In Defense of Kimchi

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So…about that time I “liked” that thing you posted on Facebook, then quickly “unliked” it because I didn’t want you to know I was thinking about you. That was weird, right? You probably didn’t even notice it. Maybe you did. But I really did like the thing you posted. It was pretty snazzy.

And that time you walked to the kitchen with some loose-leaf tea and I followed you to fill up my water bottle? I guess I was a little thirsty? OK, that might’ve been a little creepy. But you totally do it all the time, too.

Or when “WHOA I was just listening to that!” and “WAIT you watch Jeopardy, too?!”

Sometimes, I let the first train go because I have a small hope you’ll be on the next one.

Serendipity is whatever you want it to be. Choose your own ending.

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So there was this one awful time when I made the mistake of bringing a kimchi sandwich to work. Everyone did the little peer-over-the-computer glance dance from their desk.

Yeah. I get it. It’s pungent, guys. But once you get over the initial aroma, it’s incredibly delicious.

Seriously. It’s so yummy.

And here’s the health spiel: Because of the fermentation process, it’s filled with probiotics and bacteria that aid in digestion and boost your immune system. Plus, it’s got vitamins A and C, along with a ton of calcium and iron. That sore throat I had Saturday night? Gone Monday morning.

Eat that, haters.

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I’ve yet to make my own batch of kimchi, but I hear it’s super easy. A Set It And Forget It kind of job.

Like rice. Two parts water, one part rice. Boil. Simmer. Done.

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Japanese daikon is thinly sliced while carrots are julienned.

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And pickles because I just can’t get enough pungency.

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Kimchi salad

1/2 cup vegan kimchi (it’s typically made with fish oil, but look for brands that leave this ingredient out)
1/2 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup wild rice, cooked
2 Japanese daikon, thinly sliced
1/4 dill pickle, thickly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, optional

Put everything into a bowl and gobble it up like you’re fighting the flu you would’ve gotten but you didn’t because you eat kimchi and drink kombucha.

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Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Romano Beans

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When I get into something, I really get into something.

I started crocheting last year and relentlessly hooked my way to coasters, headbands and half-done mittens. I watched epic YouTube how-to videos on different stitching methods. I developed calluses. Now my yarn and plastic hooks are stowed away somewhere beneath my bed.

Last summer’s thing was running. I went from never running ever ever ever to zipping around 5 miles a day. I bought super lightweight shoes because I’d read in a book that running barefoot was a good idea. My knees started hurting. Hello, stress fracture.

But more than a year ago, I had a rampant reaction to working at a summer camp for nearly two months and never once having the chance to cook for myself. So much iceberg lettuce and canned black beans. I don’t want to talk about it.

That reaction was this. And I haven’t gotten calluses or stress fractures yet. And I sure as poop haven’t stowed it away beneath my bed.

Everything’s on the kitchen counter.

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So let’s dive right into it after that brief sojourn.

I’ve never cooked with farro. It’s been a mysterious grain ever since I first learned about it, and I had thrown all of my efforts into finding it. It’s been a long journey through aisles of beans, bulky items, almond milk and the “ethnic” row. I had to answer a few riddles to get there.

I practically cried when I found the stuff. Farro has more protein than quinoa. It’s untouched grain. And there’s no controversy surrounding it just yet.

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Heirloom tomatoes are such babes I don’t even know where to begin.

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I mean, come on. Stop.

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Crispy romano beans. I used to eat this stuff by the bucketload on long hikes. So refreshing. Yum in my face.

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What’s a salad without some dressing, right? Olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar add some zing and refreshment that might make you think it’s summer time.

Ooh, that’s a good one.

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Farro and wine. Let’s get Italian.

Farro salad with heirloom tomatoes and romano beans.

adapted from The New York Times

2 cups cooked farro
7-8 baby heirloom tomatoes, roughly sliced
1lb romano beans, trimmed and blanched

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the farro, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil and add the grain. Let it simmer for about 40-50 minutes, or until the grains look like they’ve blossomed. Drain thoroughly and douse with cold water.

While the farro is cooking, chop the tomatoes and trim the romano beans. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beans. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and immediately remove from heat before giving the beans a cold water bath.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Toss the beans, tomatoes and farro in a large salad bowl before adding the dressing. Toss everything together, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, top with fresh parsley.

Makes about 4-6 servings, which might be just enough to alleviate at least some of the pain caused by this weekend’s Patriots game.

Not Your Average Salads and White Wine Sangria

Five things I did this weekend (that you may or may not want to do, too):

Slept in until noon. Oh, the joys of light-blocking curtains and quiet neighbors.

Learned “Something” on the ukulele.

Took a walk despite having to wear a brace.

Found a treasure trove of heirloom tomatoes and kale with a sign reading “These are all free! Please help yourself!”

Succumbed to a Martha Stewart recipe for quick pickled cucumber.

It wasn’t a moment of weakness. She had the easiest recipe for a salad I first tried ages ago during a Fourth of July barbecue. Let’s not talk about this ever again? Thanks.

Oh wait. Guys. I also made white wine sangria with infused mint simple syrup. That one’s all me.

Above-average salads start with a mandolin slicer and crisp cucumber. And if you’re like me, here’s a word of advice: Use those little hand protector things that hold the vegetable you’re slicing. It’ll save you from getting nicked when you get too close to the blade. I…let’s not talk about it.

Thinly sliced onions. Apple cider vinegar. Salt and pepper. Tossed and marinated overnight. Martha, you got me on this one.

Oh wait, I made this, too. Am I going too far? Am I just spewing out photos of things I whipped up? It’s okay, I have some catching up to do. This bean salad doesn’t even need dressing. That’s how good it is. And yeah, those are baby heirlooms from the vegetable angels.

Of course, what Labor Day weekend would be complete without some white wine sangria? More nectarines means more reasons to cling to every last sinew of summer. And pinot grigio means fewer excuses to run to the bathroom to brush your teeth because of wine teeth. Crisis averted.

Hi. My name is Mimi. You look like a refreshing summer beverage. Let’s be friends.

Quick pickled cucumber salad

adapted from Martha Stewart

4 cucumbers, thinly sliced with a mandolin or steady hands
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Chuck everything into a bowl, toss lightly and cover before putting into the fridge to rest over night.

Black-eyed pea salad

adapted from Didi Emmons

4 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
6oz mozarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 large sticks of celery, chopped into 1/4 inch sections
handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Throw everything in a bowl and toss. Eat immediately.

White wine sangria

2 bottles dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or chardonnay
1 litre club soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup hot water
4-5 sprigs of mint, de-stemmed and rinsed thoroughly
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint blackberries
1-2 nectarines, sliced

In a small sauce pan, bring the water to a near boil before turning off the heat and adding the sugar. Stir constantly until all of the sugar crystals are dissolved. Add the mint leaves and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Sieve through a wire mesh to get the leaves out before adding to the sangria.

In a large bowl, pour in the wine and all the fruit. Add the infused simple syrup and stir gently. Let sit for at least 4 hours so the fruit soaks up the wine and vice versa.

Just before serving, add club soda and garnish each glass with fresh mint.

Endless Summer Salad with Cherry Tomato Ragout and Cheese Grits

So you know how you’re listening to Eddie Vedder play the ukulele and then you get inspired to start wailing on your own, then one of the less-than five-year-olds from next door starts singing along even though they don’t know the words? I’m pretty sure my brain exploded from cuteness.

Or how about when you go to a gathering that you intended to just swing by for an hour max and end up staying until the early morning hours? Not only making new friends, but also having one of the best Would You Rather games of all time. (Hint: I will always choose cheese. I don’t care what else you throw at me.)

When two naps in one day sounds like a really good idea.

I rarely swim against the current, so when my body tells me it’s time to go for another run, I’ll pay attention. When I find myself turning strangers into besties, I let it happen.

And when I go to the grocery store intending to get ingredients for sweet potato mac and cheese but find piles of pluots for sale, I do some minor list adjustments and perpetuate my belief that summer is never going to end.

Half of me is from Kentucky. They eat grits there. Like, all the time. In their sleep. For dessert. Okay maybe not dessert but it’s more of a staple in the South than SPAM is in Hawaii.

Throw some freshly grated parmesan cheese in there and y’all will have a helluva meal.

Pluots are a crazy hybrid of plums and apricots. I used a Tropical Sunrise pluot.

I’m also uncontrollably obsessed with heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Ragout is so easy. All you have to do is reduce your vegetable of choice (tomato, spinach, mushroom, zucchini, and so on) with garlic, water and some olive oil before adding a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Remembering home with a purple hibiscus flower.

I don’t know when summer will end but I sure as hell am going to savor every last moment of warmth.

Endless Summer Salad with Cherry Tomato Ragout and Cheese Grits.

For the salad:
Spring salad mix
1 pluot, thinly sliced

For the ragout:
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the grits:
1/2 cup grits
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small pot, heat up grits and water to a light boil, stirring occasionally as it thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat once all of the water is absorbed before adding salt and parmesan cheese. Mix until it’s a gloopy mess of yum.

As the grits are cooking, heat up two tablespoons of olive oil and add onions. Sautee until edges turn slightly brown. Take out onion and set aside.

Heat up the other two tablespoons of olive oil and add the tomatoes, letting cook for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic and water. Let the tomatoes reduce for about 10 minutes, until they begin to cave in. If some are lagging, poke them with a fork to expedite the process. Once the tomatoes are smooshed, add balsamic vinegar as well as some salt and pepper to taste.

Once you’re ready to serve. spoon out the grits onto a plate and create a well with a spoon in the center. Fill the well with ragout and generously pour the sauce over the grits. Top with onions and additional parmesan cheese.

Serves two.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus

I make things up.

I add yeast when I probably shouldn’t. I put chocolate chips where they certainly don’t belong – like my mouth. In big handfuls.

I create smorgasbords when creative juices aren’t flowing after eight hours of nonstop thinking and my brain is a scrambled egg.

This is your brain on the 9-5 crunch.

Sometimes, and only on these lucky occasions, I manage to produce a healthy concoction with every major food group without once being tempted to sneak a bite of chocolate.

Butter not required.

Quinoa is a super grain. Riddled with protein and fiber, it’s a vegetarian’s dream. And a carnivore’s best friend.

Cooked like rice, two parts water to one part grains, quinoa is perfect for a quick and healthy snack in lieu of salty crackers or chips. Also, you can make crazy granola out of the stuff. On my to-make list. Frizzle.

Garlic is roasted with some asparagus at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or until everything’s crispy, juicy, and full of incredible flavor.

I grew cilantro from seeds. They’ve taken months to finally produce tasty leaves. Worth the wait.

Hello quinoa, zucchini and black-eyed peas.

Everything gets tossed together and consumed hot or cold.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus.

Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen.

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
7 asparagus stalks
5-6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
handful of mint
handful of cilantro
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
15oz can blackeyed peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bread pan, line the asparagus along the bottom and top with unpeeled garlic. Toss with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Let cool before peeling the garlic and chopping the asparagus.

While the quinoa is cooking, place a heat-safe steamer above the pot and lightly steam the chopped zucchini.

Once both the quinoa and zucchini are done, add to the blackeyed peas in a large mixing bowl.

Mince the cilantro, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and roasted garlic before adding to the quinoa mixture. Add the chopped asparagus and top with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Makes about 5 cups of munchies (good for about three eaters).