Friday, April 13, 2007

Some Things I Do For Me

When you become a mother, it becomes all about your children. Elizabeth Stone said, "Making the decision to have a child--it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." And I still tear up every time I read that quote. When you're a mom to children with multiple food intolerances and very limited food choices, then the focus intensifies.

For the longest time, I only cooked for the children, meaning that I only made what they could...and would eat. Tool Guy was really okay with this--what's not to love? He's supportive of everything I do--since he told me when we first got married that it didn't matter if I could cook. As long as it was warm, he'd eat it. Romantic words for a new bride to hear. I've never been a food person, myself. Really. Give me peanut butter on crackers and a glass of tea and I'll call it dinner. And have. I love reading food blogs now, but previously I was always mystified by the passion for food. There must be some irony at play in this, since food has been our focus for the past five years.

During the Years of Cooking Dangerously, when all of my focus was on finding food equivalents to what had gone off the menu, I didn't have the energy or will to do more than eat things like egg salad and sprouts on rice cakes and pat myself on the back that this covered most of the food groups. Friends and family would fuss at me about my eating habits, but I had hunkered into survival mode. Then somewhere in the middle of all of this, a mom joined our homeschooling group. She's a first generation American citizen from Korea. And can she cook. Oh, my.

My initiation into Korean cuisine was kimbop, which is the Korean version of sushi. Distinction: no raw fish. Immediate bonus points there. SMK generously made up a batch in response to my pathetic begging for authentic Korean food, which was probably one of the best choices for a first taste. Not only was the food perfect, the presentation was stunning. (Wish I'd taken a picture of hers back then!) I was to learn that she valued presentation almost as much as taste. In an even more generous gesture, she invited one of the other moms and myself to her house for a kimbop tutorial. It's a labor intensive dish, but well worth the effort and one that I carve out time and energy to prepare at least once a week. It's an entire meal, rolled up into a seaweed tube; a nutritional powerhouse. Be prepared. It requires, as many traditional foods, some prior staging and planning.

Pickled radish is a popular ingredient to include, since kimbop needs a sour element to balance the salt, sweet, and umami flavors. Korean grocery stores sell packaged pickled radish, but it isn't Breatharian-compliant, having corn acid. I prepare my own from fresh daikon radish, using the radish tops in cooked greens another time and shredding the root into matchstick strips through a mandolin slicer
which SMK introduced me to from her favorite Korean grocer. A word to the wise. Carpenter glove. That's all I'm saying. After the radish is run through the shredder, hopefully without including any finger protein, then stuff it into a wide neck mason jar and cover with rice vinegar. I've used apple cider vinegar in the past and it works, but I find the ACV to be harsh compared to rice vinegar's delicate flavor. The pickled radish will be ready to use in a couple of days. The bolder adventurer might want to include pickled ginger, made from fresh ginger root in the same fashion as the pickled radish. Another word of warning: pickled radishes smell pungent. Yeah. That's the word. Pungent. Tool Guy uses other adjectives.

Another ingredient that I stage is the meat, which can be chicken, beef, or meat of your preference. Kimbop is another "potato salad" kind of recipe, so tweak with abandon. I freeze the cut of meat or chicken breast ahead of time. The day before making kimbop, I lay the frozen meat on the counter long enough for it to soften slightly. Removing the toothed blade from the mandolin, I cut thin slices of partially frozen meat into a bowl and marinate in wheat-free tamari sauce, usually overnight.

I have to pause to interject this caveat about the wheat-free tamari sauce I use. what I have available to me for use is San-J Gold Label Wheat-free Tamari Sauce which is certified gluten-free. And so it is, as far as I can tell. I feel compelled to comment about their description of the alcohol ingredient, as much as it pains me to do so. Their website, at the time of this posting, declares the alcohol to be "grain-free." Please be aware, gentle Breatharian, that their definition of "grain-free" is, in fact, corn alcohol. I know, I know. In what universe? Yes, I had a protracted "come to repentance" about this with their representative, but apparently have met with a resistant stance, despite the fact that she agreed with me. The designation hasn't changed. Amazingly, this is one source of corn that my canaries haven't yet reacted to, but their exposure is limited to a once-a-month stir fry night. More frequent exposure might raise a reaction, so we're stepping lightly.

The rice probably takes the longest to prepare. The rice of choice is sushi rice, otherwise known as sweet rice, sticky rice, or glutenous rice--glutenous referring to the texture, not any gliadin-bearing characteristics. For my serving sizes, I make 8 rolls of kimbop, which needs 2 cups of uncooked rice. I steam it in an Oster steamer. I prefer 2 cups rice to 2 cups water, a dash of sesame oil, 2 teaspoons Real Salt, 2 tablespooons rice vinegar, and 2 tablespoons sweetener, vegetable glycerin being my sweetener. My steamer may be on its last legs, however, because I find that I need to stir the rice from time to time during the process to ensure even cooking. Lately, I'm pointedly theorizing to Tool Guy that a rice cooker would obviate this apparent necessity to supervise the rice. Being Tool Guy at a big box home center has to have its perks, right?

When I'm ready to do the final cooking and assembly of the kimbop, I run about four carrots through the mandolin with the teeth blade inserted and...ahem...hand in glove. The carrot strips are sauteed with sesame oil, though for the seed sensitive, olive oil works well. I usually shred directly into the cast iron skillet, douse with oil, and settle it on my itty-bitty simmer burner set on low. When they're soft, they're done. Following SMK's example, I also make an omelet thick enough to slice into strips. Then I drain the marinated meat strips, lay them flat in the skillet, and simmer on low until done--which isn't long--then drain. SMK will include simmered spinach, which I sometimes do and Krabmeat, which I never do since it isn't gluten-free. This kimbop thing is way flexible and there are websites out there of kimbop in many different combinations waiting to inspire you.

The wrapper to all of this food is a paper thin sheet of seaweed called nori. A bamboo place mat serves nicely as a guide to providing even pressure all along the roll as you fill and roll these. Lay the sheet of nori down on the mat and spoon in about 1/4 cup cooked rice and spread. A flat-sided bowl scraper is invaluable here. Leaving about an inch of nori uncovered at the top of your sheet, use the scraper to spread the rice out over the surface of the nori sheet. This bare swathe will be the "flap" on your roll to seal everything in when you are finished rolling. Next I sprinkle in some totally optional sesame seeds, lay a strip of omelet, meat strip, carrots strips, some pickled radish, and a few sticks of pickled ginger in a layered pile. Then I spritz the flap with a quirt of water from a spray bottle and begin to roll until complete, sealing the flap when done. Amounts of each ingredient and rolling techniques are variables that become more fluid with practice and time. Don't worry about untidy ends. When all of the rolls are finished, take a sharp knife and trim the ends, slicing the entire roll into inch-sized slices. These are ready for immediate consumption, though I find that the flavor is richer the next day.

So how did these go over with the rest of the Hobbits? Eh. Not so much. Seems the nori is a bit off-putting. Oh. Quel dommage. Leaves more for me. The smallest Hobbit, who at four years of age is still imperiously requesting and requiring that she be addressed as Princess, occasionally snags one. But I'm the major consumer, so I make them even if I'm the only one eating them and I make them for my own tastes and my tolerances. These days I'm starting to do more things that are just for me. Like buying that Todd Agnew CD, Reflection of Something. The one with what Princess refers to as The "Curse You" Song. She's demanded--hence there term Video on Demand--to see the video so many times, I thought the poor man deserved some royalties for providing that much inspiration and motivation for both of us. Now I can carry the goosebumps around with me while I'm rumbling in the kitchen and be-bop while I snack on kimbop.


Anonymous said...

I had been wondering how you made Kimbop! I'm putting this on my to do list - my hobbits love nori

Anonymous said...

Grain alcohol...distillation removes gluten ~ did you know? I learned this in a presentation by Carol Fenster at ExpoWest (the natural products trade show) about 2 years ago (or was it 3? I think she preceeded Michael Polin, who was featured the last two years.)

I was so happy. It meant I could buy the CHEAP stuff! No more $35 bottles of potato vodka.

You like to speak Scottish, I like to drink Scottish distilations!

What make you think the Hobbits are responding to the corn grain in San-J Gold?

Have you tried Bragg's Liquid Aminos? Nearly the same flavor as soy/tamari.


Rebecca said...

Have you ever tried lacto-fermenting the daikon radish? I wonder how that would turn out.

Loztnausten said...

Actually, I have. There's a daikon radish kimchi. It's very...noticeable. ;)