Hunkering down during this global crisis can be somewhat daunting when it comes to meals — many of us are cooking more than usual, which also means more cleaning, more dishes. A friend, who is home with her husband and two teenage boys, texted me: “OMG, the non-stop eating is driving me crazy!”
But let’s not be too hard on ourselves when it comes to the kitchen. Make the most of what you have, substitute when you’re lacking, and try to find small moments of joy (or peace) where you can, whether it’s in nourishing your family and neighbors, or a meal solo. This can also be a time for creativity.
Some things to keep in mind: Shop for food safely. Store foods so that they last, including meat, fish, vegetables, dairy and even herbs. Make your kitchen a no-waste/low-waste zone. Onion and garlic skins, for example, have tons of flavor, so save them, along with any carrot or other vegetable peelings, in your freezer and when you have enough, make a stock for soup or chowder. Consider regrowing vegetables from scraps. And when it’s all too much, give yourself a break and support your local restaurants by getting take-out.
This week, noodles and broth are getting their star turn at the table with a kick from kimchi. I have rice ramen on hand, but you could use udon, buckwheat or even spaghetti. If you have homemade broth in your freezer or feel like making some with chicken pieces or vegetables, use that. Otherwise, plain water works fine, since you’re getting a lot of punch from the kimchi, sautéed in butter. Taste as you go along and add soy sauce or a bit of salt, as needed. If you’ve stocked up on sauerkraut and kimchi, both are versatile and packed with probiotics, but again, you can throw in almost anything you like. Leftover shredded chicken or bits of vegetables work well. Garnish your soup with anything from a drizzle of sesame oil and soy sauce to some green onions or fried garlic, etc. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just nourishing and restorative.
Quick ramen soup with caramelized kimchi
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted is better but use what you have
1 to 2 cups chopped cabbage kimchi
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
Some fresh grated or sliced ginger (optional)
4 ramen cakes/packs (about 8 to 10 ounces)
4 eggs (optional) or soy sauce eggs
If you have: sliced mushrooms; sliced green onions; sliced bok choy or other greens such as lettuce, cabbage, etc.
Optional Garnishes: sesame or extra-virgin olive oil, sesame seeds, roasted seaweed; soy sauce; fried shallots; fresh, thinly-sliced garlic
1. Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it begins to froth, add kimchi and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated and kimchi starts to caramelize. (NOTE: If you don’t have butter, omit this step and just add kimchi and water together and bring to a boil.) Add water or broth; bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes, longer if using traditional Italian pasta. Add ginger, if using, and any other vegetables, such as mushrooms, broccoli, etc. Taste broth and add salt, soy sauce, or pepper, as needed. When ready to serve, add soft-boiled egg halves or, crack whole eggs into broth and let simmer and poach until yolks are just cooked. Garnish, if desired.