy month filled with major house progress (roofing, plumbing, electrical... insulation and sheet rocking happen next week!) as well as more than a few hours split between the kitchen and the woodshop. I did finally finish one project though and am now a proud owner of one open shelving unit. Next up, a 36 incher and FINISHING THE ISLAND. If I announce it, it'll happen, right? I am also creating a few lighting fixtures out of salvaged materials and mason jars.... which means the "living room" has been converted into a "pile of ongoing projects". It will come together at some point, I swear.

Anywho, I made these muffins at work yesterday for a quick and easy breakfast with scrambled eggs. I like that they use a coconut flour base, which leaves them gluten-free without feeling forced. I did use xanthan gum, which is often used in gluten-free baking to add a certain starchy quality, but if you do not have any, try omitting it (and let me know how it works out!) They also happen to be vegan, using a flax seed slurry and bananas to replace the eggs in the recipe. It is a wonderful way to boost your fiber while binding your muffin together, although you will notice they will not rise much, so go ahead and fill the cups pretty full.

I used frozen Maine blueberries and walnut halves this time, but you could certainly personalize the fruit/nuts based on your freezer supplies or particular whim. I think next time I will try dried pear slivers and pecans for a holiday twist.

Next time I promise a main course post... I am going to test a few recipes this week for upcoming holiday parties I am catering. Any suggestions for fabulous vegetarian dishes you have created (or consumed) over the holiday season? I am all ears...

Blueberry Walnut Muffins
Serves 12

1 cup dried coconut
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbs. flax seeds
1/3 cup water
2 very ripe bananas
3/4 cup water
1 tbs. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup walnut halves
1 cup frozen blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin with coconut oil.

Add the dried coconut to a food processor and process to a coarse flour. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients (through salt) and combine well.

Grind the flax seeds in a spice grinder and mix them with 1/3 cup of water in the food processor until gummy. Add the remaining wet ingredients and blend well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, making sure not to overmix. Fold in the walnuts and blueberries.

Fill the muffin tin with the batter (filling each one quite full) and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Relax. Eat Well.