Sunday, May 1, 2011

pickled korean purple radish

in brine 30 minutes
we moved 11 months ago.
it was the right decision,
no doubt.
but, it has been a really
difficult 11 months in so many
different ways and i feel like i've
earned my share in the what
doesn't kill you, makes you
stronger belief, 10 times over.

but, last week, i started a new
phase in my life and, i really
think i'm starting to see the
proverbial light. yes, i'm still
in the midst of...stuff. i'm still
dealing, all the time. but, i took
a step toward a life more rewarding
with a new job, so much closer to home.
ok, it's the same job, but instead of traveling
1 1/2 to 2 hours each way every day, i'm now
responsible for a 20 minute trek.

and, it's so unbelievable that
when people ask me
how much i'm loving my commute,
i find myself going mute.

because how do you describe
what it's like to recover 3-4 hours
of your day 5 times a week?

how do you explain
that it makes you want to cry to
realize that you don't have to engage
in a mini marathon every morning because
for a year, you've refused to set your alarm
earlier than 5 am, even though an hour is
not enough time for you to get ready for work?

how do you explain
that you're no longer freaking
out - as much - over the rising gas prices because
you had to fill your tank 3 times a week, while
also traveling on two major toll rides, twice a day?

how do you explain
that just thinking about a job
near your home, makes you automatically think
straighter and saner?

how do you explain
that this doesn't just feel
like a fresh start, but the true
beginning of a lot of somethings?

so, i usually find myself speaking,
in a stream of conscious way, about it being great
and having to give up books on CDs and that
in the morning, the travel time is still unpredictable
because i keep getting stopped by a train.
why can't i just say it's wonderful?
because, it is, you know.

but, somewhere deep down, i'm a little sad.
when we moved last year, it was hard for me
to give up the first place we lived together,
the place we came home to the day after our wedding,
the place that we solidified that we would be us.

but, i knew that i was not really leaving.
i would still work 10 minutes from our apartment.
i would drive every day to a place that was,
surprisingly, much more familiar than our new
town was and i would still hold onto a piece
of who we were when we first started out.
i could still see the hudson river every day,
marvel daily at my proximity to nyc and
i could visit my favorite places
and people whenever i wanted.

and, now.
that part of my life is really my past.
it's good. really good.
but, i will miss things, like meeting
my former work friends for dinner,
the guy at the gas station who has
given me an incredibly friendly hello
for the past nine years and visiting
the asian markets that became
a very regular part of my life while
living in northern new jersey.

so, last week, following my second to
last day at work, i stopped in on the
korean market one last time to
pick up black garlic, some noodles,
seaweed, very firm red roe,
tiny spicy anchovies and, as
it turns out, this:

korean purple radish (weighing in at 1.25 pounds)

it's a korean purple radish. and this one,
at 1.25 pounds, was the smallest one there.
it was so true to the crazy impulses that i've
always experienced in these asian markets
to find something totally random,
something that i had no idea what to do with
and decide that i had to have it. (it's also true,
i also impulsively bought honey powder and
still have zero idea what to do with that.)

and last sunday, two days after my last day,
i did what i do best:
washed it,
thinly sliced it,
quartered it
and pickled it.

radish wedges
in brine 10 minutes

it was a good move. i thought that the
radish would be spicy and deeply flavored,
maybe bitter, like daikon. but, this - it was
very crunchy and tasted like nothing.
the slices were screaming for pickling.

i imagined bright purple.
but, as you can see, what i ended up with
was pink. neon pick.
this radish, though -
it's a flavor magnet, quickly sucking
up the spicy, garlicky brine.
within 10 minutes, they were already
singing a new, exciting tune and 20 minutes
later, they were nearing addictive.
in three days, the thin wedges
were extremely bright
in both color and flavor.
pickled korean purple radish wedges
we've mostly been eating them as is.
wednesday, though, determined to have a reason
to enjoy them - i created an entire meal around
the pickles. (that, i will tell you about soon.)

but, what made me happy was this: i had
time - real, unrushed time - to leisurely
cook dinner without stress.
and that feeling, unrecognizable, but so welcome,
makes it ok that i may never have the
opportunity to buy another
korean purple radish again.
korean radish slice
pickled korean purple radish
if you don't foresee yourself coming across a purple radish any time soon, i think you'll still be ok. i assume it's safe to say that any firm radish you come across can handle this treatment. i made up the recipe using whatever was already in the house, including the three leftover scallions from mashed potatoes i had made an hour earlier. when i finished, i googled korean purple radish (why hadn't i done that first?) and found this recipe, that coincidentally, also called for scallions. the point? there isn't one, except that maybe the two together offer a nice combination.

also, i didn't peel the radish, which i knew could be weird, but i wasn't sure what i would find underneath, and i wanted to make sure that there was still purple on the pickles. i washed the skin well and once pickled, i didn't mind the extra layer at all. i originally planned to pickle them in full rounds, but afterward, realized how large they would be and opted to quarter them. even though the pictures do not depict it, i'm writing the recipe in a more user friendly way.

1 jalapeno pepper, quartered and seeded
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, halved and smashed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (i measured generously)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
16 ounces seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 purple korean radish (about 1.25 pounds), scrubbed
3 scallions, trimmed

in small saucepot, whisk together jalapeno pepper, garlic, sugar, salt, coriander, rice wine vinegar and water. bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve salt and sugar. let boil 5 minutes. remove from heat; let cool 15 minutes.

meanwhile, trim radish. quarter radish lengthwise. thinly slice. place in large container. cut scallions into 1-inch lengths. add to container. pour vinegar mixture over radishes; stir several times or until they begin to soften and are fully submerged. let sit 1-2 hours at room temperature. cover and store in the fridge.

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