Korean Tacos

This post is for Lynne, my fabulous mail lady, who takes a personal and friendly interest in all of us on the mail route.  She and her sister are getting together on Fourth of July with their families and she wanted to grill something, rather than order in a pizza.  Couple that impetus with my visit some time ago to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) where parked out front along the street, were all kinds of food trucks.

I was delighted because I’d heard about this phenomena, but since I am from a neighboring city we would probably never have such a gourmet delight.  We tried the Korean Tacos–a hybrid of Asian-flavors wrapped up in a tortilla.  Not cheap, so we shared one, and besides we were saving our hunger for Chinese Dumplings.  But I searched for a recipe, finding one that had been printed in the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine.

For meat, I had some really thick boneless pork chops (1″ thick) in the freezer.  I let them partially thaw which allowed me to get a really thin slice on the meat.  I used two pork chops,  which served two amply with leftovers for another meal.  Guessing? They probably weighed together about 3/4 pound.  Place them in a zip-lock bag, then add the marinade:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil (available at grocery stores–get a smaller bottle if you don’t plan to use it a lot, and store it in your fridge)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes (the kind you get to put on your pizza)

Marinate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  I did this in the morning, then pulled it out of the refrigerator about an hour before grilling.

On a fairly hot (but not scorching) grill, lay out the slices of pork a few at a time, then go back and flip them over.  They will cook REALLY quickly since they are so thin.

Warm some tortillas, either by wrapping in foil and placing at the back of the grill over indirect heat, or by warming them in a frying pan.  We use the thicker white corn tortillas, which don’t fall apart and are more like the Korean tacos we tried. I think we bought these at Von’s in the plaza, but I’ve seen them other places, too.  Place the pork in the tortilla, layer some slaw on top, and if you like a little more heat, pass some siroche red pepper sauce for the top.

Napa-Romaine Slaw

Makes about 6 cups, enough for many tacos, with leftovers

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the salad:
4 cups (5 ounces) shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups (3 ounces) shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 cup (2 ounces) thinly sliced onion
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Toss the salad in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Add more dressing to taste and garnish generously with sesame seeds.

We served our tacos with some rice, into which I’d added some sliced green onions, about a teaspoon of sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce.  You could just make extra of the slaw dressing and toss with that.

Linguine with Pea Pesto

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (link to the right), but my sister Christine says she’s made it, so I know it’s been around a while.  Basically you puree some peas, add the rest of the pesto ingredients and toss cooked linguine with this and some of the pasta water, and you have a quick and delicious summer meal.  I mean it was so delicious I’ve had it every day this week and I’m still not tired of it.  It’s creamy without being high-fat-high-calorie.  I used the frozen peas, but did buy a fresh bag so we didn’t have to use that bag that’s been kicking around the back of the freezer all winter.  We served it with fresh tomato bruschetta on crostini--a perfect meal.

1 1/2 cups (from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) fresh pea or a 10-ounce package frozen peas (I didn’t defrost mine–just dumped them into the boiling water.)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup (1 1/8 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon table salt, plus more for pasta water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound dried linguine
Garnish (optional): thinly slivered basil leaves

Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl filled with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath (if using) and drain again. If you haven’t used an ice bath, let your peas cool to lukewarm before making the pesto.

Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining cup of peas in the work bowl of a food processor with garlic, pine nuts, 1/3 cup parmesan and salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil.

Cook your linguine until al dente. Reserve about two cups pasta cooking water, as the pea pesto will be surprisingly thick, then drain linguine and return it to pot. Over moderate heat, toss pasta with pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres. Adjust salt to taste, add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using, and remaining parmesan.


Maybe it was because Dave brought home another sack of beautifully ripe tomatoes when I already had a sack of beautifully ripe tomatoes in the fridge.  Maybe it was because we finally got a warm spring day, after a long string of cool spring days. (I’m not complaining about this–just stating a fact.)  I don’t know–but I know I wanted some gazpacho.  I found this recipe on Epicurious.  Not content with that, I perused my existing recipes, checked out Pioneer Woman, and in the end went with the Epicurious recipe.  I’ve tried many over the years–but I think I’ve found a winner.  This is a thicker version of gazpacho (apparently the ones from Spain are thinner), but I quite like this one.  It is best made the day before but refrigerating for 4 hours is a minimum.

I used Safeway store brand of juice and it was just fine.  I also used a red and yellow bell pepper–upping the quantity to one total pepper.

Mom’s Gazpacho • Epicurious | May 2001 • by Elizabeth Shepard
Yield: Makes 8 servings

1 egg
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cups chopped fresh plum tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green or yellow pepper
1 cup chopped cucumber, seeds removed
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
2/3 cup olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons)
1 can (14 ounce)  beef broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
Pepper, coarsely ground
1 46-ounce can tomato juice
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I made some on the spot by whirling a couple of slices of good-quality  bread in my food processor.)

Tabasco and salt/pepper to taste

Garnish (optional): croutons and chunks of avocado

To Prepare:
Place egg in small pot of cold water, bring to boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes–don’t overcook. While this cooks, chop garlic finely–really really fine.  I even used the side of the blade of my knife to smash it some more.  Place this in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt (or a shake, if you are using Kosher salt).

When egg is finished cooking, run under cold water, remove shell, add to garlic and salt mixture, and mash together with fork.  Set aside until for later.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, beef broth (optional), red wine vinegar, parsley, oregano, Worcestershire, and coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Stir.

Pour tomato juice over the vegetables, and add garlic, egg, and salt mixture. Add bread crumbs and stir so that they dissolve into liquid.

Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. Chill for at least 4 hours and serve. Garnish with chunks of avocado and croutons.  Pass extra croutons.

At the end, the cook had included some of her notes:

· My recipe serves eight, and it’s a lot of trouble to prepare this soup for one (I disagree). But like homemade tomato sauce, its flavor improves with age—you can store it in the refrigerator and eat it for about a week.

· Why mash the garlic with egg and salt? To make a garlic-infused paste that adds body and substance to the tomato broth.

· Use kosher salt to bring out the flavors of the vegetables.

· Try to chop the vegetables so that they’re small but not minced or pulverized, and don’t worry if the sizes aren’t uniform. The pieces should be small enough to chew but big enough to recognize.

· If you prefer a more elegant presentation, emulsify the chilled mixture before serving. Seasoning is a very personal matter. I tend to like my gazpacho pungent and sharp, with salt, lemon, and onion flavors lingering on the palate. If you prefer milder soup, reduce the onion, garlic, and vinegar quantities by half. If you want a spicier soup, add 2 teaspoons of minced jalepeño peppers. To make vegetarian gazpacho, substitute vegetable broth for beef broth.

Summer Strawberry Cake

Oh, YUM!

Okay, now get to work and make this light and delicious strawberry cake.  I found it on Smitten Kitchen, a blog with great recipes, who had adapted it from Martha.  I changed it again, substituting 1/2 cup whole wheat white flour for part of the regular flour.  The interesting thing about this cake is how long it cooks: about one hour, although it’s very quick to make.  The strawberries become jam spots, the sugar caramelizes, and it all is a wonderful summer dessert.  While it is best served on the day it is made, it is still really good the next day.  For breakfast, maybe? And while the recipe suggests a dollop of soft whipped cream, my husband thought that ice cream was a great topping.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour (can swap 1/2  cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch deep pie (or cake) pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (what I used). (Smitten Kitchen notes that this cake would also work in a 9- or 10-inch springform or cake pan. The 10-inch would make a thinner cake than pictured.)

Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes.  Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream, or ice cream, if desired.