Summer is the perfect season for barbecuing, but its not good for cooking in the kitchen. The heat, sweat and temptation of fun outdoors always makes me lose my usual passion for cooking.
Whats the perfect summer food besides barbecue and beer? Something that doesnt need the stove or oven. In honor of International Pickle Week, which is the last week in May, pickled vegetables may be the solution.
Pickling once was a way to preserve vegetables before refrigerators were invented. Although we all have refrigerators now, the special flavor of pickled foods keeps them popular.
When discussing pickles, you cant ignore kimchi, the Korean national dish. This is a spicy, succulent pickle, made of Chinese cabbage, Napa cabbage or giant white radish, and served as a salad. Most Koreans can hardly pass a day without having kimchi, and believe its good to be addicted to this healthy vegetable dish.
Of course, pickles are good for our health. Their main ingredients are vegetables, which are high in fiber, so there are no worries about fat, cholesterol or extra calories.
And pickles are easy to make. You dont even need to know the exact proportion of ingredients to use.
Many different kinds of vegetables can be pickled, from carrots and celery to cabbage, cucumber, garlic, kelp, ginger, green pepper, radish and many others. They can be put together or pickled individually. I usually use English cucumbers.
To make your own pickles, just peel and chop the vegetables. Salt them with 2 tablespoons salt per pound of vegetables, press them down into a large mixing bowl and cover; leave at room temperature for about four hours (cabbage may need overnight). The vegetables will become limp. Rinse once or twice to remove excess salt and drain.
Then add garlic powder, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Stir to blend. Leave at room temperature for another hour, and then cool in the refrigerator for one hour. A delicious, cold and simple pickle dish is finished.
With more than 30 years experience in making Korean kimchi, Chef Sang Candela of Southfields Mi Loc recommends using Napa cabbage, as it is cheap and pickles well. She also recommends using plenty of salt, as it helps the vegetables get limp quickly and adds flavor to kimchi. If you think your recipe is too salty, reduce the salt by rinsing the vegetables in water after theyve become limp.
If you prefer a spicier flavor, you can add chili sauce or chili flakes. I also like to add a little bit of sesame oil.
You can serve pickles with main dishes, just like other vegetables. They also go well with barbecue.
Because salt helps preserve food, pickles can last for a long time. Make a lot. Keep them in a large wide-mouthed glass jar in your refrigerator, and you can enjoy your summer without sweating in the kitchen. Yu-Ru Lee
Zoup! has joined the ranks of outdoor eateries. Check out the new outdoor patio at 29177 Northwestern Hwy. in Southfield, or call 888-778-SOUP for soup-of-the-day updates. Who else but Dixie would promote "Dont Do Dishes Day?" For those who wish to observe this auspicious celebration, scheduled for Monday, May 17, the paper cup-makers suggest you use paper plates and plastic utensils to serve the evening meal. Why wash em if you can landfill em?