Korean-Style Tuna Tartare + Why I Love Food

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare with Avocado and Radish Slices and Ginger Dressing

Before I talk about this fresh and vibrant Korean-style tuna tartare, I’d like to share what fuels my passion for food. The sheer pleasure of it certainly plays a part, but it’s not the heart of the matter.

People, places, cultures, and connections inspire me to seek out world cuisines. Through food, one can gain insight into another culture and share an experience with the people who live there: “Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.” – Mark Kurlansky

My hope is that, through cooking and blogging about my culinary adventures, I will inspire others to try new things, experience other cultures, and share the result. After all, the most important thing about a meal is who you have it with.

Now back to the tuna …

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare with Banchan

Korean-Style Tuna Tartare with Banchan

This Korean-style tuna tartare recipe comes from The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen. The author, Marja Vongerichten, was born in Korea but raised in America. As an adult, she reconnected with her Korean family and learned about their cuisine. She’s married to French Chef Jean-Vongerichten.

While the cookbook features many authentic Korean dishes—kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables), bibimbap (mixed rice bowl), and miyeokguk (beef seaweed soup), among others—she also draws from her experiences with French and American cuisine to offer some fun fusion recipes, like hot dogs with kimchi relish, Korean baeckeoffe (a French Alsatian dish with a Korean twist), and grilled Korean lobster rolls.

This tuna tartare combines Korean flavors with Japanese and French cooking techniques, resulting in a delicious, fresh meal. The fish is served raw, resembling Japanese sashimi. The tuna is sprinkled with gochugaru—Korean red pepper powder, a quintessential ingredient in Korean cooking—thinly sliced scallions, and a little bit of olive oil.

The rich avocado complements the tuna nicely. Crisp radish with chili oil and gochugaru give the dish a subtle heat. But what really brings the dish together is the ginger dressing! Its contrasting tastes work beautifully together: it has hints of sweet, salty, and a bit of tang. I could eat this by the spoonful. It actually reminds me of a ginger salad dressing that was served at a Japanese restaurant where I used to work. Even if you’re not a fan of raw fish, you should at least make this sauce to use as a dressing or marinade. It’s so good!

Try experimenting with the plating of this dish. I did a deconstructed approach to tuna tartare because I wanted each ingredient to stand out. If you want a more classic take on tuna tartare, however, layer the ingredients atop each other, starting with the avocado, then the tuna, radish, and chile oil. Pour the ginger dressing around the tuna tartare to finish the dish.

Served alone, this would make for a nice lunch or light dinner. However, I recommend pairing it with banchan (Korean side dishes) or a fresh garden salad. I hope you enjoy this Korean-style tuna tartare!

* A special shout-out to Frank and Teresa, who gave me The Kimchi Chronicles and have inspired many of my culinary adventures!

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Korean-Style Tuna Tartare

Serves 4
From book slightly adapted from The Kimchi Chronicles
This Korean-style tuna tartare combines Korean flavors with Japanese and French cooking techniques, resulting in a delicious, fresh meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sushi-grade tuna, cut into thin strips (like noodles)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 red radishes, thinly sliced

Optional

  • hot chile oil, for serving

ginger dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey

Note

The recipe makes more dressing than you need for this dish. It keeps covered in the fridge for up to a week and is great on salads. It also makes a great marinade for chicken or fish.

Directions

Ginger dressing
Step 1
Make the ginger dressing: combine 1/2 cup oil, the ginger, vinegar, honey, and soy sauce in a blender and puree.
Step 2
Place the tuna in a bowl set over a larger bowl filled with ice (this helps keep it as cold as possible). Toss the tuna with the scallions, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the red pepper powder, and salt.
Step 3
Divide the avocado among 4 plates and evenly distribute the tuna on top. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the ginger dressing around each portion and top with the radish slices. Drizzle a bit of hot chile oil over the radishes, if you'd like.

Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

Ribeye Steaks with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Truffle Mac and Cheese, Salad, and Red Wine

It’s not very often that a wine–or any alcoholic beverage for that matter–inspires what I cook. Normally, I choose a meal first, then think about the beverage pairing. But when Corey and I received a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon last summer, I made an exception.

Corey and I have very different wine preferences: I prefer light, refreshing German Rieslings with floral and sweet notes, while Corey prefers robust reds. When Corey mentioned this predicament to a partner at his future firm this summer, she kindly sent him a bottle of Orin Swift Cellars Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012–a wine that we both adored.

Conch Shell and Orin Swift Cellars Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

 Orin Swift Cellars Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Its label is gorgeous in a morbid, Poe-esque way. If you don’t know by now, I’m a fan of creepy things. Take a look at my “glass” cupcakes or these “blood-splattered” cookies. But label aside, how did it taste?

Delicious, jammy, hedonistic, and bursting with flavor. It’s a very soft, low-tannic wine. The aftertaste is wonderful and there’s no lingering bitterness, as you sometimes get with red wines. It was the perfect compromise for our differing tastes.

2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Palermo

2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Palermo

So why did I wait so long to blog about this delicious wine? I needed to perfect my steak recipe first! The best steak I’ve tasted was at Pisces in Key West. Ever since, I’ve wanted to re-create that experience.

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans Served at Pisces in 2011

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

It took me several tries, but I finally approximated the dish at Pisces. I chose to use ribeye steak instead of filet mignon because the former’s higher fat content pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon–though I’m sure filet mignon would have done nicely as well.

The ribeye steak with red wine sauce that I created is packed with flavor! Salty pancetta, creamy blue cheese, sweet pecans, and a rich, luxurious red wine sauce will have you swooning. Round the meal out with a delicious bottle of wine, white truffle oil mac and cheese, and a fresh salad, and you’ll have an incredibly delicious dinner!

Miami Balcony View Biscayne Bay

 The View from Our Balcony, Where Dinner Was Served

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Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

Serves 2
Meal type Main Dish
Region American
Website Flavorful Journeys
Try this delicious ribeye steak with red wine sauce! Salty pancetta, creamy blue cheese, sweet pecans, and a rich, luxurious sauce make it irresistible!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2 ribeye steaks (approximately 1 inch thick)
  • garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup candied pecans (diced)
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Step 1
Add the olive oil to a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until brown and rendered, about 5 minutes. While the pancetta is cooking, sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Remove pancetta from pan using a slotted spoon. Place on a paper towel and reserve for later.
Step 2
Add the steaks to the hot pan and cook for about 4 minutes on one side (for medium-rare steaks), then flip and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Remove the steaks to a plate. Sprinkle the blue cheese onto them, then cover the plate with aluminum foil. This will slightly melt the blue cheese while the steaks rest.
Step 3
Meanwhile, drain oil from the pan, leaving approximately 1 tablespoon (make sure not to wipe the pan; you want the brown bits to stay in for flavor). Add the wine and bring to a boil; continue to boil until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add water, ½ teaspoon salt, and any meat juices that have collected on the plate with the steaks. Boil for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until slightly thickened.
Step 4
Transfer the steaks to two clean plates. Top with the pancetta and candied pecans. Spoon red wine sauce over the steaks. Serve any extra red wine sauce in a small bowl on the table, so people can pour it over their steaks if desired. Enjoy!

Russian Borscht Soup

Russian Borscht Soup with Toasted Bread

Russian Borscht Soup with Fresh Dill, Diced Hard-Boiled Egg, and Toasted Bread

Though it’s technically spring, it’s still quite cold here in Chicago and in much of the Northeast, which has kept me cooking all kinds of delicious soups. Last week, I made a Portuguese kale soup with chorizo, a creamy Thai coconut curry, and this robust Russian borscht soup.

Borscht is a very vegetable-heavy soup that features beets, cabbage, onion, carrot, and garlic. This combination results in a very earthy, sweet, and tangy soup. Some versions of borscht are completely vegetarian, while others incorporate beef, pork, or chicken. I like to add a little meat to borscht because I think it provides a nice textural contrast, but it’s great without it, so omit it if you prefer.

Here’s a process for creating your own chicken broth and cooking the meat (if you choose to add it): first, poach the chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt, whole black peppercorns, several cloves of smashed garlic, fresh herbs, and carrot and onion peels (left over from prep work). Then, strain that liquid into a bowl and reserve it for the borscht broth, supplementing it with additional chicken broth as needed. Finally, shred and chop the chicken, then wait to add it until the borscht is a few minutes from completion.

Russian Borscht Soup with Toppings

Russian Borscht Soup with Toppings

Beets are the star ingredient in Russian borscht. They give the soup its distinctive red color and lend a savory earthiness. And remember that beet juice stains (don’t find out the hard way)! Make sure to take appropriate precautions.

I serve my Russian borscht soup with toasted bread, fresh dill, sour cream, and diced hard-boiled eggs. I hope you enjoy this humble, vegetable-laden soup!

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Russian Borscht Soup Recipe

Serves 8
Meal type Soup
Region Russian
Website Adapted from Cooking Melangery
Cook Russian borscht soup at home with this delicious recipe! The beets are the star ingredient in borscht and give the soup its distinctive rich red color.

Ingredients

  • 3 beets, peeled and grated (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage (about 8 cups)

Optional

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded and chopped
  • hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • fresh dill (for serving)
  • toasted bread
  • sour cream (for serving)

Directions

Step 1
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and sauté the onion and garlic over a low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beets, carrot, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, salt, paprika, pepper and three cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Step 2
Add the rest of the stock to the beet mixture and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Then add the cooked chicken, if using. Adjust the seasonings and cook for a few more minutes. Ladle the borscht into bowls and serve with fresh dill, diced egg, sour cream and toasted bread.

Korean Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted Barley Tea

Korean Roasted Barley Tea and Buddha Board

I love drinking tea, especially during the long winter months. There’s something comforting about sipping hot tea on a cold day–it has a calming effect that forces me to slow down and appreciate life. I usually drink black tea in the morning to energize me for the day ahead, but when I have a bit more time, I like to sit down with my Buddha Board–a painting surface upon which you can paint temporarily with water–and a cup of roasted barley tea.

Korean Roasted Barley Tea

 Roasted Barley Tea and Barley Tea Painting

Paintings on Buddha Boards aren’t meant for permanence (they fade as the water dries), which makes photographing the image tricky. As you can see, parts of the painting are already starting to fade mere seconds after its completion.

So what is roasted barley tea? It’s a drink made by boiling and steeping roasted barley. It’s not a “tea” in the technical sense (i.e., it’s not made from actual tea leaves), but it stands in as a non-caffeinated alternative to traditional teas. It can be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled, and it’s very popular in Korea and Japan. In Korea it goes by the name boricha, and the Japanese call it mugicha.

Making Roasted Barley Tea

Making Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted barley tea is amber colored and has a robust nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. You can add honey or sugar to further sweeten it, but I typically drink it straight. I think it’s something of an acquired taste, especially if you’re used to more floral or sweet herbal teas. But once you’re accustomed to the mellow toastiness of the tea, you’ll want to make it again and again.

Roasted Barley Grains, Barley Tea, and Teapot

Roasted Barley Grains, Barley Tea, and Teapot

You can buy roasted barley at most Asian grocery stores or online. Alternatively, you can buy pearl barley and roast it yourself. I haven’t tried this alternative method yet, but I might soon just for fun. I hope you enjoy sipping some delicious roasted barley tea!

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Korean Roasted Barley Tea Recipe

Serves yields 2 liters
Meal type Beverage
Region Asian
This roasted barley tea recipe is made by boiling roasted barley and then letting the barley steep in the hot liquid. It's a non-caffeinated alternative to traditional teas.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted barley
  • 2 liters water

Optional

  • honey or sugar (to taste)

Directions

Step 1
Place barley and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and steep the barley in the hot water for 10 minutes. Strain the barley tea into a heat proof container. Add sugar or honey to taste, if using. Serve hot, chilled, or at room temperature.

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

I always like to start the weekend off with a nice breakfast. There’s something quite satisfying about having a leisurely breakfast, in which you can really appreciate the food. This weekend I made banana mocha chocolate chip muffins, and they were wonderful.

I got the recipe from The Cheese Board: Collective Works, which is an amazing cookbook featuring recipes from The Cheese Board–a much-loved pizzeria, bakery, and cheese shop in Berkeley, California. While I haven’t visited the physical store, I have recreated many of their famous baked goods at home with the help of this cookbook. I highly recommend it for those who like to bake and love the smell of fresh bread!

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins The Cheese Board Collective Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins and The Cheese Board: Collective Works Cookbook

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins  Image

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Close-Up

Now let’s talk about these muffins. They’re similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread–with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee! While the coffee flavor isn’t prominent, it does help accentuate the chocolate.

When making these muffins, you should use ripe bananas, as for banana bread. You should also use strong coffee (I used espresso, for example); this will noticeably intensify the chocolate. Also, start brewing your coffee before you get to baking–it needs to cool before use, and you don’t want it holding you up!

I hope you enjoy baking these banana chocolate chip muffins as much as I did! If you’re looking for other breakfast ideas, check out this hearty protein-heavy breakfast or this elegant bagel spread.

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Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

Serves Makes 12 muffins
Meal type Breakfast
Region American
From book Slightly adapted from The Cheese Board: Collective Works
These banana mocha chocolate chip muffins are similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread--with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee!

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (cooled)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter or spray the top and cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
Step 2
In a medium bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, bananas, vanilla extract, coffee and sour cream. Whisk until blended.
Step 3
Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl.
Step 4
If using a stand mixer, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until combined. Add the butter and cut it in on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few rotations of the paddle, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 5
If making by hand, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few strokes of the spoon, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 6
With an ice cream scoop or large soup spoon, fill the prepared muffin cups until the batter just peaks over the top of the pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown, firm, and springy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins onto a wire rack to cool.