Is there any better month than September? I really think not. I am in love with a month of the year and I’m not going to hide it. September just completely and totally rocks and I really never want it to end. November used to be my favorite month of the year (for obvious birthday-related reasons) but birthday-free September is somehow taking the lead.
It’s not the pumpkin spice or the pumpkin beer (though I have no shame in the fact that I do love both). It’s not the myriad of Oktoberfest weekends popping up all over the state or the sudden availability of perfect local apples (though these too only add to the charm of my new favorite month of the year).
It’s something about the mood of September as a farmer. The weather, the workflow, the heaping harvests of things like beets, arugula, spinach, peppers and leeks. Plus the stress of the season is largely past. No matter how much rain or disease or pest issues we may have had, by September the majority of crops are in storage. It no longer matters if we had a crop failure or two (or five) during the season because by now we have learned how to deal with it and all we’re thinking about is that we have successfully made it through whatever Mother Nature could throw at us. It feels good. It feels like relief. It feels like the weight of a world where we didn’t know if we’d be able to fill our CSA boxes every week is suddenly off of our shoulders. I step out on the farm on any day in September and I just can’t stop smiling (or taking pictures). I really love everything about it.
In between sunshine-filled harvest days and weekends spent cooking up as much fresh food as humanly possible, my Carrot is diligently working to clean up the farm. Every Tuesday when I return to the fields for CSA harvest, I’m amazed by how much farther he has come in getting things put away.
The whole field is practically seeded to cover crop. A blend of buckwheat and crimson clover: a new experiment in cover crops intended to increase pollinators, smother weeds and fix nitrogen into the soil. This involves more than just throwing down some seeds. It involves rolling up drip irrigation and landscape fabric from the fields that are no longer producing. It involves a lot of mowing and tilling, and working with my dad to get the large fields done by tractor. It involves walking the whole field with a broadcast seeder since we don’t have a mechanized seeder. Now that we manage almost 4 acres, it’s no small feat getting that much cover crop seeded by hand. But day by day, he plugs along, getting our little farm ready for its long winter slumber.
Back at the house, I do my part by keeping the fridge packed full. Eating in season is my largest source of inspiration and I’m stockpiling all the good ideas. Last week it was this heaping bowl of crispy rice with as many amazing toppings as I could whip up in one single weeknight. The sweet and salty mushrooms meld perfectly with the creamy, rich mixture of bok choy that’s simmered in a pool of coconut milk and garlic. Honestly, you could stop right here. Most normal people probably would. Heat could be added through a drizzle of Sriracha and you’d be perfectly happy.
But I wanted to make kimchi. Desperately. I’d had a homemade kimchi made by a kick ass Korean woman at a potluck this summer. She made kimchi with kohlrabi and kohlrabi greens and my world was turned on it’s head. I’ve always loved kimchi, but never made my own because I thought it was tricky with a million ingredients and very specific instructions. Apparently a quick soak in salt and sugar and a whole bunch of garlic and gochujang can turn anything into kimchi. I made my kimchi with romano beans and daikon radish simply because it’s what I had on hand that didn’t go with anything else in my fridge. It was dynamite. You could make it with pretty much whatever you want. Adding crunch, heat and a bit of that fermented funk, kimchi makes a wonderful addition to this meal (but feel free to leave it off if you’re not so motivated or short on time).
This dish is just a big bowl of comfort for a cool September day. But then again, everything tastes great in September.
CRISPY KOREAN RICE BOWL
I know, I know. This recipe looks very long and very scary, but I promise it is really not so difficult. Just follow along and allow enough time. Take a weekend day or evening and have a bunch of fun with your family in the kitchen making your own kimchi, crispy rice and toppings.
And if that doesn’t sound enjoyable, you could also simplify things considerably. The kimchi can be made ahead of time and stored in your fridge for weeks. Or you could buy your already prepared kimchi! The rice doesn’t need to be crispy. It could just be ordinary rice. You technically could leave out the mushrooms (but I wouldn’t!).
As for that kimchi. All the ingredients should be regular things you can find in your kitchen with the exception of the gochujang and possibly the rice wine vinegar. You could use white wine or cider vinegar instead of the rice wine vinegar in a pinch, but the gochujung is an essential ingredient. It will be available in the ethnic food aisle of most grocery stores near the Thai or other Asian ingredients. It may also be called Korean red pepper paste.
Takes 2 hours
1-1/2 cups white rice
3 cups water, divided
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
3-5 tablespoons olive oil (use peanut oil if you’ve got it, don’t worry if you don’t), divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 head bok choy, leaves and stems separated; leaves roughly chopped, stems thinnly sliced
13.66-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons butter (use olive oil or peanut oil if vegan)
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Daikon & Romano Bean Quick Kimchi (below), for serving
- Put rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse until water runs clear.
- Add rice to large sauce pan along with 2-1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to low and cover. Cook for 12 minutes then remove from heat but keep the lid on for 15 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add thinly sliced bok choy stems and additional 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring heat up to medium. Cook 5 minutes and then add coconut milk. Bring coconut milk to a boil over high heat and then add bok choy leaves. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes until bok choy leaves are wilted.
- In a separate large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes just until starting to soften. Add soy sauce, 1/2 cup water and brown sugar. Let simmer gently for 15 minutes until sauce has reduced to a thick syrup.
- Keep bok choy and mushrooms on low while you crisp up the rice. Get a cast-iron skillet really hot over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil followed by rice. Press it all down and let it sit in the pan for 5 minutes until it begins to brown. Stir up the rice every 5 minutes or so, adding more oil as needed and pressing it flat after you stir it. It should take about 20 minutes total to get crispy rice. I used about 4 tablespoons of oil to get there.
- Scoop crispy rice into the bottom of a large bowl. Use a ladle to add bok choy (with sauce), followed by mushrooms with any remaining sauce and a few spoonfuls of kimchi.
Quick Crunch Kimchi:
5 cups crunchy vegetable (daikon, radish, turnip, kohlrabi, beans), peeled (if necessary) and cut into 1-inch cubes or bike sized pieces
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons gochujang (also known as Korean red pepper paste)
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
- Add crunchy vegetables to a large bowl. Add salt and sugar and stir to coat evenly. Let sit for an hour at room temperature.(This is a perfect time to start the other components of your meal if making it all at once).
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Combine rice wine vinegar, gochujang, garlic, ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. Whisk until smooth.
- After an hour has passed, rinse daikon and romano beans with cold water. Let drain for 5 minutes then return to bowl and toss with raw onion and additional 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. (This will help you get that beautiful red color associated with kimchi).
- Add sauce and stir to combine. Use immediately or place into a sealed container (mason jars work great) and leave on the counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours, pace in your fridge and store up to a month.
This makes A LOT of kimchi. About five cups. You will likely only use 1/6 of it during this meal but keep it around, it’s good on EVERYTHING!