Kimchi: the Weather-Proof Condiment
Climate change is alive and well here in Vermont. Besides making it hard to get the produce I want at an affordable price, this wacky weather can really mess with menu planning. Because my personal chef business involves cooking and delivering weekly, I consult the forecast so my clients don’t end up eating chili in the blazing heat or gazpacho in their sweaters.
This week’s weather predictions foretold an extremely hot and humid first half, followed by a cold and rainy second half. Therefore on a sweltering Monday, I paradoxically made my clients a brothy kimchi soup with veggies, tofu, noodles so they would have something to warm their bones when it got chilly and wet on Thursday.
For those new to kimchi it is a very tasty Korean condiment made from vegetables pickled in garlic, salt, and chili peppers. I happen to like the recipes that also have vinegar, sugar, and ginger. Hot or cold, kimchi is also great with grilled meat, on a sandwich, or mixed with rice.
There are infinite variations of kimchi but I usually find it with nappa cabbage, cucumbers, or daikon radishes. Because it used to be stored in crocks underground to prevent spoiling, some think kimchi must be aged for a long time but nowadays it’s made and eaten the same day, and whatever’s leftover gets stored in the fridge.
Here’s the version I made this week, based on Kim Sunee’s Quick-Fix Kimchi recipe from her memoir A Trail of Crumbs (a delightful read for any amateur or professional chef):
- 1 large head of nappa cabbage, sliced thin
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- ½ cup rice wine, white, or cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
- 2-4 tablespoons hot red chili paste (depending on your tolerance for heat)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Mix cabbage with salt and drain in a colander over a cookie sheet for 1 hour. Rinse well, spin in a lettuce spinner to remove excess water, and mix with the other ingredients. Refrigerate in a glass container for at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.