Tag Archives: dinner

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: 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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Dalkkalbi

25 May

A uniquely Korean food that I’m always a little surprised hasn’t caught on more, internationally, is 닭갈비 (dalk-kalbi).  In Seoul, dalkkalbi restaurants are everywhere. dalkkalbi001
You come in as a group, sit down around a table with a built-in hotplate, and the server brings your chicken to cook in front of you while you wait.  At heart, it’s just spicy chicken stir-fry.  External trappings may include 떡 (ddeok, or rice cake), potato, sweet potato, an assortment of vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, shredded cheese, or even a round of fried rice at the end.  Either way, I’ve never met a foreigner who tried it and didn’t like it.

I’ve been telling myself I was going to whip up a batch at home for months, now, but between the move, training for a new job, and general new-home issues, I didn’t find time until today.  I used an excellent recipe, which I really didn’t stray too far from.  The curry powder was kind of a surprise addition, but I tried it and it really works. Anyway, I’m exceptionally pleased with how this batch came out.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do with all the leftovers!

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Shire Apple Stew

20 Jan

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If you haven’t seen The Hobbit yet… well. What are you waiting for?!  If you have, or have any familiarity with Tolkien’s books, you probably know that Hobbits hold the culinary arts in high regard.  This soup is a flavor blend I got the itch to experiment with a couple months ago, googled around and found a recipe for here, then had the renewed urge to try after seeing the film, but didn’t get around to making until today.  All of the ingredients, I feel, would be the sorts of things easily found in Tolkien’s Shire–I couldn’t help but glance twice at the contents of Bilbo Baggins’ pantry in the movie, after all.  Potato soup, of course, is a firm staple in the realm of comfort food (for me, at least).  This recipe, however, dresses it up and gives it a rather classy twist, perfect for entertaining a crowded table on a cold winter night.

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Out with the Old (a.k.a. getting laser eye surgery in Seoul)

4 Jan

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It’s been a really intense few months!  First there was my birthday, and some fixated attention on scale numbers that were inching closer and closer to my goal.  Then there was a sinus infection. And periodic checks to make sure the world wasn’t ending. And holiday parties, and holiday cheese platters, and holiday punch.  Then there was LASEK, and being unable to read anything smaller than font size 36 for a few days, if I could open my eyes at all.

Nevertheless, here I am, with my fancy new cyborg eyes (courtesy of Dream Eye Center in Myeongdong, here in Seoul: 02-779-7888).

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I’ve only had the protective post-surgical lenses out for a day and a half, now, so my vision is still not at 100%, but at least the pain is gone.  Let’s just say cooking was still easier than reading this post as I type it.  I’m hoping the last of the fuzziness clears up pretty soon, and I am looking forward to steadily-improving distance vision.  Even with some blurriness now, it’s better than it was pre-surgery without my glasses, and yesterday/today were supposed to be some of the worst in terms of visual clarity and my eyes arbitrarily deciding to go in and out of focus.

(Update as of March 30: My vision is now better than 20/20 and holding pretty steady!  The pain went away after the first few days, and my eyes got tired pretty easily for a week or two, but it didn’t slow me down for long. Definitely pleased with my vision now, and enjoying the freedom to not worry about glasses fogging up all the time.  I definitely recommend the procedure, if you’re on the fence about it, and the clinic I went to was very professional and well-organized, with staff and doctors who spoke great English and could answer my questions.)

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In Search of the Perfect Bowl of Chili

2 Oct

I had a Monday off work, due to the Harvest Festival here. It’s one of the two biggest holidays on the South Korean calendar–the other is the Lunar New Year–and one of the few times I can rely on my friends also getting a day off.  The weather’s starting to turn a bit nippy here, especially at night, and for some reason, holidays among our crew of ex-pats seem to invariably mean Tex-Mex food makes an appearance.  Chili was the logical conclusion.  And before anyone starts, I know that “real Texas chili” doesn’t include beans.  However, I’m not Texan, and the way I grew up eating chili, it never lacked them.  To me, a pot of chili without beans seems more like sloppy joe topping than a filling meal in its own right.

Preconceptions about beans aside, this hasn’t stopped me from experimenting with different spices and blends to find the perfect combination of spicy-sweet-rich for a bowl of chili.  Monday’s, I think, was a success I’ll keep on permanent file.

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Minted Lamb Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce

25 Aug


The funny part is, I actually thought I was going to have time on Fridays to review recipes. Somehow, between shopping for the ingredients (before work), working, getting home at 9 PM, and having a friend over to polish off the last of the drunken chicken (and that bottle of Chardonnay) it got to be 2 AM, there were videogames involved, and I realized it just wasn’t happening.  So, I started in on it this morning, instead. Reviews may have to be a flexible weekend thing for me, it seems!

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