Cranberry Pumpkin Microwave Muffins

20 Nov

Oh, you thought I was done posting muffins after ‘Muffin Month’ back in April?

cranberrypumpkinmicrowavemuffins002Nope.

And with Thanksgiving right around the corner for us US folks, and Halloween just past, what better fits the season than some pumpkin and cranberry? These taste like a lighter, airier version of pumpkin pie, and lend themselves well to various nutty additions, if you like a little crunch in your muffin.  Walnuts or pecans might suit them well.

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Review: BURGERMINE – People’s Favorite Burgers

17 Nov

So, this last week, I was craving a burger for my cheat day ‘treat’, and of course I didn’t want to waste my cheat day on a tasteless meat patty and anemic toppings from one of the local fast food joints.  Who would?

Instead, I did some Googling and decided to head to Haebangchon (or HBC, as the locals tend to call it).  Just west of Itaewon, HBC has a high foreign population, but not quite as inflated prices as the main Itaewon street by the station.  To get there, you’ve got to come to Noksapyeong Station on Line 6 and walk out exit 2.  After a few hundred meters up the sidewalk, you’ll see a fork in the road, with the left-hand side street heading up a hill, and a shop with a lot of giant kimchi pots outside on the corner.  Walk up the hill until you’ve passed a couple of side streets on your right, and another tasty pub called Phillies on a corner on your left.  BURGERMINE is nearly across from Phillies. You’ll see some painted renditions of spraycans with Campbell’s labels and various popular characters on the concrete strip beneath the patio.

What makes BURGERMINE special is the concept–it’s a DIY burger bar.  You walk in, and for 18,000 KRW you have 90 minutes, during which you can order as many beef, chicken, or veggie patties as you want, cooked at your request and retrieved via a buzzer system, along with apparently endless plates of fresh-cooked french fries and free soda refills at the fountain.  The beef patties are quite thick and tasty, grilled well without being overcooked.  I liked the chicken breast as well–it came to me bearing noticeable, delicious grill-marks without being leathery or tough.  As for the veggie burgers… I don’t know how they rate, I was too full after a burger, a chicken breast, and picking off three plates of (chili) fries to be tempted into trying one for myself.

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Ginger Pumpkin Chowder

8 Nov

gingerpumpkinchowder001If there is one thing that we all have no shortage of in the months between Halloween and Christmas, it’s probably a variety of leftover winter squashes.  Got an extra cup or two of cooked pumpkin left over from that pie?  Some acorn or butternut squash that didn’t fit in the pan? Tired of cloying sweets and heavy, creamy soups?  Feeling anxious about the upcoming months of rolling away from holiday tables, or trying to cook to accommodate a vegan or vegetarian at the table?  Here is a warming, satisfying meat and dairy-free soup that tastes like the harvest season, in a bowl.

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Feeling Saucy: Tzatziki

6 Nov

tzatziki001For the last, somewhat belated addition to my month of sauce-themed posts, I picked tzatziki, a thick and creamy Greek appetizer which not only makes a great dip, but a delicious sauce over chicken or lamb gyros (or doner kebab, or shawarma–Avengers fans, I’m looking at you).  This is probably the easiest of this month’s sauces to make, but finding one of the key ingredients proved a little tricky.  Fresh dill can be kind of difficult to lay hands on in Seoul, when you’re actually looking for it!

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Feeling Saucy: Peanut Satay

23 Oct

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Peanut sauce is most commonly considered a feature of Southeast Asian cuisines, though it is also found in China and even the Middle East, in varying forms.  It can be cooked with chicken or shrimp, incorporated in noodle dishes, or used as a dipping sauce for vegetables or crackers.  Peanuts and peanut butter can serve as an excellent snack, due to their protein-rich, appetite-suppressing qualities, even in small amounts.  My favorite variation is a rich, creamy sauce with hints of lime and cilantro.  Though I’ve used standard peanut butter, there is no additional sugar or sweetener needed, and the coconut milk gives an excellent base to blend the flavors together.  If you choose to go with an all-natural peanut butter or grind your own peanuts instead, you will likely need to add a dab of brown sugar or syrup in some form, to finish the job.


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Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup water

Heat the coconut milk to a low simmer in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan (a Korean-style stone pot worked excellently, for me) over medium heat.  Add cilantro, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well. Once the spice mixture has come back to a gentle simmer, turn the heat down to low and add peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, and lime.  Stir until the peanut butter has ‘melted’ into the liquid, but be careful not to burn.  You may need to turn the heat off for short periods, if your pan is too thin.  When you add the water, the mixture in the pan will turn whitish and creamy, but thicken once again fairly quickly.  Stir well to blend all ingredients together.

Refrigerate before serving as a dip, salad dressing, or sandwich spread.  Note that the chili oils will separate easily and float to the top, so stir (or shake) before using.  Satay sauce can also be used to stir fry with chicken or seafood, but ensure the meat is nearly cooked before adding it, because the peanut sauce may burn and stick if the heat is too high.

Makes about 2 and 1/2 cups of sauce.

Feeling Saucy: Spicy Remoulade

16 Oct

remoulade003

For a busy October, I decided to feature a series of sauces, highlighting one each week.  While French in name, remoulade comes to us in the US by way of Cajun cuisine, frequently in the company of seafood, fried food, or po’boys, and with an accompanying dose of spicy heat.  This works great as a substitute for tartar sauce, a dressing for salad, or a dip for anything dippable.  Personally, I thought it made a great pairing with falafel, for lunch.

remoulade001

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup garlic chives, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco, Ligo, or Frank’s Red Hot)
2 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes

remoulade002

Mix all ingredients together.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving, to allow flavors to settle.

Enjoy!

Feeling Saucy: Mole Poblano

8 Oct

Growing up in the agricultural belt of the Pacific Northwest, the sheer scope and popularity of Mexican cuisine was so pervasive that it wasn’t until I moved to New York for school that I realized there were places where people actually believed Taco Bell qualified as food, let alone ‘Mexican’ food.  As a child, I didn’t take advantage of this in the same way I might, now–I couldn’t tolerate the taste of cilantro, picked at things I couldn’t recognize, and generally stuck to beef burritos and enchiladas without fail.  Nevertheless, my mother used to faithfully order chicken mole whenever it was available, while I turned up my nose and couldn’t fathom eating any sauce so unconventional.  Years later, I found myself craving it now and then, with only hazy memories of the dish to go on, and in Korea, I’m sure you can imagine it became even harder to procure.

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Mole sauce (pronounced ‘mol-LEH’), in its native Mexico, refers to a wide range of thick, richly-flavored sauces, all of which are based upon varying blends of chili peppers thrown together with nuts and other spices.  Legend has it that mole was invented more or less by accident, when a group of poor nuns found that an important visitor would be arriving, and needed something to feed him.  Chili peppers, day-old bread, nuts, spices, and a little chocolate were sacrificed to the cause, along with an old turkey, and a quintessential fusion dish was born.  Ingredients indigenous to Mexico, such as chili pepper, tomatoes, squash seeds, and chocolate may be cooked alongside Mediterranean almonds and raisins, African sesame, and even Asian spices such as anise and cinnamon.  Despite being based on dried pepper, the sauce is not hot-spicy, but features a rich, slow depth of taste that can be disconcerting to those used to milder flavors.

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