Balsamic Tortellini Salad

I LOVE tortellini. I can just eat a bowl of it without anything on it. But one of my favorite ways is to make a salad out of it.

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The one greatest thing about cooking is that you can really just do whatever you want. What I mean by that is if you want to add some onions, you can add some onions. If you want more garlic, add some more garlic. You get what I mean by now, I assume. This is also the reason why I do not get along with baking.

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So the reason I say the things above is that you can add absolutely anything you want to this tortellini salad. Olives, carrots, cucumber, bell peppers…I could go on forever! It is totally up to your preferences. But all I can say is that the combination of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and parsley with the pasta is to die for. It’s incredibly easy and super flavorful. It’ll also stay good for several days, meaning great for quick lunches.

Time: 20 minutes

1 package tortellini (I use Buitoni brand), cooked and cooled
1/4 sweet onion, diced finely
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly diced
10-12 quartered cherry tomatoes
1 handful of Italian parsley, chopped finely
1 large piece of roasted bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
dash of salt and pepper

1. Combine all ingredients except tortellini in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
2. Add the cooked tortellini (make sure it is cooled) and mixed thoroughly.
3. Allow to chill in the refrigerator.
4. Enjoy!

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Pickled Peppers

Oh boy, it’s been a whirlwind of events the past couple weeks. We got married!  I still can’t believe it’s over. Everything went exactly according to plan. The food was great, the cake was amazing, the music was fun, and seeing everyone was exactly what I needed.

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Now that we’re back in the normalcy of things, I am also back to cooking (finally). I don’t know what it is, my stomach reacts too easily to eating foods not cooked by me. And it reacts in a bad way. So needless to say, I am glad to be back in the kitchen.

We bought these serrano and jalapeno plants earlier this year and they exploded with endless amounts of peppers. But considering each one is like an atomic bomb of spiciness, I had to figure out a way to use all of them before they turned red which equals DEATH. Sadly, I only had 5 peppers but to me, letting that go to waste was blasphemy.

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Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 Serrano and jalapeno peppers, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1/2 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/8 cup sugar

1/4 cup salt

1. Boil the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

2. Place your peppers and garlic in a jar (I use Kilner)

3. Once your water mixture has cooled, pour it into the jar and seal it tight!

4. Refrigerate and enjoy!

I haven’t tried ours yet since we haven’t been home but we will find out soon enough if they are good!

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Tortellini Pasta Salad

Summer time = cold pasta salads. At least for me.

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There’s this tiny market, here in Pensacola, that has a ton of international food products. Ranging from Greek to Lebanese foods, this place is packed with mysterious items. But the best part about this place is the prepared lunch items. Homemade hummus to fresh tabouli, the store is hard to walk out of without buying a ton of food. It might also be the fact that the Greek owner is quite the salesman. I tried to go in there just to buy red curry paste, but instead I walked out with $40 worth of things. Damn it. The fact that he gives you samples of everything never helps…

Anyways, during that trip, we were talked into buying his tortellini salad. It was filled with flavors, mixed with ingredients like olives, parsley, and green onions. And of course, the best part, tortellini.

Well, lo and behold, we devoured this pasta salad within two days. $11 worth of pasta = GONE. Pricey, I know. So, guess what? I decided to make my own.

This pasta is great for lunch, since it stays good for at least a couple days. It’s also great to bring to any picnics or barbecues!

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Serves: 2-4 people
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups tortellini, uncooked
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped green olives (I used thrown spanish olives stuffed with pimentos)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped (I only put this in for flavor, not to actually eat the chunks)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano (if you have fresh, even better)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1. Cook your tortellini al dente
2. In a big bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
3. Once the tortellini has cooked, make sure to allow it to cool.
4. Add tortellini to the oil/olive/parsley/etc mixture and mix.
5. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
6. Enjoy with fresh bread!

Extras:
1. If I had fresh feta cheese, I would have definitely added it. So you should too.
2. The more chilled, the better it tastes. It allows the flavors to really bind together.
3. Use any olives you like, I preferred the saltier kind for this salad.
4. Add sliced salami.
5. This salad and it’s “sauce” is an amazing dipping sauce for fresh bread.

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Spanish Rice

Mexican food is a must in our home. Having lived in San Diego and Los Angeles, we had endless options of Mexican restaurants to choose from. Pensacola? Not so much.

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But regardless of what we have here in Pensacola, I truly enjoy making Mexican food. Rather, I should say “Mexican” food. One absolute necessity for a Mexican meal is Spanish rice.

The rice is a blend of tomato, onions, and hints of spice. It perfectly compliments any main Mexican dish and is easy to make.

Ingredients:

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1 cup white long grain rice
1.5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 cup chopped onion

1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Add rice.
2. Stir the rice and cook until toasted brown (a few minutes).
3. Add onions. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add turmeric. Stir.
5. Immediately add chicken broth and tomato paste. Stir well.
6. Let simmer on low heat until rice is thoroughly cooked and fluffy (at least 10 minutes).

Serve with any Mexican dish!

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Korean Vegetable Pancake

No, not a pancake, pancake. Not a fluffy disc of flour covered in syrup. I’m talking about the Korean kind. The kind you eat with your meal, tugging and ripping it apart with your chopstick skills. These pancakes are to die for.

These pancakes are a great supplement for dinner. They’re savory, filled with vegetables, but “fried” just enough to make you want piles of them. Adding seafood is one of the key steps; the seafood among all of the vegetables is a great match of flavors. Today, I used shrimp, but my favorite seafood add-on is squid. Oh yes, squid.

Ingredients:

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First: chop and slice your Chinese chives (just a handful) and scallions (3 stalks…stalks? Don’t know the terminology). I cut my chives to about 1.5″ and my scallions to about 3″. Place in a mixing bowl.

Second: dice up whatever seafood you have. I used 3 big shrimp. Add to the bowl.

Third: thinly slice 1/3 of an onion. Add to the bowl.

Fourth: add some ice cubes. I know, this is weird but I recall my mom doing this, saying it would make the batter better. Mother knows best.

Fifth: add 1 cup of tempura mix. Now, if you go to a Korean store, they sell the specific mix for these pancakes. Ditch that, get the tempura. I learned this from my parents. When it’s pan fried, the tempura mix creates a chewy inside, yet crunchy outside. I always found the pancake mix was too doughy.

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Sixth: add about 3/4 cup of cold water. Mix thoroughly. You want the mixture to be quite loose. Keep in mind, the batter will not completely cover every vegetable; trust me, it’s not necessary.

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Seventh: heat up a frying pan on medium-high heat and add at least 3 tablespoons of oil. I know, this seems like a lot but it needs it.

Eighth: once heated, add about 1/3 cup of the mixture and quickly spread out the mixture as flat and thin as possible. It will not be the prettiest sight, with all the jagged edges poking out.

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Ninth: you really want the pancake to “fry” so add more oil if needed. Once browned, flip and repeat.

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Tenth: once crispy on both sides, consume! I like to eat it plain but soy sauce is the typical condiment.

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Extra: add any other vegetable you have. Mushrooms, squash, carrots, bell peppers, whatever you have in your refrigerator. Just make sure to slice everything very thin; spreading out the batter so thin means quick cooking.

Adding diced kimchi into the batter makes it SO flavorful. I just didn’t have any on hand.

Last but not least, this batter will stay good for a couple days, so you can definitely make it ahead of time.

Enjoy!

Korean-ish Potato Salad

Ah, summer is the time we risk food poisoning by eating macaroni salads, potato salads, etc, at picnics and barbeques. By these salads, I mean an abundance of mayonnaise and mysteriously colored foods. Am I right?

Many people I know have had their share of having terrible potato salad. So have I. The overly sweet, slimy, way-too-much mayonnaise filled kind where I really want to eat it because I love potato salad. But then, you realize it’s terrible. So terrible. But before you give up on it, you convince yourself that you must have taken too big of a bite and that’s why it tastes so terrible. Maybe pecking at it will taste better. Maybe scraping off the excess mayonnaise will help…no, who am I kidding. If something tastes good, you know it immediately.

But I love potato salad. The good kind. And so far, Korean potato salads never seem to fail to please me. Whenever I go to a Korean restaurant, all I think about is whether or not this side dish will come out. When it does, I cry a little.

Many recipes I see online call for a variety of ingredients. From bacon to celery to dill to mustard, it’s endless. But I don’t really see the point of all of it. This version has few ingredients but is so addicting, you won’t be the only one who wants to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.

Ingredients:

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First: get your diced red potatoes in boiling water and cook until a fork can easily go through it. I highly recommend red potatoes. I have never been fond of baking potatoes, russet potatoes, you name it. Many of them tend to be too dense or the opposite, and it feels like I’m eating grainy mush.

Second: get your eggs boiled as well. I always place the eggs in with the water first and boil for exactly 13 minutes on high. Perfect every time.

Third: finely dice your sweet onion. Red onion is a good option as well.

Fourth: slice your cucumber into thin, thin slices and then cut in half. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with coarse salt. I know, this is weird, right? Wrong. Korean recipes do this quite often. Sprinkling the cucumber with salt draws out liquid, making the slices really crunchy. This adds a nice fresh taste to your salad, rather than making it mayonnaise filled and goopy.

Don’t add too much salt. I would say 1/2 tablespoon per 1/2 cup of sliced cucumber. I accidentally forgot this one time and added salt at the end too, out of habit. I then realized how salty the salad turned out but out of stubbornness, I opted to pick out the salty pieces of cucumber, in silence. One by one. Bit by bit. It was worth it. My blood, sweat, and tears of standing there watching the water boil and picking out cucumbers wasn’t going to go to waste.

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Let these sit for at least 10 minutes. When time is up, with your hand, squeeze the water out of the cucumber slices. They will come apart a little, so don’t panic. See the photo for reference below.

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Fifth: once your potatoes are done cooking and have cooled, place them in a bowl. Take your boiled eggs, slice them and add to the bowl.

Sixth: add the remaining ingredients plus ground pepper. I used 3 red potatoes and added 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 diced onion, a dash of vinegar, and 2 eggs.

You may be wondering, why aren’t you telling me to add salt? You don’t have to. There’s enough salt from the mayonnaise and especially the cucumbers. Remember, you covered them in salt before hand.

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Seventh: start mixing and mashing your potatoes. Don’t be gentle! I actually used a potato masher for mine, but lightly. This is not the type of potato salad where the potatoes remain whole. Add more or less sugar, to your tasting.

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Refrigerate and enjoy!

Extra: in many Korean recipes, sliced ham is added to this salad as well. I, for one, don’t like ham. You can also add other vegetables like carrots as well.

Easy Peasy Kimchi

Yes, I made kimchi. Kimchee, kimchi, whatever. You still know what I’m talking about. For newbies, this may seem terrifying. It’s a pickled side dish that is normal to have on the dinner table as ketchup is here in America. For semi-newbies, I’m going to assume you’ve had a bad experience trying kimchi. But I’m also going to assume you ate at some mediocre Korean restaurant that never fails to put terrible kimchi on the table. This stuff below is good. Really good.

Now, don’t take this to be the traditional route for making this renowned Korean side dish. For years, I watched my mom make it but I have absolutely no desire to put in that much effort, packing the final product into jars bigger than my head. Considering we find it hard enough to go through two mason jars of kimchi in our household, I figured out a simple and easy way to make kimchi. This version only has the daikon radish, no napa cabbage.

I’ve never liked store made kimchi. Usually, it’s far too sweet or has way too much garlic (gasp, is too much garlic a real thing?). When I eat kimchi, I actually want to taste the radish and cabbage. I mean, without those ingredients, what is kimchi?

Prior to moving to Pensacola, I never would have thought I would have to make my own kimchi. It just never crossed my mind. In our only “asian” market here in Pensacola, they do sell jars of it. But I have a strong feeling those jars have been sitting there for a wee bit too long by the looks of it. Dark and mysterious looking = not worth trying. So with that, I had to make my own. The first few times were, well, terrible. But after experimenting for the past year, this is an easy and full proof way to make fresh kimchi.

Ingredients:

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Take a look at this salted fermented shrimp. The smell is astounding. Astoundingly bad. Little black beady eyes staring back at you. That one shrimp you focus on is swimming among thousands of it’s comrades. I always wonder how they even get this many tiny shrimp. Is there some magical little worker with tiny little fingers separating them out? Where do they come from? Why did someone decide fermenting tiny shrimp was a good idea?

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BUT it adds great flavor to the kimchi. If you can’t imagine putting these little eyed creatures in your batch, then skip it. But you need to put in the fish sauce at least. Equally as pungent but not equally strange looking.

First: dice your radish into 1 inch cubes. Place in a bowl and sprinkle coarse salt all over the pieces. This starts the pickling process and you will see after 15-20 minutes that water will start to draw out of the radishes. 4

Second: This (below) is rice flour and water. I don’t really know what this does for the kimchi, but in the midst of making up my own kimchi recipe, I vividly remembered how I used to help my mom by stirring this like crazy.

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Take about 1/3 cup and 1 cup water and boil over medium heat. It will become a opaque paste once boiled. Once it reaches this paste stage, turn it off and let cool.

Third: Check on your radish. They should be giving out more and more water, as you can see below.

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Fourth: to your cooled rice flour paste, add 1/2 cup chili flakes, 1 teaspoon salted shrimp, 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and some crushed ginger. Mix.

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Fifth: take your radish and drain out any excess water that has come out. To this, add your chili paste mix, sliced green onions, and chopped Chinese chives. Mix.

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Sixth: lightly pack your mixture into mason jars (or whatever jar you have). With the excess paste left on your bowl, take a few tablespoons of water and mix it together. Add this to your jars.

Seventh: close your jars, clean them up, and let them sit out of the refrigerator for at least 1 day. Then, move to the refrigerator.

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This will be ready to eat in a matter of days. I prefer to eat kimchi when it is more fresh. Enjoy!

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Daikon Radish Salad

Daikon radish has always been a staple vegetable in my diet. It is one of the most versatile vegetables and is great for digestion.

As you can see below with my Korean barbecue ribs recipe, sometimes Korean foods can get quite heavy and greasy from the ingredients. Hence, the reason for this daikon radish salad! It is light and has a great texture, complimenting the chewy barbecue ribs. This radish is also known to benefit your health.

I have been buying these radishes at a local Vietnamese market, but they are obviously available elsewhere. This specific radish (the only one I can find here in Pensacola) is the Japanese daikon radish, which is spicy compared to it’s Korean cousin that is much rounder and sweeter. You can use either one.

This salad is a great alternative to the traditional lettuce salad and has a lot more flavor. You’ll find that it is incredibly addicting. It is sweet and tangy, a perfect match for Korean barbecue.

Ingredients:

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First: take your radish and peel the outer skin with a potato peeler. This skin is not very pleasant to eat.

Second: julienne your radish into thin slices, however long you’d like. This radish maintains it’s texture very well.

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Third: in a bowl, combine white vinegar and rice wine vinegar (1:1 ratio. Per one cup of julienned radish, 1/2 cup of each vinegar). Add the sugar (once again, per one cup of julienned radish, add about 2 tablespoons of sugar) and 1/2 tablespoon of chili flakes. Mix.

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Fourth: let this mixture sit and marinate for about 30 minutes (or longer). Pair with grilled meat.

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Extras: the chili flakes I used are Korean chili flakes. These can be found in virtually any asian market. If you cannot find this ingredient, I have used ground red pepper, which I found in a regular market. If you don’t have rice wine vinegar, you can use just the white vinegar but I would add a little bit more sugar.

 

Pickled Kirbys

Koreans love their pickled foods. Ranging from ingredients using cabbage to Chinese broccoli greens, I find these pickled foods are a great match with Korean barbequed ribs.

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I recently visited my mother’s sister in Vancouver and she showed me this great recipe for spicy pickled kirby cucumbers. They are garlicky, spicy, salty, crunchy, and refreshing in all of the right ways.

Ingredients are simple: kirby cucumbers, Chinese chives, crushed garlic, Korean chili flakes, fish sauce, onions, and kosher salt.

Kirby cucumbers are a must; I found them in a local farmer’s market but they are also commonly found in Korean markets.

First: wash your cucumbers thoroughly and cut off the ends.

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Second: feed the ends to your beloved pooch.

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Third: slice the cucumber vertically about half way; flip it onto the other side, rotate it 180 degrees and do the same again. This allows you to stuff more of the spicy Chinese chive mixture into the cucumber. Place these in a ziploc bag and cover heavily the kosher salt. Let sit for 20 minutes.

 

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Fourth: chop the chives into 1 inch pieces (and toss the rough ends); if you can’t find these chives, scallions can be used.

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Fifth: crush 4 cloves of garlic and dice thin slices of about 1/4 of an onion.

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Sixth: mix the chives, chili flakes (about 1/3 cup), crushed garlic, onion, and fish sauce (about 3 tablespoons) in a bowl and put aside.

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Seventh: blanch the cucumbers for about 1 minute in boiling water. After you take them out, make sure to run them under cold water or even place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This process will make the cucumbers super crunchy.

Eighth: take the cucumbers and start stuffing them in the sliced areas with the chive mixture. Depending on the size of your cucumbers, pack them tightly into either Mason jars or a big plastic container.

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Ninth: put any extra mixture in with the cucumbers and let sit for a few hours. Once they are cooled completely, place the container in the refrigerator. You can enjoy these the day they are made or a few days after!

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