Kimchi Salad

Sunday is fridge-cleaning day.  I come home from the grocery store, set bags on the floor, and get serious.  My fridge isn't neat and tidy, everything in rows or airtight French canisters.  BUT I know what's in there, and that helps me avoid wasting food. When I was going to an office every day, it was especially important to prepare for the week on Sunday.  I've got more time now, my life is less crazy and structured than it was then, but the ritual of Sunday Preparation is still hardwired into me, and I rather enjoy it.

Cleaning the fridge and putting away the groceries can be quite an ordeal because I feel compelled to use absolutely every last bit that's on the brink.  Today, while Loretta was napping and Wyatt was watching Scooby Doo, this meant the following:

  • Rescuing a head of week-old romaine by pulling off the brown leaves and washing the rest.  I cut it in ribbons for use under rice or in salads.
  • Washing and cutting up a bunch of celery and putting the celery sticks into water so I'll grab them instead of a hunk of cheese when I'm hungry.
  • Using the leaves from the celery, too.  This bunch had lots of them.  I pureed the celery leaves in my food processor with garlic and a few ounces of blue cheese (leftover from catering two weeks ago).  Then, since I had to do something with the bit of leftover spinach parsley pesto, I combined the two.  Yum.  We're putting it (what do it call it?!) on our burgers tomorrow night.
  • Grilling 4 poblano peppers that have been in my vegetable bin a distressingly long time.  We'll put those on our burgers, too.
  • Consolidating 3 packs of tortillas into one and composting the really brittle ones.
  • Making a delicious agua fresca from a tasteless cantaloupe.  In the food processor, I combined cantaloupe chunks with cucumber, lime juice, mint simple syrup leftover from last week,  a serrano pepper, and some water.  I strained it and poured it over ice.  It was more than good, and I added a splash of gin later on.
  • And finally, making this kimchi salad.

Someone asked recently how much I spend on groceries a week.  I spend a lot.  It seems sort of vulnerable to put it out there (I always say that money is a more taboo subject than sex in Western culture), but $150 is my limit, and I often come close. This includes everything I buy at Costco (like diapers--Lord, I can't wait till that's over), but still. It's our biggest expense outside our mortgage.  I go through spates of feeling embarrassed or chiding myself and swear we're going to start eating cabbage soup every night.  I like cabbage soup and don't mind repetition, but cooking is my creative outlet.  I don't spend money on fabric for quilting or on art supplies or going to movies or scrapbooking.  I spend it on food, and I'm a much happier person because of it.  I should say, too, that we rarely eat out and Yancey takes all his food to the station.  Our dining budget used to be much bigger when we were both working outside the home full-time.

I'm justifying all over the place, aren't it?  I'd love to know your thoughts about food budgets.  I think it's something I'll always struggle with.

Here's the salad I made today, and it's delightful.  I've never made it before, didn't use a recipe, but was inspired by this recipe. It's uber good-for-you, holds up well in a packed lunch, and really is cheap.  I got a big jar of kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) at Uwajimaya for $4.99, and it always lasts me quite awhile.  And Bethany brought down a bunch of spring onions from her garden--this was a perfect way to use them.  I didn't put it in the recipe, but I also threw in some leftover stir-fried cabbage from my lunch.  I suppose using up all the bits is one way I justify my exorbitant food budget.  I may have orphan bits in the fridge, but they are noticed and wanted.

Kimchi Salad

2 c. short grain brown rice (or other grain, like barley)
1 c. kimchi, sliced into ribbons
1/4 c. sliced green onions
1/2 c. seasoned seaweed (laver) cut into small strips or torn up (more to taste if you want)
3 Tb. sesame oil
2 Tb. rice vinegar
salt (don't be shy!)
2 ts. sugar
1 Tb. sesame seeds
red chile flakes

Cook rice in a big pot of boiling water for about 35 minutes, until tender but still a little chewy.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Toss rice with remaining ingredients and mix well with hands.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  If you're not packing this for your lunch, you can also serve it over a bed of greens for dinner.  Some baked tofu would also be delicious over the top.