Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012's First Ggureomi

I was originally slated to get a delivery right around Christmas time, but due to some travel plans, I asked Heuksalim to push my delivery back about two weeks.  I returned home to an empty fridge on Wednesday, and the next day at noon my first Ggureomi of 2012 arrived!  In it were:

10 Antiobiotic-free, free range, fertilized eggs (무항생제 방사유정란)
1 Pack of additive-free, silken tofu. (소포제, 유화제, 무첨가 순두부)
1 Pack of organic giant green onions. (유기농 파)
1 Pack of organic celery (유기농 샐러리)
1 Pack of organic carrots (유기농 당근)
1 Pack of pesticide-free Shepherd's Purse (무농약 냉이)
1 Organic behemoth radish (유기농 무)
1 Pack of domestic beef bone broth (한우사골 곰국)

In just a week or two, I managed to put nearly everything to excellent use.

No sweat potluck prep. 

Simple vegetable roast.  Chop up celery, carrots, and potatoes; add oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings of choice; drop into a casserole dish with a bit of vegetable stock at the bottom to prevent stuff from burning; let everything roast and steam and swelter in the oven for an hour or so.  At the end, everything is nice and soft, and the flavors have blended beautifully.

Looks/smells like a chaalenge!

The Shepherd's Purse, or 냉이 (Naeng-i) in Korean, required me to practice a new cooking method.  In Korean it's called 무침 (Mu-chim), but there's no real appropriate translation in English. I like to think of it as high-class squishing.

You can make 무침 with just about any kind of vegetable.  Onion and cucumber 무침 is pretty common, as are radish 무침, cabbage 무침, lettuce 무침, bracken fern root 무침, bellflower root 무침,  spinach 무침, and other random green 무침 (this is the category the Shepherd's Purse falls into).  No matter what the vegetable, all you need to do to make 무침 is add some oil (sesame  or perilla), some seasononigs (red pepper powder, perilla powder, garlic, sesame seeds, red pepper paste, vinegar, or fermented soybean paste). Then, you use one hand to hold the bowl and one hand to squish everything together, crushing the vegetables in just the right way so as to open their little pores and smush all the flavors in.  It sounds a little brutal, but it's a lot of fun and pretty easy.

The Shepherd's Purse has a strong scent and taste, grassy and at the same time sweet, so it doesn't need much in terms of flavoring.  I rinsed it thoroughly using a multi-bowl system (gotta be careful with root plants), blanched it for about a minute, took it out and ran it under cold water, squeezed it try, and then made 무침 with two different types of seasonings, just to see how it would turn out. The first was traditional: perilla oil and garlic, with just a sprinkle of salt. It turned out really well, with the bite of the garlic enhancing the softer bitterness of the root.  The second method was just a stab in the dark, following my own obsessions: periilla oil and perilla powder.  Unfortunately, the creamy/sweet of the powder didn't quite match up with the grassy qualities of the Shepherd's Purse, so I don't think I'll be reusing that recipe.  Unless I'm out of garlic.

This is what it looks like when it's done and placed on a friend's nice china.

Artsy shot!

Incorporated into a "I guess I can no longer call myself a vegan" breakfast.

Unpictured bonus: Don't throw away the water that you use to steam the sweet potatoes!  Just drink it straight, it's nice and...sweet.  Surprise.  Also, don't throw away the water you use to blanch the Shepherd's purse.  It's a deep green, full of good stuff, and tastes like an all-natural Powerade.  Permission granted to throw away water used from poaching eggs.  

As for the Behemoth Radish / 무 / Mu, which looks like this, 

I had tried a 무침 before with red pepper and vinegar and it didn't turn out so hot.  Actually, I don't really like the flavor of raw Behemoth Radish, it tastes like I'm going to get a headache, if that makes any sense to you.  So, I decided to mask the flavor a bit by cooking it instead.  Slice it into thin strips, like Q-tip (crap, I forget what the English English speakers among us call these...) size, then sautee in perilla oil for a bit. Make sure to cook the BRs thoroughly, adding a bit of water to the pan if the oil all runs out. When most of it has boiled off, add a little salt or miscellaneous vegetable spices, some perilla powder, and mix it all up. Congratulations, you've just made 무들깨볶음 (Mu deulkkae bokk-eum, stirfried radish with perilla powder), which is a real side dish, not one I made up on my own.  The mellow radish serves as a nice vessel for the simple richness of the perilla. 

For a slightly healthier, more eco-friendly meal, you can also do this recipe without the oil.  Instead of frying the radishes, just steam them with a little bit of water in the pan from the beginning of the process, until they get slightly soft.  Pour off any excess water then continue with the seasoning.

Also, I can't help but add, Behemomth Radishes are pretty awesome, environmentally speaking.  They grow late into the winter when other sissy crops have all given up the ghost; they're super-cheap; and really filling too.  They may not be the most appetizing or appealing monstrous root crop, but they're definitely worth learning to cook with.  

Finally, I made some spicy tofu soups (순두부 찌개) out of 
-Tofu and green onions from this month's Ggureomi
-Organic sweet potatoes, baby pumpkins, carrots, and  red pepper paste from Woori Coop down the street 
-Red pepper powder I've been chipping away at since one of my summer Ggureomis
-Soup soy sauce (국간장) and red pepper seed oil (고추씨 기름, sooo hot).
-You can also drop in an egg near the end and stir it up, if you'd like.  

Awesome steamy, spicy vegan (just leave out that last egg) breakfast for winter mornings, and a great match for the softer flavors of the Behmoth Radish Perilla Stirfry.  

Thanks as always to Heuksalim and the farmers they represent for sending me all this fresh, local, organic, safe, healthy, delicious produce.  And for encouraging me to develop my cooking creativity and push my kitchen skills to the next level.  

If you happen to be interested in giving Heuksalim's Ggureomi a shot, follow the tag link to other Ggureomi posts to see more details, or email [noksaeksari (at) blogspot. (dot) com] for information on how to sign up. It's cheap, easy, fun, and fulfilling!

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