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Basically borscht is a Russian dish – or Ukrainian dish depending on who you’re asking – that is primarily flavored by the use of beets. I’ve heard it said that borscht is not soup, it’s just borscht. Though it often includes beef, in the rough times I imagine it is made vegetarian and though my recipe calls for carrots, tomatoes and shallots, I’m sure that onions, turnips, rutabaga and any other root vegetable with good storage longevity could be used and still maintain the traditional flavor.

In researching this dish I looked over dozen of recipes on various sites, only to find that the Eastern European community had generally disparaging comments about the authenticity of many of them. This led me to a variety of sites dedicated to this particular community and the recipe here is what I have found to be the consistent ingredients and techniques in many of the recipes. Though I’ve heard it said that there are as many types of borscht in Russia as there are beautiful women.

So, if this isn’t exactly traditional, I hope it is a close approximation of what would be considered a good recipe. In fact, I think most traditional foods, no matter where their origin, are more concerned with quality of ingredients – as they are using things on hand pulled from their own meager resources instead of a local supermarket – than they are with matching a particular ingredient list.  Like substituting turnips for carrots if the turnips are coming out of your garden.

This soup, or stew, is a wonderful blend of great flavors. There’s something about the combination of vinegar, dill, and beets that brings a light tang to the palate and the beef, shallots and garlic provide the richness, the foundation, that any good soup needs. Like in other soups I really let the shallots and garlic sauté gently until they had fully caramelized and added to the already nicely browned fond left by the meat before adding any liquids, making sure to scrape the bottom to bring up all those flavors into the stock. But, as I’m already talking about the recipe, here it is:

4 cups fresh golden beets, sliced

1/2 cup savoy cabbage, chopped

3 small potatoes, halved and sliced

1 medium carrot, sliced

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 small shallots, chopped

13 oz top sirloin, or round steak cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 T fresh dill, minced

3 T olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 T white vinegar

4 cups water

2 T butter

Salt and pepper

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat until just smoking, but not quite. (I know recipes always say things like this, and it is completely frustrating. “How do I know when something is about to start smoking before it does?” you ask. The easiest way is to tilt the pan from sided to side and watch the oil. Smooth oil indicates cool temperatures, when the oil ripples across the bottom of the pan it is good and hot.) Add half of the beef and sear on all sides. Season with salt and pepper and sear until browned. Remove and set aside. Repeat with remaining beef.

The bottom of your pan will have browned bits, the fond, glazed on, don’t scrape it just yet. Add the garlic and shallots and lower to medium heat. Saute for 5-6 minutes, until the shallots have become translucent and then began to brown lightly.  The well browned shallots and garlic create the depth of the stock. Return beef and any resting juices to the pan. Add water and dill, scrape the bottom of the pan to release the fond into the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until beef is tender, about one hour.

When beef has cooked for about 35 minutes, in a medium saute pan add 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Sauté beets, season with salt and pepper, add vinegar and tomatoes, cover to simmer for 15 minutes. Add carrots and sauté covered until tender, about another ten minutes. Add cabbage to beef and stock and simmer while carrots are cooking. When carrot and beets are tender add to beef and mix in. Season with salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired, and a slice of thick rye bread.

This soup get’s better each day. Definitely let it sit for a day and reheat some. As the flavors blend together it becomes more rounded and full. Enjoy!

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So, as I mentioned, I was given the opportunity Sunday night to volunteer as a Full Circle delivery driver and get a glimpse into the last part of the cycle, the boxes leaving the warehouse, loaded into Full Circle trucks and delivered to your doors. The shift started at 8pm and normally wouldn’t end until 6am.

I’ve only worked the graveyard shift once, for five months, and  it wasn’t easy. I was a baker for Tidyman’s Market and my shift ran from 11pm to 7am. I was young, and all I did was flip donuts. But, I learned that the shift itself takes discipline, and the ability to adapt. The night can be challenging, the natural cycles of the body working against you, the world turning and running along as you catch up on sleep.

Since I was just helping out – and though I say ‘I’, I mean ‘We’ as I had enlisted the help of my fiancé to be my co-pilot (you are the best!) – our Operations Manager only gave us about 50 boxes, something one of our seasoned drivers could hammer out in a couple of hours – it took the two of us about twice that long. Generally our drivers will have twice that amount, and once they get to know a route they can get pretty efficient.

Though it’s difficult driving, there’s something fun about being up when the world is asleep; about slowly driving down dark and quiet streets wet with the night’s rain, scanning for the next address. There’s a pleasure in the power of the delivery driver. The ability to use your hazard lights and stop in the middle of roads.  The hurried, yet measured hustle of the boxes waiting behind the one your grabbing, the heft of it, the glimpse of houses, porches, doorways and the occasional insomniac’s hello. It was fun, at times confusing, but generally comforting – the kind of comfort that comes with purpose and direction.

But, there are also the very narrow streets, darkened stoops and the confusion of the night. Our turn-by-turn directions would often say ‘now head east’ – when we were previously told to head west, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to turn our gigantic van around in tightly crowded streets. We’d find ourselves dropping off a box an hour later right across the street from where we had been before. And the night plays tricks on your eyes, especially mine, since my night-vision is poor and the glow of street signs are often blurred by rain and glare and headlights.

All in all we had a good time, and though we often find ourselves arguing on road trips, lost somewhere in the countryside, looking for a particular trail-head, we worked well together as a team – the Amazing Race came to mind more than once, they should do a Seattle or Northwest episode and have the couples do graveyard deliveries for us! – though I couldn’t imagine doing it alone.

In the end, what I am left with is really just respect. It is not easy bringing good food to people, and it takes many people to create a strong local food system. Full Circle drivers do an incredible and important job, and they do it amazingly well. What they do is not easy, the roads are narrow, the boxes get heavy, the weather is not always pleasant, and they don’t get a lot of thank you’s. But they are appreciated, I appreciate them now, more than ever.

So here’s to the midnight team – the headlamp and reflective-vested crew of men and women- that goes out, night after night and gets the job done.

Thank you.

You ever wonder who that person is that appears in the middle of the night like a kindly organic tooth fairy and leaves that beloved box of goodness on your porch? Well I’m going to find out! This Sunday I’m going to help out as a Full Circle delivery driver. I’ve always wondered how each box gets to the house that ordered it  – and how those drivers find their way around? I can’t wait.

Thanks to Chris Doyle, Full Circle’s Director of Operations, I get to take my turn behind the Full Circle wheel and get a first hand look at the crazy graveyard shift of delivery driver. I’ll start at 8pm Sunday night and end at 6am Monday morning! My co-pilot will be taking pictures and I hope to fashion some sort of video-cam helmet to give you a bird’s-eye-view. I’ll also give you a full report upon my return.

As far as next week’s box goes, it’s looking pretty tasty:

Red Leaf Lettuce              Delicata Squash
Baby Golden Beets          Cucumbers
Baby Bok Choy               Amber Jewel Plums
Red Potatoes                   Nectarines
Arugula (Greens)             Yellow Peaches
Bi-Color Sweet Corn        Gala Apples

For some reason, the first thing I thought of when looking at my content’s list was – borscht. One of my friends was proposing we trade our usual bi-monthly Korean BBQ-fest for a Russian feast.  Apparently, there is a good Russian restaurant in Kent that serves plenty of traditional Russian fare as well as a good glass of kvas, which apparently, according to one Yelp reviewer, “is like drinking a glass of sunshine, if sunshine tasted like apple slices stacked on top of a good dark toasted rye bread.”

With all this Russian goodness looming ahead I thought, why not try a traditional Russian borscht, but with golden beets instead of red ones and see how it stacks up to the real thing? It was always the deep blood-red color of the soup that gave me pause – though you can bet it never stopped me. All I need to sub or add to complete the ingredients list is some onion, potatoes (which are in the box), carrots, cabbage and fresh dill.

The other thing that jumped out at me is the delicata. I love me some squash soup. A good creamy roasted squash soup with a dollop of creme fraiche is a joy to the senses.  Plus, it’s just a good way to welcome the fall season. One of my other favorite fall dishes is succotash. A simple mixture of the ‘three sisters’ – which in farming terms refers to the practice of planting corn, beans and squash together- which are sauteed in an onion, garlic and stock base. Delicious and nutritious – Get a head-start on the week by cubing and roasting them right on arrival, then place in Tupperware in the refrigerator until your meal plan calls for them!

Now that I’ve borrowed my friend’s ice cream maker every stone fruit that comes my way gets blended and made into sorbet, though I’d like to try some traditional peach ice cream.  So, I’ll order some top sirloin, bread, more grace harbor yogurt, heavy cream for the ice cream and some of CB’s peanut butter -which is awesome, nothing but peanuts with a creamy/crunchy texture that you just can’t find in other peanut butters – from Green Grocery and I’ll trade out the apples for carrots – for the borscht, and the cucumber for green beans – for the succotash.

Next week – The inside scoop on the midnight delivery life AND Golden Borscht!

Soups are one of those things that seem easy.  A little stock, some veggies, maybe some meat, a few spices and ‘Bam’ (to steal a phrase) it’s done. But in reality a good soup is a delicate balancing act. Each part creating a separate but harmonious tone, complementing the other voices and combining to create one incredible taste. One of the best soups I’ve ever had was at a restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. It was actually at the Fifith Street Market, a deli-style restaurant/market with minimal seating, a bakery, and a butcher’s shop. They had the most incredible shrimp bisque I’ve ever had, one that took me years to recreate. It was thick, slightly spicy, savory yet sweet, with ample chunks of shrimp throughout.

One chef I worked with in my younger years told me that making good soups was the best way to become a good cook. He said that anybody can fry an egg, or cook a burger, or even sauté up a seafood fettuccine, but that even good cooks often fail when making soup. He told me the secret to a good soup were good ingredients, good stock, and patience.

Take this soup for example. A simple dish with no more than four or five ingredients, but with the right steps can be transformed into a silky, light, but flavorful soup perfect for dipping in sourdough or topping with fried potato skins, bacon bits, scallions and a dollop of sour cream. When making any soup take the time to choose good stock. Try using fresh homemade stock, or fresh stock that doesn’t need to be reconstituted with water.  These stocks tend to have less salt, allowing you to flavor them yourself. Avoid using bullion cubes, or paste as they are high in sodium and have a less rounded flavor than ‘fresh’ stocks.

Before adding any liquids, make sure your base has ample time to cook.  Bringing your onions and garlic to a lightly browned color will caramelize their sugars and deepen their flavors. This will enrich your soup and provide the darker roasted flavors for the lighter, more subtle flavors to stand on.

When adding multiple ingredients with different cooking times cut them to sizes that will shorten or lengthen their cooking times accordingly.  Larger for potatoes, a bit smaller for carrots, big chunks for summer squash and things that wilt or cook quickly at the end, even after removed from the heat.

Follow these tips and you can make any soup taste better, richer and put more smiles on faces!

2 pounds yukon gold, or russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch squares

1 medium shallot, minced

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped

1 medium carrot, halved and chopped

2 T flour

4 cups stock

1 cup heavy cream

1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 t dried thyme

2 T butter

salt and pepper

In a large pot melt butter over medium high heat. Add shallots and garlic and saute until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes, add carrot and cabbage and saute for another two minutes or until cabbage slightly wilts. Add flour and stir to coat evenly.  Whisk in cream and stock, and stir in potatoes and thyme.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Remove 4 cups of soup and blend in batches until smooth.  Return blended portion to soup and stir in. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Here’s my list of box contents for next week, unmodified:

Green leaf lettuce

Red beets

Red chard

Bunched carrots

Red radishes

Cucumbers

Escarole

Savoy cabbage

Valencia oranges

Nectarines

Ruby Grapefruit

Gala apples

I’ve been so swamped lately with various chores, appointments and work, I haven’t even had a chance to think about next week’s meal planning until really –  right about now. I know that in our modern day, eating often takes back burner. It seems much simpler at times to leave things last minute and just figure something out on the fly than to plan ahead and construct a group of meals for the week. When I find myself against the wall, and I’m staring at my list thinking, what should we eat next week, my fall back is usually – the roast chicken.

The nice thing about a roast chicken is that it lasts for days. The meat is at least two meals in my house (and a couple of lunches) and the roasted carcass goes to make stock, enough to make one big batch of soup that will provide at least another two meals.  That, a loaf of bread, and some cheese and I’ve already got a head start on the week.

The blessing with my Farm-to-You box is that it comes no matter what, and therefore it becomes the basis of my eating habits.  I’ll sometimes order some beef, or seafood, or buy a roasting chicken, but it always comes as a supplement to my box. Unlike my past eating habits I am now veggies and fruit first. A paradigm shift that makes all the difference in my health as well as my consumption of energy.

So roast chicken it is, and a loaf of rosemary bread, some ‘Valley Doe’ cheese from River Valley Ranch will get me some tasty fixings for sandwiches, maybe with some grilled escarole and buttered radishes. I’ll switch out my ruby grapefruit with Yukon golds, as I have some from last week and then will have enough to make some roasted potato and cabbage soup. Not that I wouldn’t eat some Gala apples, I think some treviso radicchio would be better appreciated around my house, so will sub for those.

The Valencia oranges are tasty, but I could use some shallots for the soup, and plus that makes my box all Northwest! You have to love that. I’ve also been wanting to try the new cut pork chops. Jerry Foster’s hogs were getting pretty big recently, making Tracy, our artisan butcher, cut the chops fairly thin to meat our 13oz cut. Now they should be getting smaller – and a better, thicker chops ensues.

So I think that’s it. Should be enough for me to get at least five, if not six meals planned out.  Plus I’ll roast the beets, maybe even some of the radishes (roasted radishes are awesome!), braise the chard, roast the carrots and use some in a light salad. Next week I’m thinking a fantastic potato and cabbage soup is in order! Have a great weekend.

So as promised, a kale and wild rice salad.  This is really inspired by the Emerald City Salad that they serve at PCC, but as I didn’t have any fennel and bell peppers are hardly using the bounty of our local fare, white satin carrots and red radishes took its place.  I also used some of our farm grown celery, which if you’re a celery eater is the most flavorful celery around, great for soups and roasts but is a bit pungent for salads by my taste.  The nice thing is the dressing, a simple lemon vinaigrette, really just brings everything together.

The trick with this salad is the kale. Just raw kale can be bitter, tough and slightly unappealing.  I usually end up braising mine or dunking it quickly in salted boiling water to soften and bring out its sweeter side. But for this salad the boiling water was too much, making it overly wilted.  Raw, the flavor just wasn’t there, so I compromised.  I first dunked the kale into salted 160 degree water, quickly draining and cooling it in cold water. It gave it the bright green color, nicely flavored and salted it and made it perfectly tender for eating! Enjoy.

1 bunch green kale, prepared as above

2 carrots halved and sliced

2 scallions chopped

6 radishes, halved and sliced

1 cup cooked and cooled wild rice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

The other trick to this dish is making the vinaigrette. Using a wood bowl, a heavy wooden spoon and some salt, I grind the garlic until it forms a bit of a paste with the salt.  To this I add the acids, in this case lemon juice, and then whisk in the oil.  This allows the oil to emulsify easily and coat everything. Add all of your ingredients to a nice big bowl, toss and sprinkle with dressing, salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This is one of my favorite salads and can be made with an infinite number of ingredients – roasted chiogga beets, fennel, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, virtually anything makes a good match with this simple vinaigrette and the crunchy yet chewy texture of the wild rice and kale.

Next week’s box looks delicious. I’m going to keep this post short and sweet as I need to get to some planning for dinner tonight, since my brother is in town. I have four brothers, and three of them have taken their turn in the kitchen.  Only one is still making a living at it, but they are all great cooks and complete foodies. The last time my brother cooked dinner for me it was orange glazed duck breast that he was making for some cooking competition. The first couple I thought were amazing, but by the sixth breast I could care less I was so stuffed.  I don’t think he won with that recipe, but it was a pretty amazing experience just getting the recipe right.

So tonight I’m going to break out the short ribs, bean paste, lettuce and my homemade kim chi. That and a big bowl of rice should get everyone stuffed.  Uwajimaya has an incredible assortment of side dishes that will accent the meal and give everybody that sweaty but happy chili pepper face. A few bottles of Hite and some soju and we’ll be smiling serenely in no time.

As for next week –

Bibb Lettuce – I’ll make a buttermilk blue cheese dressing with some of the Two-Faced Blue from Willapa Hills Creamery to go with this delectable lettuce.

Spinach – I think the spinach in a peanut sauce will go well with this along with some tofu and sauteed bell peppers, possibly some white carrots in garlic sauce since the white satin carrots are a sub.

Green Kale – Okay, finally the wild rice and kale salad. I swear.

Golden Yukon Potatoes – I love these potatoes, I may have to save some of the blue cheese to melt over these mashers.

Broccoli – With the broccoli, cabbage, onions and celery I think a stir fry is in order.

Yellow Onions – Stir fry.

Celery – Ditto.

Napa Cabbage – Stir fry and more kim chi!

Avocados – Just for eating.

As for the fruits, we have yellow flesh nectarines, peaches and I’ll sub out the apples for white carrots. The stone fruit will make more sorbets, granitas or just mixed in with my yogurt and bananas for morning smoothies.

That will do for a few meals. I may have to order some more seafood as the shrimp and scallops were incredible.  I think some halibut and salmon is in order. I also want to try the new jam, the tripleberry sounds great and Sakuma Brothers are an awesome family farm!

And for next week – Wild Rice and Kale Salad! Have a great weekend, thank you to everyone who has commented, I’ll talk to you next week!

The majority of the vegetables I eat come from two families, the Alliums and the Brassicas.  I throw in an occasional carrot, squash or chicory, but my heart lies in a huge bed of wilted chard, or blanched kale mixed in with rapini and fennel, tossed in a sesame dressing. Although Alliums, the bulbed and onion-hearted clan, seem to make their way into every meal, they seldom take center stage. Sometimes, caramelized onion jam will top a steak along with some thick blue cheese, or deep fried onion blossoms at the state fair, but when it comes to providing the driving flavor of dishes they are often relegated to bases or at least a brief accent before being brushed aside.

Not any more I say! Let the onions and their buried brethren shine forth. And who better to lead the charge, than the subtle leek. Like a large scallion, but even more softly spoken, leeks become sweet, gentle and tender when slowly sauteed in butter. A wonderful accompaniment to quiet soups, potato and leek for example, leeks can also create a wonderful flavor when accompanying seafood or other lighter meats.

When cooking with leeks, cut off the dark green leaves – the white is what you want. A little pale green isn’t bad, but the further out you go the greater the chance of imparting a bitter bite to your dish. Chop the leeks crosswise to form little coins about the thickness of two pennies and toss them in water to remove any dirt in between the rings. Pat them dry and they’re ready to go. This recipe uses leeks, backed up by its slightly stronger cousin the shallot, along with cremini mushrooms and seared scallops on a bed of fresh tagliolini.  As a pan sauce, a little white wine, stock and butter makes the dish.

2 servings of fresh tagliolini or other fresh pasta

1 pound of jumbo scallops, thawed and patted dry

1/2 medium sized shallot

2 medium leeks, sliced as described above

1 pound cremini mushroom, sliced thick

2 T unsalted butter

3 T olive oil

1 T vegetable oil

1/8 cup white wine

1/8 cup stock

2 pinches of flour

Parmegiano-Reggiano

1 t fresh parsley, minced

Salt and pepper

Bring two quarts of water to a boil, reduce to simmer and add two tablespoons sea salt and one tablespoon olive oil. In a small non-stick saute pan heat one tablespoon butter and vegetable oil over high heat until oil shimmers and butter begins to barely brown.  Salt and pepper scallops and place flat side down in the pan. When searing scallops it  is important not to put too many in the pan – there should be 1/2 inch between each scallop – or else it will lower the pan temperature too much and they will steam instead of sear. Also, resist the temptation to move them. Seriously, don’t touch them, I know it’s hard, for at least three minutes.  Then gently lift one edge, if the scallop is ready it will easily flip over to sear the other side.  When scallops are a golden brown on both sides remove them to another plate and cover them to keep them warm.

Place pasta in boiling water, bring to a boil and cook for another three minutes.  Remove pasta to colander, drain and sprinkle with olive oil. Set aside.

In a large saute pan bring the rest of the butter and olive oil to medium heat.  When butter bubbles add leeks and cook for two minutes until they begin to become soft. Then add shallots and mushrooms and cook for another 3-5 minutes until shallots begin to caramelize and mushrooms soften. Add white wine and stock, and reduce by half.  Sprinkle flour over mixture and mix in, add scallops and allow to cook for another minute. When sauce thickens slightly, add pasta and toss in sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and plate.  Place noodles first, then scallops and pour sauce over the top.  Garnish with shredded parmegiano and parsley. Enjoy!

As our sun slides a bit lower along the horizon and our plentiful bounty seems on the slump, it’s time to hold strong to the last vestiges of warmth and keep the summer flavors rolling.

The most nostalgic scents of summer for me will always remain the smell of freshly cut grass and the mouth-watering flavors of a ripe peach, but the sweet charred scent  of a hot grill is definitely in the running. Since I made kimchi last week, I think a small Korean-style barbecue is in order, and a few things in the box next week will support me, though I may have to stray from traditional styles in my culinary ways.

Here’s what I have coming in my order with a few subs, meal ideas and a small amount of Green Grocery orders – not too big to bust the bank, but just enough to keep the tastes of summer alive for one more week!

  • Red leaf lettuce – used as burrito wrapping for our Korean-style grilled meats (cut to perfection by Bob’s Meats in Columbia City), with bean paste and kimchi, along with a healthy bowl of short grain rice, and a few sliced jalapenos.
  • Baby chiogga beets – one of my favorite things to do with these is to poach them in white wine and sugar along with some pears,  and fresh lavender for a light and delicious topping for ice cream.
  • Green kale – steamed wild rice, cooled and mixed with blanched and salted kale, cherry tomatoes, red onions and green bell peppers in a light lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.
  • Celery – A favorite around my house just as a snack, dipped in peanut butter and used to make stocks, soups and salads.
  • Cilantro – from tacos to salads – maybe in the kale and wild rice salad? – to salsa and guacamole.
  • Corn – last of the sweet Washington grown summer corn, this will support a topping of grilled shrimp as a light and fresh corn and leek chowder.
  • Green bell peppers – into the kale salad, chopped into other salads and mixed in to my breakfast eggs.
  • Leeks – yes! The first leeks have arrived and they will add a lovely flavor to the corn chowder, accenting the shrimp nicely, yum.
  • Pluots – I think I’ll sub these out for some cremini mushrooms, leeks and creminis go hand-in-hand, maybe in a simple leek, shallot, and olive oil pasta with shaved Parmegiano-Reggiano and seared scallops.
  • Peaches – consider them gone, maybe ice cream, most likely just eaten for snacks.
  • Plums – subbed for Bartlett pears.  Got to have them for the chiogga beets.

So, there is my box list, with ideas for each ingredient. As for my Green Grocery order: I’ll need some shrimp and scallops (I can’t believe we are getting seafood now too! I haven’t tried it yet, so can’t wait), along with some tagliolini and parmegiano. I’ll also order some bread, maybe try the new multi grain sliced loaf from Essential Baking Company, and then some Grace Harbor yogurt – because I can’t resist. Let me know if you have an idea for an ingredient that you just don’t know what to do with, or even a suggestion for a great recipe. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week – Leek and Cremini Mushroom Tagliolini with Seared Scallops!

About once a month I get together with a group of friends and we explore the wonderful world of Korean barbecue.  Living in Seattle has many culinary benefits, one of them being an ample supply of authentic and delicious Asian cuisine. On the search for the best Korean barbecue we’ve made our way from Lynnwood to Federal Way, from downtown to the International District and finally graduated to just hosting our own.  The last one, hosted at my house, turned into a free-for-all, with our kitchen table pulled out into the living room and a swarm of famished carnivores swirling around it grabbing lettuce, grilled meat and layering on spoonfuls of bean paste and kimchi.

In preparation for the next barbecue, hopefully not at my house – the clean-up took me hours and I still have fermented bean paste in my fridge – I’ve decided to take a swing at making my own kimchi. In researching this dish I found an extraordinary level of health benefits associated with this ancient, spicy and fermented cabbage based dish.  Not only is cabbage an excellent source of vitamins, the garlic, ginger, chili pepper  and onions create a super blend of antioxidant power. For more information on kimchi’s amazing health benefits go here.

I’ve always had a soft spot for all things spicy, and though kimchi has a fair amount of red pepper in it, the spice is somehow easily muted by the vinegar, resulting in a flavorful yet palatable combination. The recipe I followed was a mixture of David Lebovitz’s kimchi recipe and Seoulful Cooking’s banchan recipe. I have seen other methods that involve making a paste of rice flour and then adding the garlic, peppers, ginger and daikon, but it seemed unnecessary, maybe designed for long storage and additional fermentation.

Since my favorite farm cabbage is the savoy, that’s what I decided to use, though generally, napa or any other large cabbage works well.  I supplemented this with the korean radish, or banchan, though if you don’t have a good Asian market in your neighborhood, you could easily use any other type of radish.

1 medium head of savoy cabbage, napa cabbage or other cabbage

1 large korean radish

1 cup coarse sea salt

1 medium daikon radish, or 2 cups smaller radishes, shredded

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup ginger, minced

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/8 cup vinegar

1/2 cup korean chili powder

1 bunch green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 t sugar or honey

Cut the cabbage in half and remove the hard core.  Slice each half into three equal parts lengthwise. Cut the banchan lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch cubes.  You can do this by cutting into 1 inch lengthwise strips or cross-wise rounds first, then stack and cut a couple at a time. Place the cabbage and banchan in a large bowl, rinse then mix with 1 cup salt.  Let sit for 2 hours.  This will draw the moisture out of the cabbage and banchan and tenderize it.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. When cabbage and banchan have sat and are now tender, remove from bowl and rinse thoroughly in a colander.  Add  cabbage and banchan to chili, garlic, ginger, daikon mixture and combine thoroughly.  You might want to wear gloves as the chili powder is both hot and may stain your hands.

Once incorporated, place kimchi in glass jars with tight lids. Let sit for two days in a cool dry place, not refrigerated. After two days, open and taste. If you want more fermentation leave out for another couple days, but not too much longer, then refrigerate.  Kimchi will store refrigerated up to 3 months.  Invite some friends over, barbecue some chicken, beef or pork, make a big batch of rice and enjoy!