January 29, 2010

Ox Bone Soup: Dinner at Gahm Mi Oak

Gahm Mi Oak, a Korean restaurant on 32nd St between Broadway and 5th Ave in NYC, specializes in a long-simmered, white ox-bone soup called sul long tang. According to my foodie friend Ray, who introduced me to Gahm Mi Oak, they also make some of the best kimchi that can be found in Manhattan. And they're open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Their menu used to be written entirely in Korean, but it now includes English translations of the dishes.

The sul long tang is the dish most people come for -- we saw steaming bowls of the soup on nearly every table in the dining room. But there are a selection of other dishes too -- including the standard bi-bim-bap and also a variety of dishes featuring interesting animal parts: beef knee, beef tongue, and pig's ear, just to name a few.

The addictively spicy and delicious housemade kimchi, which includes cabbage and chunks of daikon radish (kak-tu-gi) fermented with hot pepper and other seasonings. The server brings a whole cabbage to the table in a ceramic crock, presents it, and then cuts it with shears into more manageable pieces. The kimchi was perfectly spiced, complex, crisp, and with a wonderful tanginess from long fermentation (the Korean term for this is eigun, which indicates that the kimchi is "well done" -- ie, has acquired a distinctive taste from the long fermentation process).

Bin-dae-duk: Sprouted mung bean pancakes with scallion and carrot. Crispy on the outside, tender and fragrant within, and an ideal foil for the spicy kimchi.

These long green peppers are served with a wonderfully rich and savory miso paste for dipping (below, right). I'd never tried this combination before, and it's fantastic. The flesh of the peppers is mild, but I learned the hard way that the seeds really pack a punch!

Garlic soy sauce (left) for dipping mung bean pancakes, and rustic miso paste to eat with the green peppers.

The sul long tang is served unseasoned. At each table there is a bowl of sea salt, black pepper, and sliced scallions so you can dress up your soup to please your palate.

This is it, the star of the show: white ox-bone soup. The collagen and gelatin extracted during the long simmering of the bones creates a stock that is incredibly silky, rich, and full-bodied. The stock is laced with thin strips of beef brisket, rice, and rice noodles. Simple and perfect in every way, a universal comfort food. Some say this soup prevents hangovers. It can probably cure just about anything else, too.
An open portion of the kitchen faces out to the dining room, and this is where magic happens: ox-bone stock simmers in enormous cauldron-like vats. I tried to take a photo of one of the simmering cauldrons, but that didn't go over too well. So you'll just have to go head over to Gahm Mi Oak to see them for yourself!
A big thank you to Ray for hosting our dinner at Gahm Mi Oak!!!

January 28, 2010

Fennel, Carrot, and Red Cabbage Slaw with Shoyu-Glazed Salmon

The other day I was taking another read through a post on the New York Times Well blog about the 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating, and I was reminded that I haven't been eating red cabbage much lately. I love the flavor and crunch of raw cabbage, and many of its nutrients - including vitamin C - are most available when it's eaten raw. So, I decided to make a slaw featuring red cabbage along with crunchy fennel and carrot, and given a zesty kick with a citrus and jalapeno vinaigrette.

Fennel, Carrot, and Red Cabbage Slaw

1 shallot, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 2 Tbsp)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 head of red cabbage
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced; fronds reserved and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 Tbsp sesame seeds or gomasio (a mixture of sesame seeds lightly ground with sea salt)
  1. Whisk together shallot, jalapeno, olive oil, lemon and lime juices, and maple syrup in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  2. Divide the 1/2 head of cabbage into 2 pieces to yield two 1/4 heads. Remove the core from both pieces, discard, and then slice thinly.
  3. Add shredded cabbage to bowl with dressing, along with fennel and chopped fronds, carrot, and sesame seeds or gomasio. Toss well to combine.
  4. Allow slaw to sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before serving, in order for the flavors to meld.
I topped a generous portion of the crunchy slaw with a broiled, shoyu-glazed wild Alaskan salmon fillet.

The salmon was marinated for 20 minutes, in the fridge, in a mixture of:
3 Tbsp shoyu
3 Tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
1 tsp agave
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Removed the salmon from the marinade and broiled it skin-side down for about 7 minutes, until it was mostly cooked through but still a little translucent in the center. I simmered the marinade in a small saucepan until it reduced slightly, then drizzled it over the cooked salmon and sprinkled gomasio on top. Feel-good food at its finest!

January 27, 2010

Millet Pilaf with Almonds and Golden Raisins

Last night, I reached back into the dimly lit depths of the pantry toward what appeared to be a tall jar of quinoa. Once the jar was in my grasp, however, I realized that it actually contained millet. Millet - the forgotten grain! - that I had forgotten was in my own pantry. But little old millet should never be forgotten: not only is this whole grain delicious, with a mild nuttiness and a wonderful texture (chewy but tender, a bit like quinoa), and easy to prepare, it is also extremely nutritious.
According to my favorite natural foods reference book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, by Rebecca Wood, millet was among the earliest cultivated cereal grains. Millet was one of the 5 sacred crops of ancient China (along with rice, soybeans, barley, and wheat), and the first written reference to the grain dates to 2800 BC! Millet is cooling, good for healing digestive irregularities, and is also a preferred grain for treating blood-sugar imbalances. Unlike other grains, cooked millet has a beneficial alkalinizing, rather than acidifying, effect on the body. Millet also has the most robust amino acid profile, as well as the highest iron content, of all the true cereal grains. Millet is rich in B vitamins, and as an added bonus, gluten-free!
Above: raw millet (left) and cooked millet (right)

As you can see, cooked millet resembles couscous (which is NOT a whole grain, but really just a very tiny semolina pasta). So why not replace couscous with millet - a whole, nutritionally sound food - in pilafs, salads, or alongside a tagine? From now on I'm making sure millet stays up front in the pantry and makes it into more dishes.

Millet Pilaf with Almonds and Golden Raisins
Millet soaks up liquid like a sponge. If the pilaf seems dry after adding the oil and vinegar amounts listed below, just add more until it looks right to you.
1 cup millet, rinsed and drained
2 cups cold water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
Raw apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Toast millet in a small pot or saucepan over medium heat until it begins to give off a nutty aroma and the grains start to pop, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add water and sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all water is absorbed and millet is tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer cooked millet to a large bowl. Stir in raisins, almonds, and parsley.
  4. Whisk together olive oil and vinegar, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour over millet mixture and toss to combine. Add more oil and vinegar, if needed, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

January 26, 2010

Overnight Goji Berry + Almond Muesli

Muesli is a traditional Swiss dish based on uncooked oats, fruit, and nuts, and often soaked. Physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner is credited with developing the recipe around 1900 as part of the dietary treatment regimen for patients in his hospital.

Many types of pre-packaged muesli are available, but I wanted to try making my own. I followed the recipe from Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions, which calls for soaking the rolled oats overnight in a mixture of water and yogurt. (This makes the oats easier to digest, and their nutrients more available to the body for absorption.) I made a couple of changes, adding ground cardamom and substituting dried goji berries for raisins.

Although I've had goji berries in trail mixes, I had never really tasted them on their own. And they are so delicious! When I opened the bag, I fell in love with their intense, rich and spicy aroma - reminiscent of a berry-heavy red wine. Goji berries also have many health benefits: rich in anti-oxidants, they have been used in Eastern medicines for thousands of years and are prized for their anti-aging effects. The berries impart a gentle - but not overwhelming - sweetness and subtle berry flavor to the muesli. This is a perfect breakfast, delicious and satisfying but not heavy. Try experimenting with whatever add-ins you like!

Goji Berry and Almond Muesli
1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/4 cup unsalted almonds, roughly chopped (or slivered almonds)
1/4 cup dried shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1-1/2 cups filtered water, warm or at room temp
2 Tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (or whey, kefir, or buttermilk -- you can also substitute lemon juice or vinegar if you prefer not to use dairy)
1 cup filtered water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup goji berries
1 Tbsp flax seeds, ground
  1. Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, and spices in a bowl.
  2. Mix together 1-1/2 cups water and yogurt. Pour over oat mixture and stir well. Allow to sit, covered, at room temp for at least 7 and up to 24 hours.
  3. Bring 1 cup water and salt to a boil. Add soaked oat mixture and goji berries. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Off heat, stir in ground flax seeds. Top muesli with butter, milk, or yogurt, and maple syrup, raw honey, or another natural sweetener of your choice.

January 24, 2010

Pumpkin Spelt Flax Muffins

These muffins are seriously good -- moist, perfectly spiced, and made especially satisfying by the crunch of pumpkin seeds and the chewiness of raisins and crystallized ginger. I started with a pumpkin muffin recipe from the November 2008 issue of Gourmet, then substituted whole spelt flour (in place of white flour) and added ground flax seeds to up the nutrition quotient, and heightened the spice notes by adding a bit of nutmeg and chopped crystallized ginger. I also infused the golden raisins with citrus flavor by soaking them in orange juice rather than water. These were a BIG success with bacon and eggs for a late-afternoon football-watching Blinner (yes, that's a 3-meals-in-one, breakfast-lunch-dinner hybrid).

A delicious, hearty, whole-grain way to start the day right, perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

Pumpkin Spelt Flax Muffins
yield: 12 1/2-cup muffins

1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
a few microplaned gratings of nutmeg (not even 1/8 tsp)
1-1/2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and allowed to cool
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup pure canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk mixed with 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or buttermilk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp raw (green) pepitas (pumpkins seeds), plus an additional 1-2 Tbsp to sprinkle on top
2 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F with rack in middle.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring raisins and orange juice to a boil. Transfer to a bowl and soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.
  3. Whisk together spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and ground flax seeds in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, pumpkin, eggs, milk and lemon juice mixture, and vanilla.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Stir in raisins, pepitas, and crystallized ginger.
  6. Transfer to muffin pan, top with a sprinkling of pepitas, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean - about 18 to 20 minutes.

January 23, 2010

Green Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme

This veggie-dense and legume-packed soup is a great example of an animal protein-sparing approach to cooking. While the bulk of the soup's ingredients are plant-based, just a few slices of bacon add tons of flavor, infusing the entire pot with smoky goodness. Because bacon makes everything better -- and a little goes a long way. Fresh thyme and bay leaves give the soup sort of a French twist.

My favorite bacon comes from Tamarack Hollow Farm in Vermont, which sells at my local greenmarket. If I don't have it on hand, though, I go for Niman Ranch or Applegate Farms bacon, which you can find at Whole Foods and many other grocery stores. Both companies are dedicated to raising livestock in a humane and sustainable manner, plus they offer bacon that is smoked and uncured, meaning that it is made without the addition of sodium nitrate or nitrite (preservatives to which many people are sensitive). For this soup I chose the uncured, applewood-smoked bacon from Niman Ranch.

Green Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme

4 slices of bacon, diced into bite-size pieces
1 red onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery rib, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups green lentils, picked through and rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 small to medium size Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 small head of escarole, washed well and chopped into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  1. Saute the bacon over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot for about 5 minutes. Add the red onion, carrot, and celery, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.
  2. Add lentils, stock or water, thyme, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and cook for an additional 15 minutes, until tender.
  4. Add escarole to pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, until escarole is tender.
  5. Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Garnish each bowl with chopped parsley.

January 18, 2010

Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Pink grapefruit and avocado are a classic combination: the sweetness and delicate acidity of the pink grapefruit perfectly complement the beautifully creamy texture and mellow flavor of the avocado. When both fruits happen to be in my kitchen, I often bring them together in a salad. Today I decided to dress up the salad with some minced fresh garlic, crushed fennel seeds, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Thinly sliced fennel and red onion would also be nice additions.

Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Fennel Seed and Cayenne

1 pink grapefruit
1 Hass avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed with mortar and pestle
pinch of cayenne pepper
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Slice off the ends of the pink grapefruit. Place the grapefruit on one end and, cutting from top to bottom, remove the peel and thick white pith. Cut the grapefruit into quarters, remove seeds, and slice into bite-size pieces. (Alternatively, for a more elegant presentation: slice the peeled grapefruit into supremes by cutting close to the membranes that separate the segments to achieve membrane- and pith-free segments.) Transfer grapefruit pieces and their juices to a bowl.
  2. Halve the avocado lengthwise. Remove the pit by gently knocking the blade of a chef's knife into the pit and twisting to remove. With the flesh still in the skin, run your knife through to create bite-size pieces, then turn the skin inside-out to remove the pieces. Add to bowl with grapefruit.
  3. Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, crushed fennel seeds, and cayenne to bowl with grapefruit and avocado. Toss to combine, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

January 16, 2010

Coconut Chicken Soup with Thai Chile

My coconut milk craze continues. After waking up with a scratchy throat this morning, I knew the situation called for a big pot of coconut chicken soup with chili, garlic, and ginger. I had some chicken backs and other assorted bones in the freezer, so I simmered them for a few hours, with a splash of apple cider vinegar, for a flavorful homemade stock. I love the tiny, hot Thai chilies in this soup, but serranos or jalapenos would also work well. A couple of spoonfuls of Thai green curry paste (I like the Thai Kitchen brand), which includes green chili, lemongrass, and galangal, round out the flavor of the silky broth and add a little extra heat.

Coconut Chicken Soup With Thai Chile
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Thai green chiles (including seeds), thinly sliced
Two-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
32 ounces of chicken broth
One 13.5-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp Thai green curry paste
2 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, or one of each
2 to 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1 bunch kale, washed well and chopped (3 to 4 cups)
  1. Heat coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Saute onion, with a pinch of salt, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, Thai chili, and ginger, and stir for another minute.
  2. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, green curry paste, and a pinch of sea salt, and bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs or breasts, reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Then add potatoes to pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  3. Remove chicken pieces from soup. Add kale and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pull meat from chicken bones and cut into bite-size pieces.
  4. When kale is render, return chicken to pot for a few minutes to heat through, season with sea salt to taste, and serve.

January 8, 2010

Curried Coconut and Red Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale

What can I say -- I'm a coconut milk addict. I've been keeping a can or two in the pantry lately and using it in all sort of dishes -- Thai curry, rice pudding, and, tonight, a creamy and hearty curried coconut red lentil soup. I tossed in cubes of sweet potato for texture and extra sweetness, and some chopped kale, 'cuz I love my greens! This soup is warming, satisfying -- and healthy, too. And the aroma while it's simmering -- incredible!
curried coconut and red lentil soup with sweet potato & kale

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive or coconut oil
1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable or chicken stock, or water
13.5-ounce can coconut milk
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 cups chopped kale (tough stems removed)
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a soup pot. Add red onion and a pinch of sea salt and cook until onion is softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add sweet potato and cook 5 minutes more.
  3. Add stock or water, coconut milk, red lentils, garlic powder, curry powder, cinnamon, and ginger, and a large pinch of salt. Simmer about 20 minutes, until sweet potato is tender.
  4. Stir in kale and simmer 10 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Add lemon juice, season with sea salt and black pepper to taste, and serve.