Tag Archives: recipe

More Than Meets the Eye

In my orientation to living in Korea, I was told to consult YouTube to learn how to operate my Korean appliances. Needless to say, I was thankful when I arrived at my new home and my rice cooker only had one button. I scoffed at my friend’s futuristic device, with a flurry of Korean characters dotting the front control panel.

When things were not so simple, a strategic trial and error process ensued. Sometimes, there were surprises, such as when another friend discovered a toaster lurking within her microwave:

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It paid to keep your mind open to new discoveries.

With this guiding mantra, this past spring I embarked on a journey. Following two years teaching in Korea, it was time for the next adventure. I decided to travel Southeast Asia by bicycle. Travel by motor vehicle inhibits the senses. Countless sights, sounds and smells are lost with the speed of transit. On bicycle, I wasn’t taking in the scenery – I was part of the scenery.

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Besides this non-traditional path to experience the region, I wanted a way to connect with the community. Previously, I had worked with the environmental organization Trees, Water & People on their fuel-efficient stove program in Honduras. Their program works in developing countries to introduce slight modifications to an existing cook stove design for greater efficiency. With their help, I was able to identify a similar organization, GERES, leading the way to clean cooking in Cambodia.

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Living divides us, but eating is universal. It was decided that my riding partner and I would stop through one of the communities where GERES was active to see their work in action. The use of stoves with modifications introduced by GERES has the potential to save up to 2 million tons of resources by 2017. My hope was to show support for their mission, and to experience clean cooking firsthand.  It was arranged that we would prepare a collaborative meal for the community on one of GERES’ stove models, the New Laos Stove.

After receiving a tour of the stove production facility and a cooking demonstration by our host (read about it here), the first order of business was a visit to the market. Our brigade was made up of my riding partner and I, our GERES host, Makhara, and friendly Savy, whose home was hosting the event. With a rough sketch of a menu, we entered the web of local vendors in search of fresh ingredients. Surrounded by mounds of produce, fresh pineapples caught my attention. Encircled by spiraling ridges, my eyes were intrigued by the intricate pattern carved into the fruit.

I decided that the pineapple would be of use, and we requested to take four. With only one fruit manicured for sale, we patiently waited as the vendor prepared our order. Watching the woman carefully wind her knife up the sides of the fruit, I noticed she followed a pattern. Her knife seemed to follow the spiraling growth of the fruit’s outer “eyes.”  It struck me that the carved pattern wasn’t simply a facet of presentation, but an ingenious way to preserve the greatest amount of flesh while removing the sharp outer skin. Smitten by the new technique, we finished up at the market and returned to the village.

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One characteristic of the New Laos Stoves is their mobility. Essentially self-contained buckets, the three sizes are able to be shifted and moved depending upon the occasion. The modified design also has a better ease of use than traditional models, with lesser amounts of harmful gases escaping during food preparation. Outside of Savy’s home, we found our set-up for the day. With her family’s production facility beneath her house as a backdrop, we had one large stove on the ground, accompanied by a prep table and loads of curious onlookers.

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We began our prep work, dicing up the pork slabs and comparing the worth of our biceps with a turn at the mortar and pestle. At some point, a loud-speaker was rolled out on a dolly, and before we knew it “Gangnam Style” was echoing throughout the village.

When the coals were deemed ready, we began to cook. One stove, one pot, one thing at a time. We started with the main event: pork and pineapple stir fry. We put the ingredients in the pan and the nominated stove attendant stood by, spatula in hand. 

prep 2

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As things simmered away, eventually it was time for the taste test. Skeptically, the spoon was passed around. Just as I was wondering what was missing in the flavor, someone appeared with a bottle of soy sauce. It was tipped in, along with a few tablespoons of palm sugar.  

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Preparations continued with a version of basil fried rice, and were remedied again by the ladies’ culinary know-how. At last, lunch was ready.  Our panel of discerning judges, the local children, waited on a tarp rolled out for the occasion.

Nervously, I waited for the first gag. But, it didn’t come. When I got the universal signal for all clear, a thumbs up, I eased up and wiped my brow.  

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Happy with the meal’s success, we kicked back and enjoyed each others’ company.  More than anything, I was impressed by the warmth with which we were received.  At first difficult to find our common ground, in no time we were taking turns tending to the stove and comforting the baby, all anxiously awaiting a meal to share. The result was fusion stripped down to its core, peppered with laughter and garnished with cultural exchange. 

With a few new culinary tricks in my back pocket, and an unforgettable experience, we pedaled off into the sunset with a new respect for Cambodia, its people, and the work GERES leads within the community.

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Pork and Pineapple Stir Fry

Serves 4

pork

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp. ginger

2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. oil

1 lb. pork shoulder, diced

1/2 pineapple, diced

2 dried chili peppers, crumbled

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup palm sugar

2 limes

Rice, to serve

Combine garlic, ginger and salt in mortar and pestle, and mix until ground together.  Or, crush together using the side of your knife on a cutting board.  

Next, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and stir to combine.  

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork mixture and stir-fry until pork is cooked through and pineapple is tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add more soy sauce and palm sugar to taste.  Squeeze lime juice into pan to finish.  Serve with rice.  

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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.

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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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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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Your Guide to Getting Minted

“Always remember to look up and down.”

A friend’s advice after I’d just arrived certainly rang true.  Upon exploration of my new surroundings I found restaurants stacked four tall and neon-illuminated stairwells that led to karaoke heaven.  Born and reared in a nation never short on space, this was a new concept.  Big box super marts housing just over seventeen area codes weren’t all that shock-inducing.  Sprawl was a luxury I’d taken for granted.

Fields juxtapose with the surrounding high-rises

I admired the Korean ability to make efficient use of the space available.  When it came to homegrown produce, nearly everyone had a personal stockade of plants.  Whether the pots lined an apartment overhang or lettuce sprouted just between the highway and the on-ramp, every vacant patch was teeming with life.

Something’s minty…

Along my morning commute, I’ve noticed a bloom of plants that’s intrigued me.  Bearing a striking resemblance to the purchased-then-killed mint plants of failed garden endeavors, I gave it a whiff last spring.  Dismissing the notion, I wrote it off as a bountiful dream.  The other day, for whatever reason, I decided to give it another sniff.  This time I was certain–mint it was! My technical pruning knowledge quickly flew out the window.  I tugged and ripped like a mad-woman, anxious to fill my purse.  Buzzing off the menthol, my mind was on repeat–tabouleh, mojitos, freshhhh freshhhh>REPRISE tabouleh, mojitos, fresh fresh freshhhh…

When I found myself at home with my harvest, I figured it was time to determine a use.  Realizing I was packing heat with a red onion (also a hot commodity), I settled on an old stand-by.  A version of tabouleh, I found this recipe a few years ago in Cooking Light.  Its fresh ingredients and filling protein provide all the summer satisfaction one could dream of.  I had to do without my favorite part, the golden raisins, but it was still delicious. I tried substituting regular, but it just wasn’t the same.  

Moral of the story?  A second opinion is worth a million bites.

Healthy and delicious

Black Lentil and Cous Cous Salad

From Cooking Light, October 2008

1/2 cup dried black lentils (Or any variety, I used green)

5 cups water, divided

3/4 cup uncooked couscous

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered 

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber 

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Rinse lentils with cold water; drain. Place lentils and 4 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.

2. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Combine lentils, couscous, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Yield: 6 1-cup servings

***For questions about where to find the ingredients in Korea, check out the new Ingredient Guide!***

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