떡볶이 (tukbokgi). Or ddukbokki. (Or whatever. I really hate writing out Korean words in Roman alphabet.. sorry. But it’s so easy for you to learn.) The yellow pancake looking thing is my new favorite dish: butternut squash pancakes. I learned in from Maangchi’s video, and added some scallions, garlic, and ground black pepper to adjust to my taste.
The initial reaction I received from the ladies in the picture can be roughly translated to something in between , “I’ve never had 떡볶이 like this before.” and, “what the hell kind of a 떡볶이 is this?!”
For those unfamiliar, it’s not normally that colorful of a dish. It’s just orange-ish red, with way less veggies. It should look more like this:
This is the more proper version we made on our previous full-moon 떡볶이 get together, with the ramen, oden, and the whole thing. I get the relaxed, warm feeling just looking at the pictures from that night. In fact, I am convinced that one will find very few Korean people who cannot feel that warm, nostalgic sentiment when talking about this dish. It’s the ultimate after school snack, and it’s probably the meal that many people had during their first time ever dining out “only with friends” experience. Thinking back, I feel a little guilty for perhaps ruining the essence of 떡볶이 by making massive changes for my fellow aficionadas. But I think the real spirit of it is being chatty and overeating together, and we got that part down for sure.
But I had my own reasons for hippifying the street fast food supreme. The night before, I had went to the Lubalin exhibition opening at the Cooper Union, and afterward, conveniently ended up at Song 7.2, the soju bar/ Korean fast food place in the East Village where 75% of the food menu consists of empty carbohydrates, and the other 25%, deep-fried empty carbs. We had already planned our tukboki gathering days in advance. So that night, after devouring my plate of fried sea weed wrapped glass noodles drenched in more traditional tukboki sauce with my pumpkin soju, I realized that should respect the message from my body urging me to not repeat this two days in a row. That is how the tukboki turned out purple and orange.
The main adjustments that took place in this version is the amount of rice cake vs. vegetables (red cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, butternut squash, and mushrooms), the sea weed broth, and the substitution of tofu shirataki noodles in place of ramyun noodles. Ramyun is generally my favorite part about home made tukboki, so this was a bit of a risky experiment. My verdict: Ramyun can never really be replaced, but shirataki noodles are acceptable, especially counting in the lack of bloated feeling afterward. But the dashima, and the 3 different kinds of mushrooms I used really made the dish.
And this made me feel a bit like a real adult. There was a time when I didn’t care what the hell was in the red sauce. I just wanted it to be spicy with just the right amount of sweet. The biggest worry I had was to not get the sauce all over my shirt. I still worry about that, but I am worried more about the consequences of my intake. I considered Coca Cola to be ultimate accompaniment, but now I opt for Chianti.
It turned it into something completely different than what tukboki should have been, but I liked it regardless. I am growing up, slowly, and it’s just fine with me.
Oven roasted delicata squash and mushrooms, with kale dressed in tahini sauce
“Left over special” continues-
I think that I have expressed numerous times in one way or another that this Halloween weekend was unusually pleasant, but I left out the highlight. Sunday morning after the Samhain festivities, I woke up to the smell of garlic and thyme roasting in olive oil. It was already lunch time, and my guilt-tripping-Matt-into-cooking-for-me-after-the-master-cleanser had finally paid off.
He had oven roasted delicata squash and mushrooms, with loads of garlic and fresh thyme. He even toasted pumpkin seeds to sprinkle! With just the right amount of salt and pepper, it could have been the best thing he’s ever made for me. And the kale with tahini sauce was great too. Obviously, I was very pleased.
By the following evening, we only had just enough of the squash left for one person, and in the bottom of the baking dish was a little too much garlic and thyme infused oil to just wash away. In an attempt to make this last as long as possible, I turned it into a pasta dish. It was fantastic. I do succeed at times, thanks to other people’s hard work.
Oven baked autumn squash pasta with pumpkin sauce
1/2 or more of cubed delicata squash, and mushrooms, baked in garlic, fresh thyme, and olive oil until the squash is softened
a package of fusilli (this texture rules for holding on the thick sauce) or other kinds of pasta
2 or more cloves of garlic
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 or more of a red onion, chopped
1/2 cup of soymilk
1/3 cup of pumpkin purée (save the rest for pancakes!)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
a handful of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Under cook the pasta, until it’s softened but not quite al dente.
Make the sauce by combining the pumpkin purée, soymilk, garlic and onions, and salt and pepper.
Mix the well-drained pasta, pumpkin sauce, and the sun dried tomatoes in a well-oiled baking dish.
Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
On the last day of the master cleanse, I sort of lost it and inhaled nearly all things edible in sight at a dinner party to celebrate Ben’s birthday. Eager to cook again after a 2-week break and inspired by all the amazing dishes that everyone brought, I invited the plaid pals over for a dinner on Ben’s actual birthday.
As an aspiring lifestyle minimalist, one of my bigger concerns whenever we have people over is the options for serving. Because we are still in the process of settling in as always, we often don’t have enough serving bowls or pans when we try to make enough dishes for more than a couple of people. I also don’t like doing the dishes.
After some thought, the easy solution it seemed, would be to bake everything. Pyrex baking dishes are not Cooper-Hewitt award materials, but they’re not hideous, and they can double as both baking and serving dishes.
Choosing what to bake was easy. I always love roasting autumn root vegetables and squashes. I adapted a Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash recipe from 101cookbooks, one of my favorite resources. As always, I withheld the dairy and eggs and tried to create a texture of corn grits by adding some polenta and soymilk. I also used different kinds of squashes, and to maximize the use of the pan, roasted some vegetables along with it in the same pan.
I loved Lucy’s version of Martha Stewart’s Vegetable Tian (what the hell is a “tian” ?) that she had made for Benny’s dinner party, so I decided to make my own version of it, but it ended up being nothing at all like the “tian”.
I do feel that my friends are generally polite, and easy to please when it comes to food, but I was particularly proud of this dinner, because it wasn’t as nearly as disorganized as how it usually is. Ben is now closer to being 40 than to being 20, and he’s jokingly mentioned that he wants to be more “adult”. Me too. Kind of. Adults have organized dinners, and follow proper place settings. I wanted to bust out the table cloth, but in the frenzy of ordering dudes to slice vegetables instead of chopping, I forgot about it. But I think this was a decent start. And the birthday dude seemed pleased. Now I am really looking forward to thanksgiving!
Ben’s Birthday Menu
Roasted Corn Pudding in Autumn Squash and Fall Vegetables
For Corn Pudding and Squash
4 (or more) small autumn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon or more olive oil
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup (or less) instant polenta or corn meal
kernels from 2 (or more, or less) regular sized corn
1/2 cup chopped leeks
a tiny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
as much toasted pumpkin seeds, ground pepper and sea salt as desired
For Vegetable Roast
4 (or more) parsnip (or other root vegetable)
1 tbsp or more olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus
1 medium sized red onion
1 medium sized shallot
1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed of tough outer leaves
as much garlic, salt, pepper, and dill as desired
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees with a rack in the middle.
Rub the flesh of the squash with the oil. Place cut side up on a baking sheet. Make sure that it sits flat and balanced. If it’s tilting, just level out the bottom with a knife.
Evenly chop vegetables for the roast. Set aside chopped parsnip and toss in a drizzle of olive oil.
Cover the squash and parsnip with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until they starts to get tender.
In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients for the corn pudding. In a separate bowl, toss the remaining ingredients for the vegetable roast. Fill each of the squash bowls 3/4 full (keep the leftovers for a polenta dish), and add the vegetables evenly alongside the squash. Carefully transfer the squash back to the oven without spilling. Continue baking uncovered for another 30 - 50 minutes, or until the squash is fully cooked through, and the pudding has set. The amount of time it takes can vary depending on the squash and oven. At the last minute sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve.
Mushroom and Leek Tart and NOT “The Tian”
(For this menu, I started making the pastry dough before the squash, and put everything in the above menu in the oven while the dough is chilling in the fridge. As for the recipe, let’s say it’s in need of some work, just to warn you. I loved the flavors, but the texture needs a bit of work.)
1/2 of a leek, thinly sliced
1/2 lbs or so of shiitake mushrooms
1 large heiroom tomato, sliced
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup (or less or more? use your discretion) all-purpose flour
a tiny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
as much ground pepper and sea salt as desired
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees with a rack in the middle, and roll out or punch
Put tart pan on a baking sheet and press dough evenly onto bottom and up side of tart pan with your fingertips. In a bowl, mix chopped leeks and a tablespoon of soymilk and flour. Fill the leek mixture evenly in the tart pan.
In the same bowl, now emptied, mix the mushrooms and the rest of the soymilk and flour, along with salt and pepper. Add the mixture on the top of the leek layer. Top it off with sliced tomatoes and bake for 1 hour. Serve warm.