Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Graduating from Kefir to Kimchi

A couple of years ago Mom got the whole family into kefir, which is a fermented food that's similar to yogurt but more drinkable. Even before I started working at Bastyr, where fermented foods or other sources of probiotics are the go-to remedy for practically every ailment, Mom was on the ball.

But since then, she's decided to cut back on dairy, and although you can use the kefir grains to make other fermented liquids, like juice or coconut milk, she didn't like the taste as much as the dairy-based kefir. So to keep her gut healthy with probiotics, I sent her one of our recipes for Fermented Vegetables, and now you can't escape her house without eating at least a half-jar of fermented cauliflower, peppers, carrots and whatever other veggies she stuffs into the brine.

This week, I decided to take the fermentation process even further by experimenting with kimchi. I know I'm going to get teased when I pull it out tonight at my brother's 40th birthday party (HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEPHEN!!!), because my whole life I absolutely hated kimchi. Whenever Mom opened up a jar at any event, I scoffed and made her put the lid back on the stinky fermented cabbage. And now? Well, it's just so dang good for me, that I'm forcing myself to like it! And to be honest, I kinda do like it now. Fermented foods are definitely an acquired taste, and it appears I've finally acquired it!

I based mine on this Easy Homemade Kitchen recipe, except I only used half the garlic and substituted the other half with ginger cut into small matchsticks. I'm also letting it ferment longer — after adding all of the carrots, green onions, garlic and ginger, I left it on the counter loosely covered for a couple more days. I've been trying it daily to get the right flavor, and I think we're there!

One tip I would like to point out is that even though kimchi and other fermented veggies will never go "bad," it's important to keep the veggies covered with the brine at all times. If not, you might get a little bit of mold on the top, which you can just pick off and keep eating away.

What are some of your favorite fermented foods?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Popovers to Soak up Beef Stew

When I visited England years ago, there was one (and seriously, only one) culinary delight I just couldn't get enough of: Yorkshire Pudding.

Served with meat and gravy, the gooey doughballs were the perfect medium to deliver, well, all the delicious gravy!

As a substitute, I found a recipe for Popovers a few years ago that pairs beautifully with beef stew and other yummy liquids. Let me just say that if browning your meat in batches has stopped you from wanting to make stew, try this method that has you make a roux first instead. It is so much tastier and flavorful, I swear!

Beef Stew
6 slices thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup flour
1 pound stew meat
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 onion, cut in wedges, sliced or chopped
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
3 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 cups frozen peas

Cook bacon in a heavy-bottomed stew pot. When edges begin to crisp, remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

Add flour to bacon grease (you should have about equal amounts flour and oil, so add more flour if needed) and stir continuously over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until roux has the color and consistency of peanut butter and gives off a nutty aroma.

Stir in stew meat and 1/2 teaspoon salt and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onion and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, then cook for 5 more minutes. Add carrots, celery and bacon, stir to coat, then add wine and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Add potatoes, and cook for a half-hour longer (as an alternative, use new potatoes and add them in the beginning). When potatoes are cooked through, adjust seasonings, stir in peas, then serve with popovers!

Note: This recipe is just a base. Add mushrooms with potatoes, spices like bay leaf or thyme, you name it. And instead of using bacon grease, try equal parts high-heat cooking oil (like grapeseed or canola) and unsalted butter.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Warming Up with Tom Ka

I should have known that the mere mention of Tom Ka Gai would make me crave the delicious Thai soup, especially with the current cold snap that's taken over nearly the entire nation. The blend of sweet and sour combined with the curry and red pepper flakes warms me to the bone, and the Authentic Thai Coconut Soup recipe that I always use from All Recipes is easily adaptable to whatever I happen to have in my fridge.

Although previously I always used the shrimp called for in the recipe, I've since learned that shrimp are not the most environmentally friendly seafood to eat (although there are better options, according to Seafood Watch). This time, I instead used a couple of shredded chicken breasts from a roasted chicken &emdash; whose carcass was also used to make the chicken stock I substituted for the water called for in the recipe.

And instead of shiitake mushrooms, I sauteed in coconut oil 8 ounces each of enoki and king oyster mushrooms and added that to the soup instead. One of the important tips I learned in my aforementioned "Food and Medicinal Mushrooms" class is that mushrooms should always be eaten cooked because our bodies are unable to break down their cell walls. And when I say cooked, I mean cooked. That means after they release all of their liquids, keep on cooking them until they start to brown and dry. You will notice a much more potent flavor and a meatier texture &emdash; please give it a try and let me know what you think!

I also added a few fried tofu cubes sliced in 1/4-inch slices to each bowl, and garnished the soup with both green onions and fresh chopped basil. End result? Delicious!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beatiful Shiitake and Oyster Mushroom Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese!

I'm not sure if it's an annoying habit for my friends and colleagues or an endearing one, but whenever we have any sort of potluck or event that involves bringing food from home, I pretty much always have to take it a little too seriously.

When I found out that my "Food and Medicinal Mushrooms" class was having a potluck, my mind soared with the possibilities. Originally, I'd asked Mom to make one of my favorite dishes: Huge black slimy mushrooms cooked in a hairlike fungus in a thick delicious broth. It might sound gross to you, but my adventurous class would have loved it. Unfortunately, the potluck snuck up on me a little too quickly to coordinate with Mom, so it was back to the drawing board for me.

First I thought about making Tom Ka Gai with enoki mushrooms. One of my classmates recently did a presentation on the beautiful and cancer-fighting enoki, and it sounded like a good way to showcase the delicious mushroom that many of our classmates apparently hadn't yet tried. But then we found out we wouldn't have access to a kitchen to warm up the soup, which led me to one of my mainstays: Quiche.

But since this is a mushroom class, I wanted to go beyond the more widely available cremini mushrooms I usually use, so I instead used a combination of oyster and shiitake mushrooms. (I used dried shiitake mushrooms, but I'm sure this quiche would be just as good if not better with fresh!) I also was forced to make my own crust since the Asian store that carries these fabulous mushrooms oddly doesn't carry pie crust, too. It turned out so good I included the recipe, but feel free to use any crust for this yummy quiche!

Shiitake and Oyster Mushroom Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese
Bacon Grease Crust
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup bacon grease, chilled
1/4 cup shortening (or chilled unsalted butter)
2-4 tablespoons ice-cold water

6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, sliced in 1/8-inch half-moons
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces sliced oyster mushrooms
12 ounces sliced shitaake mushrooms (or 2 ounces dried, reconstituted)
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Combine flours, salt and fat in a mixer until coarse crumbles form. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix with your hands until dough forms. Do not overmix. Form into a flattened disk and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Cook the bacon until edges begin to brown in heavy-bottomed skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Pour off (and save for your next pie crust!) all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease and add onions. Cook until caramelized, about 45 minutes, stirring when needed. When onions are soft and lightly browned, stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and remove from skillet. Add butter to skillet; when melted, add mushrooms and cook until moisture is released then they begin to brown. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt then add to onions.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, cream, goat cheese, black pepper, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons basil. Add bacon, onions and mushrooms and mix well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until it's big enough to hang about 1/4-inch over your pie pan all around. Gently place in the pie pan and crimp your edges so they stay up in the oven. (I did this ahead of time then put the crust back in the fridge for about a half-hour, which I would recommend if you have time.)

Gently pour filling into crust, then top with Parmesan cheese. Cook for about 40-50 minutes, until top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve warm or room temperature.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The perfect waffles are (gasp!) gluten-free!

After all this time searching for the perfect waffle recipe, the one I've finally settled on doesn't even have any flour in it!

The recipe for Nourishing Grain-Soaked Waffles is from a Bastyr dietetic intern who shared it with staff and faculty this fall during the always-informative lunch-and-learn series. Both times I've gone to the series, I've stashed away the recipes with plans to make every tasty dish again. But so far this is the only one I've managed to get around to.

Which is weird, since this recipe involves a bit more planning than most of the others. Because there's no flour in the recipe, you instead have to soak two cups of grains in water overnight, and in the morning you just blend the grains with the remaining ingredients into a thick, gooey batter. Buckwheat groats and millet are used in the recipe, but we were told any grain combination would work.

The end result is a hardy, delicious waffle that's filling and actually nutritious, which is not something you would expect from a breakfast waffle!

Well, I'll fix that the next time I make them when I add some bacon and cheese in the waffle iron!