Purple Cabbage Kimchi

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I’m on this serious fermented foods kick. Here’s my recipe for quality kimchi that also effectively clears the room when you open a jar at work, in the movie theater, and at weddings. Use it to lose friends and help your overall digestion/probiotic situation.

Here’s what you do:

A single head of purple cabbage gets you six mason jars of kimchi, and purple cabbage will keep for a while, so use half for your first try and the second half will be great the next week or two when you wanna do another. Kimchi is so easy and if you do it once, you will understand it better each time.

You need:

  •           Head of purple cabbage
  •           Morton’s Sea Salt
  •           Fish sauce
  •           Water
  •           Sugar
  •           Red pepper flakes
  •           Gochujang sauce (a gooey, red, peppery substance. Check the Asian market)
  •           Ginger
  •           Garlic

(I’ve made this recipe with added shredded carrots, daikon radish, and chopped green onions too. Those are optional, and require no change to the process, just add it in. Don’t use red or white onions–it tastes weird.)

Slice up about half your head of cabbage, chopping into manageable, bite-sized pieces. Save the other half for next week—or chop all if you have 6 mason jars and complete trust in my recipe.

Place cabbage in large bowl and cover the top surface with sea salt (like a quarter to a half cup of salt?). Add water until it rises above the cabbage. Weight it with a plate and a heavy object for one hour in the fridge, keeping the cabbage pieces down under the brine. This is to draw the water out of the cabbage so it becomes soft and tender. If, after an hour it is not tender, add more salt and let sit another hour.

Meanwhile, grate ginger and garlic—I use one clove per jar and an equal amount of ginger—into a bowl. Add some forceful shakes of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, and a few squeezes of gochujang—you want a saucy, pasty consistency. Balance the fish and pepper sauces until you have uniformity. Toss in a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Drain and rinse the cabbage. Squeeze remaining water out of cabbage with your hands, and place handfuls into bowl of saucy mix. Thoroughly combine cabbage into mixture. Weiners use gloves for this but I like to smell like I got my hands dirty. Nobody will stand near me.

Mason jar prep:  Scrub your mason jars clean. Place each mason jar under a very hot or boiling stream of water and let run until overflow. (Although there has never been a case of botulism from kimchi, this will sterilize your jar if you had another product in there before.)

Divide your cabbage mixture into the jars. Press it down until the cabbage is compact, so about two inches remain between cabbage and mouth of jar. Divide remaining liquid between the jars. Cap your jars loosely and place under a food-safe cupboard (no cleaning products or roach poison in the area.) You want the brine to rise up as close to the top of your cabbage as possible. If you need more brine, top off with a small amount of salt water with a little fish sauce, but it will brine as it ferments.

Place a towel or paper plate underneath jars to catch any run-off. Store away from sunlight.

For the first 5-7 days, press the mixture further into the brine with a spoon. Bubbles will come up as a sign of fermenting. If it isn’t salty enough, whip up a small salt water combo and put a little in each jar. The flavor changes everyday, so don’t get too eager. Recap and put back in the cupboard. It’s so fucking easy you should have no trouble making this recipe again and again. And it’s good on anything that needs a spicy salty vinegary kick (everything) and it’s good by itself.

Kimchi will start to taste good around day 5. You can let it ferment for a few more days, or move it to the fridge. Whatever you choose, it will keep getting better, no thanks to you.

Annie’s No Regrets Tortilla Soup

This is my favorite fall and winter soup and if you can pull it off, you’ll impress your friends, parents, potluck, etc. Big batches of it will freeze well, and everyday the flavors get cozier. Usually there isn’t a need to freeze because it’s gone within a few days. It’s a process-based soup you can’t mess up, so it’s really fun to cook. I’ve been toying with this version for a few years and it’s never the same twice. I also like it because it requires you drink a beer while you cook.

What you need:

4-6 tomatoes on the vine, depending on size. The redder the better!

Coconut oil

Olive oil

1 poblano pepper

2 serrano peppers

Small can tomato paste

Medium sized can diced or stewed tomatoes, no added flavors

Vegetable or chicken stock—the cubed kind

One white onion

Bulb of garlic

Four limes—One for soup and the rest for topping

Topping bar: Cilantro, sour cream, tortillas and cheese.

(Optional chicken breast)

Salt and pepper

Cumin?

Nutmeg?

Honestly, I don’t even know what spices I use. Just pick out what smells good and play around.

But…this is important….Cinnamon sticks

Bay leaves

Dark chocolate

Dark beer. I’ve used oatmeal stouts, amber ales (Fat Tire works really well) and other malty, chocolatey beers.

Large bowl

Potato masher

Two pots on the stove top. I use a cast iron Dutch oven and a medium sized soup pot.

Oven with a broil option, or equivalent source of heat

Tortillas:

Chop a few tortillas and fry them in a shallow pool of canola oil. Sprinkle some salt on those healthy babies. Fry until crispy and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside for topping bar.

If you aren’t trying to please any vegetarians, you can use chicken stock and add shredded chicken to the soup itself, or use it in your topping bar.

Chicken:

Place 1-2 whole breasts in skillet on stove top and cook on medium-high heat until cooked through.

Move chicken to bowl. Use two forks to shred with the grain of the meat. Once shredded, add to soup a little at a time.

Soup:

Open a beer and start sippin’. You’re a real chef!

Fill your smaller soup pot with 3 or 4 cups of water. Boil and add a few cubes of your stock. You decide how strong you want that flavor, and you can add more later if desired.

Add the can of stewed or diced tomatoes. No need to drain.

Lower the heat and let it simmer.

Start your broiler and let it warm up.

Cut your vine tomatoes in half and remove the hard top where the stem was attached. Do this by cutting from the flat center at an angle, like a bevel. Your discards should only be pointy little pieces where the stem used to attach.

Once in halves, place tomatoes face down and rub skins with coconut oil. This is a high-heat oil and it will add to the flavor of the tomatoes. Still face down, place the tomatoes in the broiler and let broil until the skins start to blister. Check them around the 5 minute mark and then every 3 minutes after. The skin needs to be blistered and dark enough to easily remove, but not too burnt.

While this happens, half your serrano peppers and poblano pepper. De-vein and de-seed. Rub with coconut oil and broil until blistered. Careful your peppers don’t burn.

Remove tomatoes and peppers from broiler when the skin is crisp and puckered. Begin the painstaking task of peeling as much skin off as you can. Use a fork and a butter knife if still hot. Set the tomato skins aside. Discard the pepper skins.

(Removing the skin does not exactly make the soup better, but you want tender peppers and not waxy/burnt skin in your soup. As long as you get most of the blisters off, it’s fine. It’s not an exact science)

Dump the naked tomato halves in a large clean bowl and use your masher to mash them. Add salt, pepper, and other powdered spices here. Just dump a ton of shit in there until it smells good.

Chop the peppers and add them to the tomato mush. Add bay leaves. Combine and set aside.

Chop the white onion. Cry for all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Drink your beer.

Pull yourself together and in your larger pot, the one without the stock, turn on low heat and add olive oil. Add the white onion and stir with a wooden spoon until they are translucent and sweaty. Keep on very low heat.

Chop garlic. Peel and cut each clove in half. I like big ol’ pieces of garlic in mine so don’t chop too fine.

Add garlic to onions and continue to cook for another minute or so. Then dump in your tomato mush and follow by dumping in your stock pot. Look at how much soup you have! Drop in 2 cinnamon sticks and 3 lime segments.

Now that everything is in one large pot, you can start experimenting.

Thicken by adding some tomato paste. However much you want, but I rarely use the whole can.

Add chocolate!

Add beer!

Add more spices!

Add more chocolate and beer.

The tomato skins you set aside should be dipped lightly in salt and eaten by you as your scurvy friends look on with envy.

If you want thicker soup, parcel out a few ladles into a bowl and use a fork to whisk in small amounts of flour at a time. Repeat until the small amount of soup is thick, then dump it in the pot. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. Don’t go crazy here or you’ll end up with lumpy flour in your soup.

Ta da! Now you have a warm delicious soup to keep you snug in your cold, disgusting apartment. Add sour cream, shredded cheese, crispy fried tortilla, lime wedges, and cilantro from the topping bar for individual bowls. Your friends and parents are so proud and impressed with your cooking skills! What’s that I taste? A hint of chocolate? A whisper of cinnamon? Nobody knows. You’re a genius!