Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sweetwater Organic Farm/Fresh Cabbage Kimchi

One of my goals for when we got settled in Florida was to locate a service like we had up north for community-supported agriculture (CSA), which provided us with a regular farmbox full of fresh veggies that we'd otherwise be unlikely to purchase. Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to locate a CSA relatively close to the Canteen - Sweetwater Organic Farm is tucked away in a remote, wooded pocket of a residential neighborhood next to a meandering creek (if you weren't looking for it, you'd probably never notice it was there, and even if you did, you'd probably write it off as some old hippie commune judging from the ramshackle buildings on the site). Twice a month, I make the 15-minute drive down to Town & Country and cross the footbridge from the parking area to collect my bi-weekly share of produce. Lately, I've been receiving all manner of lettuces, mustard greens, turnips, scallions, herbs (like dill and parsley) and carrots, with the occasional surprise of celery or fennel thrown in for good measure. One challenge I had was figuring out what to do with consecutive offerings of Napa cabbage - I have a single recipe for steamed cabbage slaw with a carrot-walnut dressing (which I made one week), but was stymied about what to do with the next one until I fortuitously stumbled across an easy prep for what's essentially instant kimchi in the March 2014 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. The actual recipe (they call it fresh cabbage kimchi) uses Napa cabbage in combination with bok choy; however, I discovered that it works just as good with other extra vegetables that you may want to toss in there, say, celery (leaves and all) and fennel, for example. Unlike traditional kimchi (which is normally fermented for a long time period to create the sour funkiness that's the signature taste of Korea's national dish), this version simply brines the chopped-up veggies in a hot bath of sugar and kosher salt for 30 minutes, then mixes them with fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and a little more sugar, before chilling until cool. The resulting melange is crunchy, fiery (possibly a little too much so) and delicious, great by itself as a side dish or on top of rice as an impromptu lunch. Of course, my kids wouldn't touch it and even Mrs. Hackknife found it to be too aggressively spiced, so I plan to cut down on the heat (maybe 1/2 Tbsp. instead of a full Tbsp. of red pepper flakes) for my next batch. Regardless, if you're a CSA participant, I place this kimchi right up there with Joy of Cooking's braised greens as regular standbys to help use up that leftover produce...

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