Last night, after I finished the radishes a la creme and the clams with fennel and parsley, I really wasn’t done cooking yet. While my wife sat browsing online and drinking wine, I set out to make the quick scallion kim chee he had set out in his recent book, One Good Dish.
The dish is simplicity with four bunches of scallions cut to three inch lengths, then marinated in the usual Korean ingredients one might suspect–salt, garlic, sugar, ginger, red pepper flakes, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, and vinegar. I realize that your average household filled with non-cooks might not have many of these items readily available in their pantry, but let me tell you–in this house, I feel naked if even half of these things weren’t at hand. The downside, of course, is that my oil and vinegar shelf is pushing itself out the cabinet doors and the side of my refrigerator is full of half-used jars of miso, various mustards, Korean Gochujang paste, Filipino adobo, such that they threaten to pull the door off its hinges.
So often, for me–it’s simply buying the produce–the rest of it takes care of itself.
Not so oddly, then, this morning I decided to do another simple dish from this book by making cashlews with Indian spices. I’ve been invited to a worker’s son’s first birthday party and there will no doubt be a huge pile of Ethiopian food on the tables (not to mention Ethiopians) so given that bringing baby rattles or ‘onesies’ isn’t in my larder, bringing food certainly does the trick (I hope).
While my kitchen has all the modern conveniences of stand mixer, food processor, and mandoline and stove, sometimes just using the basic tools can’t be beat for satisfaction. The cashew nuts were toasting in the oven at 400 F and during that time, I took fresh coriander and cumin seeds and toasted them in a dry skillet. Then–they had to be reduced to powder. But using a spice grinder…? No, I have a mortar and pestle that works wonders, all granite, and the wonderful aroma of those toasted, ground seeds filled my nose in seconds. Seeing the transformation from seed to powder is kinda magical, and when adding the butter, kosher salt, turmeric, and red pepper powder to the nuts…mixing with a fork…well, I would say that making this dish is almost as good as eating it.