Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kimchi Stew and a Book Review of "Four Kitchens" for Souper (Soup, Salad and Sammie) Sundays

Some soups that I make turn out to look as good as they taste and are highly photogenic. Others taste great but don't photograph so well. This Kimchi Stew falls into that second category--appearance-wise it is a bit of a hot mess and it smells a bit pungent. But... it is full of unique spicy flavor in the good kind of clear-out-your-sinuses way.

This soup tribute to the Korean staple kimchi comes from "Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris" by Lauren Shockey. Recently graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York (where she mostly learned to salt food properly, cook over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro), Shockey decided to build her culinary skills by apprenticing in four very different restaurant kitchens in four different locations. Doing a stage (a French term pronounced "stazj" in English), makes one a stagiare (pronounced "STAH-zjee-air") basically a usually un-paid intern learning the chef's trade by assisting in a restaurant kitchen and gaining practical skills. Shockey set out to complete four stages--learning molecular gastronomy at Wylie Dufresne's wd-50 in New York City, discovering the complexities of Vietnamese cooking from a French chef at La Verticale in Hanoi, cooking non-kosher Israeli food at Carmella Bistro in Tel Aviv and grasping the technicalities of French food at Senderens in Paris.

The behind-the-scenes view of the four different kitchens, combined with the glimpses Shockey gives into living in the different cultures and being female in a "boys club" world, make the author's experiences come alive and makes Four Kitchens an absorbing read. Shockey shares the many tips, techniques and recipes she picks up from each kitchen throughout the book, making it a great read for a foodie or home cook who dreams of cooking in a restaurant kitchen. At the end of the day, Shockey's journeys through professional kitchens made her appreciate how much she enjoys the pleasures of home cooking and the satisfaction of cooking something for the enjoyment of friends and family and enjoying it with them, and perhaps that is the greatest knowledge of all.

Shockey says, "Kimchi stew was a popular dish on the days when Wylie wasn't in the kitchen, because it is spicy and often studded with tomatoes. Kimchi, a pungent combo of cabbage and chilies, can be found at most Asian grocery stores. if the kimchi is made of very large leaves, you'll want to cut them into smaller pieces. This recipe is pretty basic; to jazz it up, feel free to add cubes of tofu after you uncover the pot or add bite-sized pieces of raw chicken breast when you add the garlic, ginger and onion and then continue with the recipe as directed."

Kimchi Stew
from "Four Kitchens" by Lauren Shockey
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 medium onion, halved, and then cut into thin slices
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp cornstarch
3 Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb kimchi (about 2 cups worth)
1 cup water
kosher salt as desired (about 1/2 to 1/4 tsp)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and onion, and sauté until the onion has softened somewhat, about 3 minutes. Combine the tomato paste and cornstarch until smooth. Add to the pot, along with the tomatoes and scallions, and sauté until combined. Add the kimchi and water, and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, then cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes, then season with the salt. The stew should be thick but with some liquid remaining. Serve in bowls or accompanied by white rice.

Notes/Results: Homey and full of spicy kimchi flavor, this soup really hit the spot. If you don't like spice (like Wylie Dufresne), pungent food and adventurous flavors, it won't be the soup for you, but if you are the opposite it is fun to try. You can control the spiciness somewhat by the type of kimchi you buy--medium spiced or extra hot. I liked the addition of the tofu that Shockey suggest as it gives the soup more heft. The fact that it goes together so quickly and easily with a jar of kimchi is a bonus too. I was able to make this mostly local with locally produced kimchi and tofu, plus local tomatoes, scallions and ginger. I will definitely make this soup again--especially when I have a cold or allergies as it does clear the system. ;-)

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher through PTA Reader Rewards but as always, my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

We have some great dishes and fun new faces in the Souper Sunday kitchen--let's check it out.

Tigerfish from Teczcape-An Escape to Food has a nutritious Winter Melon Barley Soup to share this week and says, "Straight after I tried a winter melon soup in a Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant at the South Bay recently, I had the immediate urge to cook something similar at home. It was a clear soup, light yet super flavorful, filled with natural sweetness and delicious savoriness, quite different from the usual winter melon soup I cook at home. I did not have the exact recipe and while I sipped it, had to look hard at each scoopful of soup (till the bottom of the soup pot) for ingredients that have gone into the soup.

Joanne of Eats Well With Others has turned a classic upside down with her pairing of Warm and Spicy Cashew Tomato Soup and a Honey Curry Bread Sandwich. She says, "This is not your average elementary school Wonder bread/American cheese sandwich with a can of Campbell's, however. No sire. This is grilled cheese and tomato soup for those of us who have extra time now that we have calculators to do all the dirty work for us and don't have to worry about carrying numbers or where the decimal point goes. The bread is sweet with a hint of spice from the curry powder - the perfect compliment to a super sharp cheddar. And the soup? A revelation. Also filled with curry-esque spices it is so richly flavorful that you'll really have to stop yourself from drinking it out of the pot. But really, it's so good for you - why bother?"

I love having fellow Hawaii blogger Claudia of Honey From Rock in the Souper Sunday kitchen and she is here with a fall-ready Butternut Soup with Pears, Cider and Vanilla. Claudia says, "This slightly unusual soup was thanks to Molly Wizenberg's delightful book, A Homemade Life, which we are currently reading for Cook the Books Club. I have been trying various of her recipes, this soup being the latest. What a fantastic concoction of flavors - golden butternut with pears, cream and vanilla, a hint of apple cider and my duck stock backing everything nicely."

Speaking of Hawaii bloggers, I am proud to introduce a new Oahu blogger and friend, Debbie from Hawaii Locavore. We have chatted via email and then met for coffee a while back and Debbie told me about her new blog featuring local foods, sources and recipes too. She has a wonderful Local Sprouted Chili (a happy sprouting accident), to share and says, "The result was some really great chili that cooks so much faster than with normal soaked beans. This is definitely a keeper. The only change I will make in the future is to deviate from the all-local theme and use tomato paste. It just needed the flavor and thickness from actual tomato paste instead of tomatoes." Welcome Debbie!

Another new face to welcome from a bit further away is Shaheen, blogging all the way from West Scotland at Allotment 2 Kitchen, and here with a Smoky Yellow Split Pea Soup. Shaheen says, "Although this soup has similar ingredients to the Yellow Split Pea and Sage soup, let me assure you the flavours in this creamy golden soup flecked with many colours is very different. It has smoky undertones from the chipotle chilli and a sweet-caramel soft garlic hit from the oven roasted garlic bulb. The sage is subtle in the soup, that's why I decided to fry some for the top as crispy crouton bits. I have to say, its perhaps one of the best flavoured soups I've made in a long time." Welcome Shaheen!

Out third newbie this week is Natalie of Once Upon a Cutting Board, a graduate student blogging from Canada. Natalie made a healthied-up Reduced Fat Broccoli Cheese Soup adapted from Cooking Light and says, "This soup was so cheesy, thick and comforting, and was also really easy to make. I was so amazed that a soup that is typically cream-based could still taste just as good when made with skim milk – I couldn’t even tell that it was low fat! I will definitely be making this often during the upcoming months – it’s the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold day!" Welcome to Souper Sundays Natalie!

Janet of The Taste Space has a soup and a salad to share this week. Her soup entry is this creamy Thai Coconut Corn Stew, about which she says, "In addition to the coconut milk as the backdrop for the chowder, red bell pepper is added for sweetness. The soup is flavoured with lemongrass, lime, ginger, cilantro and a hint of spice from chili flakes, creating a very complex soup without too much fuss. It is nice and creamy from the coconut milk and pureed corn, but also surprisingly light at the same time. Seriously yummy, this recipe is a keeper!

Janet also tried this healthy Lime-Cilantro Quinoa Corn Salad and says, "While I don’t usually add corn to salads, the sweet corn was the perfect accent to this salad. It melds well with the the quinoa, that is speckled with a red pepper that I had grilled on the barbecue with some oil and garlic. Green onions add a nice sharpness and the chili flakes give this a bit of a zip. Cilantro is the herb of choice that pairs well with the fresh lime juice. I love the acid, but if you don’t, feel free to tame it by adding some oil. I also found that I really liked adding whole golden flax seeds to the salad. They were camouflaged amongst the quinoa, so you can’t really taste them, but they add extra nutrition – healthy omega fats and fiber."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina has a colorful Rice Salad with Fried Vegetables this week and says, "I must admit that I do not dislike summer quick rice salads made with pickles and other quick ingredients, but my partner hates them. To find a compromise I create recipes that will appeal to both, like this vegetarian salad with cooked and raw vegetables... and fried ones, maybe not among the healthiest ingredients, but definitely tasty."

girlichef made her version of Salad Nicoise from her library tome of The Silver Palate Cookbook. She says, "So, I did what I normally do and started paging through, leaving little strips of paper poking out here and there. Okay, so...another cookbook to for ever-growing, never-ending "want" list. It is packed with cooking tips, kitchen info, menus, quotes, and lots and lots of good-looking food." You can also make this salad into a sandwich, "To make a Pan Bagnat (the official beach sandwich of Nice), prepare salad in advance and layer it into a hollowed-out baguette. The longer the salad rests on the bread, the more the two become one."

Wow! Such wonderful entries this week. Sorry for the slight posting delay, but these creations are worth waiting for. ;-) Thanks to all my friends old and new who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar for all of the details.



  1. Thanks for posting my soup, they all look delicious! I'm glad to be a part of Souper Sundays :)

  2. The kimchi stew sounds very appetizing and the spice may do good during the cooler nights.

    Thanks for the round up!

  3. I don't know about a hot mess - I think it looks extremely appetising!

  4. Oh I am really loving this Kimchi stew. I love all the flavours, so am bookmarking the recipe and hope I actually get to make it - instead of just drool over it.

    Also thank you so much for the warm welcome to Souper Sunday - its my first time and I will surely be back. Off to check out some of the other submisissions.

  5. Summer is almost finished but the hearty stew season is arrived!

  6. the thought of that kimchi spice in a soup is making my salivary glands overactive....looks like just the thing to warm me up now that I'll be frigid 24 hours a day again!

  7. Wow, I actually think that soup looks fantastic! I can almost smell the pungency from here...I think I may have to try that this cold season! Thanks for the wonderful roundup :D

  8. "Hot Mess" or not, that soup looks wonderful! The book/author/content of "Four Kitchens" sounds intriguing, thanks for the review. Nice photos, as always.

  9. That Kimchi Stew will be just the thing to open any bored taste buds, or clear up a cold.

  10. This looks delicious, maybe it's the first thing I should make with my new pot?

  11. That sounds really delicious and looks mouthwatering good.


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