A dining adventure in Venice, CA
I spent the past four days in Venice beach, California visiting a Chicago-founded gal pal group, and other friends. Nearly everyone, 7 in total, was there with a few exceptions (you were greatly missed!). Ramen Nights began originally as a ramen shop gathering, where we would order our food, walk to one of our apartments (whoever was closest), and socialize over games and/or drawing.
We did this at least once a month, typically on a Thursday, and I savored each and every moment; it was the one time I knew I could visit with an amazing group of friends to catch up on life, share stories, laugh. We would alternate the location, and rotate depending on who could/would join.
Food is meant to be shared with those you love, and ultimately brings people together - Ramen Nights were the answer for my Chicago crew of friends, and we carried on the tradition for as long as we could.
But, as we discover, things change. Time passes. People move: Some to Cali, one to NY, another to CO, and me up to the cold of MN.
It was sad to say goodbye, and break up our routine ramen meet-ups, but we all knew it wouldn’t stop us from continuing our friendship. After much discussion, through text messages and phone calls, our hope to meet finally came to fruition.
We were able to have our reunion this past weekend, and join once again over food and fun.
And for those in the Ramen Night clan who couldn’t visit LA, you were there in spirit. Start planning for next year: We are already in planning mode for another Ramen Nights meet-up in another city. Perhaps I could convince everyone to meet here in St. Paul, MN, the soup capital of the world...
In honor of Ramen Nights, here’s one of my favorite ramen recipes:
One hour to make, and not difficult - gotta love it!
5 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 1/3 oz miso
2 bok choi, quartered
6 oz bean sprouts
4 tsp sesame oil
4 portions of ramen noodles
soy sauce is optional
2 oz dried seaweed, cut into strips
Togarashi to taste, optional
Spicy Chicken Mince:
1 leek (finely shred the whiter half and rough chop the green)
1 1/2 oz miso
1/2 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
1 red chili
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
pinch black pepper
pinch Szechuan pepper
9 oz minced chicken (chopped or shredded will do as well)
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into ovals
3 tbsp oil
If you prefer pork or want a vegetarian version, simply adjust as you need by swapping out the protein and broth.
Other variations worth exploring:
**If you don’t have time to make your own and want to have your own pork-free ramen night meet-up, Tori Ramen in St. Paul is a fantastic option, and the only completely pig-less ramen shop in Minnesota. They also do vegan and vegetarian ramen that manages, somehow, to be just as rich and flavorful as the original.
What to do with all those apples?
This past Saturday I went to Aamodts apple orchard to get my fill of MN apples. I showed up with my thick sweater, sunglasses and galoshes, ready to pick my very own apples fro the tree. Nothing was going to rain on my parade
-well, nothing except for the owners of the orchard-
Upon entering the orchard, a large chalkboard sign told us, "No apples for picking this weekend."
Wa wa whattt?! I was pumped and eager to walk through the orchard, spot the perfect sweeTango, snap a photo, and sink my teeth into it while it's juices dripped down my face and onto my sleeves. It was all planned. Guess next time I'll be sure to call ahead of time
Good thing there was a wine tasting to cheer me up. Saint Croix Vineyards offered a tasting of five varieties, all for a whomping $6 value. You heard me right, SIX DOLLARS. What a steal. The first two were whites (Pinot Gris & La Crescent), followed by two reds (Frontenac & Marquette) and a sweet (Raspberry Infusion). My favorite was the Marquette, slightly smoky with cherry and a dry finish. The most surprising of the varieties was the Raspberry Infusion. Immediately I thought how good it would be reduced as a sauce poured over a custard like ice cream.
But don't think I walked away appleless. I found the 'seconds' pile and purchased two 4lb bags of SweeTango and Pizzaz along with purple corn kernels to make popcorn.
All and all, it was a lovely day and I drove off dreaming up new apple recipes.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 Thai chili's, minced*
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch of salt
*any variety of hot pepper will do*
In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar and apples. Add in the onion, hot pepper, red pepper, honey, garlic, cumin, and paprika. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Boil gently until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
a) Allow to cool and serve
b) When ready to can, prepare your supplies. Bring the temperature of the glass jars up by processing them in hot water for several minutes. Heat a few cups of water in a small saucepan for the lids.
When the jars are ready, ladle hot chutney into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top of the jar, and place the lids and bands on top, screwing on the bands just to fingertip-tight. Place the full jars back into the boiling water and boil 15 minutes. Remove from the water and place the jars on a towel, and let the jars cool.
Makes 2 eight-ounce jars.
Now, what to do with so much chutney you ask?
-serve with soft goat's milk cheese and black pepper crackers
-use it as a topping for latke's
-makes for a great sauce with pork or just about any type of poultry
-spread on a sandwich
-use as a dip with a vehicle of your choice -i.e. celery, chips, pita, vegetables, crackers...
peeling beets to Twin Peaks
To all of you David Lynch and beet eating enthusiasts, this week's post is for you.
It was a long day of cycling. I was exhausted. Beets had to be prepped for pickling, but Twin Peaks was on the back of my mind. Many have been raving about Lynch's new season, 'Twin Peaks: The Return', so I recently started watching the first two seasons from 1990-91. I refused to jump on the bandwagon without catching up on the first two years of the show, nor was I about to skip out on a blast from the past.
Given my current obsession with TP and need for pickling, I thought, why not combine the two? I set-up a workstation in my living room with three bowls (1 for red beets, 1 for yellow beets, 1 for unpeeled/mixed beets), a trash bag, rubber gloves [beets bleed, gloves save your hands from being stained and looking as though it were you who murdered Laura Palmer] pairing knife & vegetable peeler. Everything was just so.
I was getting my Lynch on and being productive: My endeavor of reaching 120 jarred pickles/preserves for the year is over half-way complete, but I still need another 50 or so. These beets will surely knock off another 10 jars at minimum.
If you're not a beet person, you probably just haven't found the right preparation [like most vegetables]. Beets can be pickled, roasted, boiled, shaved raw in salads, pureed in a soup or sauce, baked into breads... the list goes on and on. I have no doubt I could get you eating beets; just give them a chance. There are many varieties to choose from: candy-cane-stripped Chioggia, golden, red, and white [aka sugar beets], to name a few.
Pickled beets are typically enjoyed by beet aficionado's, and seldom liked by those who are indifferent about them. Therefore, I thought I'd include a recipe that would surely get one hooked on these sweet, earthy, bulbous root vegetables and save my pickled recipe for another post.
A Grain Bowl
This recipe can be modified to include vegetables/fruits you have on hand at home. Don't feel like you have to follow it ingredient by ingredient. You can even swap out the grain for another or add beans/lentils to add protein. It's an easy way to get nourished without having to think too hard. Let the ingredients do their thing and sing their flavors.
4 small beets (about 1⁄2 lb.), trimmed and scrubbed clean
6 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 cups farro
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. champagne vinegar
1 pear, cubed
3 cup mache (substitute arugula, spinach or a green of your choice)
1⁄3 cup roasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds
1⁄4 cup ricotta cheese
1⁄2 head radicchio, thinly sliced
Instructions:1. Heat the oven to 400°. In an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish, toss beets with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper and cover with aluminum foil. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and peel. Cut into wedges and set beets aside.
2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add farro and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse until cool under cold running water. Set farro aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil with honey and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and set dressing aside.
4. To assemble grain bowl, divide farro between 2 bowls. Top each with beets, pear, greens, ricotta cheese, and radicchio. Drizzle with dressing before serving.
A few weeks ago, I was searching my fridge to make breakfast, something Korean, I desired. I removed the eggs, mushrooms, leftover rice and kimchi. But when I grabbed my homemade 2-year kimchi, I realized I was down to 3/4th's of a half-gallon jar. I knew I had to act fast. Having kimchi on hand is like having mustard on hand. You can never have too much and you should always have backup.
After I finished eating my Korean fare, I took inventory of my cupboard and made a grocery list to prepare a whomping 30 pounds of fermented kimchi -eek (insert smiley face here).
Being the downtown St. Paul Farmer's Market wasn't open, I went to Hmongtown Marketplace to buy produce and Shuang Hur for the remaining grocery items. Time was of the essence, I needed to get back to start soaking the cabbage in heavily salted water. However, I couldn't find a key ingredient in my recipe. Knowing I could substitute with another ingredient, I changed my course of action and thought I'd do something different, you know, mix it up...try something new.
But before I go further, let me remind the audience that I have made kimchi for nearly 8 years -once per year- and have never failed.
Prep started out the same:
-cut the cabbage & soak in salted water
-separately, make the paste
-sanitize the jars
Meanwhile, David Bowie was playing in the background. The day was mine.
I soaked the cabbage for 12 hours, which went into the next morning. This is where things began turning. The kitchen sink needed to be repaired, and it just so happened the repairman showed up early morning to fix it -unexpectedly-
My David Bowie high from the previous day wasn't working now that I had a time crunch to drain the cabbage and finish the kimchi, all while working between a repairman. Ugh.
This is where fault #1 came into play:
Do not rush kimchi or you may forget to do something very, very important, like rinse the cabbage in cold water. Long story short, I didn't rinse the salt off the cabbage...and I didn't realize this until I had already mixed the cabbage with the paste.
What a rookie mistake. The only solution to salty cabbage was to rinse it in cold water and bulk up the kimchi and add more paste to replace what I removed. As a result, I rinsed the cabbage twice -including the paste- & went back to the market to purchase Chinese greens and ingredients to make a second round of paste.
When you know what you're doing, don't doubt yourself.
After all the fuss of 'fixing' my first mistake, I made another error. Don't let your kimchi stay out too long in a humid environment without the air conditioning running (or in a cool, dry place). When you ferment, it's possible for mold or yeast to develop if conditions are right -including, a warm environment, too much sugar, not enough salt-
I knew to package the kimchi after the second day, but decided against it. Even after skimming off the mold/yeast, I tried the kimchi. It tasted a bit funky, but I liked it, so I proceeded to jar it up.
After many days, it remained to be on my mind and I talked it through with my friends. Was it ok to serve? Should I throw in the towel and throw it away?
The answer, my action, toss and try again. Like many things in life, things don't always work out the way you'd like, and that's perfectly OK. So here I go, I'm now planning my next kimchi adventure for next week, and this time I'll be sure to learn from my mistakes, rinse and listen.