There are 94 days of summer this year. Because I’m a weird, obsessive compulsive freak about lists, here’s a list of summery things to eat, drink, do, and wear, one for each day of the season, in no particular order.

Lies. Of course they’re in order. You just don’t know what that order it is.

Get crackin’. There are only {xo} days of summer left.
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mul naeng myun
Recipe and resources first, story and a list of a few restaurants in Los Angeles (Ktown) at the end.

(Mul) Naeng-Myun / Korean Chilled Buckwheat Noodles in Broth {recipe}

At the Korean market, you will find naeng-myun in the Asian noodle aisle or with Asian noodles in the refrigerated section. Many of the brands sell the noodles in packages along with powdered soup base and serving seasonings (kind of like packaged ramen). I throw these packets out and make the broth from scratch. There will be times when you are tempted to rely on the packaged seasonings. It won’t taste as good, but go ahead. It’s not like I’ll find out and hate.

Naeng-myun noodles consist primarily of buckwheat, but can also include arrowroot, corn, and sweet potato starches, as well as regular wheat flour. The different combinations will all differ ever-so-slightly in color, taste, and texture from one another, but for the most part, it doesn’t matter. The only noodles from which you want to differentiate for sure are dang-myun, which is used for jap-chae and other soups and stews (thicker, more transparent like “cellophane,” and more slippery), and buckwheat soba (“squared off” and not bouncy/chewy).

My version of the naeng-myun soup, the “mul” (which means “water”) part of Mul Naeng-myun, is clear, light, and tangy, making it refreshing to me. Other recipes, particularly well-known restaurants, use very rich stocks as the soup base, often resulting in a somewhat frozen-but-gelatinous texture, since the soup is supposed to be cold. This is too weird for me.

Recipe Timing Recommendation: Start cooking the beef first to make the soup base. You can wash/peel/slice/prep all the vegetables and make hard boiled eggs while the soup is cooking, and then chilling (could be a few hours!). Naeng-myun noodles take about 5 minutes to cook; cook them just before serving.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb beef brisket
1 quart chicken stock + 1 quart filtered water (you can also used prepared beef stock in place of water if you have it for a much richer soup taste)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered length-wise through the root
3-inch section of daikon radish cut into ½-inch rounds
1 teaspoon salt
5-7 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup rice vinegar
1-3 teaspoons sugar, or to taste (optional)
1½-lb package Korean naeng-myun noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small Asian pear, quartered and thinly sliced
1-2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
vinegar-pickled daikon radish slices (thinly slice daikon radish, pickle using Momofuku brine, recipe here)
cabbage kimchi, red pepper rinsed off under cold water
hard boiled eggs, half egg for each serving (how to make PERFECT Hard Boiled Eggs, recipe here)
to serve: toasted sesame seeds garnish, hot mustard

DIRECTIONS

Make Soup/Cook Beef: Rinse beef brisket, then place in a large pot, and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil and allow it to boil out for about five minutes. Turn off the heat, carefully pour out the water with all the foam and fat, rinse off the beef and the pot (wipe out any foam/scum that sticks to the side), and add chicken stock, filtered water, garlic, ginger, onion, daikon radish, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, covered, with just a little bit of space to let some steam out. The soup will reduce to about ¾ the original.

Once the beef is cooked, remove it to a plate and put in the refrigerator to chill and “set.” When the beef brisket is cool enough to handle and more “solid,” slice it against the grain as thinly as possible.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof container. Chill the soup for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, you can also let it chill overnight.

Once the soup is chilled, stir in additional salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, and sugar.

Cook Noodles: Cook the naeng-myun noodles according to the package: bring water in a large pot to a boil (you can probably use the pot you used to cooke the beef/make the soup). Turn down the heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes. Drain into colander and rinse with cold running water several times while gently “massaging” the noodles. Drizzle the rinsed and drained noodles with sesame oil and gently massage the noodles to distribute the oil. Divide the cooked naeng-myun noodles among serving bowls right away because the noodles are somewhat “sticky” and start to clump together fairly soon (if they are left without liquid/broth).

Prep Naeng-Myun Bowls/Serve: Top the noodles in each bowl with a few slices each of Asian pear, cucumber, rinsed cabbage kimchi, beef brisket, and half a hard boiled egg. Carefully ladle soup into bowl around noodles. Add ice cubes to the soup in the bowls. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with additional vinegar (using the pickling brine from the radish works well), hot mustard, and kimchi.

Components for naeng-myun, clockwise from top: fresh kimchi (un-rinsed), hard boiled eggs, Asian pear and cucumber, pickled daikon with jalapenos, sliced cooked beef brisket:
mul naeng myun, ingredients and garnishes

Recipe Resources

~ beef brisket: I usually try to get my meat from Marconda’s Meat in Los Angeles, but this time, Whole Foods Market because it’s too fucking hot to drive all over town for ingredients for just one meal.
~ chicken stock: homemade and frozen, though I keep Imagine brand Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth in my pantry
~ naeng-myun noodles: Wang brand, Galleria Market in Koreatown, Los Angeles (see photo below)
~ kimchi: Ocinet brand at H-Mart
~ any and all groceries from Bristol Farms or Whole Foods Market

Naeng-myun noodles, package and noodles:
naeng myun noodle package
Beef brisket for soup base and eating:
beef brisket, raw

It is hot.

Hot hot hot hot hot.

H o o o o o t.

Like 90 degrees at 9 AM hot. Like 100+ degrees the entire day hot. Like $300 electricity bill this month for running A. C. All. Day. Hot.

It’s going to be in the upper 90s all week, over 100 degrees in some parts of LA (sorry, Valley!)

I’m taking the heat as Mother Nature’s very dramatic call to check off a few “Things” from the summer bucket list I’ve posted every year for the last 10 years or s and have YET to complete. But sometimes, the journey is more important the complete checklist or something, right?

So here is #32 of the 94 Things to Eat, Drink, and Wear This Summer, naeng-myun 냉면, specifically mul naeng-myun 냉면, a chilled/cold Korean dish of buckwheat noodles, sliced fresh Korean pear, cucumber, pickled daikon radish, sometimes kimchi, and sometimes thinly-sliced beef brisket, in a vinegary, subtly sweet broth that has been cooled down with ice cubes. The entire dish from the ice to the buckwheat has cooling effects on the body.mul naeng myun

Naeng-myun, prepped in bowl for serving:
mul naeng myun
Naeng-myun in bowls:
mul naeng myun

Where to Try Naeng Myun in a Restaurant

If you’ve never eaten naeng-myun, try it in a restaurant first because the taste, temperature, and texture together is something to get used to. In LA, there are a few restaurants that specialize in naeng-myun, though many Korean restaurants that specialize in BBQ or serve a variety of traditional foods will probably have naeng-myun, too.
~ Yu Chun Chic Naeng-Myun (Koreatown, Los Angeles) seems to get the most, and highest, raves. I like it, especially the cups of straight broth you can drink. There are two locations {yelp}
~ Ham Heung Naeng-Myun (Koreantown, Los Angeles) {yelp}
~ Chilbomyunok is a BBQ restaurant, but is also known for their naeng-myun. {midtown lunch review}
~ I’ve tried the spicy, soup-less version (bibim naeng-myun) at Dong Il Jang

Watermelon Agua Fresca Recipe

Watermelon Agua Fresca Ingredients

1 watermelon
ice cold filtered water
1 tablespoon lime juice per cup of pureed watermelon
optional: sugar or other sweetener, lime wedges and mint sprigs for garnish

Watermelon Agua Fresca Ingredients

Wash whole watermelon and cut watermelon in half. Use a large spoon to scoop out all of the pink part of the watermelon into a bowl. Discard or save watermelon rind for other use (pickled watermelon!).

Puree watermelon in blender. Measure how many cups of watermelon puree you have. A 5-pound watermelon will yield approximately 8 cups of watermelon puree.

For each cup of watermelon puree, add ¼ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. For example, for 8 cups of watermelon puree, add 2 cups of water and ½ cup lime juice.

Stir everything together in a large pitcher. Taste. If you’d like, stir in sweetener, though if you’re getting good watermelons, you probably don’t need any sweetener.

Watermelon Agua Fresca is ready to drink, but Watermelon Agua Fresca is even better once it’s chilled in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Stir again right before serving (watermelon pulp might settle toward the bottom).

Pour Watermelon Agua Fresca into glasses, over ice if necessary. Garnish with lime wedges and/or mint sprigs.

Watermelon Agua Fresca will keep in the refrigerator for about two days.

I have tried making this Watermelon Agua Fresca with leaves of fresh mint added to the food processor with the watermelon, but the combination just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t really love the flavor of mint to begin with in anything but toothpaste and chewing gum, and I can’t help but always feel like I have little neon green bits of mint between my teeth after drinking it.

I just used the mint as a garnish. For photos.

By the way, this is the perfect mixer for ice cold vodka.
Watermelon Juice in Glasses

Recipe Notes and Resources

~ Watermelon. Wait until you see watermelons at the local farmers’ markets before you buy them anywhere. That’s when you will know watermelons are ready, usually late June or early July. If you see watermelons in the regular grocery store say, in May, you can TRY them, but they will be any combination of grainy or dry or bland or cracked or totally tasteless. Probably all of the above.
~ Farmers Market. I like the different colored watermelons — red, pink, orange, yellow — from Weiser Farms.
~ Water. You can make this Watermelon Agua Fresca with sparkling water to make it a little extra. If you don’t finish it all in the same day, just save it in the refrigerator with an airtight lid. It may or may not retain its “sparkle” the next day. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll still taste like the original Watermelon Agua Fresca.
~ Sweetener. Some people add sugar or simple syrup to Watermelon (and other) Agua Fresca. If you’d like a sweeter drink, add some sugar. I generally avoid adding sweetener in any form — agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, straight up sugar — that’s just my taste preference.

Watermlon Wedges

Watermelon Vinaigrette

Watermelon Vinaigrette Recipe

The original recipe by Suzanne Goin included a complete Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese onto which the vinaigrette is drizzled. The salad is nothing more complicated than tossing together sliced tomatoes, watermelon, crumbled feta cheese, sliced shallots, and shredded mint.

The vinaigrette works, of course, with just about any combination of summer produce, especially strong/bitter greens.

adapted from Suzanne Goin
makes about 1½ cups

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 cups watermelon juice
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the watermelon juice in a saucepan and reduce over high heat until you have ¼ cup. It took about 40 minutes for. Cool.

Combine the vinegars, watermelon juice reduction, salt, and pepper in bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

sparkling sangria with melon, poolside
Though Champagne is the first wine that comes to my mind when someone says “sparkling,” true Champagne is probably a little “strong” for sangria, never mind that it’s normally too expensive at $50+ to dump into a pitcher with a bunch of other liquor, juice, fruit, and maybe even ice. Save Champagne for a glass by itself, and make sangria with an affordable Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy.

Don’t mistake “affordable” with “cheap,” though. Cheap wine and bottomshelf liquor are probably why you have somewhat hazy and altogether horrible memories of sangria from your 20s. Or 30s. Or last week or whatever. Stick with decent alcohol, and stay away from too much sugar in the form of soda, juice, or you know, just sugar, too.

For the ginger flavor, I LOVE Fever Tree ginger BEER (not alcoholic), but any brand of strong-ish ginger beer will work. If you can’t find ginger beer, or find the ginger taste too strong or spicy, use ginger ale.

Sparkling Melon Sangria {recipe}

INGREDIENTS

1 750 mL sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco
1 cup vodka
1 12-ounce bottle of Fever Tree ginger beer
1 to 1½ cups each of cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls
to serve: ice, fresh mint leaves, lime wheels, colorful straws

DIRECTIONS

Pour the sparkling wine, vodka, ginger beer, and melon balls into a large glass pitcher. The glass pitcher is solely for aesthetics — you can see the bright, colorful melon. Cover the pitcher tightly, and refrigerate — overnight is best but even just a few hours in the refrigerator is better than nothing.

Right before serving the sangria, add ice, fresh mint leaves, and lime wheels to the pitcher.

This sangria does not keep, not because it won’t taste good the next few days, but you will probably drink half of it by yourself before you even serve it, and then what.

cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon prep

sparkling sangria with melon

sparkling melon sangria with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon
{“White Sangria” is Number 67 on my List of Things to Do This Summer}

floret-flowers-dahlia-cat-pickuptruck

Spring is Allergy Season

It’s officially spring and you’re still standing, which means you made it through flu season and can finally breathe a huge sigh of germ-free relief!

Or can you?

Actually breathe, that is?

Because the thing about spring is that while it’s finally warmer and sunnier and the flowers and trees are starting to bloom, spring is, well, warmer and sunnier and the flowers and trees are starting to bloom. For seasonal allergy sufferers like you and me, that means itchy watery eyes, runny stuffy nose, sinus headaches, and non-stop sneezing, and not just for a few days like a winter cold or flu. Seasonal allergies cause suffering for an entire season, sometimes two.

While there’s technically no single “cure” for seasonal allergies, there are ways to treat the sneezing, watery eyes, itchy throat, and nasal congestion, all characteristic symptoms of seasonal allergies, and we’re not just limited to over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals. My first line of defense in the fight for good health is nutrition, and after that, natural remedies. When allergies or illness aren’t responding to those, then I turn to pharmaceuticals.

But first, a quickie lesson on how seasonal allergies work to understand the best way to treat the symptoms!

What is a Seasonal Allergy?

Seasonal allergies, like all other types of allergies, are part of the body’s immune function. When an allergy-susceptible person inhales or comes into contact with an otherwise harmless compound like pollen, their immune system overreacts by setting off chemical reactions to “fight” what it thinks is a harmful foreign substance. The chemical reactions physically manifest as those tell-tale seasonal allergy symptoms.

Seasonal allergy treatments, whether over-the-counter and doctor-prescribed medications, or natural treatments in the form of vitamins, supplements, and other non-traditional methods, work by inhibiting those chemical reactions.

The most obvious and immediate solution for seasonal allergies is an over-the-counter allergy medicine like Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. There are many types of allergy medicines, which differ in both the way they chemically work to treat similar symptoms, as well as how the medicine is delivered to your body. Antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids all work on different types of cells in the body; pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops are the various ways these medicines can be delivered to your body. Antihistamines block the compounds in your body that cause common seasonal allergy symptoms. Sometimes, antihistamines are paired with decongestants like Sudafed, which work to temporarily “unstuff” a stuffy nose. Natural solutions to seasonal allergies work on many of the same symptom-causing mechanisms as medicines.

TL;DR

If you just want the straight up “what” and don’t need to know the “why,” reference the following list of seasonal allergy remedies. Full descriptions follow in the post.

  1. Vitamin C
  2. Green Tea and EGCG Extract
  3. Probiotics
  4. Butterbur
  5. Quercetin
  6. Bromelein
  7. Fish Oil
  8. Spirulina
  9. Stinging Nettle
  10. Bee Pollen and Honey
  11. Neti Pot and Nasal Irrigation
  12. Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications

Top Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies

1. Vitamin C

Immune-boosting vitamin C isn’t just for helping your body fight the cold and flu in the fall and winter. The potent antioxidant lowers blood-levels of histamine, which is what triggers the usual seasonal allergy symptoms. Studies have shown that 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day can reduce histamine levels in the bloodstream by up to 40%.

2. Green Tea and EGCG

Like vitamin C, green tea is one of those natural remedies that crosses over from fighting the cold/flu in the winter to staving off seasonal allergy symptoms in the spring. Green tea has a high concentration of the phytonutrient known as epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, that has been shown in laboratory studies to block the allergy symptom-causing compounds histamine and immunoglobulin E. Drinking green tea every day as part of your overall wellness strategy is a good idea, and during allergy season, you can power up with green tea supplements in pill form.

3. Probiotics

Is there anything probiotics can’t do? From regulating your immune system to maintaining your mental health, the “good bacteria” that lives in your gastrointestinal tract is now believed to contribute to the body’s tolerance for allergens. One study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children whose mothers regularly took probiotics during pregnancy were at a significantly reduced risk of developing allergies. Another study, in the Journal of Nutrition, found that people who ate seven ounces of yogurt daily for one year reported fewer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t; probiotics in the yogurt are responsible for the decreased allergy symptoms.

4. Butterbur

Butterbur is an herbal plant (petasites hybridus) that may relieve seasonal allergy symptoms by acting as an antihistamine. Butterbur can improve nasal airflow by working the same way some prescription medications work: inhibiting leukotriene, a compound produced by the immune system that initiates many allergic reactions, including inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages. In fact, one doctor has called butterbur “the Singulair of the herbal world.” A Swiss study, published in British Journal of Medicine, found that butterbur was as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec. If you try the natural remedy butterbur, look for a product that has been labeled or certified as “PA-free,” which indicates it’s had potentially toxic substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids removed.

5. Quercetin

If butterbur is the Singulair and Zyrtec of the herbal world, then quercetin is the natural equivalent of a NasalCrom, which works as an antihistamine by stabilizing mast cells in the body. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is found naturally in wine and foods like apples, broccoli, citrus fruits, lettuces, onions, parsley, and black tea. However, the amount of quercetin needed to effectively relieve seasonal allergy symptoms is much higher than what can be consumed and digested daily with just food. According to some experts, quercetin works well for prevention, so it’s best to start taking the supplement a few weeks before allergy season starts.

6. Bromelain

Bromelain is a naturally-occurring enzyme in pineapple juice and in the pineapple stem. The compound is often taken for its general anti-inflammatory properties, and there has been some promising evidence that bromelain is helpful specifically for fighting seasonal allergy symptoms by reducing nasal swelling and inflammation and thinning mucus, both of which makes it easier for people to breathe. If you’re taking quercetin, taking bromelain in tandem increases the body’s absoprtion of quercetin. In fact, there are supplements that combine both bromelain and quercetin in a single pill.

7. Fish Oil

We already know taking a fish oil supplement for the omega-3s is important just because it is, but a study in the European journal Allergy found that higher dietary intake of fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of developing hay fever allergy symptoms. Like quercetin and bromelain above, fish oil is a natural allergy remedy that works over time with your body’s health, so start taking it now before allergy season kicks into high gear, and not just when you start sneezing.

8. Spirulina

If you’ve ever seen those trendy “unicorn foods” that feature a light, bright shade of baby blue, then you’ve probably seen the work of spirulina. But spirulina isn’t just a plant-based food coloring; it is a blue-green algae that has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potentially effective treatment for seasonal allergy symptoms as an antihistamine, significantly improving nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching. It appears that significant reduction in seasonal allergy symptoms occurs over a period of six months, with the positive effect growing stronger over time, so as with other supplements, it’s best to start taking spirulina before the allergy season begins.

9. Stinging Nettle

The stinging nettle plant (urtica dioica), has carotene, vitamin K, and quercetin, which we’ve already mentioned has natural antihistamine properties. Ironically, the leaves of the stinging nettle plant also contain histamine, which might seem counter-intuitive: using the very thing that causes the allergy response to treat your allergy, but sometimes you fight fire with fire. Extract from the leaves has been shown to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms in much the same way over-the-counter antihistamine medications work. Stinging nettle, sometimes labeled as “nettle leaf,” is available in a few formats. Dried leaves can be brewed into tea, and extracts are available as pills.

10. Bee Pollen and Honey

Bee pollen is known for its ability to fight infections and support your body’s immune system, which helps with allergy symptoms. Taking small amounts of bee pollen over time may help your body develop a type of immunity to it.

11. Neti Pot and Nasal Irrigation

While most of the seasonal allergy relief recommendations here are vitamins, supplements, and medications that you swallow (or inhale) for them to work biochemically at your body’s molecular level, a neti pot works by physically rinsing away allergen particles from your nasal passages with a stream of distilled, sterile saline water. Neti pots are small, gravy boat-shaped containers with a spout that sends the salt solution through your nasal passages, which flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose, thereby relieving nasal congestion. When treating with a neti pot, use distilled, sterile water. Neti pots, bottled distilled water, and salt are available in grocery stores and pharmacies.

12. Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications

There are prescription allergy medications like Singulair, stronger versions of nasal corticosteroid sprays similar to Flonase, and other prescriptions medicines that your medical doctor can recommend to treat your seasonal allergies.

After consulting with your doctor for your seasonal allergies, you can head to Kroger, which has a comprehensive set of tools and services to help make your wellness needs and medication adherence more convenient. Tools like MyPrescription, available online at Kroger.com/myprescription or in the mobile app, allows you to manage your whole family’s prescriptions in one place and sign up for auto-refill. You can also get a comprehensive medication review in-store with a Kroger pharmacist or learn how to convert to a 90-day prescription and how to sign up for MedSync where you can coordinate pick up for all prescriptions each month.

This post generously sponsored by Kroger, who is a comprehensive resource for seasonal allergy relief, with everything from prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications in the pharmacy to natural solutions in their wellness department.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or other qualified health provider with questions about your medical condition and before taking any medicines, vitamins and/or supplements.

images [via]

bourbon maple glazed easter ham plate

Bourbon Maple-Glazed Ham {recipe}

makes 1 ham, about 8-10 servings

Ingredients

for Ham:
1 8-10 pound bone-in ham
Bourbon Maple Glaze (see just below)

for Bourbon Maple Glaze:
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup Bourbon
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
juice from half a lemon, approximately 2-4 tablespoons
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions

Start Roasting Ham:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Trim outer layer of fat on ham down to about ¼-inch thick. Using a sharp paring knife, make shallow criss-cross cuts across the surface of the ham creating a “diamond” pattern.

Place the ham in a roasting pan with sides high enough to catch juices and drippings. Cover with foil and place in oven. Roast for about 1½ to 2 hours before adding glaze. The ham will roast in total for about 2 to 2½ hours, or until the internal temperature of the ham is 140°F.

While Ham is Roasting, Make Bourbon Maple Glaze:

Whisk all of the ingredients for the Bourbon Maple Glaze in a bowl until the brown sugar is mostly dissolved (it may not dissolve all the way).

Complete Roasting the Ham:

Remove ham from oven, remove foil and save it, and brush the ham with all but about 2 tablespoons of the glaze. If you do not have a brush (I don’t), use a spoon and carefully drizzle the glaze and spread over the ham.

Continue roasting, uncovered, for another 30 minutes to an hour, or until the internal temperature of the ham is 140°F. If the glaze on the ham starts to turn too dark, cover with foil.

Remove ham from oven and let rest uncovered about 15 minutes.

RESOURCES and NOTES

bourbon maple glazed easter ham dinner table

bourbon-maple-glaze-ingredients