I'm calling this an "unpost" because so many people read my last post (thank you!) about cookbook publishing, I know this one is going to be woefully unread by comparison, and also because there is no actual recipe I followed. Heck, I don't even have a photo of the finished dish. It's such a nice thing when you've been cooking a cuisine for a while, in this case Korean food, that it becomes second nature. You get comfortable enough to improvise. I love that. Okay, so I guess this dish is called Buta Kimchi, and if you want a recipe, this one would be a good starting point. But now that I look at an actual recipe, I see how different mine is. You start with sliced pork belly, but I marinate mine for a while in some soy sauce, sesame oil, maybe a little rice vinegar, and some sesame seeds.I add the marinated pork belly to a hot skillet to cook up, and then I mix in some of the red pepper paste. Don't measure it too carefully, but keep in mind this stuff is pretty spicy. I'd say 1 to 2 tablespoons is good, but you know real Koreans like it spicy, right? By the way, sometimes I add ginger or garlic too, but it's totally optional if you're going to add kimchi later.The kimchi really makes this dish, so it's important you get the good stuff. Fortunately there are a lot of great artisan ones around now. The one in the photo above is made by the lady who owns the deli around the corner from me. (She's sweet.) It's a good balance, not too spicy, rich in flavor, with great textures. Watery or bland kimchi would ruin the whole dish.I had this dish once with tofu, and I love it that way now. Don't worry about it too much -- you just toss in some cubed firm tofu after you've cooked the pork belly and red pepper for a while. It's going to break up a little, but that's okay.And then you eat this with hot white rice, but the meal wouldn't be complete without some soju. All the better if you have someone to share it with because of the Korean tradition of never serving yourself soju. You only pour it for the other guests at the table, and you never let their glasses run dry. Well, I think that's the tradition, and it's pretty cute when you see a couple out in a restaurant doing that.
Now that I look at this photo, that toffee looks pretty yummy. Good thing I have a tin of it at the office with me for snacking (not so good for my waistline). My story starts with this toffee. On short notice I decided to stop by the Brooklyn Swappers 2nd Anniversary Event at 3rd Ward over the weekend. I started making this just the night before, a recipe I'd never tried from a brand-new book. It turned out to be tricky because my candy thermometer broke. It looks solid, and it broke into pieces just fine, but I could barely transfer it into bags for the swap without making a mess. I needed a plan B.Gluten-Free Girl came to my rescue (again). I whipped up a batch of the spiced nuts from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.This is how it comes out of the oven. I probably should have drained off some of the extra coating mixture before roasting the nuts, but I like those chewy, sugary bits in the middle. Clearly, my waistline hates me right now.Once cooled, you break it into pieces, and there you have them, spiced up with cinnamon, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Highly recommended.But wait, there's more (spiced nuts, spiced nuts that is). As I was making Shauna's recipe, I decided I needed a Plan C, just to be really safe. (Umm, why am I such a control freak?) I turned to my friend Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan's Good Food to Share. Maple-Bacon Spiced Nuts? Yes, definitely, but I'm going to say something that will get me booted from the "Cool Foodies Club" forever. These spiced nuts are so good, you don't even need the bacon! But I was determined to follow the recipe...There's the bacon, in all it's glory. You brush it with maple syrup and cook it in the oven. Then you try to resist eating the bacon straight from the pan.Finally you toss the bacon with the spiced nuts and you're set.Since both of the nuts turned out so great, I wrapped them up in little baggies and headed off to Brooklyn Swappers. If you've never been to one of these events before, here's how it works -- if people want to trade, they write their names on a card like this, with the item they have to offer. Fun, right?I showed up early while it was still quiet and there was space on the table. By 4pm that changed, a lot. The tables were overflowing with goodies.This event was special because there were speakers on a variety of topics. This is a photo of the amazingly talented Liza de Guia (far left) of Food Curated for a panel she led with some of the great people she's featured on her site. Shown are Keavy (middle) from Kumquat Cupcakery and Liz (far right) of Raganella's Botanical Solutions. Other speakers included Debbie Koenig, Jackie Gordon, and Emily Hanhan.As the tables filled up, I snapped a few photos of the treats -- really great stuff. There was so much I would have enjoyed trying, like these turbinado caramels.Whoa, Jane Lerner (who co-runs Brooklyn Swappers) made this sambal oelek? How did I not get to swap with her?Vicky of Arirang Kimchi (who was also on that panel with Liza) was kind enough to give me a jar to try. I've tried a lot of so-so kimchi in my life, but this is the good stuff.Ooh, more kimchi? I missed out on this one.