QUICK CUCUMBER KIMCHI // the local food report

Holly North is addicted to kimchi. It started with a problem; her wife Sarah is a baker, and Holly was having trouble digesting bread. Then pizza. Beer. (No !) Finally, a baker from Vermont told her fermented vegetables might be the answer. We don't let our grains ferment long enough, he said, and so we need good bacteria from other fermented foods to help break them down. Reluctantly, Holly tried sauerkraut. It seemed to work. So she thought, why not try eating a little bit of some sort of ferment every day? She did, and slowly she got hooked not only on the digestive benefits, but also on the flavors. Which explains how her fridge came to be completely full of fermentation experiments like the ones you see up there, and most of all full of kimchi.

Kimchi in its most basic form is fermented cabbage. Terrible sounding, Holly acknowledges, but once she tasted it, she got hooked on its pungency. She uses all kinds of different vegetables—daikon radishes, kale stalks, cucumbers—and also seafood like oysters, anchovy paste, and shrimp. The process starts with salting the vegetables, then depending on what they are, letting them sit for more or less time to let the salt start breaking down the skin and letting the lacto-bacteria naturally present colonize and grow. Then Holly packs on seasoning layers like garlic-chile paste, salted shrimp, more veggies, etc. Depending on what she uses, Holly says the kimchis have a different fermentation timeline—cabbages take a while, cucumbers are quick.

The best thing about discovering kimchi, Holly says, is that it's brought about this great culture of food-sharing in her neighborhood. It's hard to make small batches, which means she's constantly trading: kimchi for eggs, kimchi for veggies, kimchi for hot peppers to make more kimchi. It's an ancient food, and one that Holly, for one, thinks is about due for a comeback. Happy fermenting, everyone.


This is Holly's recipe, retyped by me. A few notes from Holly: Because of the nature of cucumbers, this kimchi is best eaten within a week. She likes it best after a couple of days in the fridge, once the fermentation has really gotten going. Also, for containers, you want to use all non-reactive crocks/pots/bowls/jars—whatever you choose. You can use plastic, but be forewarned that the chiles will stain it red!

6 pounds cucumbers 
5 ounces coarse sea salt
1/2 cup rice porridge*
4 ounces fish sauce
3 ounces chopped garlic
1 ounce chopped ginger
1 ounce granulated sugar
3 ounces korean hot chili flakes
1 pound daikon radish (or substitute other hardy radishes), thinly sliced and julienned
1 carrot, thinly sliced and julienned
4 ounces scallions, thinly sliced

Trim the ends off the cucumbers, quarter and cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Sprinkle with 3 ounces of the salt and toss to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes in a stainless steel or glass bowl (you don't want to use anything reactive). Drain the cucumbers, reserving the liquid. At this point you can choose to rinse lightly in filtered water (tap may have chlorine, which kills the beneficial bacteria) and drain if you like a little less salt. 

Combine the rice porridge, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, chili flakes, and 2 ounces of salt in a crock or glass jar. Add the radish slices, carrot slices, scallions, cucumbers, and reserved salted liquid and toss lightly to mix. 

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week. 

*To make rice porridge: Dissolve 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour in 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until it gets thick and "porridgy." Put the pot in an ice bath to cool the porridge quickly. Once completely cool, add to kimchi—do not use hot!


YARD-LONG BEANS // the local food report

My friend Victoria is always growing unusual veggies. She's into okra and fish peppers and round zucchinis and for melons, emerald gems. So when she told me she had some beans I had to see, I headed right over to meet her. She had a measuring tape and a pile of very long skinny beans in emerald green and ruby red, and the first one we pulled out measured nineteen inches. Nineteen!

The varieties are called Orient Wonder and Red Noodle, and as a category they're called yard-long beans. They're popular in Asia, where they're cooked in stir fries or deep fried. You don't want to boil  or steam them, because they're starchier than regular green beans, and cooking them in water makes them lose their snappy texture. Vic likes them not just because they're gorgeous and unusual, but also for this difference—she says she often finds traditional pole beans woody and big, and since these stay pencil thin, they don't have that problem. 

The best way I've found to eat them is fried up with garlic and chili flakes and peanuts. The beans get crispy, the flavors come together with a satisfying, lingering heat, and they're excellent alongside a piece of pan-fried fish or chicken. I didn't make any changes, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm going to send you over here, where I found the recipe. Happy frying!


FUDGESICLES // elspeth

For some reason this September I can't stand the thought of letting summer end. Logically, this makes no sense. Two weeks ago I would have given anything for the traffic to let up, for the heat to ease, for the restaurant to slow down. Yesterday marked the end of my thirty-eighth week of this pregnancy, which means I will spend these last two weeks of summer impatiently awaiting the arrival of another baby girl. Her due date is the second official day of fall. I should be begging for summer to end.

But I refuse to let go. I want the weather to last. I want to spend more late afternoons clamming in Truro, to keep taking noontime swims across Great Pond. I want more mint chip cones and more rainbow sprinkles and more striped bass and fried clams and root beer floats. I want to keep picking cucumbers and cherry tomatoes from the garden, and and I want to keep experimenting with beach plums. 

Also, I want to keep eating fudgesicles. I am not going to type the recipe up here, because I haven't done anything except make the exact version Molly posted on her blog. But I am going to encourage you—forcefully?—to make them, to savor them now. My sister and I made them for the first time the other day—whatever that night that was that was hot and incredibly sticky—and we pulled them out of the freezer after Sally was in bed. I asked Alex if he wanted one, to which he replied, "Only if they're good." He seemed worried they might be some sort of pseudo, healthy fudgesicle.

Happily, he was both right and wrong. As far as fudgesicles go, they're the best the three of us have ever tasted. (Four of us, if you count Sally, though I don't believe she has much in the way of comparison. Terrible, I know.) They're also made with fairly good ingredients. It's hard to go wrong with good dairy, chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa. There's no added sugar beyond what's in the chocolate, so you can vary the sweetness to taste, depending on what you like as a dark to milk ratio. For this I like something around 55% cacao.

We made ten on Friday and they were gone by Sunday. Last night I made another batch, and we ate them when we got home from a beach picnic. We were wearing hoodies and sweatpants, but we had sand on our feet. It is summer, still.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.