Thanksgiving Pickles

It was a beautiful fall day today here in the Bay area. After a busy week at work that included some out of state travel, I promised myself that I wouldn’t plan anything this weekend and just live it minute by minute.

This is the weekend before Thanksgiving so I had fun shopping for Thursday’s dinner. First I visited the Downtown Berkeley Ecology Center Farmers Market for a few basics – potatoes, onions, mushrooms – but I also picked up some ingredients to make pickles and kimchi because I am always hungry for pickled foods this time of year. Plus, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a pickle plate! I visited the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland for specialty foods including very fresh seafood from Hapuku Fish Shop, locally produced meats from Marin Sun Meats, and world class wines from Paul Marcus Wines.

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

I didn’t can my grandmother’s pickled beets this summer so I decided to make a “quick pickle” recipe that was shared with me by Jane Wilson Morton, the niece of the co-owners of Werth and O’Brien’s Deli in Flatbush. Brooklyn. This German deli is long gone but I was able to publish this recipe in my book Pickled (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003). This recipe can be prepared 1-3 days before enjoying, and can be made without sealing jars in a hot water bath. It’s very simple and tasty!  Click on the image below to see the full recipe.


Werth and O'Brien's Pickled Beets

Werth and O’Brien’s Pickled Beets


In addition to beets, I made a jar of pickled cherry peppers (again for the refrigerator) and I began salting two heads of Napa cabbage that I bought of the farmers market today for kimchi. I also roasted some red jalapeno peppers to make a spicy version of romesco-style sauce to accompany roasted Brussels sprouts.

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Through the years I’ve had fun posting to this blog about Thanksgiving, including a post dedicated to family favorites like Thanksgiving dressing. If you aren’t sure how to make Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing, be sure to check out that link for inspiration. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.


CSA Week 15: Winter Squash

Last Wednesday I collected my fifteenth (not 16- apparently I lost count when I went out of town) Sol to Seed Farm CSA share from Grand Central Baking Co the day before leaving for a trip to see family and friends in New Mexico. That also meant that I didn’t cook at home until Sunday. Since then, I have roasted and stored the sweet peppers and am making a green chili stew with the remaining chilies, potatoes, onions and tomatillos. Instead of making kimchi, I may end up using the Napa in a quick stir-fry. Last week’s box included:

Potatoes – 2.5/lbs
Winter Squash – Red Kuri (kabocha)
Tomatillos – 1/lb
More Peppers!
– hot mix
– sweet mix
Napa Cabbage
…and a free loaf of Goldendale Wheat Bread
The dogs enduring a quick photo shoot before I head to the airport

The dogs enduring a quick photo shoot before I head to the airport

Correctly preparing and storing whole winter squash is misunderstood by even experienced cooks. Last year, a local hospital that I help with local food procurement (through the Farm to Table program), had to discard twenty large bags of raw, cubed winter squash because they missed the critical step of cooking it before freezing. Compared to summer squash, winter squash is tough on the outside to protect it from the elements, while the starchy interior “flesh” cells are weak. Freezing raw squash results in messy and inedible sludge when thawed, but summer squash can be frozen raw successfully. Always remember to bake or steam winter squash before freezing. The thawed pulp can be added to soups, pasta, baked goods and casseroles later.

If you plan to eat the squash this season, you’ll be pleased to know that winter squash keeps very well uncut, as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry environment. I’ve saved a few small pumpkins last year — Acorn and Delicata squash — for months unrefrigerated on my counter. Most winter squash have a very tough peel which make it difficult to cut, so please always use a very sharp knife and be very careful. Some varieties of winter squash have very thin (but still tough to cut raw) but edible peels, such as last week’s Delicata and Sugar Dumpling. For these squash varieties, it’s not necessary to peel the squash before cooking and eating. While there are recipes that call for raw winter squash, I am not a fan. I prefer winter squash roasted or braised.

Farmer Matt explained a little bit about the red kuri squash in his weekly email to CSA subscribers:

“The red kuri winter squash is typically thought of as a Japanese squash similar to kabocha, although not actually a kabocha – it is often referred to as hokkaido squash. They have an incredibly full, sweet flavor and the flesh is very dry. They are THE BEST soup squash in our humble opinion, however, are also wonderful when baked like a traditional table squash (salt, pepper and butter).”

A few nights ago I roasted the Sugar Dumpling squash from last week’s box and ate it as a side dish to pan-fried grass-fed, organic steak from Skagit River Ranch.  Again, the recipes I choose to share with readers on this blog are meant to be very simple and quick to prepare, so that cooks of all levels can feel comfortable executing for weeknight meals without a lot of fuss. Generally winter squash is high in carbohydrates so if you are adhering to a low-carb/low-sugar diet, you should eat sparingly. Winter squash is also high in Vitamin A and C, which the body needs a lot of in the winter time.

Roasted Sugar Dumpling Squash

Roasted Sugar Dumpling Squash

Cumin-Scented Sugar Dumpling (can also use Delicata the same way)

  • 1 Sugar Dumpling squash, cut in half, seeds removed and sliced in 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Arrange squash slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the slices then sprinkle the seasonings before tossing with clean hands to coat. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until browned but not burnt.  Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.

Two more weeks of this year’s CSA!

The Kimchi Report

Bae Chu Kimchi

It’s been many years since I’ve made kimchi at home.  In fact, the last time I made it was during the research on my “pickle book” (Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions) published in 2003.  I don’t eat kimchi every day but I sometimes crave it, especially in the winter months.  A few weeks ago I was inspired to make a batch of kimchi from produce in my Sol to Seed Farm CSA share.  I thumbed through the pages of my own worn copy of Pickled to find the recipe for Bae Chu Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi).  This recipe was given to me by Young Choi, who was owner of the now closed Woo Lae Oak restaurant in New York’s Soho neighborhood. They went through a lot of kimchi at the restaurant and this recipe is unlike other kimchi recipes that call for salted shrimp or anchovies.   This recipe gets its umami flavor from beef stock.  This is my favorite kimchi hands down.  After jotting down my shopping list, I headed off to H Mart to gather the remaining ingredients.

The result is delicious!  I’ll have to make this one again.

Here I have modified the original Woo Lae Oak recipe and added much more detail about the fermentation process.

  • 3 heads Napa Cabbage, about 6 lbs. washed and drained
  • 2 cups coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 1 medium Daikon radish, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5-10 sprigs Korean watercress (tastes very much like parsley)
  • 1″ piece ginger, peeled finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and root tip removed
  • 1/2 cup Korean chile powder (I used Wang brand fine powder, not coarse)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, preferably homemade (fat skimmed completely)
  • 1/2 cup Chinese or Korean chives, thinly sliced  diagonally (scallions will also work)

From the root end, cut each cabbage in half lengthwise and place on a large baking sheet.  Using your hands, work salt in between the leaves down to the root. Put cabbages into a large bowl and let sit, turning occasionally, until softened, 4 hours. Rinse cabbages and squeeze to extract excess water; set aside to continue draining.

Salted vegetables

In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining ingredients to make the kimchi seasoning paste.  Stir in fresh chopped chives for color and texture.  Use your fingers to work the paste mixture between the leaves, starting with the innermost leaves and working outward. Repeat with remaining cabbage halves, reserving a handful of the filling. Transfer seasoned cabbages to a clean 6-qt. glass jar, adding some of the remaining seasoning paste and pressing down to compact the cabbages. Rub any remaining paste over the top of the packed cabbages and cover jar with 2 layers of plastic wrap and secure. Let the kimchi sit at room temperature to ferment for 4 days, but not in direct sunlight.  A dark corner of a basement works perfectly.  It will start to smell pungent by the second and third day.  Don’t worry!  This is completely normal.

Uncover the jar to release any gasses that have built up. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4-6 more days to let the flavors develop. Refrigerated, this kimchi will keep for at least 6 months (though the cabbages will become soft- which I do not care for). To serve, remove desired amount of cabbage and snip leaves into bit sized pieces.

I actually made three different types of kimchi: bae chu kimchi (Napa cabbage), a twisted variation of kak ku di kimchi (1/2 daikon radish 1/2 kohlrabi), and a shredded vegetable kimchi made with carrot, green cabbage and daikon.  I made sure the recipes were safe and tasty before posting this blog entry. Again, most of the vegetables are from my CSA share.  Fresh ingredients make the best kimchi.