“These might seem totally unrelated,” Bridgett Blough tells me as we stand in the kitchen of her parents’ Southwest Michigan home where she has a jar of her homemade kimchi, a spicy and sometimes pungent condiment served with almost every Korean meal and bruschetta topped with layers of cream cheese, chopped dried figs and sautéed butternut squash.
They’re certainly representative of international cuisine and Blough says they’re perfect as appetizers for fall meals and holiday parties. But more importantly says Blough, a personal chef, caterer, workshop leader, and retreat host who has a professional kitchen in Kalamazoo and is owner of The Organic Gypsy food truck, both dishes are not only healthy but use end-of-the season local ingredients.
“I got the squash and cabbage from Molter Family Orchards in Benton Harbor, the red radishes from Eater’s Guild in South Haven,” says Blough listing the places she sources her food. “The the 7-grain bread is from Stone House Bakery in Traverse City. If you call in advance, you can pick it up in South Haven. And the chèvre is from Mattawan Artisan Creamery in Mattawan. I call this my personal supply chain and it’s kind of a pain in the rear but worth it for getting good food.”
Now with the demands of keeping her food truck supplied nearing an end, Blough is considering expanding her Organic Artisan Products which right now include her Rhubarb Beer Jam, Gypsy Crunch Granola, Dilly Beans, Blackberry-Raspberry Sauce, Salsa and Bruschetta in a Jar. She has a commercial kitchen in Kalamazoo and wants to make and sell kimchi.
“Research show that we need to have more microbes in our system,” says Blough who has read up on the health benefits of fermentation including both Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live Culture Food by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green 2003; $25) and Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin Press 2013; $27.95). “The vegetables in kimchi are totally alive. You can use it in a variety of ways. I’m putting it on the veggie burgers that I’m serving this weekend for a beer fest.”
Made from a variety of vegetables (Blough’s recipe calls for radishes and cabbage), kimchi is, in ways, the Asian version of sauerkraut. Originally allowed to ferment underground in stone jars— not to worry, Blough uses Mason jars and keeps them on the kitchen counter—as a way of preserving seasonal vegetables n the days before refrigeration and to add a kick to the meal. Because it’s low in calories, aids digestion and is packed full of both vitamins and healthy bacteria, Health magazine named kimchi one of the top five "World's Healthiest Foods." It is so popular that, on average, people consume 40 pounds annually.
Depending upon the spices used and fermentation time, kimchi can range from mild in taste to spicy hot and sour tasting. Blough’s kimchi, which she mixes by hand, is mild and the ingredients which include apples, ginger and a little smattering of chiles, is flavorful without being biting. One reason is that she often stops the fermenting process by refrigerating the kimchi after it’s had time to develop some of its healthy properties but before the taste becomes overwhelming.
Full of energy and ideas, Blough wants everyone to be healthy so she’s eager to spread the word about organic, real and live foods. She also wants to make it easy for people to cook their own wholesome meals (though she does offer premade meals for busy people) and so she keeps her recipes simple.
“It’s just as easy to eat healthy as not,” she says. “And it tastes so much better.”
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1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1 head of green cabbage
2 red radishes, sliced
1 - 1.5 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
3 cloves of garlic
1 dried chili pepper, de-stemmed and seeded
1/8 cup of red chili pepper powder
1 small apple
De-core and slice or shred the cabbage. Salt the cabbage and then, using your hands, massage the cabbage to release some of the water in the cabbage. Let sit at room temperature until cabbage is wilted, at least 1 hour, up to 12 hours.
Combine the paste ingredients into a food processor or blender. Process until a rough paste is formed, scraping the sides a couple times, about 30 seconds total.
Drain cabbage, saving the extra water.
Mix the cabbage with the paste, using your hands. Evenly incorporate the paste throughout the cabbage.
Take a sterilized quart Mason jar (with a wide mouth) and pack the kimchi in the jar, pressing firmly down with your hands or a wooden spoon until the brine covers the top of the cabbage. Add some of your reserved water to the top if there are pieces of cabbage sticking out of the liquid. Leave at least 2" of headspace in your jar and use a small jar to place inside of the big jar filled with water or clean stones to help "weigh down" the cabbage and help facilitate the cabbage getting fully covered in brine.
Seal the jar tightly and allow to sit at a cool room temperature (65-75 degrees) for 3-5 days. Taste your kimchi daily to see if it is "ready." The longer it sits out, the tangier-more sour-more fermented it gets. Remember to open the lid once daily in the first few days to let the jar "burp" and release built up CO2. When it develops the sour, spicy taste and texture similar to sauerkraut, place it in the fridge.
Sesame or rice crackers,
Cream cheese or chèvre
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the cracker and top with a dollop of kimchi.
Fall Butternut Squash Bruschetta
1/2 cup of walnuts, lightly toasted in chopped into small pieces
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch size cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chèvre goat cheese
6 baguette slices, toasted in the toaster or brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven
12 sage leaves
Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss butternut squash with 1tablespoon olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper. Roast about 20 minutes, until slightly brown on the edges and soft with a fork. For a spicy kick, add a couple shakes of red pepper flakes.
Toast bread until golden brown on the edges and set aside
Place remaining 1tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and gently sauté sage leaves in olive oil, 2-3 minutes, until the leaves become shiny and dark green in color. Set aside.
Take bread slices and smear with a thin layer of goat cheese.
Place roasted butternut squash and walnuts on the chèvre-coated bread and place two sage leaves on each piece.
Variations: Instead of using chèvre, mix ricotta cheese with lemon zest.