I can’t believe we’re almost finished the second half of January. Boy time flies when you’re having fun. And in this case, having fun refers to cooking out of this month’s cookbook, Small Victories by Julia Turshen.
Every single recipe that I’ve made from this book has been a dream. It’s a cookbook for everyday life filled with recipes that will shine on even the most fancy occasions. She offers tips and tricks to help the reader conquer the basic recipe, and then outlines various ways to switch it up and totally apply those newly learned methods to variations of the original recipe.
In my case, it was a good Asian rice. For some reason, I get put off from a lot of Asian recipes because of the list of ingredients required. Not that I probably don’t already have most of those items in my cupboards (even if some of them are lurking in the deep dark recesses, lids stuck on due to lack of use) For me it the ‘1/4 of one type of chilli, 1/8 tsp of some sauce, 1/2 of another sauce, 1/4 tsp of this sugar, 3/4 tsp of that sauce: oh you don’t have that sauce, then use the first sauce (well, why not just use the one if it’s going to end up being the substitute anyway?)’ My eyes get all bleary and tired reading through the endless list, just to create a special sauce. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem creating a master sauce (see my Ginger Miso Salad Dressing, which is truly a master sauce, since you can use it for salads, marinades, grilling etc)
But Julia dismisses the need for that endless list, with a basic and yet flavour doable list for a truly yummy dish. The first tip she offers in the book is with regards to cooking rice. I used to be horrible at cooking rice. Something so simple, and yet so frustrating. I could never consistently create a pot of rice where every grain was not sticking to its neighbour. Usually one big clump. I got a rice cooker. Case closed. But I also did learn a trick from my mom which I will still use if I am not at cooking at home where my rice cooker is: cook rice like the French. In other words, they cook their rice like cooking pastas. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the amount of rice you need and boil until just tender (about 10-15 minutes for most types of white, medium to long grain; and 35-40 minutes for brown rice) When the rice is done, then drain it through a fine mesh sieve, and serve immediately (I usually drizzle with olive oil, Julia also suggests butter, and salt obviously) I was so happy to see that Julia’s method for cooking rice is exactly like my mom’s!
Anyway, for fried rice, you want to use cold rice. So cook it in advance and let it cool down completely. I usually cook mine the day before I need it. I make more than I need, since it can be used in a variety of ways throughout the week. And I usually use brown rice. The cold rice becomes very dry, thus allowing them to remain separate when being fried up, and they also better absorb all the flavours that will be added to them in the pan or wok.
So, rice is set. What will I be adding to it here? Kimchi. The best condiment, side, veggie out there. I usually purchase mine (don’t get on my case, I make enough stuff from scratch, let me purchase my kimchi!) I get a Kimchi Sauerkraut, which means that the cabbage has been shredded more finely. The heat and spices, and tang are all still there of course. I put this stuff on everything: grilled cheese sandwiches, on burgers, with quinoa or kasha for breakfast, even on avo toast. The kimchi is added to sautéed onion and garlic, and even the juices will be added with some tamari or soy sauce after the rice has been tossed in as well.
So rice and kimchi, set. Julia’s recipe includes the most lovely fresh salad that will top the rice mix. A simple scallion salad. It’s the toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar that pulls it all together. The crunch from sesame seeds, and it’s a wonderful little dish.
Want to make it dinner for a Meatless Monday? Poach or fry up some eggs, or grill some shrimp and serve these on top of the rice and scallion salad. Fresh, filling, and seasonless. Julia also offers the alternative of frying up some bacon before adding the onion and garlic. Instead of bacon, you could also use some pork belly.
And if you want to make Chicken Fried Rice, then just sauté some shredded or sliced carrots, broccoli, celery, peppers etc with the onions as the beginning of the recipe. Add your leftover cubed chicken towards the end, just to warm it through. Top the entire dish with chopped peanuts or cashews. Et voila! The easiest Fried Rice dish in the world.
My new go-to easy-to0-throw-together fried rice dish. One that doesn’t require a bajillion ingredients, but still tastes like they are there!
Kimchi Fried Rice with Scallion Salad
All the goodness of kimchi, perfectly seasoned and textured fried rice, with a fresh scallion salad topping it all off. Or go a step further and top everything with an egg!
- 8 scallions roots and dark green parts removed
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- kosher salt
- 1 @ 16 oz (448 g) jar of cabbage kimchi including the juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion finely diced (I used a red one)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- kosher salt
- 4 cups (560 g) day old cooked brown or white rice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos to taste
Cut the scallions thinly on the diagonal or into small matchsticks (to do this, cut the scallions into 3 even pieces and then cut each in half lengthwise. Then slice finely)
Put the scallions, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt. Set aside
Put a sieve over a large bowl and drain the kimchi. Reserve the juice. Finely chop the kimchi.
n a large skillet over medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sprinkle with a large pinch of salt.
Cook, stirring now and then until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped kimchi and cook, stirring until the edges of the kimchi become ever so slightly crisp and begin to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes.
Crumble the rice into the skillet and stir to combine. Add the reserved kimchi juice and cook until the rice is warmed through, about 3 minutes.
Turn off the heat and drizzle the soy sauce over the rice mixture. Taste and re-season if necessary.
Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the scallion salad. Serve immediately.
I don't bring the heat too high in this recipe. I don't like to over cook my kimchi, since some of the good properties are lost in the cooking. Feel free to amp the heat to get the more fried texture, if you are not concerned about the health benefits of kimchi being totally lost. For the same reason, I add my kimchi juice at the the end and barely cook through. I'm fine with the final dish not being scalding hot.
As Julia mentions, to make this even more substantial, feel free to add some poached or fried eggs to the dish.
This can be totally personalized by adding fresh chopped or shaved veggies that you will cook at the same time as the onion. Then add cooked chicken towards the end to just warm through, and sprinkle with cashews. Voila, a great chicken fried rice.