Shiitake Mushroom Namool with Enoki and Green Pepper Variations

Traditionally, Korean meals have a large variety of dishes.  Normally I’m partial to one-dish meals because of their ease and clean-up.  Thankfully, many of these namools, or seasoned vegetable side dishes, come together in a flash, use the exact same flavorings, making it possible to reuse the pans.

I experimented with a couple different vegetables, like shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and green peppers, but the possibilities are endless.  I think this would also work really well with cubes of roasted eggplant or even spinach or bok choy.

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Shiitake Mushroom Namool

Ingredients:

* 1-1/2 cups dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes
* 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* pinch of salt
* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1 green onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

Drain the soaking liquid from the shiitake mushrooms and gently squeeze out the water from the mushrooms. Combine mushrooms with the sesame seeds, minced garlic and a pinch of salt and mix together.

Coat a large skillet with the vegetable oil and heat over high heat. Add the seasoned mushrooms to the pan and stir fry for a minute or two, until the mushrooms begin to soften slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil and green onion.

Serves two to four, depending on number of sides.

Green pepper variation: substitute one green pepper, washed, seeded and cut into thin strips in place of the shiitake mushrooms. No soaking required. Follow other directions in the same manner.

Enoki Mushroom variation: substitute two packages, approximately 4 ounces each, of enoki mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed. No soaking required. Follow other directions in the same manner.

 

Ginger Jelly with Honey Molasses Syrup

Another country, another ginger-centric recipe.  I suppose you could consider this a grown up version of jello: it has a more sophisticated flavor and a softer, more pleasant texture.

The recipe that inspired this one was drizzled with brown corn syrup.  Had I thought that was the right flavor match for the ginger, I would have risked angering the pitchfork-wielding anti-corn syrup mob.  But the truth is, I just thought a honey and molasses mixture was more interesting way to finish off the dessert.

Molasses is such a strong flavor that it can quickly overwhelm the honey.  Start with the 3 to 1 honey to molasses ratio, although you’re welcome to make adjustments from there to make the molasses flavor more pronounced.

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Ginger Jelly with Honey Molasses Syrup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* One 6-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 10-12 sliced
* 3 1/4 cups water, divided
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 teaspoons gelatin
* 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 Tablespoons honey
* 2 teaspoons molasses

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the ginger with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, set the cover on slightly askew and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the ginger slices and discard, or set aside to re-use. The should be about 2 1/2 cups ginger water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pour 1/4 cup of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top and let soften. Stir the gelatin water and the lemon juice into the ginger water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

Divide the mixture between four dessert bowls or glasses. Chill for several hours in the refrigerator until set. Just before serving combine the honey and molasses in a small bowl or ramekin. Drizzle on top of the jelly.

Note: If you'd like small squares or pieces of jelly instead of a solid mass, pour the hot ginger mixture into a wide, shallow serving bowl or dish. Chill for several hours or until firm and cut into small cubes or pieces. Divide among the bowls or glasses and drizzle with honey molasses syrup.

Oi Naengguk – Chilled Cucumber Soup

I have a friend whose mother makes the most amazing pickled vegetables.  Seriously, if you put them next to a tray of peanut butter brownies, I might still reach for the pickled veggies.  She’s given me the recipe but I’ve yet to actually make them.  I guess I get nervous because you have to pre-salt all of the vegetables and the amount of salt needed isn’t specified.  I’m worried that I’ll overdo it with the salt and, even after rinsing them, will end up with a several pounds of ruined, salty produce.  Hey, it’s happened.  Daikon kimchi, I’m talking to you.

But when I saw this soup recipe, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to mess it up.  It’s quick, easy, refreshing and as pretty as a picture.  Sweet, salty, sour with just a little bit of heat, it’s a really nice way to balance out a spicy Korean meal.  If you have a love of sour foods like me (any other Traditional Chinese Medicine Wood element folks out there?), I think you’ll enjoy this one.

I also wanted to let you guys know about a cool Foodgawker/Photograzing-like site specifically for Korean food.  It’s called Korean Food Gallery and it’s a great place to find inspiration for your next Korean meal.  For you food bloggers, it’s another place to post photos of your favorite Korean recipes.  Thanks to Jenny for letting me know about it!

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Chilled Cucumber Soup

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

* 4 mini cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber, seeded and cut into matchstick strips
* 2 shallots, cut into matchstick strips
* 2 teaspoons sea salt
* 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons sugar
* 1 Tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
* 3 cups cold water
* 1 green onion, sliced into thin rings
* 1 hot red chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin rings (I used a red Jalapeno pepper)
* ice cubes, optional

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, shallots and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and water. Add this mixture to the cucumber.

Add the green onions and mix well. Place in the refrigerator until well chilled. Garnish with red pepper rings. Add an ice cube or two in each bowl to keep the soup extra cold, if desired.

Vegetarian Dubu Jeon- Pan Fried Tofu with Mushrooms

When I was in high school, my parents shipped me away to one of those awful college prep summer programs.  I’m sort of a dork so I didn’t really mind the classes but the cafeteria food was another thing altogether.   Plain tofu was one of the only edible things besides jello and granola.  I began to wonder whether I’d been shipped to a weight loss camp in disguise.

So after a month or so of daily, unseasoned tofu I was pretty much ready to write it off for life.  While I’m a huge fan of many vegan foods, I’m much more likely to use beans as the protein source.  I sure didn’t expect to be posting any tofu recipes around here.

But then I found a store that carried packages of these cute-as-a-button enoki mushrooms for only 79 cents.  And then I feel in love with this soy sesame dipping sauce.   And finally, I saw a quick vegan recipe that combined the two.  I figured the only things I had to lose were a 99 cent package of tofu and about five minutes of my time.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve moved past my self-imposed tofu moratorium.  Quick pan fried pieces of tofu are smothered, and I mean that in the best possible way, with enoki and shiitake mushrooms and then drenched with that killer soy sesame sauce.  This recipe might be just the thing to covert your tofu hating friends.

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Pan Fried Tofu with Mushrooms

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

* 1 pound firm tofu
* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
* 1 bunch enoki mushrooms, approximately 4 oz., rinsed and ends trimmed
* Soy sesame dipping sauce

Directions: