Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bibim Nengmyun (Gochujang Buckwheat Noodles)

Bibim Nengmyun

Unless this is your very first visit to the blog, you know we are spicy food eaters.  I'm pretty sure sriracha has replaced ketchup in my regular diet (yes, it's all I put on my hot dogs), and the Monkey Scientist believes salt and pepper means salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  When the roommate and I were at HMart, the women handing out samples warned us a few times that we should be careful because whatever they were giving us was very spicy.  We disagreed.

I say all of this as a warning.  This dish was barely more than spaghetti and marinara sauce in our house, but our house is clearly not the norm.  If you hate spicy food switch on over to this post. And just ignore all that crushed red pepper....


One thing I love about Asian foods is the variety and intensity of the spiciness they offer.  Korean foods in particular have great flavor even in the spiciest ingredients.  Whenever we go to the Asian market, we have to pick up a container of gochujang.  This time, I learned something new about gochujang!  It is rated in terms of spice where the higher number is spicier.  Gochujang rated 1-2 is mild, 3 is medium, 4 is hot, and 5 is "burn your face off" hot.  Or at least I think that's what this label was trying to tell me.  We picked up a 3 and a 5 (the latter for the Monkey Scientist, of course).  We don't actually buy this brand, despite their amazing graphic design.  We buy Sunchang because the woman at HMart told us it's the best (and some others seem to agree).

bibim nengmyun

I liked this dish because I thought it would be a good way to test out the difference between the gochujang rated a 3 vs the 5.  Honestly, I was terrified of the 5 at first.  The picture on the jar doesn't have eyes anymore!  But it actually wasn't that bad.  At first, I don't think there is even a difference between the 3 and 5, but once it hits your mouth the 5 does create a tingle.  I definitely burns a little bit, but it's also sort of just like a really pungent half sour pickle.  For every day, the 3 is just fine, but I'm ok with keeping the 5 in the house as well.

The dish itself is...interesting.  Which I know was what my great grandmother said about things she didn't like, but that's not what I mean at all.  I wouldn't say it was my favorite thing I've made recently, but it was a nice change of pace to what we usually eat and was super simple to throw together.  It's a cold noodle dish, which I'm not very accustomed to making.  I like the cold of the noodles contrasted with the heat from the gochujang. The tobiko on top added a nice bite that I enjoyed a lot.  The original recipe was served with a hard boiled egg, but that did not sound up my alley at all. Otherwise, the recipe itself was very good!

Bibim Nengmyun

BiBim Nengmyun (Gochujang Buckwheat Noodles)
slightly adapted from spoon fork bacon

8 ounces Korean-style buckwheat noodles
1/3 cup gochujang
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp tobiko (flying fish roe)
¼ small hothouse cucumber, julienne

1. Cook the buckwheat noodles according to package instructions.  Rinse in a colander under cold water until the noodles are cool.
2. Combine the gochujang, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  The gochujang will be thick at first, but just keep whisking!
3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat.  Garnish with tobiko and julienned cucumber.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bulgogi Style Salmon with Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms

bulgogi-style salmon

This weekend we finally made a trip up to my favorite type of grocery store - the Asian market.  We hadn't been in so many months, I was running low on lots of my staple ingredients!  Although there are a few Asian markets on the north side of Chicago, I haven't found any Korean markets, and I hadn't found any markets that were very big.  So this weekend was the grand adventure - we went up to the HMart in Niles.


I've been to HMart's in Maryland and Massachusetts, so I knew generally what I could expect.  But the one in Niles is a Super HMart which means it's the size of the Home Depot next door.  We were literally lost in there for hours.  We watched folks making kimchi, tried lots of samples (except the blood sausage... the woman handing out samples didn't think it was a good idea to offer me any), and loaded up on some of our favorite ingredients.

Making kimchi

One fun part of the trip was watching the men at HMart making fresh kimchi.  For those of you who aren't familiar with kimchi, it's a spicy fermented cabbage dish.  It's almost similar to a good half sour pickle.  In Korean restaurants, they often start the meal with a variety of very small side dishes that can include tofu, a type of Korean potato salad, broccoli, and always kimchi.  I'd never seen anyone make it before so this was a special treat for me.  They pull the cabbage to shreds while they're mixing it with the spices and vinegar.  Pretty cool!


This salmon dish was really delicious. It was a nice change of pace from our usual lemon juice and garlic salt preparation.  It was just a little bit spicy from the sambal oelek and was sweetened by the sherry and sugar.  The ginger, garlic, and soy sauce rounded out the traditional Asian flavors.  In Korean tradition, I served a side of the freshly made kimchi along with our meal, which was spicy and pungent.  My favorite!  I especially liked the bed of bok choy and mushrooms under the salmon.  Stay tuned for the final component of the meal!

bulgogi-style salmon

Bulgogi-Style Salmon with Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms
slightly adapted from WeHeartFood

3 large garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking sherry (Chinese rice wine would work, too)
2 tsp minced fresh ginger, divided
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)
2 salmon fillets, 0.5-1 lb each
1 tbsp olive oil (or chili-infused olive oil)
1 bunch bok choy, bottoms removed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
2. Combine 2 of the garlic cloves (I broke them up slightly but didn't bother mincing), green onions, soy sauce, sherry, 1 tsp of ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and chili-garlic sauce.  Blend using either your immersion blender or food processor until smooth to create your marinade.
3. Place the salmon in a glass baking dish.  Pour the marinade evenly over the salmon fillets and allow to marinate for at least 5 minutes.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the salmon is just opaque at the center.
4. Meanwhile, place the olive in a wok and heat over medium high heat.  Add the remaining clove of garlic, minced, and 1 tsp of ginger to the oil and heat until fragrant.
5. Add the bok choy and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are soft and the bok choy is wilted.
6. Serve the salmon over a bed of bok choy and mushrooms.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spicy Roasted Okra

Spicy Roasted Okra

Let's talk okra.  Have you ever tried okra?  I grew up just north of Boston, so needless to say we were not a big okra-eating family.  Actually, we weren't an okra-eating family at all.  I'm not sure I'd ever even seen okra before I moved to DC, never mind tried it.  I mean, the stuff looks like it's covered in dog slobber.  Not exactly on my top 10 "must try" list.

Spicy Roasted Okra

Strangely enough, the grocery store by my apartment in Chicago almost always has okra. (Except the first time I'd worked up the nerve to try it.  Obviously, that day they had no okra whatsoever.)  In my store, it's up on the shelf with the Brussels sprouts.  And that is another food - Brussels sprouts - that I never thought I liked until I found out they're actually my favorite thing in the world when sauteed in bacon fat and mixed with Israeli couscous.  So if I could give Brussels sprouts a shot, why not okra?

Spicy Roasted Okra

My first instinct was that the dog slobber oozing out of the okra needs to be dried up.  Please. And that means we are not making okra in a pan.  We are not sauteing it down to a puddle of dog slobber.  I'm not quite ready for that, even if I was using bacon fat.  When I found this recipe for roasting the okra, I figured this was the best way to go.

By the way, as long as we're talking bacon fat, I have a confession to make.  For Easter, I made a quiche (which obviously included bacon) and ever since I've been saving leftover bacon fat in my fridge.  I only use it for things like quick brussels sprouts on a weeknight.  But yeah, there's that.  Don't judge me.  Especially if you're my sweet Kosher-keeping Bubby.

Spicy Roasted Okra

Right, so okra.  Okra rocks.  Or at least this okra recipe does.  I'm not quite ready to venture out and try any others yet, but I'm pretty stoked about what we had going on here.  I'm always looking for a new vegetable to change up our routine (which, come summer, is asparagus, asparagus, asparagus....and our roommate hates asparagus) so this is a really nice change of pace.  Plus it's seriously easy.  You don't even have to trim the tops off if you don't want to!  And the chili-infused olive oil the Monkey Scientist's mom gave us has some serious kick to it, so you know he was loving this recipe, too. (But if you're a weirdo and don't like spicy foods, you could use olive oil instead and I think you'll be just fine!)  I'm excited. It's going into the rotation.

Oh, P.S. those glorious little nuggets on the plate that look like tater tots are actually roasted gnocchi.  In this case, Cajun roasted gnocchi.  My old co-worker's sister gave me this recipe months ago and it is one of my favorite things ever.  I really need to share it with you one of these days! 

Spicy Roasted Okra

Spicy Roasted Okra
from Tartlette

1 lb okra
1/4 c chili-infused olive oil (we bought it, but you can make your own)
1/2 tsp ground sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Wash the okra and slice in half vertically.  I cut the tops off first, but this is optional.
3.  Put the okra in a large bowl with the chili-infused olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
4.  Place the okra in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the okra is browned and crispy.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Home

I really try to stick to food blogging here, but I feel like I'd be doing a great disservice to my hometown to not say something today.

I grew up every year spending Patriot's Day with my dad and brother, watching the Boston Marathon.  Coming into this week and all through the morning yesterday, I was so disappointed that I couldn't be home for one of my favorite traditions for yet another year.  And then I heard about the tragedy.

To be honest, I really have no words.  My emotions are raw.

I'm angry.  That's my city.  It's my home.  It makes me feel violated and wrong.  I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.  It's a special city that I am so proud to be from and I am pissed.

I'm sad.  I'm so very sad for the people affected by this tragedy.  I am so grateful to everyone who called, emailed, texted, and Facebooked to reached out to me to make sure my family and friends are safe.  My heart is where it always truly is - in Boston.

Tomorrow, I'll post the recipe and blog post I wrote up last week.  I hope it can comfort you the only way I know how - with food.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thai Red Curry Chicken

Thai Red Curry

I'm just going to not talk about my lack of frequent posting today and instead talk about yoga.  Just for a quick change of pace, and because this dinner was eaten at 10 pm so that I could go to yoga before I ate.  I'm lucky the Monkey Scientist grew up in a household where they almost always eat late dinners because this is becoming a more and more frequent occurrence for us, especially since my Tuesday and Thursday yoga classes are at 8.

Thai Red Curry

Like this blog, my yoga journey started in DC.  When I was living in DC for my "intern summer" (my DC readers know what I'm talking about), I was working in a government affairs lobbying office on F Street for a huge IT company.  My family friends have always been huge into yoga, but I'd never been to a real class of my own.  I discovered this amazing yoga studio in Dupont Circle that I would walk to once or twice a week for class.  More importantly, I discovered a yoga teacher who was patient and wise and made me leave with such a sense of calm and happiness that I had never felt in any other type of exercise.  I dragged others to her class with me and enjoyed it all summer long.

I moved back to Michigan at the end of the summer to finish school and tried a yoga class here and there.  In January, I moved back to DC to find that my yoga teacher was off on a long journey that would eventually bring her to settle in Costa Rica.  My yoga studio had been turned into a nail salon (like seemingly many storefronts in DC).  I tried a few other studios, but they were so crowded that I didn't feel the personal centering I had felt before. And then I joined Stroga.

Thai Red Curry

Stroga is meant to bring together strength and yoga.  Instead, I felt like it pulled them apart for me.  When I was going there, there was a big divide between the "strength people" who did group fitness classes and the "yoga people".  We were on different floors and there didn't seem to be a lot of overlap between people taking the different classes.  And so I got really into group fitness.  I learned to love (and hate) kettlebells, medicine balls, and TRX.  And I never ventured down to the yoga floor - in fact I kind of drew away from yoga.  By the time the infamous NY Times article came out, I was done with yoga.  Me and my kettlebells had moved on.

And then I moved to Chicago.  I was dying to join a studio with group fitness classes, like Stroga had been for me in DC.  There is actually a studio that's really similar to Stroga right across the street from my house, but I couldn't justify spending hundreds of dollars per month on a gym membership.  So I joined the regular gym across the street (for less than $40 per month) and tried to bring everything I'd learned at Stroga to my own gym routine.  I saw yoga classes on the schedule, but until I had a big push from my roommate, I had no interest.  But he pushed me, and I'm glad he did.

Thai Red Curry

I am so lucky that yoga at my gym is wonderful.  I've been to what I call "gym yoga" classes at other gyms where they push you and don't correct you, and I think these are the types of injury-laden classes the NY Times was talking about.  Even though one of our weekly classes is yoga sculpt, our wonderful instructors correct me constantly and have pushed me far beyond any limits I felt before.  In fact, my yoga sculpt class is where I am CONSTANTLY being yelled at to plug my shoulders into my back, which has improved my arms stands and head stands tremendously.

So I'm back into yoga.  I feel like I'm getting a lot stronger from it and I'm starting to find that peace of mind back that brought me to love yoga in the first place.  Still, some weeks, I have no interest in going. But others I find myself on the mat three times a week.  For someone who has never been big into working out, that's huge for me.  It makes me earn this curry dish.  With regular coconut milk.

Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry Chicken
from Eat, Live, Run

1 tbsp coconut oil
1″ knob ginger, peeled and grated
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 tbsp red curry paste
3 cups coconut milk, light or regular
1 1/2 cups water
2 baby bok choy, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped snow peas
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and julienned or diced into 1/4″ thick pieces
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
cooked rice or quinoa for serving

1. In a dutch oven over medium high heat, melt the coconut oil.
2. Add the grated ginger and saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Don't let it start to brown.
3. Throw in the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is seared on all sides but not cooked through.  Add the curry paste and continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes.
4. Pour in the water and coconut milk (be sure to shake or stir the coconut milk before adding) along with the bok choy, bell pepper, snow peas, and sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil.
5.  Once boiling, add the sugar, fish sauce, lime, and salt.  Turn the heat down to medium or low and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Serve over rice or quinoa.