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There are people who are frightened by kimchi. It’s too… too much. Too fermented, too cabbage-y, too hot, too salty. It’s like the inside of a subway car in July. It explodes when you open the jar (much like a subway car).

This is not for them.

But if you’re feeling puny, overwrought, in dire straits, in need of restorative potions, this might cure what ails you. I originally found the recipe on Epicurious and of course made some changes, partly because I could not find the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) required. I made do with what I had. I used King brand kimchi, available in every supermarket here (it would be even better if you get some real kimchi from a Korean store, but it will cost more).

This isn’t for sissies, kittens, Lawrence Welk fans, or the fearful. If you have to have chop suey and sweet & sour pork at Chinese restaurants, if you’re the girl in the horror movie who is running from the monster and sprains her ankle – open a can of Cream of WTF instead.


  • 1 16-ounce package soft tofu, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14-ounce jar cabbage kimchi, drained (reserve the scary orange liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons chile-garlic paste or Sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 4-6 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon  sesame oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat, and carefully add the tofu.


Under the best of circumstances, tofu doesn’t look too exciting.

Let simmer about 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. (The original recipe said to remove the tofu to a “medium” bowl and you can certainly do that if you don’t mind washing an extra “medium” bowl.)

Open the kimchi carefully – it is still fermenting, which is why the jar lid may be bulging.



Drain the orange liquid off the kimchi and save it.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the drained kimchi plus the 2 tablespoons of whatever hot chile paste you have. If you can get the gochujang, more power to you, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t.


Saute the kimchi and chili paste over medium-high heat until it starts to brown. (This may smell pungent, in which case open a window.) Then add the kimchi liquid and 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.



Let simmer about 35-45 minutes until the kimchi cabbage gets tender.

Then add the green onions, soy sauce, and tofu.


Let this simmer very gently for 25 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors.

Stir in the sesame oil; season (if necessary, though I don’t think it will be) with salt and pepper.

You can serve as is.


Or you can add an egg yolk, to cook very lightly by the heat of the broth, and some toasted sesame seeds. To toast sesame seeds:

Put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake and/or stir the seeds very frequently.



When the seeds are lightly browned, remove them from the pan right away; otherwise they will continue to brown and burn by residual heat.

If you wanted some more body to this, some rice noodles (the silken type used in pho) would be a good addition, or some shrimp tossed in the last five minutes of simmering. Some fresh basil leaves – especially Thai basil – or mint leaves or cilantro would be nice shredded and used as garnish, though that might just be window dressing and not really required.




Sometimes you need to pull a rabbit out of your hat. On occasion you find that what you pulled out actually was more like a weasel or a marmot, but now and then it does turn out to be a rabbit, just as you’d hoped.

I’m preparing food for a cocktail party, which has to be all finger foods. I thought Asian chicken lettuce wraps would be good, never mind that I have never made them before. The filling part is easy enough – diced chicken, water chestnuts, peanuts, cilantro, scallions – but the dressing was another story. You can buy all kinds of bottled dressings and some of them taste okay, but it’s fun to mix your own. If you have a well-stocked pantry with Asian ingredients, it’s fast and easy.

Here is what I came up with. This started with a recipe for Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson, and took off from there.



  • 2 small red Jalapenos, minced
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon nam pla
  • 2 Tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black bean garlic sauce
  • 1 star anise

Combine all ingredients. Store in refrigerator. Remove star anise before using. Toss with diced chicken or shrimp for Asian lettuce wraps or as a salad dressing.


Use chili flakes, Sriracha, cayenne, or other hot peppers in place of the Jalapenos.

Nam pla (fish sauce) is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. If necessary you can substitute soy sauce or tamari.

Black bean garlic sauce is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. Leave it out if you can’t find it.

Thai sweet chili sauce is available in Asian markets, supermarkets, and Trader Joe’s. It is a thick sweet-spicy sauce that has a couple of million uses.


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It started out cool this morning, then went to warm. Then it started to rain, the wind swirled around, and gradually I got cold. I wanted soup. Specifically hot and sour soup, but I am due to go grocery shopping and was out of just about everything required. What to do?

This was my fast alternative, which I am sipping as I write. It requires canned coconut milk.


I’ll tell you right now, this is not diet food. It looks like this in the can:


One-third cup has 10 mg saturated fat – that’s 49% of a daily allowance. An insane amount. There’s a “lite” version, but I really don’t like it, so here we are. Actually, I can’t think of much that is healthy about this soup except for the garlic, ginger, and cilantro; the sodium count is off the charts along with the saturated fat. But it’s fast and tasty and warming. Obviously if you had things like tofu, shrimp, baby corn, and so on, throw those in too, but this is the basic. This can easily be made vegan by skipping meat-based broth and the nam pla.


  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (shake can well before opening)
  • 3 cups broth (chicken, mushroom, vegetable, pork, or Tom Yom)
  • soy sauce
  • nam pla (fish sauce)
  • Sriracha or chile-garlic paste
  • black vinegar
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped green onions

Saute garlic and ginger together in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil for one minute. Pour in coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and season to taste with remaining ingredients.


The best hot and sour soup I ever had was, weirdly, in Paris. It’s been years since I had loads of time to wander around the side streets so things may be different now, but in the early 80s it was very common to see certain restaurants place a large cutout of Mickey Mouse or Foghorn Leghorn or some similar figure out on the sidewalk with their menu taped on the front. I thought it was pretty odd at the time but I have come to think  of it as charmingly French. Anyway, the hot and sour soup was fantastic and blisteringly hot; I have no idea now where the restaurant was other than somewhere on the Left Bank in the Luxembourg arrondissement or nearby. It’s probably long gone.

I usually get won ton soup in Chinese restaurants now because that’s what my husband likes, but if I am on my own, it’s hot and sour all the way. I found a recipe that I adapted a little bit and discovered it’s easy to make at home.  I found this at the Grocery Outlet the other day and it’s great in hot and sour. It’s already fairly sour.


But regular chicken or vegetable stock works fine. Homemade broth would rock this soup.

I also used some spicy pork sausage so I didn’t need to use as much Sriracha, but again, this is optional.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) ground pork, ground turkey, or ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root
  • 4 chopped green onions (scallions)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or Tom Yum soup base
  • 1 pound firm tofu, cut in 1/2″ cubes
  • 5 thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce)
  • Sriracha to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • rice vinegar to taste
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions.006

Then add the ground pork. Break it up with a fork as best you can, and cook & stir about 1 minute. Don’t try to cook the pork thoroughly just yet; it will finish cooking as the broth simmers.


Add the broth, sugar, tofu, mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat quickly, simmer and taste. If you used the Tom Yum soup base, you won’t need to add much rice vinegar. If you used regular broth, add up to 2/3 cup rice vinegar. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and 1/2 to 1 tablespoons Sriracha. Keep tasting as you add until soup is just right for you.

Pour the beaten eggs into the soup and whisk until they form strands.


Garnish with sesame oil, chopped cilantro, and chopped green onions. A squeeze of lime would be nice if you want an extra flavor and tartness.


For a vegetarian or vegan version, use vegetable broth and omit the meat and eggs. Use soy sauce instead of fish sauce. Rehydrate 1 ounce wood ear mushrooms and slice thinly; add with the other mushrooms.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator. The soup may look a little different after being chilled but it will reheat and taste fine.


We were in San Francisco’s Chinatown a couple of weeks ago and made our usual stop at Eastern Bakery for a bag of almond cookies. I’ve bought other sweets there over numerous visits and I have a hard time wrapping my tastebuds around them, but then Chinese cuisine isn’t really known for its desserts.

But I have a wonderful cookbook, California the Beautiful Cookbook by John Phillip Carroll, which includes a recipe for almond cookies. I remember my mother making them years ago and I thought they were pretty good. Not exactly like the ones Eastern Bakery turns out which are drier and crumblier, these are more like a smooth shortbread. They’re easy to make.

The original recipe asks you to top the cookies with sesame seeds before baking. I don’t see sesame seeds as being necessary on an almond cookie, but that’s subject to taste.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
whole almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream softened butter and powdered sugar together. Add egg yolk and almond extract and cream again, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Toss together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add flour to butter mixture and beat in until all is combined and there are no flour pockets.
Roll out tablespoons of dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 1/2″ apart. Give each cookie a mash with your fist to flatten it slightly, then top with a whole almond.


Bake at 375 about 15 minutes until edges are browned.

If you feel sesame seeds would be a good addition, beat the leftover egg white with a tablespoon of water. Brush each flattened cookie with the egg white, then dip in sesame seeds and top with almond; bake as directed.




I always wanted to be the sort of person who could make perfectly decorated cutout Christmas cookies. I’m not. I have come to grips with this and decided I can live a full life anyway. But I do like to make cookies and other sweets at Christmas, even though I don’t have the sweet tooth I used to – I just like to bake and then give the results away to presumably appreciative people.

On Tuesday my husband and I made some of our favorites to pack up and mail off to his family in Nevada.  None of these recipes is complicated. They aren’t fancy but they taste good and are quietly addictive.

About ingredients:

  • eggs are jumbo or extra-large
  • butter is unsalted
  • flour is pastry flour – all-purpose will work but I think pastry flour is superior for cookies
  • I used organic raw granulated sugar but ordinary granulated works fine
  • all extracts are pure (NOT imitation)
  • And always thoroughly preheat the oven.

From Mimi Sheraton’s Visions of Sugarplums  (a cookbook you really ought to have if you love Christmas foods – all about sweets served at Christmas around the world) is this classic recipe for Scottish shortbread. I use a wooden mold I got in Scotland to shape the cookies.

shortbread mold

But it isn’t necessary, just a fun touch.


  • 1 1/2 cups (3/4 pound; 3 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour or cornstarch

Cream the butter and sugar together. Combine the two flours and cut into the butter mixture; mix as for pastry. Add just enough of the flour so that the dough forms a soft ball. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a round cake tin. Either press with a wooden mold, or use a knife to score the dough into wedges emanating from the center like sunrays. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork.

Bake at 350 until golden and lightly browned. The cookbook says 45 minutes to 1 hour; I have always found that to be far too long and usually it is done in about 15 -25 minutes. You can further cut the wedges when it is warm, or wait until it cools and break the shortbread apart.


This second shortbread is from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It is quite a bit more delicate than the previous recipe but has a light caramel taste that is equally addictive. I like to toast the cashews in a dry frying pan before chopping them, but this is strictly optional.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 cup chopped cashews
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the nuts and mix well.  Combine the dry ingredients and work them into the butter with your fingers. The mixture will be crumbly.

Dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough in half. Roll half at a time into a simple shape like a square or circle to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut with a knife into wedges or squares.  Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 375. These puff up and expand a little bit, so space them about 1/2″ apart. Let cool about 10 minutes on cookie sheet before carefully removing to a rack to finish cooling. These are fragile but get a little more firm as they cool.


This is my go-to biscotti recipe, from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere (a comprehensive work on all kinds of basic desserts like tarts, basic cakes, ice creams, etc, with an excellent appendix). My husband’s elderly aunt loves these so I always make them for her.


  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grappa (substitute brandy or cognac)
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until they start to smell nutty. Remove from pan and chop into 1/4″ pieces.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, grappa, anise extract, and aniseed and cream the mixture again. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat them in just until mixed. Stir in the almonds.

On a lightly floured board, make rolls of the dough about 1″ in diameter and lay them on a baking sheet about 2″ apart. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and carefully slice the rolls into 1/2″ pieces on the diagonal. Place the slices on their side and bake another 5-8 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a rack. Store airtight. Serve these with a cup of coffee and a glass of grappa (or brandy or cognac, since grappa is a bit of an acquired taste, even for me).

Note: these can be flavored in many ways – omit the aniseed & anise flavoring and instead try grated lemon peel & lemon extract; orange peel and orange extract; Amaretto; hazelnuts in place of almonds with Frangelico, and so forth.


This recipe is courtesy of my niece Aimee Rice Bennett. Even though I am not a huge sugary dessert fan, these are really special and taste like more; my husband, who is death on sugar, LOVES these. I tweaked the spices a bit from her recipe.



    ¾ cup butter, softened

  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

 Cream butter and sugar; add egg and molasses and cream again. Combine the dry ingredients and mix into the butter. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Make a mixture of

  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  •  1 teaspoon cinnamon

Take your dough out of the fridge, roll it into little balls and roll them around in the sugar mixture, then place them on a greased cookie sheet about 2″ apart. Bake them for 9-10 minutes, until the tops of the cookies crack. Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a wire rack.

Note: I had leftover spiced sugar after rolling the cookies. I just tossed it into a date-nut bread batter rather than throw it out – delicious.


Last but far from least are oatmeal cookies. This is the same recipe I have used for over 50 years and it is absolutely perfect; it is the recipe from the Quaker oatmeal box and cannot be improved upon. My husband has learned to make these and he cuts the sugar a bit; I leave it as is. He adds about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; I don’t. What we do agree on is no raisins, lots of walnuts, and the most important instruction: take the cookies out of the oven before they’re done.


    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 3/4 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
    • 2 Eggs
    • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
    • 1-1/2 Cups flour
    • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
    • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (NOT instant or quick-cooking)
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or more)

Cream butter with sugars. Mix in the eggs and vanilla thoroughly. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda, and mix into the butter mixture. Mix in the oatmeal and the nuts.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2″ apart. Bake at 350 degrees. Watch cookies carefully. When the edges start to set up and brown a little but the center is still wet, remove them from the oven. Let cool on cookie sheet a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack. You’ll thank me later.


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My apologies, if needed, go to Andrew Zimmern. You know him, the guy who will eat anything; if he doesn’t like it, you just know it’s got to be foul.  Anyway, a few months back I made his recipe for Grandmother’s Chinese Chicken Wings, and boy howdy were they good. I did have to tweak the directions a little in order to get them falling-apart tender, but other than that, the recipe is great. The original recipe is here at the Food Network website.

Last night we needed dinner that was easy and filling. My husband had been digging post holes; I had been mowing about 1/2 acre. We were both tired but didn’t want to get take-out. We already had leftover steamed rice and salad makings in the refrigerator – what to go with?  I dug around in the freezer and came up with a package of country-style spare ribs.

Not everyone is familiar with country-style pork ribs, or maybe they’re known by other names in other areas.

009   Country-style ribs are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin, which is a less exercised part of the pig – therefore, they are more tender than spareribs.  They are also much meatier and indeed, look like thick-cut narrow steaks. They lend themselves well to braising and are really delicious prepared with Asian seasonings. I thought with a little tweaking, Andrew Zimmern’s chicken wing sauce would be good on the ribs. I was right.

A few words on ingredients:

Mirin is an alcohol-based liquid made from rice and is used in Japanese cooking. At one time it was drunk like sake, but now is considered a condiment. Salt is often added to avoid the alcohol tax. It is available in Asian markets.


Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice; there are six zillion varieties available, but unless you live near a large Asian community you may be  able to only find a few.  It is thought of as rice wine,  but it is actually brewed like beer (in winemaking, alcohol is produced via the fermentation of naturally-occurring sugars; in sake and beer, the sugar has to be converted from starch before it can ferment). Available in liquor stores and well-stocked supermarkets.


Oyster sauce is – duh – made from oysters. It is a thick brown salty sauce that has the smell and flavor of oysters. Don’t run off screaming. When cooked in a dish like this, it becomes much less assertive and if you didn’t know it was an ingredient,  you wouldn’t be able to tell. Since it does contain oyster extractives, it is not suitable for people with shellfish allergies. Available in Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets.

006Star anise is the fruit of an evergreen tree from Asia; it is harvested green and dried. It has a strong anise scent and flavor; anise seed could be substituted for it.  Interesting note: star anise is the source of one of the main ingredients in the prescription drug Tamiflu. Available in Asian markets, spice shops, and well-stocked supermarkets, and possibly health food stores.


About soy sauce:

I use either Shoyu Low-Salt Soy Sauce or San-J Low-Salt  Tamari.  Soy sauce contains wheat; tamari does not (but check the label). For God’s sake, throw out the La Choy and get a decent brand of soy sauce. Asian markets have a good selection; at the very least, get some Kikkoman.

Grandmother’s Chinese Country-Style Pork Ribs

  • 4 to 6 country-style pork ribs, about 1/2 to 3/4 pound each
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 6 large thin slices fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cloves star anise
  • 1 dried hot chile or 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (pizza parlor type) – more if you want
  • 1 cinnamon stick (do not substitute powdered cinnamon)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, sliced


  • Green onions/scallions
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • Sesame seeds

Heat heavy skillet or Dutch oven. When hot, add a little vegetable oil and then the ribs. Do not crowd the pan! If the meat is crowded in the pan, the meat will not brown and instead will steam. Do this in batches if necessary, removing meat as it is browned.



While ribs are cooking, combine all the sauce ingredients. Stir to dissolve brown sugar.

When all the ribs are browned, return all to the pan. Pour in the sauce and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar so the sauce can begin to reduce.


Either cook on lowest heat on the stove, or put in a 300 degree oven and bake slowly until ribs are tender, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. Edit: a friend asked if this could be made by browning the ribs in an electric skillet, then braising in a crock pot. I don’t see why not. You’d have to reduce the sauce later in the skillet, but I think it would work well.

Prepare the garnishes: thinly slice three or four green onions (scallions). Chop 1/2 cup cilantro (coriander). Lightly toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds by putting them in a small dry skillet over medium heat and shaking the skillet frequently until they begin to pop and turn brown. Remove them from the pan as soon as they are toasted.


When the ribs are tender, remove them to a serving dish and keep warm. Put the pot containing the sauce on the stove and turn to high heat, boiling the sauce to reduce it.  When the sauce has thickened, pour it over the ribs and then add the garnishes.


This sauce is very intense and rich, so accompaniments should be simple: steamed rice (or possibly mashed potatoes or polenta), steamed or grilled asparagus, sliced fruit like oranges or grapefruit, sauteed chard or spinach. Serve this with a ballsy red wine like a Zinfandel or Sangiovese – a big fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon would work too.

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