stas’ rainbow kimchi
I remember the very first time I saw Anastasia Van Wingerden. She was wearing a pale yellow dress and matching cardigan, both of which I instantly wanted. She had shoulder-length beach blond hair and a gap between her two front teeth, something I liked because I had a pronounced snaggle-tooth at the time. Best of all, she was smiling. It was my first day of fourth grade at a new school.
Thirteen years later she’s still my best friend and neighbor, and the one with whom I share many of my most vivid food memories. There was the time in junior high we tried improvising a smoothie in the blender, only to accidentally grind in the bottom half of a wooden spoon. There were the Amnesty International bake sales in high school, where she laughed at what I thought was superb donut salesmanship (“look at the sugar just oozing out of it!”). I’ll always remember her 19th birthday party, an event which featured a chocolate cake with an earthy secret ingredient—beets. She was also the one who first got my family interested in keeping chickens, and I couldn’t help but think of the days of playing with “Stupy” and “Clinton Chick Chick” (he was quite the rooster) as I watched the turkeys her family breeds pecking about in their coop this weekend.
The Van Wingerden kitchen is one of those places I never want to leave, a haven of warm red tiles with handmade bowls of produce on every counter. I always make a beeline to “baked goods corner” (a spot my future kitchen will definitely have), then sneak bites of home-dried fruits or blistered almonds while munching my slice of chocolate chip cake or zucchini bread. I was, in fact, following that exact routine the other day when Stas showed me how to make kimchi, and in traditional Van Wingerden style there was a variety of veggies you generally only see on farms like the one I work on. Kale, carrots, zucchini, beets, green beans, onions, fennel… it all went into the pot, a cascade of color and texture that looked just as good a half hour later when it had been mixed by hand with salt and spices. I have a jar fermenting on my bureau, and when I taste it next week I know I’ll be back in that sunny kitchen with my friend, if only for a bite.
Stas’ Rainbow Kimchi
Kimchi may be an acquired taste, but if you like strong flavors it’s a delicious way to use and preserve vegetables. Not only do fermented foods aid digestion, but they are also full of probiotics that help build a strong immune system.
5 cups assorted vegetables
1/3 cup salt
spices (ginger, cumin, dill, juniper berries, celery seeds… the possibilities are endless!)
Chop your vegetables into small pieces and add them to a large pot or bowl (preferably ceramic, but not metal). Add the salt and use your hands to squeeze and press the veggies, gradually releasing their juices (the salt allows moisture to be more easily extracted). Add the spices and continue to work the vegetables by hand, squeezing until you have enough brine to cover them completely. This brine creates an anaerobic environment that prevents mold from entering, and you can add a little water if the juices from your veggies are not enough. Finish by using another, slightly smaller pot or bowl to press the veggie pieces down, keeping them submerged. Leave covered like this at room temperature to ferment for about a week, and put in the fridge only when you have achieved your desired flavor. (You can also put the kimchi into smaller containers like jars, turning and pressing down often to make sure the liquid continues to cover the pieces). If you like your kimchi less salty, give it a rinse before eating and enjoy!