Cooking Up Some Kimchi

Kimchi is a controversial dish around my house. It all started about 4 years ago — the first time I attempted homemade kimchi.


You see, kimchi, more than just about any other food I know, seems to be designed from the beginning to to be pungent. Start with cabbage, no olfactory picnic on its own, and add in fermented shrimp, fish sauce, anchovies, green onions, and garlic. As if that weren’t enough, take all of these ingredients and let them sit at room temperature for about a week. The result is, well, unique.

Four years ago, I set out to make a batch after receiving a huge head of cabbage in our weekly farmers box. I took the biggest vessel we owned — one of those plastic cereal Tupperware containers — and filled it with the ingredients.


Let’s just say I learned one thing over the ensuing week, and another over the ensuing year: 1) Tupperware cereal containers are not airtight or aroma-arresting; 2) Tupperware cereal containers hold on to certain flavors for a long time. We (well, I, since the wife refused to go anywhere near the container) were eating kimchi-infused Kashi for months.

OK, so after a lead-in like that, I’m sure I have all the readers hooked. So why bother with a dish like kimchi? The simple answer is that there’s really nothing like it. In Korea, it’s said that 95% of the population eats it daily (40 lbs per capita per year), and families make literally tens of pounds of it at once to last them months. Once you get used to it, it’s easy to see why — kimchi has an addictive crunchy, garlic-y, umami, spicy, sour tang that adds an incredible kick to a wide variety of foods. Kimchi fried rice is a slam dunk (try it with a sunny-side up egg), but it’s also just the trick to punch up eggs, tacos, steak, or anything in need of a little flair. In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like a crunchy hot sauce with a lot of character.


In the jar — where the magic happens!

The health benefits are amazing too — it’s said to be one of the healthiest foods around. The natural bacteria, lactobacilli, are the same as those found in yogurt, and keep your gut functioning properly. It’s also filled with an alphabet of vitamins — A, B and C.

But don’t take my word for it — give it a shot. I used the recipe that I found on, but couldn’t get kochukaru (Korean spice powder), so I substituted red chili paste instead. Not exactly the same, and I’m sure my Korean friends would scoff at the switchout, but the taste is still very good. I also found 2 oz of fresh ginger to be way too much, so my recommendation would be to halve that. Once it’s all done, throw it in a big (glass!) jar with a tight-fitting lid, and taste it every few days.

You’ll like it!

Shhh! Sardines, the Superfood

My introduction to sardines, like many people, came when I was about 5 years old, sitting in front of the TV. Almost without fail, on Saturday morning cartoons, a cat would get tossed into a trashcan, and come out with a sardine tin, top rolled back, stuck to his head. Not exactly appetizing, to say the least.

Fast forward, 2012.


What kinds of foods are people into these days? High protein, low carb, low calorie. Omega-3 fatty acids. Sustainable fish. Deliciousness. Inexpensive never hurts either.


Sardines nail all of this. Protein? 17g per serving. Carbs? Zilch. Calories? 130 per can. Omega-3s? 1300mg per serving. Calcium? 25% daily value. Sodium? Just 8% daily value.


I’ve blogged about fresh sardines before, and decided they weren’t worth the effort. Prepared right, canned ones are just as good. My favorite canned variety is Brunswick, packed in spring water. They’re less than $1.50 per tin, and they can hang out on your shelf for a long time. No refrigeration.


Ok, so now I’ve convinced you that they’re one of the healthiest, sustainable, shelf-friendly, inexpensive and easy foods. Now, the big question — how do you transform them from fishy to fabulous?


My favorite way to enjoy sardines is broiled, with a sprinkle of herbes de provence (available in your grocery store), freshly cracked black pepper, olive oil, and lemon. If you don’t have herbes de provence (and you should, they are magic on fish), some oregano and thyme will be almost as good. Sprinkle the herbs and pepper on the fish, drizzle with olive oil, and throw under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until sizzling. Take them out and top with a bit of lemon juice — fresh is great if you have it, but RealLemon tastes good too.


Something about this magical combination completely erases all traces of fishiness and goes perfectly with the flavor of the sardines. Scoop them up with a good cracker (I like Rosemary and OIive Oil Triscuits) and they’ll quickly become your go-to snack. You’ll be eating like a king in under 10 minutes. But keep the secret to yourself — if people realize how good this underrated food is, they might start flying off the shelf!



Recipe — Mediterranean Sardines
1 can sardines (Brunswick packed in spring water, or other)
Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence (or thyme and oregano)
Sprinkle of fresh black pepper
Sprinkle of lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt, if desired
Crackers (Triscuits or other)


Drain can of sardines. Place in small oven-safe dish in a single layer. Sprinkle with herbs and black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.


Broil for 5 minutes or so until sardines are sizzling and small delicious. Remove from broiler and top with lemon juice, to taste.


Eat voraciously with crackers.