authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

by Heguiberto on January 11, 2013

This Napa cabbage kimchi turned out as authentic as the ones I eat at Korean restaurants here in San Francisco. It was fun to make and it took just 3 days before it was ready. (Three days might sound like a long time to some, but I’ve seen recipes where the kimchi had to ferment for a week or more.) I have made kimchi at home before but never used the traditional Korean gochugaru pepper. Instead I substituted jalapeño and poblano peppers, which resulted in an ultra-spicy version. This is milder.

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

This recipe, with some minor adaptations, comes from Insanity Theory written by Ellie Won, a South Korean who grew up in Australia.

Aside from the excellent recipe, she wowed me with a kimchi refrigerator! Pretty cool! It makes sense to me. My jar of kimchi only fit in the refrigerator after some serious reshuffling.

Steven served it for the first time with rice and beans cooked in the Brazilian way. I simply love mixing foods from different ethnic backgrounds. The results can be surprisingly good. I think that this is what they call fusion cuisine? A bit of this and a bit of that combined together? It certainly breaks the monotony of a meal that could otherwise be boring and monochromatic. A toast to globalization!

The recipe calls for Chinese pear, which I didn’t have. I added red radish to it and changed the proportions of chili powder, sugar and fish sauce. I also added a fresh red jalapeño pepper because… well why not?

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

1 large head Napa Cabbage cut into wedges (~6Lbs)
~1½ cups non iodized sea salt
4 cups water (1 quart)
1 heaping tbsp sweet rice flour (sticky rice)
1 &1/3 cup Gochugaru chili powder
3 tbsp fish sauce (leave it out in case you want to make it vegan) use ~ 1 tbsp salt instead
1 tbsp sugar
6 whole scallions cut into 2’’ long segments
6 cloves garlic
1 2’’ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
½ white or sweet onion
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and ribs removed
5 small red radishes, thinly sliced
1/3 lb daikon, sliced

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

Dissolve ½ cup of salt in the water. Add cabbage bottom parts in first. Make sure all leaves and base receive a coat of this brine. Drain water.

Use part or all the remainder salt to sprinkle over each leaf, including the thick white parts at the base. Put the cabbage in a bowl and let the salt dehydrate it for about 3 hours (Ellie recommends 5-6 hours or until it is floppy). Mine became floppy within 3 hours.

Rinse cabbage thoroughly in running water to remove excess salt. Squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Place it in a colander and allow it to drain for another 15 to 20 minutes.

During the cabbage dehydration process, make a ‘pudding’ or ‘glue’ by mixing rice powder with ½ cup of water and cooking it on low heat, whisking nonstop until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Towards the last 10 minutes before draining is complete, add jalapeño chili, onion, ginger, garlic, and daikon to your food processor. Whiz into a pulp. Mix this pulp with the rice ‘glue’ along with gochugaru pepper, sugar and fish sauce.

Using a spatula spread the kimichi paste uniformly on both sides of each of the leaves. Put the cabbage in and jar, cover and let it rest in a dark, cool place for about 3 days. Be careful when opening it as gases that build up during fermentation will be under pressure. When ready the flavors will have married and you will sense a slight fizzyness, At this point refrigerate and enjoy.

As your kimchi continues to age in the fridge the flavors become more pungent. If it gets too intense to eat by itself, you can turn the kimchi into soups or make a yummy kimchi fried rice.

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I like the taste of the French/Italian/Spanish dish brandade. Usually made with salt cod, potatoes, dairy and spices, everything gets whipped together then baked in the oven till golden and delicious. Here’s a traditional brandade recipe from the New York Times.

Steven’s been after me about making this for a while. I won’t say how long. I keep promising I am going to but every time I gather the ingredients together I get distracted with other ideas. It isn’t quite “an issue” but… well, let’s just say that it’s high time that I pull this dish together.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

My inspiration comes from the aforementioned traditional recipe and from my Dungeness crab casquinha de siri.

This is a crowd-pleaser that is perfect either as an elegant appetizer with crackers or slices of French baguette, or, like we had it, as a main course with a side of Israeli couscous and a mango and black bean salad to make a substantial meal.

Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for 24 to 48 hours with a few water changes to remove excess salt. I have some instructions on how to de-salt and pre-cook it here.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

2/3 lb prepared cod fish pieces (skinless and boneless)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 1lb, boiled and pureed (no lumps)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
4 peeled tomatoes (from a can this time of year) chopped
1-2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 red Jalapeño pepper, minced, seeds and ribs discarded
4 tbsp light coconut milk
2 to 3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Ramekins (I used four medium sized ones)

Place cod pieces in the food processor and whiz for few seconds to break it down to small uniform bits but not into a paste.

Heat olive oil in a non stick pan, add onion and Jalapeño. Sauté until soft, add garlic and continue cooking for few more seconds until aromatic. Add tomatoes and let them break apart in the heat. Add cod, paprika, parsley, salt, pepper, coconut milk and mix everything together to warm through. Add potato and about one tablespoon bread crumbs. Mix to incorporate everything. Texture should look like that of a potato puree.

Fill your ramekins with the salt cod mix, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and then grated parmesan cheese. Broil to give the crust a golden color (remember you’ve already cooked everything on the stove). Remove from oven a serve.


Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

We’re constantly trying to add new legume-inspired recipes to our repertoire. After all, how can one be almost vegetarian without eating beans? I think, perhaps, that we don’t feature black-eyed peas as we should. Recently Steven made a delicious black-eyed peas and polenta dish. Every now and then I make a brown rice and black-eyed pea risotto that’s quite enjoyable. Black-eyed peas are delightful in croquettes, certainly. But all told, that’s only a few measly (albeit wonderful) ways of preparing something that’s so versatile, flavorful and nutritious.

So today’s inspiration comes from Indian cuisine. I’ve been following Manjula’s Kitchen for a while now and am blown away by the many creative ways she employs beans and pulses. This recipe is based on one from her blog. I made a few adaptations. We loved it.

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

2 cups dry black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked in water for ½ hour then drained
1/8 tsp asafedida
2 tbsp canola oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¾ tsp mango powder
¼ tsp garam masala
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Sea salt to taste

for the curry paste:

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed
2 tbsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder

Add all ingredients for the curry paste to a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water and whiz into a paste.

Add canola oil to pressure cooker. Bring temperature to high. Add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Add asafetida followed by the curry paste. Cook on medium temperature until raw flavors are gone and oil floats on the surface of the curry paste. Toss in black eyed-peas with 3 cups of water. Cover pressure cooker, and when it starts whistling, turn temperature down and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let pan cool down. Check for doneness. The beans should be soft. If not return pan to burner and cook a little longer.

Add tomatoes, salt, garam masala, mango powder and continue cooking, uncovered, just long enough to warm tomatoes through. Add cilantro, adjust salt and serve. We had this stew with a side of Japanese rice cooked Brazilian style.


And here’s another dish from the-Y-O, that’s Yotam Ottolenghi to you and me. This adaptation from “Plenty” was a huge success. The dish is South East Asian inspired, since it uses sambal sauce.

sambal okra over coconut rice

sambal okra over coconut rice

Sambal is a fiery sauce made with chili peppers, shallots, tamarind and other spices. The-Y-O claims that a dish like this is served in Malaysia for breakfast. “Wow” is all I can say, people and their cuisines sure can be different. This is spicy! I can’t imagine having it for breakfast. It reminds me of our trip to Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago. When we first arrived, the brutal jet lag had me hungry for spicy foods loaded with fish sauce in the morning. That’s standard fare there, so it worked out really well, at least at the beginning. Fried rice and fish soup at 7AM, no problem! I ate with gusto and it was all simply delicious! After a week or two, as I adjusted to the Thai clock, I began to have trouble with that kind of breakie.

I’ve made sambal before with calamari and shrimp, but didn’t think breakfast-time. We had this sambal okra for dinner, which is just fine by me. Really, it was so tasty that I’d be willing to have it anytime, including for breakfast… I bet this would be a super remedy for a hangover…

sambal okra over coconut rice

for the coconut rice:

1 cup basmati rice rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
1½ cups water
2 rinds of lemon
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
Kosher salt to taste

for the okra:

1 lb frozen baby okra
Lemon or lime wedges
Cilantro leaves for decoration

for the sambal sauce:

3 fresh Jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs partially removed (leave some for heat)
5 dried red chili peppers, seeds discarded
8 baby shallots
2 garlic cloves
1tsp paprika
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Add chilies fresh and dried, shallots, garlic, paprika, tamarind, sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil and another 2 of water to the food processor and spin until it turns into paste.

Place remaining oil in a large skillet on high. Pour paste in and sauté for a minute or so. Turn temperature down and cook it for about 10 minutes. The sambal sauce will be ready when it becomes dark brownish red in color and oil starts to separate from the paste. Set aside.

Place all rice ingredients in a saucepan on high heat. Give it a good stir. Bring to a boil. Stir again, reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

Have a pan ready with boiling water within the last 8-10 minutes rice is finishing cooking. Drop frozen okra into the water and cook 3-4 minutes to scald the little pods. Transfer okra to a colander and run some cold water over to stop cooking process.

Heat up sambal, fold in okra and let it warm through.

Transfer rice to a serving platter, top with sambal okra & decorate with cilantro leaves and wedges of lemon.


I love palak paneer, that Indian dish of spinach and cheese, but every time I go to Indian restaurants I tend to stay away from it. There’re a couple of reasons. The first is that the color of the dish scares me a bit. So often, the spinach has that uninviting rusty grayish green shade that says, “I’ve been sitting here forever waiting for you to order me.” Not good.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

But don’t get me wrong on this. Usually, I find that most types of curries, including the ones I make at home, taste even better after they get some rest. Somehow the flavors intermingle more harmoniously. Not so with palak paneer. I don’t think that it improves with rest: it just discolors.

My second “issue” is the ghee. Restaurants are very fond of that ingredient, which I know is extremely popular in India, too. But not for me. I get indigestion when I overindulge. I’m just not used to so much butter. It is true that palak (spinach) and paneer (Indian cheese) are a bit bland by themselves. And ghee does have flavor. But come on. Indian cuisine is so rich with spices, isn’t there something else that might spare my stomach and waistline?

On my quest to find the ‘ideal’ spinach curry I bumped into this interesting blog, and this other one, and this one. Then I improvised.

I think I finally nailed it. The recipe is healthy, nutritious and completely vegan. Here paneer was replaced with firm tofu, ghee was substituted with olive oil and to add creaminess and thickness, I added ground cashew nuts. We had it with carrot and cumin flavored basmati rice, minus the carrots. Steven thought it sort of resembled Italian pesto based on the ingredients and preparation method, hence my alternate name.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

1 large container of fresh spinach, leaves only (1lb)
3 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed, chopped
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 container firm tofu, cubed
1 medium white onion, cubed
3 ripe Roma tomatoes
¾ tsp grated/ground fresh ginger
5 tbsp minced cilantro
¾ tbsp grated/ground garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp raw cashew nuts
Kosher salt to taste

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pot on high. Add jalapeño peppers and sauté until soft. Add spinach and continue sautéing until wilted and volume reduced to about ¼. Set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut top of tomatoes off and make a cross incision at the other end. Plunge them in hot water and remove when skin curls. Let tomatoes cool down a bit, peel skins off and cut into cubes. Set aside.

Add some salt to hot water used to skin tomatoes, pour it over tofu and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and gently toast/sauté the tofu cubes. Turn the heat off and keep it warm.

Place cashews in a skillet and toast them for a couple of minutes without burning them. Add to food processor and grind to a paste. Add sautéed spinach/jalapeño pepper mix, cilantro and fenugreek. Continue processing to a paste. Set aside.

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

Meanwhile heat remaining olive oil in pan, add cumin and toast until aromatic. Add ginger and garlic, stirring until raw smells are gone. Toss in onion and cook until translucent. Add spinach mix, salt to taste and cubed tomatoes, stir to combine and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.

Either gently fold in tofu or plate it as we did here. Serve with rice.


bulgur love

by Stevie on November 15, 2010

Recently Hegui went on a mini bulgur cooking frenzy, making mushroom and pink bean bulgur loaf and Brazilian style tabuli in a single afternoon. He over estimated the amount of bulgur needed so we had about two pints leftover. Well, I didn’t want to waste it and we all know that necessity is the mother of invention. So “bulgur love” is born.

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

Actually, I feel pretty confident that recipes similar to this are made everywhere. Here’s a nice example from Cookin’ Canuck. After all, I’ve really just added everything in the kitchen to the bulgur to make a flavorful, colorful and hopefully wholesome main dish, e.g a bulgur pilaf. I’m inspired by Hegui’s delicious and under appreciated, quinoa love.

Obviously, we’ve made up the names. They’re not very descriptive so I’d guess that search engines can’t figure them out too well. Our initial idea was that quinoa love was a vegetarian dish in homage to the Summer of Love in San Francisco, Flower Power and all that. Plus, cooking itself is an act of love. So what better way to honor a key ingredient then by surrounding it with a thrilling assortment of other, exciting, supporting cast members, all served up on a huge platter with metaphorical trumpets blaring? That’s the grandiose concept, anyway.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match almost all of the ingredients, perhaps even changing bulgur for another grain (maybe quinoa ;) even.) I used a lot of stuff with intense flavors to make this vegan dish really pop. I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

downtown San Francisco at dusk

downtown San Francisco at dusk

bulgur love

2 pints coarse bulgur, pre-soaked for an hour and drained
1 container firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 bunch kale, stems finely chopped and leaves, coarsely
2 cups black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thin
½ cucumber, sliced thin
12 stuffed green olives, cut in halves
¼ cup fresh mint, minced
¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
6 spring onions, chopped fine
1 medium onion, sliced thin
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
lime juice to taste
extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse tofu, cut into bite size rectangles and soak in a warm saltwater bath for about twenty minutes. This will add salt to the tofu and give it more flavor.

In a separate bowl, let cucumber slices soak in a saltwater bath. Hegui’s convinced that this step improves the flavor though I’m still doubtful about it.

While tofu soaks, heat some olive oil on medium and add garlic, kale stems and a dash of salt. Sauté until stems become tender. Add kale leaves and cook until they wilt a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse tofu. Heat some olive oil in a small skillet on high. Add tofu and gently fry for a few minutes on each side until it browns slightly. Carefully remove to a dish and set aside.

In a large skillet, add sliced onion, red and jalapeño pepper, some salt and olive oil. Sauté until vegetables reduce and onion begins to caramelize (about five to eight minutes). Add black beans to onion and sauté together to warm through. Fold bulgur into cooked onion. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Drain and rinse cucumber. Add cucumber, olives, herbs, spring onion, tomatoes (dried and cherry), and kale to bulgur mixture. Fold everything together. Add lime juice, more olive oil and adjust salt. Pour into a large serving platter then place tofu rectangles on top. Serve and enjoy.


sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

I’ve adapted this recipe from one of those that you see at Safeway in the vegetable section; you know, those little cards that suggest exciting ways to mix produce and Safeway products together to make something tasty and fun. This one caught my eye because it looked like a New Zealander’s version of tomatillo salsa: it is green, spicy and sour, just like tomatillo salsa, though perhaps a bit more sweet. The recipe calls for sugar but no salt or garlic. That just doesn’t work for me. Also, they suggest red tomatoes but I was worried that the color would mix with the kiwi green and turn the dish grey. That’s not too appetizing. Instead I used some large yellow cherry tomatoes from the Alemany Farmers Market.

We served this at a wine tasting pot-luck that we held over Labor Day Weekend. My initial idea was to have it with tortilla chips. However, it went amazingly well as a sauce over the grilled halibut that Whitney and Amie brought to the party (Great to see you guys!) It was tangy, sweet and a little spicy. This reminded me of Miami style cooking, or perhaps Caribbean. We loved it.

sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

4 ripe kiwi, peeled
12 large yellow cherry tomatoes
1 inch thick slice onion
3 cloves unpeeled garlic
1 jalapeño pepper
1 small bunch cilantro
Kosher salt to taste (about ½ tsp)

some key ingredients for sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

some key ingredients for sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

Heat cast iron pan to high temperature. Roast onion slice, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeño and kiwi until toasted. Peel garlic. Remove stem, seeds and ribs from pepper. Place everything in food processor. Add salt and cilantro. Process until a chunky sauce formed. Adjust salt. Serve with tortilla chips or over grilled fish.

I'm really enjoying sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

I'm really enjoying sweet and spicy kiwi and yellow cherry tomato salsa

Wow!  I'm really going bald!

Wow! I'm really going bald!


chole masala

by Heguiberto on August 9, 2010

This recipe comes from a blogger who recently visited weirdcombinations for the first time. Prerna cooks easy-to-make Indian food which she publishes on her blog, Indian Simmer. Her recipes and pictures look amazing! Inspired, I made this chickpea curry masala adapted from her blog the other day. I ended up adding a few things that just happened to be here. Her recipe didn’t call for left-over pico de gallo, for example. It tasted divine! I was reminded of this other chana recipe that I made in the past. Yet today’s was completely different because of the spice combinations.

chole masala

We had this with Indian style chili pickle as a condiment.

chole masala

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
5 tbsp freshly ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 jalapeño pepper, minced, seed and ribs partially removed
¼ tsp chili pepper powder
1 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups canned tomato chunks with juice
½ cup pico de gallo salsa (optional)
3 roasted tomato halves
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

Place onion, garlic and ginger in the food processor and pulse until a thick and uniform purplish paste is formed. Pour oil in a non-stick pan. Add onion-ginger-garlic paste and cook for about 10-12 minutes in medium heat stirring constantly. It is ready when the smell in the kitchen has gone from harsh to mellow & sweet. Don’t caramelize the paste however. Next, bring the temperature up, add turmeric powder, chili powder, ground coriander, curry powder and stir until it turns into a thicker paste.

Meanwhile place tomato chucks, salsa and roasted tomato halves in the food processor and pulse a few seconds to combine. Fold tomato mixture into paste. Add chickpeas (chana). Stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro and serve over rice. Yumm!

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vegetarian sweet bell pepper pinto bean soup

July 14, 2010

I made this soup after accidentally over cooking my beans in the pressure cooker. Those things are fast! I only let it whistle for fifteen minutes but that was too long. By the time that I opened it, the beans had become a little too soft for rice and beans, my original plan. Next time, […]

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Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

July 12, 2010

I made this sandwich last week because I wanted to use tempeh in a different way than deep-fried with Seventies brown sauce or with Southeast Asian flavors. Not sure whether it was going to taste good, this was what turned out to be a successful experiment. I love tempeh, so I’m thrilled with the results. […]

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