Wokking and Walking in 2012

New Year's Stir Fry

My wok will be 2 years old in April. I am pathetically keeping track, since 2 years is supposed to be the time when an often-used wok is finally seasoned perfectly. Sometimes I get it out, set it on the cooktop, and just look at it. It's getting so wondefully burnished and banged up. And, more importantly, absolutely nothing is sticking to its surface. 

I talked here about wok love and about Grace Young's book, The Breath of a Wok. What I'd add this time around is the following:

  • If I'm making an Asian stir fry, I use vegetable or peanut oil. More and more, though, I'm using olive oil and getting very far away from traditional Asian combinations. The "recipe" here is an example.
  • I've gotten discouraged a couple times when, just when my wok seemed to be developing the longed-for patina, it all disappeared because of enthusiastic vinegar use, wok cooking naiveté, or other mysterious reasons. My admonishment is Keep Going! The only way to really wreck a wok (say that 5 times fast) is to let it get rusty with standing water or to not use it. Continued use, even if it takes you 5 years, will pay off.
  • It's really hard to experience what I'm talking about here if you have an electric cooktop. Woks need raging heat. 

And, wok cooking is a fabulous way to eat more vegetables in one sitting than you ever thought possible. The stir fry here is 80% cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts, with just a handful of cold brown rice thrown in at the end. That description sounds depressing, but it was DELICIOUS. And made my fiber and Vitamin A off-the-charts that day.

I'm starting out the new year realizing I've spend most my energy the past six months caring for others, and not enough caring for myself. Sound familiar, anyone? When I do that, carbs (empty ones, of course) somehow taste so good, show up everywhere, and supplant the vegetables my body really wants. I'm trying to change that, and trying again to move as much as possible, even if it's not the 60 minute workout I want. Wokking and Walking. You'll hear more about it in April, I'm sure, when I throw a little birthday party for the blasted thing.

New Year's Stir Fry
Serves 2. (If you want to serve 4 as a meal, you'll have to do this twice, since an over-filled wok just steams everything.) Thinly slice 1/4 head of green cabbage, a few cups of washed kale leaves (stems removed), and a couple handfuls of washed brussel sprouts. Mince 2 cloves of garlic, thinly slice 2 red Fresno peppers (red Jalapenos), and see if there are any stray bits of meat in your fridge. You can use ham, cooked or uncooked chopped bacon, proscuitto, etc. This is optional, but yummy. Heat your wok over high heat for about 15 seconds, then pour 2 Tb. olive oil in. Add garlic, stir, then add veggies. Fry over high heat for about 4 minutes, moving everything around quite a bit, and add kosher salt to taste. When everything's getting crispy/tender, add 2 handfuls of COLD cooked brown rice (or white rice or bulgar or quinoa or barley), fry for another minutes, then add 1 Tb. of white wine vinegar and fry for another minute. Dump everything into 2 bowls and top with some crumbled feta, if you like. Or a fried egg.

Fiery Homemade Kimchi

Despite evidence to the contrary, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I am still cooking, grocery shopping, working, list-making, breathing. Just with no time to write about it! Ah. The living is what's most important, but I do miss the re-living that happens here.

If I were a nicer person, I'd welcome you back with some fragrant muffins or irresistible cookies. Or maybe chocolate is your thing. If you're in any of those camps, this isn't your day. It's Kimchi Day.

Kimchi is one of those divisive foods. You either love it, hate it, or haven't even gotten near enough to decide. One of the best things about moving to Seattle 16 years ago was my introduction to Korean food. And even around here, it's an under-celebrated, almost undiscovered cuisine. I'm waiting for Korean to get its big break like Vietnamese food has, or tapas or izakaya. In the meantime, I'll definitely be making more batches of this. (Though Yancey's hoping I'll wait a few weeks, since our entire house now smells like a kimchi factory.)

Fair warning--this recipe takes a day or two to make (depending on if you cheat like I did), involves massaging daikon strands, and will find you putting anchovies in the food processor with apples. Now, that's my  love language, but I'd be surprised if it's everyone's. Were I to commence with a hard sell, I'd say that kimchi is full of good-for-you live cultures (naturally present in cabbage), livens up a lunch rice bowl like nobody's business, kicks up the endorphins with its spice, will make you feel like a globally conscious cook, and the homemade version is vastly better than most store-bought jars. If you're not ready to make the plunge, I've got a half gallon of it waiting to be eaten in my fridge. Come by and I'll send you home with some. Just make sure to bring an airtight container. Your partner or roommate will thank you. 


Fiery Homemade Kimchi
This recipe is from Fine Cooking. Thank goodness I found a link to it, because I didn't feel like typing it out. It instructs you to let the paste sit for 24 hours before you combine it with the cabbage. I didn't do that. I let it sit for a couple hours. I was tempted to just grate the ginger rather than julienne it, but I'm glad I didn't. The long, crunchy strands are toothsome and delicious. I didn't matchstick the garlic, however. Why would someone impatient with details go for that?! I just finely chopped it. And what else can you do with kimchi besides eat it straight from the jar? Make soup (recipe coming up, I'm lightly promising), mix it with scrambled eggs, drizzle a little sesame oil over it and serve as a side salad. Let me know what you come up with.


Parmesan and Lemon Slaw

lemony slaw

I had an almost perfect week. Summer has really started around here. Camping with Bethany and Chris at Deception Pass, staying on a gorgeous Whidbey Island beach with my parents, sister, niece, and nephew. We encrusted all our earthly possessions with sand, dirt, and campfire smoke, and consumed at least 1,000 more calories per day than usual.

mutiny bay sunset

I love how filthy the kids get in the summer. Neither Wyatt or Loretta has even a small bit of squeamishness or fastidiousness where dirt and grime are concerned. I have determined never to quit buying baby wipes. They are indispensable for marshmallow-covered faces and righting the wrong of offering Cheetos on a car trip. (What mothers do that?! They must be crazy.)

One of my favorite hours was the one spent doing laps on Chris' Korean bike. Chris picked up a "camping bike," as he calls it, a three-seater which an adult pedals while schlepping two smaller people. It even FOLDS. I must have done a dozen laps around the campground with Loretta and Pippa, who kept saying "One more! One more!" Every camper we passed smiled, waved, or commented on the bike, and I felt so happy to be part of our threesome, taking delight in repetition, in their small hands around my waist.

camping bike

Speaking of repetition (and ungainly segues), I've made this salad a million times since last summer when I saw it on Orangette. It was the first thing gone at our family BBQ this week. Even Wyatt was shoveling it. I think lots of folks expect coleslaw to to be heavy, creamy, maybe even downright unappetizing. Of course, you and I know better. We know about the unsung virtues of cabbage--how it stays crisp and pairs with a surprising amount of flavors, how it's full of fiber and keeps forEVER in the fridge. I often bring this as a side dish to summer potlucks--I can often make it without a trip to the store, which is priceless.

P.S. I can't believe my niece HannahMae will be in kindergarten this fall. Watch out, world. She'll rock it.


Parmesan and Lemon Slaw
This serves six as a side dish--double it for a crowd. Thinly slice 1/2 head of green cabbage--as thin as you can get it with a knife, but not shaved. In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with 1/2 c. finely grated parmesan, the juice and finely grated zest of one lemon, salt, pepper, a big glug of good olive oil, and finely chopped lemon thyme. Best not to let this sit around a super long time before eating it.