I am obsessed with kimchi. I think about the earthy, fermented, spicy pickle all the time. I know that some people find kimchi’s deep funkiness repellent, but I love it. Kimchi is one of the most common Korean condiments and is made with vegetables, chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and salt. It is lightly fermented, sort of like sauerkraut, and then eaten as a side dish or used as an ingredient in Korean cooking. The kimchi most of us are familiar with is made with Napa cabbage.
Food trucks have always seemed like a good idea to me. You have a cute truck, cook a few interesting specials, and park where the business seems best. Everyone throngs to you when you tweet the daily menu and you work when you feel like it. Trucks have fewer of the brick-and-mortar problems of a real restaurant at a fraction of the cost. I even thought of doing a soup truck at one time, until I was reminded by my best friend that I don’t like to drive, I don’t like small spaces, and I cannot survive without air conditioning. The fantasy of a food truck is nothing like the reality of one.
If you want spicy, complex, and savory cuisine, Indian food will fit the bill perfectly. It can be chili-hot or creamy and mild, meaty or completely vegan, and diverse enough for even the most jaded palate to enjoy. I love the diversity of Indian cuisine, from spice-coated tandoori oven chicken to crispy fried samosas. One can spend a lifetime discovering its nuances.
About four years ago, my friend Michael Carmody sent me a text: “Hot homemade doughnuts and coffee, my house, right now.” Of course, I dropped everything and rushed over. He had made a lovely batch of buttermilk doughnuts with cinnamon sugar, hot and delicious, and fresh coffee to wash them down. Several other friends had gathered to try them and they were gone in minutes. Over the course of the next year, Michael made thousands of test doughnuts to share with his friends, perfecting his recipes and creating an underground doughnut sensation.
Okay, friends, get your GPS navigators set for 1714 East Northern Street in Wichita. At the end of your trip you will be at Usuluteco, a fantastic Salvadoran restaurant located just off Hydraulic, south of Pawnee. Salvadoran food is delicious, a recognizable cousin to Mexican cuisine, but with its own distinct character—a bit more subtle, without the same chili-garlic-tomato-cilantro bang of Mexican food, but perfect in simplicity.
I have been very sad this week. Two of my first and best mentors have died. Rich Vliet and Norma Sowell have been friends, teachers and touchstones for me from the very beginning of my professional culinary career. Both were incredibly supportive, delightful, determined people with vision. Both impressed me deeply and I’m going to miss them so much.
I’m sure you all have heard the phrase, “The Cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Sadly for my family, the chef’s children have no food. In the house, that is. I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks. Something has died in my refrigerator, which is an entire ecosystem I am only marginally in charge of. It’s like Biosphere 2 in there. Our pantry looks like a tornado hit the Asian market and left ravaged bags of rice noodles and shiitake mushrooms scattered everywhere. I just have not had time to cook at home lately.
I devour books. When I find one I love I’ll read it cover to cover, as fast as I can, and all other activities pale in comparison. I have a particular passion for food essays that started when I was a little girl. I would read about exotic places and food and imagine myself eating it, and then beg my mother to make whatever it was I was reading about. She was busy, though, so she let me try to cook some of it myself.
I just returned to Kansas after a week in Connecticut. I went for a bellydance teacher training and was hosted by a friend who grew up here, but has since put roots down on the East Coast. My friend Pajes and her family made sure that I got a good sample of the wonderful food from the area…and there was lots of it. They are blessed with proximity to New York City, so their standards are very high and there was incredible diversity of choices, from Moroccan to regional Italian and the some of the best pizza I have ever eaten.
I don’t normally go to really expensive restaurants, for no other reason than I am usually too broke to do so. If a meal costs as much as a pair of cute heels, I will almost always choose the shoes. Most of the food I’m drawn to is inexpensive, spicy, and can be eaten standing up. I love great food at any cost, though, so once in a great while, we go crazy and splurge on something really special.