Kimchi Fried Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms

When I think of my time in South Korea, the aroma of kimchi, perilla, sesame oil and steamed rice come to mind. I taught cooking to elementary level students there for six years, which brought so much joy and so much growth on a personal level. This recipe wouldn’t normally be called kimchi fried rice or “kimchi bokkeum bap”, instead the kids would playfully call it something like it “sseulegi bap” - Roughly translated to “mixed rice” or more bluntly, “trash rice.” Basically, rice fried with whatever you have on hand. It’s great because you cook everything in one pan and if you have leftover rice which is essential, it’s a breeze to throw together. I often serve it to friends and family who have never tried Korean flavors but are curious about it. They are more accepting of a dish like this as opposed to hitting them with heavily fermented dishes off the bat.

 Top it with an egg to make it extra special.

Top it with an egg to make it extra special.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

1 shallot, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
4 rashers uncured bacon, chopped (Use turkey bacon or omit completely if you prefer)
1 cup kimchi
1/2 cup kimchi juice (from the jar)
2 cups sliced golden oak shiitake mushrooms
4 cups day-old rice
1 cup lacinato kale or spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Optional to serve: Dried and salted laver & olive oil fried eggs.

Guidelines:

Bring a large wok or skillet to medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, bacon and kimchi all at once and sauté for 5 minutes until bacon fat has rendered and shallots are translucent. The kimchi would’ve crisped up a little around the edges because of the bacon fat - Wait until this stage for maximum flavor.

Deglaze the pan with kimchi juice, scraping off any crispy bits stuck at the bottom of of pan. Adjust heat to medium-high then add rice and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until rice takes on some color and dries up a little. Then add kale or spinach (any greens will do), sesame seeds and finish with sesame oil. Season to taste and serve.

Sunday Afternoon Samoosas

Though many versions of this dish exist, beef or chicken samoosas filled with traditional spices are most popular in the Cape Malay communities of South Africa. They are served at parties or anywhere that people gather, and often with peach chutney. The sweetness of the chutney paired with crispy spiced beef parcels keep people coming for more. You can buy South African chutney online now, as well as most of the spices used. Traditionally,  pur or readymade Indian pastry is used. Pur is a common item at any Indian grocery store, but I could only find phyllo pastry where I live. Both work wonderfully.

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I remember my mom frying samoosas last December when I visited home for the first time in eight years. Making them in large batches (necessary during holiday season) is time consuming, so she had ordered 250 premade but unfinished from a lady who is well-known for her samoosas. Every town has that Aunty - One who has perfected the art of samoosas, savory pies or smaller confections like lamingtons. Those aunties are a godsend for people like my mom who work full-time. If you do not order by November, you can forget about it because they are that popular. The fragrant aroma of coriander and leaf masala filling our house during the holidays is always magical. Mom knew how much I had missed samoosas while living here in the states, and 250 seems like a lot, but we enjoyed them so much almost every day. If only I could've brought some back with me!

When I returned home to Mississippi in January I was inspired to make them here and shared the image to Instagram, but never made the recipe available. I'm sorry for the wait :) We booked our tickets back to Cape Town the other day and thinking of all the samoosas I'll soon be eating, I remembered. You can substitute the beef with ground chicken thighs or even lamb - I just wanted to share how I make mine, but feel free to change it up as you wish :) 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin or lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon South African curry powder OR mixed masala
1/4 cup finely minced fresh coriander
1 teaspoon each sugar and salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
10 sheets phyllo pastry (You may need more depending on how much filling added)
1 small egg, beaten (to seal pastry)
olive oil spray
Optional to serve: Peach Chutney 
 

Filling:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add ground sirloin until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and spices and sauté until onions are golden and soft. Finish the filling by adding coriander, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Stir and remove from heat - Allow to cool. Can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge and assembled later. 

Preheat oven to 375F.

Assembly:
Place phyllo on a clean, dry surface and use a sharp knife to divide phyllo rectangle into three parts lengthways. You should have three equal long stacks of pastry. Take one at a time and cover the remaining sheets with a clean damp kitchen towel so that they don't dry out. 

Lay the phyllo strip on a work surface and add a tablespoonful of filling to the top corner, then fold the filled pastry across to close the open side. Keep folding from one edge to the other, keeping the triangular shape and making sure the corners are tight, until you're left with a lip. Brush it with the beaten egg and secure. Alternatively you could make a slurry of 1 tablespoon cake flour and 2 tablespoons water to do this. If you prefer, you could also just cut this portion off. Set finished samoosa aside on a baking sheet covered with a clean damp kitchen towel and repeat this process with all phyllo pastry sheets. Makes 30 - These freeze very well in an airtight container and then you can bake it off later. 

Spray with olive oil spray and bake for 8 minutes or until pastry is golden. Serve immediately. 

 

Easy Enchiladas

Ever have a craving for something but unable to place exactly what it is? I found myself at home one evening after a hectic day of shooting stills for clients, so starving hungry. How can one work with food all day and be hungry? It's possible - Because I don't always cook what I really want when working. I realized after (As I always do) that the craving was for my Mom's enchiladas. The kind of meal that you whip together with fridge and pantry basics. The kind of dinner that doesn't take any time at all and that doesn't require me to beautify it. I know it's good, I know it's reliable, I know I can cut down on prep time and I have a well stocked pantry to thank for it. I've partnered with Cans Get You Cooking to share with you some of my pantry staples and how I use them to make this easy dish! 

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My dad worked in the canning industry for 20 years - Making the machinery that allowed fresh produce grown in our farming community to be safely canned and preserved for market. Did you know that it takes about 4 hours from the time produce is harvested until it's canned, sealing in nutrition and flavor? Not long considering some fruit and vegetables sit on grocery store shelves for a much longer time. 

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I feel pretty strongly about this because we live in a day and age where social media has led us to exclude certain things or change our way of eating, when it's important to realize that not all people have countless resources. Not all people are getting the nutrients that they need. Not all people have an unlimited amount of time or the luxury of wasting any food. It really is a fact: Most Americans throw away approximately 15 to 20 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchase every year. Stocking up on some canned goods can help with this exactly because they are shelf stable. 

My mom made good use of the boxes of canned goods that dad brought home from work. Most of the time they weren't labeled so we took turns opening cans and as kids, being surprised by what was inside gave us all the giggles. Most of the time it was tomatoes, beans, corn or jam. So many memories of creative meals made using canned goods - but this Enchilada recipe is probably my favorite. It reminds me of late nights studying for high school finals and a hot midnight plate brought to me my mom. It reminds me of Friday's when we would cook and eat a meal from a different part of the globe. Simple as it may be, I love the nostalgia and the taste. I hope you enjoy this easy recipe.

Easy Weeknight Enchilada
Serves 4

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 cup onion, finely minced
1 4.5oz can chopped green chiles (I like Trader Joe's or Old El Paso)
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon smoked paprika powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14.5oz can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
1 10oz Old El Paso Red Enchilada Sauce - Mild, divided
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Combine beef, onion, green chiles, garlic paste and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté until onions are translucent and beef browned. Add smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, crushed tomatoes and half of the red enchilada sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced and thickened (About 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

2. Divide beef mixture between flour tortillas by placing spoonfuls in the middle, then roll the tortillas and place next to each other in a skillet or ovenproof baking dish. Top with shredded cheese and remaining enchilada sauce. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and browned. Serve immediately.