June 27, 2013 Korean Barbecue Part Two

Cucumber kimchi ready to serve.

With the ingredients needed for the Korean barbecue now in hand it was time to start prepping for Sunday’s feast. One of the most important things I learned from my catering days is that it is good to have as much ready ahead of time as possible. This allows adequate time for dishes that require last minute preparation and eliminates a last minute rush.

First on my list was to make the marinades for the beef and the chicken. Kalbi or Galbi means rib in Korean and is one of the most popular Korean dishes in America.
Kalbi are beef short ribs that are cut flanken style.   Flanken means the ribs are not cut along the bone, but across the bone leaving 2-3 rib cross sections in each piece. The marinade of soy, sugar, apple juice, sesame oil, ginger and garlic gives the traditional sweetness with just a hint of spice to the meat.  Korean barbecued chicken or dak gogi called for boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into strips. Since Joe prefers to cook chicken on the bone we used bone-in chicken thighs. In this recipe I needed to substitute the mul yut (malt syrup) with corn syrup which was acceptable. The chicken recipe called for an essential Korean ingredient, gochugaru, which are red chili flakes. I was only able to find powdered red pepper so I turned to my pantry and made flakes from my own dried Kung Pao peppers. Now if I would only remember not to inhale the fumes when I open the food processor bowl. Wicked stuff! The marinade ingredients for the chicken were similar to the beef, the big difference were the chili flakes. Both the beef and the chicken would be served with ssamjang, translated “wrapped sauce”. Pieces of chicken or beef with a little plain white rice and the ssamjang are wrapped in lettuce leaves for a delicious bite also known as ssams. Ssamjang is made with dwenjang, a fermented bean paste and gochujang, the red chile paste I mentioned in the previous post. Roasted sesame seeds and sesame oil add texture and an inviting aroma to this sauce.

The banchan are the side dishes served with a Korean meal. For the lightly pickled radish dish I substituted Japanese Hakurei turnips from our garden for daikon used in the original recipe. The turnips were pickled with rice vinegar, sugar and garlic with a little bit of chili flakes for some heat. Korean spinach is a room temperature dish seasoned with soy, garlic and both toasted sesame oil and white sesame seeds. I’m seeing a pattern here. I added japchae, a noodle salad to the banchan that was not part of the original menu. Japchae is made with sweet potato noodles or dangmyeon. I expected the noodles would be orange or yellow in color but the dangmyeon were a translucent gray.  The noodles were rehydrated in hot water then stir fried  with soy, sugar,  garlic and sesame oil and tossed with asparagus and a variety of mushrooms.

The dish that surprised me the most was the kimchi (alternately spelled kimchee). I read that the average Korean consumes 40 pounds of kimchi a year and it is eaten with just about every meal. I never thought that I would make kimchi, I have always found the pungent aroma of fermented cabbage and garlic to be a bit off putting. I learned there are countless variations of kimchi, not everyone using cabbage. This version uses cool, crisp Kirby cucumbers and takes only one day, not the 3 plus days traditional kimchi takes to make. The cucumbers are salted to bring out excess liquid and seasoned with garlic, chiles and scallions. The cucumber kimchi sits at room temperature overnight to ferment. Very pungent salted shrimp, saeujeot,  bring umami to the finished dish. I am pleased to say that we had no left over kimchi at the end of our meal. Our meal finished with Kathy’s delicious sweet potato doughnuts. The Korean experience was enjoyed by all.

I used Kung Pao hot pepper flakes to make my own version of gochugaru.


Ingredients for the mushroom asparagus japchae.


Ingredients for the cucumber kimchi.


Adding mushrooms and asparagus to the sweet potato noodles.


Mushroom asparagus japchae garnished with white sesame seeds.


Kalbi, Korean-style beef flaken ribs.


Kathy’s delicious sweet potato doughnuts.

June 24, 2013 Korean Barbecue


An article in Fine Cooking on Korean barbecue inspired our most recent Sunday cookout. I admit I knew practically nothing about Korean food in spite of the fact that the two Asian markets I frequent are both Korean. When I shop at them I am usually buying ingredients to cook other Asian cuisines. When I am cooking Thai I am looking for my favorite brand of coconut milk, authentic curry pastes, fish sauce and green papayas. If it’s Japanese I’m looking for, then I head to the yuzu juice, kombu and nori. Our Chinese new year feast is the most challenging. Then I will be looking for sweet and spicy Chinese sausages, preserved vegetable, dried cole (that was a tough one..) and different varieties of soy sauces and pastes.
The Assi market is in North Wales. It is the larger of the two with an extensive produce section, seafood, meat (your pork is always ground fresh…) , rice cookers, pots, pans and a full food court. Until recently, I found it difficult to find help due to language barriers but this year an enterprising assistant manager actually helped me find an unusual ingredient. If you go there on the weekend, entire families from grandparents to toddlers shop together. It’s always an adventure and we usually buy twice as much as what we set out to purchase. There’s still a basil seed with honey flavored beverage in the fridge that caught Joe’s eye on our last trip.
H Mart is a bit closer and quite a bit smaller. It occupies space in a Levittown strip mall that also houses the Italian Peoples Bakery.  The music is always interesting, I always seem to pay attention to supermarket music. Some weeks at the H Mart it’s obscure fifties pop, other weeks, Christian praise music in Korean and English. On my most recent trip, I enjoyed tunes from diverse artists ranging from U2 to Taylor Swift.There is also a large selection of Hispanic ingredients to service the growing population in this area. I can also count on it being cold, I am always sorry if I didn’t bring a sweater even on the hottest day in the summer. It’s a store where squid balls (frozen for your convenience) are just an aisle away from Happy Boy margarine.

For my first expedition to purchase Korean ingredients for our barbecue I wrote out a very detailed list. When I got to the store I thought it best just to take the magazine in the store with me in case I needed to refer to the pictures. I knew they had the flanken style beef ribs I needed for the kalbi. A bit more costly than most of the meat they sell, the ribs looked very red and pristine, well worth the price. Roasted sesame seed, another ingredient in a few of the recipes, is a staple in our house. I was not familiar with the Korean pastes. Dwenjang is a paste made from boiled and stone ground soybeans. It’s a stronger version of Japanese miso. I got a small container of that. Gochujang, a favorite of the “Chopped” basket, was an ingredient I have wanted to try for awhile. It’s made of glutinous rice powder, fermented soybeans and red peppers. It’s spicy, but not too spicy, a bit sweet and pungent from the fermented soybeans. I picked up the same size tub the dwenjang came in. Mul yut or malt syrup was a no-show. There was a space on the shelf for it, but it was empty. The light corn syrup would have to fill in. Now for the hard part, looking for the saeujeot or salted shrimp. I knew that fish sauce would be acceptable but I was going for authenticity. I think I went down some aisles twice with no luck. So I took a small detour to the back of the produce section to find the soy sprouts where I spotted the salted shrimp near the refrigerated kimchi. Another ingredient procured!!
I took my bounty to the checkout register, that was manned (womanned) by two Korean ladies. The one approvingly nodded to the other. She picked up the sauejeot and said “for Kimchi”. I showed her the magazine article and they both smiled. The next part of this adventure would be going home and cooking with these new ingredients.

Pictured starting from top left, Korean spinach, Korean barbecued chicken (dak gogi), bok choy, lettuce for wrapping, onions, mushroom asparagus japchae, cucumber kimchee, white rice.

June 15, 2013 My Big Fat Greek Cookout featuring Grilled Branzino with Ladolemono


To make our Sunday cookouts more interesting this summer we have decided to go in an international direction. Since we wanted to serve boneless leg of lamb, Greek cuisine seemed like a natural. Joe applied the “charred and scruffed” approach to the lamb, making a board dressing with roasted garlic, Greek olive oil and fresh Italian (oops) parsley, salt and pepper.

We like to serve two entrees and at first were thinking chicken but a recipe in Bon Appetit and the unanimous positive user reviews convinced me otherwise. Whole bronzino, a Mediterranean sea bass, already a favorite of ours, seasoned simply with a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. The light and flaky cooked fish is drizzled with ladolemono, a classic Greek vinaigrette. What makes this vinaigrette unique is the one-to-one ratio of acid to oil as opposed to the traditional one-to-three, found in most vinaigrettes. Fresh squeezed lemon juice is combined with Greek extra virgin olive oil and dried (we used fresh since we had it ) Greek oregano is crumbled over the top. Very simple and delicious, I know we will repeat this again.

Grilled vegetables, though not exclusively Greek, are an important part of  Mediterranean cuisine and complimented both entrees very nicely.  A Greek potato salad of fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, crumbled feta and black olives was a Bobby Flay contribution. Since we love green salads I made a classic Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and Kalamata olives. I like to combine those ingredients with some crunchy Romaine lettuce and top it with a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, oregano, garlic and Greek extra virgin olive oil. Spanakopita or spinach pie was a natural addition, a dish that I often make when our crop of spring spinach is plentiful. Sometimes I make this dish with puff pastry but since the theme was Greek I used phyllo. I made whole wheat pita breads to wrap up the lamb and vegetables, just wished they had puffed up more. Next time I will bake them on the Kamado.

I made tzatziki, the Greek cucumber yogurt sauce that is accented with lemon, garlic and fresh dill. It went perfectly with the lamb and grilled vegetables. When I made this as a caterer I would need to strain the yogurt to give it a thicker texture. The ready availability of Greek yogurt has eliminated that step.

Dessert was Kathy’s delicious and flaky baklava and cheesecake topped with my homemade strawberry frozen yogurt. Greek wines and licoricey iced tea were the beverages. A delectable feast that was enjoyed by all.

Grilled Branzino with Ladolemono

From Bon Appetit June 2011

Makes 2-4 servings


  • 2 whole bone-in branzino, cleaned
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil, Greek preferably
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2c ladolemono (recipe follows)
  • 1T dried Greek oregano


  1. Prepare a grill to medium high heat.  Brush fish with oil and season skin and cavity with salt and pepper
  2. Grill fish, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter, drizzle with ladolemono, crumble oregano over, and serve


Make 1/2 cup


  • 1/4c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil, Greek preferably
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Whisk together lemon juice and oil. Whisk in kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
The boneless leg of lamb was marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil.
The fish “cage” makes it easier to flip. A few fennel fronds for extra flavor.
Opa! Joe likes to toss the vegetables with a little flourish.
Bobby Flay’s Greek potato salad
Spanakopita, Greek spinach pie
Succulent lamb, enhanced by a flavorful board dressing.
Whole wheat pita breads for wrapping up lamb, tzatziki and veggies.
Pouring some of the ladolemono over the cooked branzino




June 12, 2013 Strawberry Frozen Yogurt with Strawberry Sauce


Our Sunday cookouts are taking on an international flavor this year and a craving for lamb (mine!) gave rise to a Greek theme for this past week. I like to contribute a frozen dessert of some type so the first ripe red strawberries at the local farmers market inspired me to make strawberry frozen yogurt.

It’s hard to believe it but frozen yogurt has only been part of the dessert scene for less than forty years. It appeared first in New England in the late seventies as a healthier alternative to ice cream. At first consumers complained about the too tart flavor. Manufacturers retooled their recipes and frozen yogurt started to catch on in the health conscious eighties.

Making your own frozen yogurt is hands down better than anything you might find at the local “froyo” shop. When I have made frozen yogurt in the past, step one was to strain the yogurt through cheesecloth to give the finished product a denser texture and prevent the finished product from becoming too icy. Now that Greek yogurt is readily available I can skip that step.

What is the difference between regular and Greek yogurt? The watery whey is strained off several more times than regular yogurt resulting in a thicker product. Greek yogurt is more expensive than regular yogurt but it has almost twice the protein content and half the amount of sodium. The term “Greek” yogurt is not regulated at this point, so some manufacturers achieve thickness with cornstarch and milk protein concentrate. If that is important to you, look for Greek yogurt that contains only milk and live active cultures.

I turned to the always reliable recipes of David Lebovitz for my frozen strawberry yogurt recipe. David prefers a full-fat yogurt for his base, I went cross eyed looking over the very large display of yogurt at the local market. First, it was hard to find any plain varieties and most were labeled zero fat. I settled on a Greek plain 2% fat version and the results were great. A creamy and smooth frozen yogurt with just the right amount of tartness with early summer’s best fruit, sweet flavorful strawberries. I topped my frozen strawberry yogurt with even more berries in a simple sauce made from strawberries, sugar, a dash of lemon juice with a little pomegranate molasses.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

from David Lebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop

 Makes about 1 quart


  • 1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • Optional but good, he suggests  2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch, I used Chambord
  • 1 c  plain 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice


  1. Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and liquor of your choice until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.
  2. Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds. (I did..)
  3. Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Strawberry Pomegranate Sauce

Makes about a cup


  • 1 c fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut into quarters
  • 2/3c granulated sugar
  • 1t fresh lemon juice
  • 2T pomegranate molasses


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat  until the strawberries cook down and begin to look syrupy.
  2. Serve at room temperature.
Beautiful ripe strawberries from the Wrightstown Farmers Market.
Getting juicy!
Blend it up!
















June 11, 2013 Classic American Potato Salad


Potato salad is hard. It’s much easier to plunk down your 4.99 at the Giant than making this classic from scratch.  Potato salad was a popular side dish when I was catering, and I knew that I could never charge for the time it took to make a great potato salad. My copy of Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”, naturally opens to the pages on cooking potatoes and potato salad because I have used her recipes countless times.
First, you need to choose your potatoes, carefully examining each one. I’ve given up on bagged potatoes because more than once that “one bad apple” or in this case potato, has started to spoil the whole bunch. Then the potatoes need to be peeled and uniformly sliced to insure the proper cooking time. Next you have to find the right moment when the cooked potatoes are not too hard, crunchy potato salad will never catch on, but not too soft so that the potatoes crumble and turn to mush. The potatoes are then drained and the slices are allowed to firm up for 3 to 4 minutes. Now you should be ready to do the initial seasoning with the still warm potatoes, salt, pepper, onions, celery, vinegar or maybe some potato water. Additional ingredients can be added when the potatoes have cooled off. I like finely diced cornichon pickles, some crispy bacon, chopped hard boiled egg and parsley with enough mayonnaise to coat it lightly. Homemade mayonnaise is wonderful but good old Hellmann’s does the trick for me most of the time.

Potato salad brings back good family memories for me. When I was growing up the summer family cookouts were at our house. Most of the relatives on my father’s side lived in the city and we were the only ones with a large enough backyard to host such an event. My dad was the grillmeister, cooking burgers and hot dogs in a cloud of barbecue smoke. Adults and the older children would play spirited games of badminton and the younger cousins enjoyed the swing set. I’m sure there were salads, jello and otherwise but the dish I remember most was my grandmom’s German potato salad. My dad’s mom, Grandmom to us, would come with her potatoes, onion, bacon and vinegar ready to cook. That was quite a challenge because my parent’s home had the typical fifties kitchen, small with very little counter space. Everyone would get out of her way and she went to work, peeling potatoes, chopping onions and cooking bacon. She poured her vinegary dressing over the potatoes and served it still warm. Delicious, you didn’t want to be one of the last ones to be served or you might not get any. Grandmom died suddenly, just one day after our Labor Day picnic of 1969. I never thought to get her recipe, I had just turned 15 at the time and the only cooking I had done to that point was for a Girl Scout badge. Many have attempted but no one has ever quite duplicated her recipe. The lesson to be learned here?  If you or someone in your family makes something that you love from memory, take the time to observe, write it down and capture the recipe for future generations. Don’t let it be just a memory but a part of your family’s legacy.

Master Recipe for Cooking Sliced Potatoes for Salad

  • 3lbs Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • Kosher Salt-1t per quart of water


  1. Fill a saucepan to the halfway point with cold water. Wash the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Drop the peeled potatoes into the pan of cold water to prevent discoloration while you peel the rest.
  2. Once all the potatoes are peeled, drain out the water and add fresh cold water to cover and add the salt. Bring the potatoes to the simmer and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender. Test them by eating a slice to be certain you have achieved the right texture.
  3. Drain out the water, reserving a cup or so if you want to use it as part of your dressing. Cover the pan and set aside for 3 minutes and no longer than 5 to give the slices the time to “firm up”. Uncover the potatoes and do the initial seasoning while they are still warm.

American Potato Salad

Serves 6-8


  • 3lb Yukon Gold or red potatoes-cooked according to the master recipe
  • 2/3c liquid, 3T cider vinegar plus chicken broth or potato water to make up the difference
  • 1/2c finely diced red onion, soaked in ice water for 10 minutes to eliminate the “bite”, well drained
  • 2/3c finely diced tender celery
  • 1/4c finely diced cornichons or dill pickle
  • 3-4 strips of crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, diced
  • 3T minced Italian parsley
  • 3/4-1c homemade or Hellman’s mayonnaise


  1. Turn the still warm potato slices in a large bowl and toss gently with the vinegar/liquid mixture, onions, celery, pickle and seasonings to taste. Let it steep for about 10 minutes, carefully tossing several times.
  2. When the salad is cool, toss with the bacon, eggs, parsley and just enough mayonnaise to coat lightly. The potato salad can be made 24 hours in advance.
  3. Before serving, check for seasonings and add more mayonnaise if needed. Sprinkle with additional parsley.
Cooked potatoes tossed with seasonings, finely chopped red onion, cornichons and celery.
Once the potatoes have cooled, add bacon, chopped hard boiled egg and parsley.
Add just enough mayonnaise to coat. Sprinkle a little more parsley on the salad before serving.



June 6, 2013 A Salad and a Slaw


The first  “burgers and dogs” cookout of the season called for sides, one, very traditional, the other, an update on an old classic.

The variations are endless when it comes to pasta salad.  As a caterer I had more than a dozen in my repertoire. Pasta salads can reflect whatever taste or ethnicity you are in the mood for. They are a perfect addition to summer picnics and barbecues. This pasta salad features traditional Mediterranean flavors and is as simple as can be. It can be made in not much more time than it takes to cook the pasta and uses mostly pantry ingredients. Rotelle pasta works well here, feel free to substitute whatever twisted shape suits your fancy.  If you are using canned diced tomatoes, hold back on the saucy component of the tomatoes, you can always add more sauce later.

Cabbage is a main ingredient in many slaw recipes so why not substitute the “cabbage turnip” or kohlrabi as it is translated from the German. Though it looks like a root vegetable it is a swollen stem that grows above ground. Farmers markets and spring gardens are abundant with kohlrabi this time of year. The mild flavor is somewhere between broccoli stems and a turnip and young kohlrabi are sweet and quite tender. I added some jicama to my slaw for additional crispness, Granny Smith apples for their sweet-tart flavor and a carrot to enhance the color. The kohlrabi I used was young, there was no need to peel the purple skin and it gave the salad some more color. l chose to julienne the vegetables in my slaw, a box grater or the shredding disc of a food processor would work as well but would give the slaw a different texture.


 Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Garbanzos and Feta

Serves 6-8

  • 1/2lb pasta (rotelle or rotini works best here)
  • 1/4 c finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2 t  grated lemon peel
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4c finely minced sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4c sliced black olives
  • 1 15- to 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Additional chopped fresh basil


  1. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain again.
  2. Combine basil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and lemon peel in large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add pasta, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and feta cheese. Toss to blend well. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared ahead. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours; or cover and refrigerate overnight, them let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)
  3. Mound salad on large shallow platter. Garnish with additional basil.


Kohlrabi Slaw

Serves 6-8


  • 1 medium kohlrabi
  • 1/2 medium jicama
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/4c golden raisins
  • 1/4c dried cranberries
  • 1/4c balsamic vinegar (I used cranberry-pear)
  • 1/2c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1t lemon peel
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut top, bottom and “tentacles” off the kohlrabi. Peel the skin off the kohlrabi only if it is tough. Peel the jicama, apples and carrots.
  2. Cut all vegetables into matchstick julienne or shred in a food processor or on a box grater. Combine in a bowl along with the raisins and dried cranberries.
  3. Combine vinegar, oil and lemon peel in a small bowl, whisk to combine.
  4. Add enough vinaigrette to coat, let sit at room temperature for about ten minutes and add a little more vinaigrette if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.