Yes, I know it’s a bit creepy for me to make a big deal about Children’s Day for a fetus. (BTW–Alkongi has graduated from embryo to fetus stage.) But Eun Jeong was craving something fresh, and I wanted to treat them both to some good food that was both healthy and tasty. Actually, EJ’s original craving was for the VIPS salad bar, but that place is highway robbery. And since today is a national holiday, they upped their prices.
The reason I’m logging this is that, well, this is originally a journal of foods we experience in Korea. But this is also an ongoing theme of sharing with my fellow expats and Korean readers that you can really take advantage of the produce here and make something a little different than meat, kimchi, rice.
Also, please forgive the lack of pictures. Sometimes I really go on cooking kicks and can only write about them. My hands were too full to stop and play Ansel Adams every two minutes.
I avoided my local big box supermarket for a medium-sized place where EJ said the veggies were better. And they sure did have some interesting stuff. I found some vine-ripened tomatoes for a slightly higher price than the usual mealy beefsteak tomatoes. They also had some fresh anchovies, which I passed on but may get in the future when EJ isn’t looking.
It’s in places like this that I take advantage of the ssamchu bin, where they have all these varieties of lettuce leaves. I got romaine, bibb, and whatever variety of leaf I could stuff into my plastic baggie–very cheap. I wandered over to the expired bin. If you know what to do with certain produce, you can really take advantage of the markdown bin. My grandmother always stocked up on super cheap overripe bananas to make into banana bread. I saw a bunch of slightly wrinkly red bell peppers. Snagged them. They were half the price of their fresher brethren, and I knew just what to do with them.
They also had a sale on quail eggs. I forgot to mention this during my seminar at the KOTESOL conference. Quail eggs are another delicacy that is expensive in the west but dirt cheap in Korea. I got a pack of them for W1,500. I also made sure to get some lemons, a little chicken breast, and whatever else I wanted to put in my mega-salad. The total was around W36,000. And the food I got would last us for a while.
At home, I immediately stacked a colander in a mixing bowl and put it in the sink. Filled it up with chilly water. Unpacked all fruits and vegetables and washed them. Right away, I washed and destemmed a pack of strawberries for EJ to munch on.
Sushi Restaurant Style Green Peas
I had some peas still in the shell. I put some salted water on to boil. Cooked them in the shell like edamame for five minutes. Drained and ran them under cold water. Tossed some sea salt on them and chilled them in the fridge.
Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
I roasted the red bell peppers on the flame on the stove top until they were thoroughly blackened. Put them in a large zippy bag and sealed them for a bit to loosen the skin. Then I rinsed off the skin in running water and took out the seeds. Chopped them up.
I thoroughly chopped up some tomatoes, a small onion, three cloves of garlic, and a small handful of Korean chillies and put them all in a large zippy bag with the chopped roasted red peppers. Threw in a pinch of salt, some ground black pepper, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of two lemons.
Sealed the bag and tossed it around a bit. I then tasted it and adjusted. Before chilling it in the fridge, I pushed as much air as I could out and sealed it.
Pickled Quail Eggs
Also, on the stove, I started the quail eggs in some cold water. Brought it to a boil and cooked them for five minutes. I immediately immersed the eggs in cold water and proceeded to shell them. It takes a while to get the hang of it. My method was to first crack the fat bottom in, where the air bubble is. From there you can gently work your way up around the egg. Rinsed each peeled egg and put them in a bowl with some vinegar. Chilled.
Simple Chicken Breast
I gave my pot of thyme a haircut, rinsed them and added them to a bowl with the chicken breasts, olive oil, salt, a little bit of black pepper, and some fresh lemon juice. Baked it in a 200-degree C oven for ten minutes–until the meat was just done but before it had dried out. I set it aside on the cutting board to rest.
I put the greens, along with some sesame leaves, in a large bowl of cold water and let them sit in it so the dirt just fell to the bottom. It then drained them thoroughly, getting off as much excess water as I could. Trimmed and cut up a head of broccoli. Quartered the vine-ripened tomatoes and put them in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Peeled and sliced a cucumber.
In a metal bowl, I made a simple vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, some pepper, and a dollop of Dijon mustard. Whisked it thoroughly and then added enough olive oil to double its volume by slowly drizzling it in while whisking it like a madman with my other hand. It helps to put a towel under the bowl to steady it. I transferred the vinaigrette to a container.
In a giant bowl, I placed the greens and a tiny bit of the vinaigrette. The temptation is to drown the greens, but I’ve learned from experience that just a dab’ll do ya. Tossed the greens in the dressing and chilled it while I tended other things.
When everything was ready, I took out the greens and put them in individual bowls. Topped them with cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, pickled quail eggs, some capers and a few slices of that gorgeous chicken breast and served it with some vinaigrette on the side if needed. Along with the bowl of edamame-peas and some strawberries for dessert, we feasted well.
We used some of the salsa for the leftover chicken, but we’re going to take advantage of it later with some steak and more chicken. Children’s Day is Cinco di Mayo, anyway.