grape jam

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This is such an easy jam to make and you can use any grapes, not just Concord. For this jam I used a blue-black variety called Moon Drop grapes, shaped somewhat unusually like a torpedo. They are seedless, sweet, and I did not peel them. I used sugar in a 1:2 ratio or half as much sugar as the weight of the grapes so you can adjust up or down as you need to. And instead of using pectin I put in one whole chopped green apple seeded with the peel.

Grape Jam
makes 3 cups jam

800 grams grapes
400 grams granulated sugar
1 medium green apple, chopped, seeded, with peel
Juice of 3 small limes
1 cup water

Boil a kettle of water. Wash and rinse jars and fill to the brim with the boiling water. Set aside. Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside. Put 2 small saucers in the freezer for testing the jam.

In a large pot, put the grapes, water, sugar, apple, and lime juice. You can throw in the lime halves too. Bring to a boil over medium low heat and stir occasionally. Mash the fruit as it softens. Boil until the jam reaches a temperature between 217 degrees F and 220 degrees F, about 10 to 25 minutes. Take a saucer out of the freezer and drop a spoonful of jam liquid in it. Return to the freezer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes take out the saucer and drag your finger through the jam. If it separates, the jam has set. If the jam runs back together it is not yet set. Boil the jam for a few minutes more and test again.

Fish the lime halves out of the jam and discard. Tip the water out of the clean jam jars and fill with jam, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Screw on the covers and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 12-24 hours to allow the jam to set before eating. After that it can even be frozen.

brazilian fish and shrimp stew with pepper sauce and rice and peas

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This fish and shrimp stew cooks up very quickly, and is light, piquant, and full of the fresh flavors of coconut milk and peppers, both sweet and hot. I served it with the coconut-flavored Jamaican rice and peas that I had put up in the freezer. Rice and peas is a robust accompaniment that holds its own with spicy main courses such as this stew.

Fish and Shrimp Stew/Moqueca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Pepper Sauce
2-8 Thai chili peppers, or to taste (pickled hot cherry peppers in original recipe)
1/2 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Large pinch sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

Stew
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 pound skinless white fish fillets about 1 inch thick, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (e.g. cod)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1 (14.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 leek, both white and green parts, sliced into thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
Juice of 2-3 small limes, or to taste

Make the pepper sauce: Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a separate bowl. Rinse out processor bowl.

Make the stew: Toss shrimp and fish with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Process onion, tomatoes and their juice, and 1/4 cup cilantro in food processor until finely chopped and mixture has texture of pureed salsa, about 30 seconds.

Heat oil in large Dutch pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add red and green peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add onion-tomato mixture, leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until puree has reduced and thickened slightly, 3-5 minutes. Pot should not be dry.

Increase heat to high, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Mixture should be bubbling over the entire surface. Add shrimp and fish with lime juice, and stir to evenly distribute seafood. Make sure all pieces are submerged in liquid. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp and fish are opaque and just cooked through, 15 minutes.

If desired, gently stir in 2 tablespoons pepper sauce. Be careful not to break up the fish too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice, passing the remaining pepper sauce separately.

Cook’s Note: I did not add the pepper sauce to the stew, instead, I served it at the table with the remaining chopped cilantro.

massaman curry grilled chicken sandwiches

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Massaman Curry Grilled Chicken Sandwiches–I forgot the cilantro!

This recipe was inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe for grilled chicken baguettes. I used a store-bought massaman curry paste by Blue Elephant, a famous traditional Thai restaurant in Bangkok. Massaman curry is a Thai Muslim dish;  a rich brick-red curry sauce spiced with cardamom and star anise. Though I used chicken thighs, this recipe can also be made using chicken breasts but I happened to have two chicken thighs on hand. It makes for a quick lunch or light supper for two.

Massaman Curry Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (inspired by Martha Stewart)
Makes 2 sandwiches

1 tablespoon Massaman Curry paste, e.g. Blue Elephant
Seasoning salt
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup cucumbers sliced on the diagonal
Zest and juice of one small lime
1 tablespoon red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons salted peanuts, crushed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3-6 sprigs cilantro
Cooking spray
1/2 a baguette

Pat dry the chicken thighs. Season the chicken thighs with seasoning salt then spread the curry paste into both sides of the chicken, pressing it into the meat. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Put the sliced cucumbers and onions into a small bowl. Add the lime juice and toss. Set aside. In a small bowl, add the mayonnaise and the lime zest and mix well. Set aside.

Heat the grill pan over medium high flame. When the pan is hot, remove it from the flame and spray it with cooking spray. Return it to the flame and add the chicken thighs. Cook on one side 3-4 minutes or until grill marks appear on the chicken. Flip and cook for 3 minutes more on the second side. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and slice into 1/4 inch slivers. Set aside. Don’t wash the grill pan.

Split the baguette in two and toast the sliced sides in the grill pan until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and generously spread the lime zest-mayonnaise mixture on both toasted sides. Spread the chicken on top of the mayonnaise. Top with cucumber and onion, some cilantro sprigs, and sprinkle with crushed peanuts.

shrimp with spicy green rice

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A Southeast Asian-flavored dish inspired by Venetian risi e bisi, an Italian rice with peas. To me, this dish is reminiscent of  khao tom, a Thai rice soup with meat or seafood, served with steamed rice in a broth. In Thai cooking, condiments are served on the side so you can make it as salty, sour, sweet or spicy as you like. Although this recipe recommends seasoning the dish in the kitchen, I have reserved some of the herb sauce for seasoning at the table. 

Shrimp with Spicy Green Rice (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 21 minutes

2-4 large cloves garlic
1-2 green Thai chilies, sliced with or without seeds, depending on your preference for heat
1 cup packed fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (4-inch piece), minced
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup veg oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small leek, thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 cups chicken broth/stock preferably home made and low sodium
4 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup long-grain white rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Salt

For serving:
Herb sauce
Cilantro, chopped
Basil, chopped
Lime wedges

Special equipment: a medium-sized Dutch pot with a lid

Prepare all ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse garlic until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons ginger, chili, basil, cilantro, fish sauce, and sugar. Process until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 3 tablespoons water and process finely. You should have about 2/3 cup of sauce. Set aside

In the pot without the lid, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Add leeks and remaining 1 tablespoon ginger. Cook until leek is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir in rice and broth along with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer rice until it is very soft, 17-18 minutes. The texture will be soupy.

Add shrimp, simmer, stirring once or twice, until shrimp just turns pink, 1-2 minutes. Stir in peas and 2 tablespoons of the herb sauce. Taste for seasoning and heat. If you wish, add more sauce—it’s quite salty and you won’t need any additional salt. It’s better to be cautious and not add all the sauce to the pot, but reserve the remainder for spicing up individual plates at the table. Remove from heat and serve with more cilantro, basil, and lime wedges, as well as the remaining sauce. I found that the dish didn’t need any additional cilantro, basil, or lime so I left them out, and just served it with the remaining herb sauce.

dinner for two: baked chicken and rice

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This simple chicken dish is complete. All you have to do is make a salad to go with it. The method is quite straightforward: Season the chicken, brown it, season the rice then bake the chicken and rice together. The rice reminds me of my mother’s version of rice pilaf, cooked with onion in chicken broth. It’s so good!

Baked Chicken and Rice

4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 to 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup long grain rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper

Special equipment: medium oven-ready pot with a lid

Preheat oven to 375˚F/190˚C

Pat dry the trimmed chicken thighs and season with seasoning salt and dried parsley. Let stand 10-20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

In the pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the chicken thighs in the pot and fry, skin side down until it is browned, 5 minutes. Turn over the chicken and brown the other side for 5 more minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot. You should have about a tablespoon of oil and fat in the bottom of the pot. Remove any excess oil or add more oil if there isn’t enough.

Add the garlic and onion and cook them, stirring, over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the chicken broth/stock, stirring until well combined. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in the pot, skin-side up, and cover it.

Put the pot in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until the rice is fluffy and all the liquid is absorbed. Serve the chicken on a bed of rice.

broccoli-tomato and shrimp fritters

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Shrimp fritters are a Jamaican appetizer and snack. At home, we eat them with hot Scotch Bonnet peppers cooked in the batter. I’ve added broccoli and tomato to the recipe; the broccoli adds crunch and colour, and the tomato adds colour and moisture. Without the shrimp, this is a vegetarian treat. Just increase the broccoli to 6 cups.

Broccoli Tomato and Shrimp Fritters

Yield: 11-12 three-inch fritters

12 ounces fresh broccoli (3 cups chopped)
500 g frozen and thawed shrimp, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1 medium tomato, chopped and seeded
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or mix 1/3 Parmesan and 1/3 Romano cheeses), optional
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, optional, OR
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, finely chopped, with seeds for added heat or without seeds for less (optional)
1/4 cup cream or nonfat milk, more or less as needed to add cohesion to the batter
Vegetable oil for frying

To prepare the broccoli, cut the florets from the stems. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the tough outer coating of the stems. Chop stems roughly into 1/2 inch pieces. Separate the florets into 1 inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Add the broccoli. Cook 5-6 minutes or until tender. The broccoli will be a bright green color. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse under cold water to set the color and stop the cooking process. Pulse the broccoli in a food processor 2-4 times. Broccoli should still be chunky and not too small.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the flour, tomato, cheese(s), garlic, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes or Scotch Bonnet pepper, if using. Add the broccoli. Use a large wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Add the cream or milk if the batter doesn’t clump together when dropped from the spoon.

Cook’s Note: The tomato not only adds a pop of color but it also adds moisture to the fritter—a little trick I learned from my cousin Cathy!

Pour enough oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet to cover the bottom. Heat oil on medium heat until the pan sizzles when a drop of water is sprinkled in it. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, scoop up the broccoli batter and carefully drop it in the hot skillet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Continue scooping, flattening, and frying fritters, about 3 at a time. Leave about 2 inches between each fritter. Fry on one side 3-5 minutes or until golden brown, then flip, and fry 1-2 minutes on the second side. Add more oil as needed.

Cook’s Note: Dip the 1/4 cup measure in water to ensure the batter releases as you scoop the batter into the skillet.

Transfer fritters to a paper towel lined serving plate. If the fritters won’t be eaten right away, they can be kept in a low oven. Serve these fritters with tzatziki sauce, lemon-garlic yogurt, or Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise. To make lemon-garlic yogurt, to one cup of Greek style yogurt, add fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to taste. For a garlic flavor, add minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise, put a 1/3 cup mayonnaise in a small bowl with about 2 teaspoons chopped pickle (more or less to taste). Add the Sriracha sauce to taste. If you haven’t got Sriracha sauce, use any red hot sauce like Tabasco.

cubanos (cuban sandwiches) just like in the Chef movie

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I’ve long been wanting to make these sandwiches ever since I saw this foodie movie. I finally found a recipe (Nagi|RecipeTin Eats)  that claims it is a recreation of the cubanos featured in the movie! It is delicious. I usually follow a recipe exactly and afterward tweak it, but this time I ignored that. And I recommend cooking the pork by the pound than by a block of time, as pork has a tendency to dry out during roasting.

This recipe has been adapted for a little over 1 pound of pork (646g), enough for two people, maybe four. I added the tamarind paste and the honey because tamarind is piquant as well as sour. The honey adds a balance of flavor: salty, sweet, sour, and savory.

Everything is made from scratch, including the pork roast, so this is a 2 day effort. One day to marinate the pork, and another day to roast it and assemble the sandwiches.

Cuban Mojo Roast Pork
Prep time: 25 minutes
Marinating time: 12-24 hours
Roasting time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Marinade
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
Zest of one small orange
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 small oranges)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (2 small limes)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons mint leaves
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Pork
About 650 grams boneless and skinless pork shoulder

Mojo Sauce
Reserved marinade
Pan drippings
2 tablespoons lime juice, optional
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, optional
Honey, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the pork. One day before roasting, combine marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. Taste the marinade. I like it salty, sour, and with a hint of sweet.

Place the pork with the marinade poured over in a large zipper lock bag in a bowl, to catch any drips. Place in the fridge overnight. If you are concerned about plastic use, you can place the pork with the marinade in a 1 quart bowl with a glass lid. Turn the pork several times, or whenever you remember on opening the fridge.

Bake the pork in a slow oven. Take the pork out of the fridge and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F. Place the pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Spray pan with cooking oil for easy clean up. If you don’t have a rack, slice a couple of onions and put the pork on top of that. Roast, uncovered, 40 minutes per pound, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove dish from oven and place the pork on a baking tray lined with foil. Reserve the pan juices. Let the pork rest 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 475˚F/245˚C. Roast the pork 13-17 minutes, uncovered, for the meat to get brown and the fat to get crunchy. Carve and serve.

Make the mojo sauce. While the pork is resting or browning, combine the reserved marinade and the reserved roasting pan drippings into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then taste. The sauce should be salty tart and sweet. If you wish, you may want to add additional lime juice, orange juice, or even a touch of honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down and simmer 1 minute, then remove from the stove and set aside.

Serve pork with mojo sauce and rice and peas (Jamaican rice and beans) or coconut rice. Or slice the pork to make Cubanos. Save the mojo sauce and onions as dipping sauce for the Cubanos. This isn’t traditional, but it is delicious.

Cubanos for two
Cuban Mojo Roast Pork, sliced
French bread sliced into six inch buns
4 slices of ham
2-4 slices of Swiss cheese
Pickles*
Dijon mustard
Butter
*I’m not fond of pickles, so I sliced some fresh cucumbers and let them sit in white vinegar for a few minutes.

Split the French bread horizontally but leave a hinge. Butter both cut slices and toast the buttered sides on the grill. Lightly grill the ham slices. Spread mustard on one of the toasted sides. Layer pork generously on the other toasted side. Top pork with grilled ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Be generous with the fillings!

Butter the outside of both the top and bottom buns. Grill sandwich in a pannini press. If you haven’t got a pannini press, you can improvise with a griddle. Spread a sheet of parchment on top of the bread and press down on top with another heavy pan. Put a couple large unopened cans of food to weight down the pan. It’s quite safe and the pan will never get hot enough to build pressure inside the cans. If it concerns you, you can fill a small kettle of water halfway and use that instead. After 3 minutes, flip the sandwich over and grill 3 minutes on the second side. Of course, with a pannini press you won’t need to flip. The cheese should be melty and the bread golden and crispy.

potato, cheese, and thyme quesadillas

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It doesn’t look like it but these are leftovers. The tortillas and the remoulade are from Sunday’s fish tacos, and I always have tzatziki sauce and Sriracha on hand because they go so well with everything! This is a riff on Charley Brown’s Mexicana’s quesadillas, and my husband says it’s a keeper!

Potato, Cheese, and Thyme Quesadillas
Makes 2 quesadillas

2 medium potatoes
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Butter
A little cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh or dried thyme
4 whole wheat tortillas

Peel and cut up the potatoes into chunks. Boil potatoes in salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and mash potatoes. Season with butter, cream, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Spread a little butter on the inside of each tortilla. Top one buttered side with cheese. With a spatula, spread about a cup of mashed potato on top of the cheese. Top mashed potato with more cheese and sprinkle with thyme. Cover with another tortilla, buttered side down.

Lightly grease a griddle and heat it. When it is hot, put a quesadilla on the griddle to toast. When the bottom becomes golden brown, flip it over and toast the second side. When both sides are golden brown, remove to a cutting board and slice into quarters or eighths. Repeat with the second quesadilla. Serve warm.

Serve with dipping sauces such as salsa, tzatziki sauce, yogurt remoulade (or just plain Greek style yogurt), sour cream, and/or Sriracha sauce.

 

pan pizza margherita

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Still on a quest to find the perfect pizza crust! I adapted Mark Bittman’s recipe for pizza dough to make these pizzas and they were perfect. Chewy but not dense, and strong enough to be shaped. I topped these with simple basic pizza margherita toppings, just fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. I made one with ham for the Meat Lover. 

Pan Pizza Margherita (adapted from Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe)
Makes 2 9-inch pizzas (8 slices)

Pizza Dough
3 cups (414 g) bread flour plus more for kneading*
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 cup water, plus more as needed
*To measure flour, scoop flour into a dry measure then sweep the top to level it.

Pizza Topping
2 large tomatoes sliced into rounds, seeded
Salt
3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
Basil shredded for garnish

Make the dough. Put the flour and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil and combine. With the machine running, add 1 cup water gradually through the feed tube. Process until the mixture forms a slightly sticky ball, about 30 seconds. If the mixture is crumbly and dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5-10 seconds after each addition. Process until dough forms a ball. If the mixture refuses to come together because it has too much moisture, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until it forms a ball.

Rest the dough. Rub a little olive oil or flour on your hands and shape the dough into a ball. Put the dough ball in a large greased bowl. Cover it with plastic. Let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles in size, 1-2 hours. You can just let the dough rest as little as 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry. I refrigerated the dough for several hours then brought it to room temperature and let it rest 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the toppings. Place the tomato slices in a single layer on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle the tops with salt to draw out the moisture. Pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Put the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.

Make the pizzas. Reshape the dough into a ball and cut in half with a dough scraper to get two equal pieces. Brush the bottoms of two 9×2 inch round cake pans with olive oil. Don’t oil the sides. Roll a piece of dough into a 7-inch circle.

Baker’s Note: If the dough is sticky and won’t release from the board without sticking, flour the board and the rolling pin. I didn’t need to. If the dough doesn’t need extra flour, it’s best not to use it.

Pick up the dough circle and turn it around in your hands, stretching it into a 9-9 1/2 inch circle. Leave the edges with a little one-inch ridge to form the crust. Place the dough circle in one of the prepared pans. If it shrinks from the edges, let the dough rest for about 5 minutes then gently pat it out towards the edge of the pan. Repeat process with the other dough piece.

Place the salted tomatoes on top of the pizza dough circle, making sure to leave a border for the crust. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese. Avoid getting cheese on the crust. Repeat with the other dough circle.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove pizzas from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Using a pancake turner, slide the pizzas out of the cake pans onto a board. Sprinkle tops with shredded basil. Slice and serve.

vegetarian japchae

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About halfway through Lent and my meatless journey. Sigh. To keep my tastebuds engaged I have to be inventive. So I adapted this beef japchae dish to make it vegetarian simply by substituting tofu for beef tenderloin. It was delicious.

Vegetarian Japchae

Tofu Marinade
1 1/2 cups extra firm tofu cut into strips
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon or to taste ground black pepper

Noodles
5 oz dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato starch noodles)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Everything Else
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more if needed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced into thin strips
1 cup red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4 inch strips, stems discarded (save stems to make vegetable broth)
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 green onions cut on the bias

For the marinade: combine tofu with garlic, sugar, soy sauce sesame oil and black pepper in a small bowl. Cover and marinate until ready to cook. Set aside.

For the noodles: add noodles to a large bowl of warm water and allow to soften, 15-20 minutes. Drain noodles, rinse with cold water and drain well. Toss noodles with sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil; set aside.

Cook spinach: In a wok, bring about an inch of water to a boil. Quickly cook the spinach on high heat until it turns bright green. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. Set aside.

Cook eggs: Heat wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add beaten eggs. Swirl to cover bottom of pan. Cook until underside is set, about 1 minute. Flip. Cook until set, about 1 minute. Remove from pan to a large plate. When cool, cut into thin strips and set aside.

Cook veg: In the empty pan/wok, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. On high heat, stir-fry onions, carrots, and bell pepper until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cook mushrooms and tofu: Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, if needed. On high heat, stir-fry mushrooms until browned. Then add tofu, reserving marinade, and cook, turning frequently, until just browned.

Assemble japchae: Add the sweet potato noodles. Taste. If more flavor is desired, add reserved marinade. Stir-fry until hot, 1-2 minutes. Add all reserved ingredients, except shredded egg. Stir fry until heated throughout, 1-2 minutes. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with egg strips and green onions. Serve immediately.