Whenever I give people my email, website, or username, they always ask, “What’s a wasabi apple?” or.. “You were a bi-apple?” (The latter question usually came from my previous life as an Internet dater, and withthe number of times that question came up in introductory emails, I regretted the use of it). The answer to the former is “the best ingredient to use in a sandwich.” Wasabi apples became my “gateway drug” to cooking.
In my early 20s, my cupboards used to be stocked entirely with packaged food with the words “just add water” clearly labeled on the front. There have might been a box or two of Hamburger/Tuna Helper just in case I felt like being daring. It wasn’t until I moved to Korea where I had an apartment with no counter-space and missed “western” flavors that I began wanting to experiment in the kitchen.
I spent much of my time in the kitchen during my first visit to my parents’ home after a year of living abroad. While making ham sandwiches for lunch, I tried playing around by adding sliced apples and spreading a thin layer of wasabi over them. Wasabi mayo is great and all, but I really wanted the apples to have a bite more than the mayo. It makes a difference. You end up with a spicy crunch rather than a spicy sauce.Wasabi apples also add great texture to a grilled cheese sandwich. Since we’ve a surplus after going apple picking yesterday (subject of a future post), I thought I’d make one for Graham’s lunch today. I’ve made grilled cheese apple sandwiches for him before, but this time I thought I’d also make use of the bacon jam from Skillet.As far as the types of cheeses that complement wasabi apples, I love brie, a mild harvati, gruyere (because gruyere is just amazing), goat, or a mild cheddar . Unfortunately, we didn’t have any of those in stock so I used a combination of the single slice American white cheddar Graham loves to keep on hand, swiss, and Monterey Jack.And since you know what a sandwich fascist I am with ingredient order…
Is there a way to photograph grilled cheese attractively without props or the cheese congealing so soon? You get the idea anyways. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in taste. It’s a perfect fall sandwich.
On a side note.. while writing up this post, I had to check capitalization rules for cheeses. I swear the rules seem rather arbitrary. And no, the irony of me, the dictator of rigid sandwich rules complaining about cheese capitalization rules is not lost on me.
We go through A LOT of kimchi at our house. Did you know that you can buy kimchi by the bucket at H Mart? We had to downgrade to jars when we moved to our current house thanks to smaller fridge space.
Kimchi gets used as a side dish, but more often than not, we usually end up frying it for kimchi jjigae, bibimbap, grilled kim-cheese sandwiches, kimchi fried rice, kimchi omurice, etc. I try to be careful about how much oil I use when cooking. If I can’t get by with using cooking spray, I’ll use the most minuscule amount of olive oil or coconut oil possible. Y’know.. the type of drizzle that doesn’t cover the entire pan and you swear you’re going to get tendinitis trying to roll the oil around so you give up and cover the rest of the pan in Pam instead? Or maybe that’s just me. So to sum up.. I don’t like to cook with oil.
What about when you cook kimchi?
Really. Don’t do that to kimchi. Just don’t. Especially not sesame oil.. no matter what “but it’s Asian food!” sort of knee-jerk reaction you have.
But what you NEED to do..
USE BUTTER.Trust me, this is the best thing you can do for kimchi (unless you’re a bacon freak then bacon grease comes pretty close.. but I still vote butter). Oh, and if you’re vegan.. Earth Balance works just as well (as long as you don’t tell your husband you used a substitute and remember to hide the Earth Balance back in the far corners of the fridge). I know what I said about “No oil,” but Earth Balance has the buttery flavor that makes it the exception.And then you just add that to your bulgogi tacos..kimchi fried rice..bibimbap…and grilled kim-cheese..Seriously.. some bonus advice.. whenever you’re frying up kimchi.. throw cheese on top.. pizza is ideal for kimchi.. no? It’s ok.. baby steps..
Continuing with the sandwich theme from Monday, today I’m sharing what goes into one of my favorite brunch staples. When Graham and I were living in Queen Village, we usually frequented (the now closed *sob sob*) Cafe Fulya on Second and Monroe on lazy weekend mornings when we couldn’t be bothered to cook at home or get cleaned up for having brunch out. Instead, we’d each get one of their awesome sandwiches (made with pide!) and coffees to go. Once we moved to Graduate Hospital and didn’t have an easy 2-minute walk to the cafe, I tried replicating the taste and adding my own twist at home.You’ll need…
1-2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
lemon juice (enough to flavor cucumber slices)
diced green onions
chopped fresh parsley leaves (I usually use a handful, but I’m a parsley junkie. You can also substitute with dill, but I find that parsley makes the flavor brighter, complementing the lemon)
mayo (you can substitute plain yogurt with drizzled olive oil, but I’m an American with crude preferences)
bread (ideally, pide, but if you don’t have any on hand, this is awesome on bagels, pitas, roti [pictured below] or naan)
salt & pepper
Squeeze lemon juice over cucumber slices.
Spread mayo (or plain yogurt) on both slices of bread. If using yogurt, drizzle olive oil on top.
Add egg layers to one slice.
Crumble a layer of feta on top of eggs.
Sprinkle chopped green onion over feta.
Add the lemon-flavored cucumber slices.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add chopped parsley over cucumbers as desired.
Top off sandwich with remaining slice.
When I first started making this at home, Graham would often opt out in favor of his own breakfast sandwich (ie. egg and cheese deep-fried in butter – “It’s French cooking, Honey!”). I gave him a bite of mine one day, and now, surprisingly, he always requests one of his own.Having these for breakfast or lunch always take me back to our early stages of dating.. before he became aware of all my tics and idiosyncrasies. Luckily, when he threatened to return me to my parents a month after we got married, my mom told him his warranty on me has expired. At least he gets egg salad sandwiches out of it.
There’s definitely no shortage of chilis, beef stews, meatloaf, root veggies, and all the other typical winter comfort foods at our house when the temperature drops, but more than anything else, there tends to be an increase in Korean dishes simmering on the stove. Usually, it’s all about the kimchi or miso-based stews, but lately, I’d found myself wanting Korean seaweed soup (miyeok guk).
I’d always left the making of this soup from scratch to the expert (aka Mom), or, if I had a sudden craving, normally, the instant packets of wakame soup from Kikkoman would usually do in a pinch. Last week though, those packets weren’t going to cut it, and with my mom 3 states away, I figured I’d try tackle the challenge of furthering my Korean domestication.Nowadays, you can find freeze dried seaweed at your neighborhood Whole Foods, which is surreal for me. I remember my family having to drive an hour away from home in our grey Winnebago a few times a month to pick up ingredients at the nearest Korean market in Kansas. It’s great to have easy access, but there’s limitations on varieties and brands. Now, Graham and I look for any excuse to make the quick trip to H-Mart located in the Korean strip mall in Elkins Park. It’s just easier for me to know exactly what I’m buying when I can read Korean labels on the products. There’s less chance that I’ll inadvertently pick up the “wrong” kind of seaweed by mistake (for this soup, koreans use “sea mustard”). Straight out of the package, not the prettiest ingredient.. the texture’s similar to kale chips… but, let it soak in water for about 20 minutes and…it unfurls into some really beautiful, pillowy greens. I love the sheen!
As far as the recipe goes, I started off using one from Korean Bapsang, but as the soup was finishing up on the stove, a quick taste test determined that, although good, it didn’t quite taste like the kind my mother makes. I did a little comparison googling and deferred to Maangchi’s recipe, since I’d often used her site for deciphering the flavors in korean dishes in the past and gotten some luck. I added a bit of fish sauce… it was perfect =)I definitely felt like i earned my “Korean cred” when I texted a photo to both my parents and they both messaged back that it made them hungry.. ok.. so it helped that I’d sent them the photo around lunchtime and neither of them had eaten yet.
It was a simple once I had the right ingredients, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up those Kikkoman instant wakame soup packages in the pantry anytime soon =) Hooray for laziness!