Category Archives: Tastes of Home

Go Nuts

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It’s impossible to eat just one.  You can almost chisel your biceps while practicing the hand-to-mouth technique.

I am a big fan of spiced nuts.  Sweet and crunchy, they’re the perfect accompaniment to those ample holiday cocktails.  Already delicious naked, it’s only an improvement to dress nuts up in sugar and coat them with seasonal spice.

When I lived in Santiago, Chile, I was a slave to the roasted almond carts.  Their sweet vanilla scent would dictate my path throughout the city. Fresh from the roasting pans and tepidly warm, they were addicting.

As the Christmas spirit takes me under its wing, I’ve found comfort in the tastes of home.  Around the holiday season, spiced nuts seem to be one of those things.  Like on the streets of Santiago, the aroma takes you prisoner and swaddles you in its warm blanket of spice.  Rounded out in flavor by the addition of just a bit of heat, these nuts are the perfect snack if you can keep them around more than an hour.

Spiced Nuts

Makes 4 cups

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

4 cups nuts of your choice, I used almonds and walnuts

1 cup sugar

1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder (optional)

Whisk together egg white and water in a large bowl until foamy.  Toss with nuts to coat.  Add sugar and spice to mixture, then toss to coat evenly.

Heat a dry pan on the stove over medium heat. In small batches, roast the nuts stirring frequently.  Adjust heat if needed.  You’ll want a kitchen fan as it will get a bit smokey.  When the nuts take on a deep brown caramelized color, they’re finished, about 3-4 minutes per batch.  

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Spreading on the Pumpkin Cheer

pumpkin dup

About the time of year when carols strike up in endless succession, peppermint and cinnamon emerge from their warm-weather hibernation.  Lattes abound in seasonal flavors and pumpkin is suddenly the guest of honor at dinner.

In the spirit of things, last Saturday I prepared my contributions to our Thanksgiving extravaganza. After last year, my chestnut stuffing and pumpkin dip were requested for a return appearance.

Clockwise from left: Turkey, chile roasted sweet potato, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato and spinach gratin, mashed potatoes, Cajun potato salad, stuffing, roasted veggies, glazed carrots, green bean casserole and a trifecta of macaroni and cheese

Dinner, clockwise from left: Turkey, chile roasted sweet potato, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato and spinach gratin, mashed potatoes, Cajun potato salad, stuffing, roasted veggies, glazed carrots, green bean casserole and a trifecta of macaroni and cheese

The stuffing recipe was covered in one of my first posts (“yay” for one year of blogging), and the pumpkin dip also received a nod.  In retrospect, however, I think the dip deserves another moment of glory.

The recipe was lifted from another blog, turned on to me by a friend, Haute Apple Pie.  My friend brought the dip along for a holiday party and immediately it entered my repertoire of go-tos.  In the States, this was complicated by the fact that the dip is best served with sliced apples and a particular Swedish cookie, Anna’s Original Ginger Thins.  Locating the Ginger Thins was a bit of a challenge, but you could always count on your local Ikea.

2012-11-23 10.13.40

Which brings me to the next challenge.

Locating just about anything in Ikea can bear semblance to assisting Indiana Jones in finding the Lost Ark. You have two options: submit to Ikea’s intricately woven maze of ergonomic chairs and locate the cookies in approximately 3.25 hours, or shave off time by gambling with a case of vertigo and take on Ikea in reverse.  If you choose the latter, just remember, when you inevitably lose sight of up from down, walk away from the smell of meatballs.

It's not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

By some coincidence, Ginger Thins are available in all Korean Emarts.  And in three flavors, no less! We must take this as a sign that we are to consume as much pumpkin dip as humanly possible this holiday season.

Great as an appetizer or dessert, it’s always well received.

Pumpkin Dip

From Haute Apple Pie, with modifications

Yield: 2 cups

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (For Korean kabocha squash, halve then scoop out seeds and microwave about 12-15 minutes or until tender. Scoop out soft flesh and mash with a fork.)

1 package cream cheese

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice, or any available combination of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

apples, to serve

Anna’s Original Ginger Thins

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then serve with Ginger Thins and sliced apples.

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PB & C

All the main food groups

Peanut butter and jelly is one combination that America has stamped its name on.  A sustenant combination of non-perishable spreads, it’s the poor man’s wonder and the picnicker’s joy.  

Quite honestly, I don’t care too much for peanut butter, but when mellowed out with just the right sweetness it certainly strikes my fancy. Jelly works, but chocolate is my preferred match.  Something about the salty peanut butter with sweet chocolate is clearly addictive.  So much so, that without Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, my life is devoid of all purpose.  Motivation dwindles and the threshold of enjoyment is pushed to an unacceptable level.

Since moving to Korea, I have sought to get my PB & C satisfaction wherever I can – stocking up on visits to the army base and relying on imports from my dearest friends.  I can’t deny the fact, however, that it’s still not enough.   

Last spring, we made a somewhat groundbreaking discovery.  It was that if you put granulated sugar into a blender and pulse, you actually end up with a blender full of powdered sugar (a rarity here).  This lent itself wickedly to cream cheese frosting, and now is making a return appearance.

Best. Discovery. Ever.

With this little kitchen trick, it’s 100% possible to make your own version of  peanut butter cups in Korea. And, in under 15 minutes.  Known at home as “buckeyes,” I’m afraid to say it, but they may even be tastier than Reese’s.  Super soft and creamy, you can even freeze a batch to keep around for later.

Note: The recipe calls for the peanut butter mixture to be balled and individually dipped into chocolate for the full effect.  I’m lazy and operate typically in a craving-fueled frenzy, so I just slapped mine in a dish as layers.  Either way suffices. 

The intended end product. Fancy.

JIF Buckeyes  from allrecipes.com

Makes 5 dozen

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups powdered sugar

1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips / 6 bars Ghana chocolate

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening / butter or margarine

1. Combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on LOW until blended (I mixed with a fork) . Add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended (Wear out your arm muscle with that fork). Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture, when shaped into a ball, will stay on a toothpick. Shape into 1-inch balls (Or, spread in an even layer in a dish of some sort – I used a large Tupperware). Refrigerate.

 2. Place chocolate chips and shortening in microwave-safe bowl (Break Ghana bars into chunks, place in microwave-safe bowl along with butter or margarine). Microwave on MEDIUM for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until mixture is smooth. Reheat as needed while coating peanut butter balls.

3. Insert toothpick in peanut butter ball. Dip 3/4 of ball into chocolate, leaving top uncovered to resemble a buckeye. Remove excess. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Remove toothpick. Smooth over holes. Refrigerate until firm.

OR

3. Smear that chocolate goodness all over the layer of peanut butter, refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. 

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Paratha Pie

The United Nations of Comfort

The United Nations of Comfort

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These days, it’s all about fusion.  Peking duck tacos and curry vinaigrette.  An affiliate of  reinvention, sometimes it’s all that’s left to forge ahead.    Using new ingredients in unexpected ways not only crosses cultural barriers, but elevates our taste buds as well.

A method used by pros to forge new ground, in an expat’s situation it’s built right in.  Substitution is the name of the game and if you can’t get creative you’re doomed to a life of cereal and steamed rice.

Ample time spent with my new English, Irish, Kiwi and South African comrades made me aware of one area in which the US is lacking.  It’s ability to employ pastry for more than just after-dinner delights.  Sure, we’ve all been to a party with pastry-wrapped brie, but it would probably cause a stir to break through a crust and puncture a mushroom.

Happy to have been introduced to the realm of steak and ale, chicken and mushroom and Shepard’s pies, I embrace them wholeheartedly.  Particularly when it rolls around to the comfort food time of year.

I’d been craving a pie recently, and I had some cream of mushroom soup to use up.  I was thinking it’d be just the thing to whip together a filling, but I was faced with one glaring void regarding the crust.  The lack of  an oven.

Realizing I had just the thing, I scurried home and pulled out the parathas from my freezer.  Now, these are a discovery I made about a year ago.  Available from both Emart and Homeplus, they’re a tasty little treat.  With Indian roots, they’re a flat bread intended to serve with curry.  The ones of the Korean variety I’ve noticed have a particularly buttery crispness.  One that would perfectly jive as puff pastry.

I threw together the filling, quickly browned the paratha and we were in business.  The next best thing to a warm bubble bath on a cold autumn eve.  Stay tuned for my alternative for a tub.

Representing India and the United States

Chicken and Mushroom Paratha Pie

Serves 1

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 button mushrooms, quartered

1 chicken breast, cubed

1/4 can cream of mushroom soup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

salt and pepper, to taste

1 frozen parantha

cream cheese, optional

Heat onion in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes.  Toss in the chicken.  Continue to cook until all bits are cooked through.

Pour in soup, Worcestershire, herbs and stir to mix.  Season to taste. Allow to heat through, about 2-3 minutes.  For a treat, you could also stir in some cream cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.  Set aside.

Heat another dry skillet (or wash and heat the same one) to medium heat.  Place the frozen paratha flat in the pan.  Allow to cook until starting to crisp around the edges and puff slightly, then flip.  Repeat until paratha is browned on both sides.  Remove from heat and cut a circle out of the middle.  Fill the hole with the reserved filling and top off with the crispy circle.

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Gimme S’more

It was just the welcome I was looking for.  This past summer, it was time for the long-awaiting trip to visit home.  After 18 months, I would be able to catch up with the ones I love.

I slotted in Colorado first, and the plan was to head straight up to the backwoods for a dose of mountain air, wide vistas and good company.  A friend scooped me at the airport and it was go-time from the moment I sat in the front seat.  Being the rock star that she is, she’d emailed my Korean counterparts and taken suggestions for the most pined-after snacks.  She had a selection at my disposal for the drive up to the mountains.  I was greeted with mini wheels of cheese, Cape Cod’s finest chips and chocolate-covered pomegranate bits containing just enough anti-oxidants to cancel out all fattening properties.

We made our way through the dark curves of I-70 and miraculously arrived at our destination.  Following our friend’s nondescript directions to a long driveway and some Christmas lights smack  in the middle of a cellular dead-zone, it was nothing short of a miracle.  Upon arrival, we left the vehicle behind and hurried over to reminisce beside a cranking bonfire.  Flanked by great friends in a perfect setting, I was content.  That is, until our Budweisers ran dry.

Man and pride

About the time we ventured inside to replenish the stocks, I found out just how much more was in store for me.  Scattered about the counters, I encountered the remnants of a neighborhood BBQ earlier in the day.  Deviled eggs, venison brats — it was the embodiment of  the land I love.

How I had dreamed of this moment!  Wasting no time, I dove in and did a number on the leftovers.  It was then that I encountered the holy grail.  Shrugged off as a picked over mess, I hadn’t really taken note of the pile of crumbs.  One taste, however, and I dove in deep.  Deep into that ooey, gooey, chocolate-y rendition of s’mores.  God Bless the U.S.A.

Back in Korea after the trip, I’m left with many fond memories.  And many unrelenting cravings.

Poised to burn

This weekend, it was time again for a fire.  For a Korean version of the British holiday Guy Fawkes Night, we gathered on the beach.  The holiday celebrates the triumph of the monarchy after a dissident tried to blow up their parliament.  The plan was for a feast, followed by a burning of the guest-of-honor — a cardboard effigy of Guy Fawkes himself.  Thinking nothing pairs better with homicidal arson than a chocolate-y mess, it was time.  Time to take on the masterpiece.

Toast the Rockies

A friend made his contribution to the event by shipping in some marshmallows, by way of Costco in Seoul. I’m told you’re also likely to find some at HomePlus or Emart. In the spirit of things, however, it was only appropriate to employ the Rocky Mountain’s finest as a nod to the dish’s roots.

Starting first with crushed Diget digestive cookies, you make a base.  

Following the crust, you add a layer of brownies.  

When it’s  all baked together, the magic happens.  You pile on the marshmallows and torch those babies up.

Upon sharing this dish, I was propositioned with marriage, under the pretense that this creation could be our wedding cake.  Later, I was told that one party-goer (who shall remain anonymous) was found in a corner siphoning all remaining crumbs into his mouth.   I think it’s safe to assume they shared my sentiments.

Brownie S’mores Bars

Serves…1

9 Diget digestive cookies (or graham crackers for those at home), crushed

6 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 box brownie mix (Tous les Jours makes one readily available)

marshmallows

9-inch round cake pan

Combine the crushed cookies, butter, and sugar until mixed evenly.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.  Toast in the oven just briefly, about 5 minutes on 175C/350F.  While the crust bakes, make brownie mix according to package instructions (the Tous les Jours mix only requires water).  Remove crust from oven.  Spread the brownie mixture over the cookie bottom to form an even layer.  Bake according to package instructions.

When the brownie has cookies through, again remove the pan from the oven.  Top the whole thing off with a layer of marshmallows.  Throw it back into the oven one final time, for only about 3-5 minutes.  The marshmallows should puff slightly.

Here comes the fun part.  Spark up a torch and toast the marshmallow topping to a nice golden brown.  Hide from your friends and enjoy.  All of it.  🙂

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Corner Shop Chowder

Sliced string cheese makes for a chic presentation.

I am lazy.  Especially when it comes to going to the grocery store.  Having been coddled for most of my life with a supermarket always within a block, I don’t appreciate my current situation.  Yes, we’re talking about a bike commute that amounts to maaaaybe five minutes, but there’re at least two intersection crossings.  Those can tack on minutes while simultaneously shaving them from your life expectancy.  Also – have you ever ridden your bike with a watermelon on your back? It tests your balance.  Mine is not so hot.

Suffice it to say, when I’m able to make do with what’s available from my corner shops, I’m a happy camper.  Between the family run joint with fresh vegetables, the butcher down the street, and the franchised CU mart, there’s a fair amount to work with.

Not so long ago, one of my favorite blogs (www.eatliverun.com) posted a recipe for Cheesy Green Chile Potato Chowder. It was doable with a minimal commute, and I was in.  Samgyeopsal (pig belly) substituted for the bacon and sliced string cheese sufficed as “mexican blend.”  When the entire batch was consumed amongst two people in under 30 minutes, I knew it was a keeper. It’s just the thing to warm the crisp autumn air! 

Cheesy Green Chile and Potato Chowder

Modified from eatliverun.com for those of us in the far East

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 green chili peppers (I used ones on the large side because they’re less spicy)

1 green bell pepper, small diced

1 large yellow onion, small diced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 slices samgyeopsal, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 4 cups water

2 tsp salt

2 cups milk

1/4 cup flour

3 twist string cheeses, sliced {plus 1 additional for serving}

thinly sliced green onions

Directions:

First, fire roast the peppers.

To do this, place poblano peppers right over the flame on your burner if you have a gas stove. Flip occasionally until every inch of the pepper is charred. If you don’t have a gas stove, place peppers underneath the broiler on a lined sheet tray {also flipping occasionally} until charred. Once charred all around, immediately remove peppers from heat and zip up in a plastic zip-loc bag. Let sit for 20 minutes then remove charred skin with the back of a knife and roughly chop up peppers.

While your peppers are cooling, fry the samgyeopsal in a large dutch oven or heavy  bottomed pot. Fry until crispy then remove from the pot and drain on pepper towels. Keep grease in the pot!

Add your onion and garlic to the hot grease. Saute for about six minutes over medium heat until just tender. Add cubed potatoes to the pot, as well as the peppers, and toss well so everything is combined.

Pour in bouillon mixture and add the salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes until potatoes are very tender {be sure to “test” with a fork or knife…nothing worse than biting into an uncooked potato!}. Add milk and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together so that no flour clumps remain and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Turn off heat completely and add cheese to the pot. Stir well so cheese melts. Serve immediately with crumbled samgyeopsal, sliced green onions and additional cheese.

Time:

1.25 hours

If coming from a location in sight of a supermarket, click here for the original recipe.

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Bali Bali Bhaji

Bali, bali!  It was probably the first expression I learned in Korean.  Meaning “hurry,” the exclamation is indicative of the Korean mentality: hurry up and wait. Not really grasping the concept of cohesive planning, this country seems to make many decisions at the last possible second. This almost always culminates in a mad rush, followed by an inevitable lull during which the consecutive decision waits to be made.  Followed, of course, by another hasty dash.

18 months ago, with my life carefully stacked into storage pods in Denver, I still had no idea where I’d be moving.   After a scramble to meet the application deadline, I waited for an interview.  Weeks passed before one was requested.  When the time was selected, without advance warning, I was to be available within 8 hours.  Following the chat, I waited.  

When word finally reached my email, it was that I should prepare to sign and return documents on their way to my house immediately.  Documents detailing where I’d live and the level I’d be teaching?  Oh no, no, that decision hadn’t been made.  I’d find that out 8 days after my arrival in Korea, on the day before I moved in.  I had to learn to go with the flow (and breathe deeply).

This ability came in handy during my time in India this past winter. On more than one bus ride, without warning, small windows of time were allowed to “take care of business.”  During one such window, hunger plagued me.  Unsure of just how long our bus would remain in the station, I frantically located the nearest castle of fried treats. 

The crowds didn’t ease the rush

Noting some fresh round patties in contrast to the fly ridden stocks, I said I’d take two.  Not really sure what I’d purchased, I bowed my head and streamlined it to the bus.  I was happily surprised by the sweet onion flavor when I dug in on board.  Turned out I’d grabbed a bhaji, and the craving was logged in my psyche.

This week, I decided to try my hand at homemade.  The recipe seemed straightforward enough, and I’ve never known fried onions to turn out bad.  Turns out I was right; simple and delicious.  One recommendation, however, is to be sure you slice the onion thinly.  Mine were a bit too chunky.

To compliment the little fritters, I simmered up some mango chutney.  Canned mango is available rather readily, and I had some spices on reserve from my trip.

All in all, the snack was ready in under an hour.  Next time you’re surprised with company, they’ll be just the thing.  

Onion Bhaji – From BBC Food

Serves 4-6

2 free-range eggs

onions, sliced

120g/4oz plain flour (1/2 cup for the imperialists out there)

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra if required

1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.

2. Add the onion rings and mix well.

3. Add the flour, ground coriander and cumin seeds and stir well to combine.

4. Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add a large spoonful of the bhaji mixture and fry for 30-45 seconds, until golden-brown.

5. Turn the bhaji over and fry for a further 30 seconds, until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

6. Repeat with the remaining bhaji mixture, replenishing the oil in the pan if it runs low and allowing it to heat up again after a new addition.

Mango Chutney – From Rasa Malaysia

Yields about 1 cup

1 ripe but firm green mango (450 -500 g)
1 sticks cinnamon (about 2 inch)
2 whole cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp ginger, grated
2-3 whole dry red chilies
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar (if you have access to Indian jaggery use 3/4 cup- 1 cup powdered jaggery depending on the sweetness)
1/2 cup vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt

Cut the mango into 1 inch cubes and for chunky chutney, keep some pieces about 2 inch.  If you are looking for smooth, cut them all in same size.

Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the spices into a bundle. Cook the mango, spices (in the muslin cloth), water, ginger and garlic until the mango is tender. Some pieces will disintegrate into the water. Takes about 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and dry chilies. I like to break 1 red chilly into flakes and keep 1 whole. If you want and are feeling adventurous you can go up on the chilies. The sugar requirement may also vary depending on the sweetness of your mango and personal preference. Feel free to reduce or add as per your liking.

Cook for about 30 -35 minutes until the chutney is thickened. Squeeze every bit you can from the cloth and discard it. Transfer to sterilized jars while still hot. Don’t put the lid, until the chutney cools. It keeps well for 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

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I’d Be Peachy Keen

In these fleeting days of summer, I find myself drawn to the light.  The last rays before the sun drifts behind a hillside.  Don’t go, day, don’t go.

As a chill presents itself in the evening air and the day end creeps dangerously close to dinner time, before we know it, it’s winter.  Under the cover of nightfall, we find ourselves holed up, hunkered down, and ordering in.  In these final days of summer, I refuse to submit.  I’ll keep the picnic dream alive with one last summertime favorite.  Chicken salad — with peaches. Double down or walk away.

I still remember the day of the epiphany.  Apparently pulling one over for years of my youth, I found my mom in the kitchen, passing off canned “chicken” with mayo as the real deal homemade.  Living under the pretense that an aptitude for recipes such as chicken salad came only by way of a generation gap and an arsenal of secret ingredients, I was appalled.  The thought of a dressing untempered by even so much as mustard nearly brought tears to my eyes.  What do you mean that’s all it is? Just, just…mayonnaise?

Appalled at the simplicity, I developed a leniency towards recipes bulked out with cranberries, almonds and the like.  A balanced tang countered with a delicate sweetness.  Not to mention a limited quantity of mayonnaise.

This time looking for something a bit different, I took to the internet.  I landed on a recipe that incorporated Dijon and capers in addition to fresh fruit.  I substituted peaches for fresh grapes, timidly mixed in the capers…and was delighted!  Perfect for those endless summer nights.

Chicken Salad with Peach, Nuts and Capers

Adapted from epicurious.com

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast

5 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup diced peach

1 cup (3 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, macadamia, whatever you have on hand

3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped

Bring water and bouillon cubes to a boil in a large saucepan, then add chicken and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Drain and cool, then dice into 1-inch chunks.

Meanwhile, stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard.

Stir chicken and remaining ingredients into dressing with salt and pepper to taste.

(This is, of course, best when eaten alongside a blended margarita.  Keep the summer dreams alive!)

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Not Sure About Nicoise

If it’s pink in the middle, it’s cooked too little.  A catchy little tune drilled into me by a dancing burger.  Undoubtedly commissioned to prevent BBQs from going down the tubes (literally), it was introduced to me in grade school.   To this day, every time a dining companion ponders the inquiry of how they’d like their burger cooked, heart palpitations ensue.  Just. Say. Well.

In the case of tuna, for me, it’s always been to the contrary.  Anything more than a light sear and it’s equivalent to pencil shavings.   The silken texture I love is gone with the wind.   Fluttering away with the pungent scent of a freshly opened can.

Finding myself these days on new horizons, it seemed fitting to give canned tuna a second chance.  In Korea, it’s economical and also readily available.  Whereas fresh tuna stands out for its unassuming flavor, canned tends to be a bit musky.  Deciding to harness this, I incorporated capers as a briny compliment.  Finished with a healthy dose of lemon juice, misconceptions flew out the window. Paired with an assemblage of veggies, eggs, and potatoes, I had a tasty spin on an old French classic. Bon appetit!

Tuna Salad Nicoise

Serves 4

For the dressing:

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 pinch salt

1 pinch black pepper

Whisk first three ingredients together in the bottom of a small bowl.  Add oil, one tablespoon at a time, while whisking rapidly to emulsify.  Finish with salt and pepper.

For the salad:

2 250 g cans light tuna

1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp capers, lightly diced

4 cups lettuce, washed and torn

16 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, sliced

8 new potatoes, boiled and quartered

4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced

4 large bowls, to serve

Combine tuna, lemon juice and capers.  Set aside.  In bowls, arrange one-quarter each of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, and eggs.  Top with tuna mixture.  Toss with dressing and enjoy!

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For Palatable Meal

Meal with fragrant flavor will present happy time to you.

Words of wisdom to enrich even the most mundane acts.  When I found these words on the side of a plastic container I intended to use for my next project, I couldn’t help but chuckle. 

In Korea, the name “Konglish” refers to any expression that’s a hybrid of the English and Korean languages.  Often times, they’re a literal translation of Korean phrases into English, which may or may not be successful.  In daily life, I tend to encounter such expressions constantly, be it as a variety name on a box of cookies or a graphic on a student’s tee.  

Some examples:

Usually, the ambiguity is part of the charm.  In other cases, the lack thereof is simply appalling:

I’m glad the Chinese-adorned t-shirt trend has passed.  Moving on…

A few weeks ago, I’d been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try out an experiment.  After stumbling upon a roadside tomato stand, and with a string of sunny days in the forecast, I figured the time had come.  I wanted to make my own sun-dried tomatoes.  It seemed straight-forward enough.

I gathered up a selection of cherry tomatoes, halved them, and jimmy-rigged a set-up to allow for air circulation.  A vegetable steamer poised atop a casserole lid served the purpose, but if you have a cooling rack on hand, that’d probably suffice as well.  The air flow is key to allowing for even drying. 

For weeks, I’d been scouting out my location.  Off an outer stairwell of my apartment, there’s access to a south-facing roof.  Always crowded with pots of fermenting kimchi, I’d noticed a neighbor drying out peppers there as well.  Perfect.  With my set-up in hand, I chose a spot, then called upon my patience.

After a couple of days, the tomatoes had lost their juicy luster and had shrunken to a fraction their size.  With a supple quality about the same as a raisin, I figured they were finished.  Some moisture was retained in the heart of the slice, and they tasted just divine.  It was time for the second step. 

Inspired by the cordial words on my vessel, I cheerily set out to make an oil marinade for my little tomatoes.  I layered them with garlic, salt and herbs in the container,  then covered the whole masterpiece in olive oil.  I set it in a cool, dark place, then took a trip to the United States.

During my trip, there were a few thoughts of home that drifted around in my head.  One was the anticipation of robust tomato flavor in the pastas of my future, and another was a fear of  the triumph of larvae.  There’s a bit of a situation in my apartment, and let’s just say the provided housing isn’t exactly ideal

After a wonderful trip, I returned home this past Sunday.  By some miracle, my floor wasn’t teeming with squirmy life.  Winning.  When I opened my cupboard, however, I found a furry surprise.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a small rodent (not that I’d be surprised) – just a bit of mold on the surface of my pride and joy. I’ll spare you from an appetizing photo of this step.  Instead, I’ll take it as a lesson and advise you, dear reader, what NOT to do.  DON’T choose a container that leaves a healthy airspace above your layered beauties, even if it does call out to you with its charming Konglish.  Filling the chosen container to the rim with oil would be advisable.  Better luck next time. Take two for “Pastas adorned with fragrant tomato flavor…”

Oil-marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes, halved (If using another tomato variety, just slice until about 1/2″ thick.)

Coarse salt

Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on top of some contraption that allows for air flow.  Sprinkle with salt, and place in an area receiving direct sunlight.  Check frequently, and after about 2-3 days tomatoes should appear shrunken, and be retaining only about as much moisture as a raisin.  When this is the case, move on to the next part. 

Air-tight container or jar

Olive oil

Garlic, minced

Fresh or dried herbs

Salt

Carefully layer tomatoes in the bottom of your container.  When the tomatoes cover the bottom, sprinkle with garlic, herbs and salt.  Repeat until the container is just about full, compacting periodically with some kind of blunt object (I used a muddler). Pour the container full with enough oil to completely cover the tomatoes and reach almost to the lid.  Secure lid tightly, and allow to marinade in a cool, dark place.

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