A bumper crop
July 25, 2008
It happens every July. Suddenly, almost overnight, the far corner of my backyard looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors has taken up residence. Those two small squash plants overtake a raised bed garden and produce large fruit that needs to be picked on almost a daily basis for the next month. I plant Korean squash, which is different than zucchini, both in shape and taste. Korean squash is rounder (although my current batch is extremely round, rounder than normal), the texture is slightly softer, and the taste is milder.
So the dilemma facing all home gardeners is what the heck to do with all that zucchini? I don’t have a magic answer – I do what almost everyone does. I make zucchini bread, pasta with zucchini, grilled squash, steamed squash with Korean dipping sauce (so simple and delicious), and of course, I give it away. But my husband’s favorite recipe is a staple of Korean kitchens during the summer months, denjang jigae (Korean bean paste soup).
Denjang is fermented soybean paste, different than the Japanese version miso. Denjang has a much stronger taste (and smell!) than miso and has bits of soybeans in it. While it is available in Korean and Asian grocery stores, I am lucky enough to have an aunt who makes homemade denjang. Homemade denjang is about as common as homemade ketchup these days, extremely rare but exceptionally delicious.
Denjang jigae can be made so many different ways with different ingredients. Use clam broth, chicken broth, or even vegetable stock. Add mushrooms, potatoes or carrots. This is the way I make it.
8 oz. sliced pork belly
6 C. water
3 Tbs. denjang
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried chili powder (gochu garu) optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, quartered
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 cube of tofu (about 7 oz.), cubed
3-4 scallions, sliced
1-2 Korean hot peppers, sliced (optional)
Bring water to a boil in a large pot (I use a traditional Korean clay pot). Add sliced pork belly lower to medium high. Skim off fat and foam.
Add denjang, chili powder and garlic and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, onion and hot pepper and simmer for 10 minutes more. Add tofu and scallions, cover and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve with white rice, kimchi and any other banchan you have on hand.