Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bee Bim Noodles - first outdoor meal of the spring

As the weather turns warm and we move our lives out doors, we look forward to more and more meals eaten at our weathered picnic table, our vegetable garden sprouting up a few feet away, kids playing in the sand pit, and sounds streaming over the fence from our neighbors yards.

Sunday night we had our first meal of the season outside. It was an impromptu dinner with my mother and stepfather joining us from next door, and many bits of food pulled together from the assortment of dishes I was preparing for the week. It turned out to be a more elaborate and special meal as it evolved, I suppose fitting for the first official picnic table dinner of the spring.

I love Bee Bim Bop the Korean meal that translates as "mixed up rice" because you surround a pile of rice with sautéed vegetables such as spinach, carrots, mung bean sprouts, marinated and browned meat and a fried egg sunny side up, top it with hot sauce or kim chee, and mix it all up. There is a great recipe for a traditional Bee Bim Bop in New Haven Cooks/Cocina New Haven, which was submitted by Yoon-Ock Kim the owner of the Oriental Pantry on Orange St in New Haven, CT.  Her marinade for the beef includes a crushed kiwi or asian pear which adds a delicious sweetness and complexity to the marinaded and helps the meat brown perfectly. She serves it up (with beef or tofu) in her shop for lunch or dinner. On occasion I make a traditional version of this dish, my kids love it, and we even have a kids book about it: Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park  (which I discovered a few summers back at the story hour at the Eric Carle museum in Amherst MA, if you are ever around that area, the story time is great there, and the museum is nice for adults and kids.)
Sunday night's dinner was inspired by this traditional dish, but we skipped the fried egg and served the dish up with rice noodles and some additional vegetables I knew my kids would eat. We don't eat a lot of meat in our house, but when we do I try to purchase it from farmers or stores that are treating the animals well and not pumping them with hormones ad antibiotics. While it is not my ideal, I do buy some of the less expensive cuts of meat at Trader Joe's when it is labeled "animals never confined to feed lot, given all vegetarian feed, and not given antibiotics or growth hormones. " It is sometimes hard to decipher all these labels, if you want to know more about these terms check out the sustainable table issues page where you can get more info by clicking on the topics listed in the side bar.

The meat I used here was a shaved beef that I sliced into very thin pieces and marinated in a mixture of Soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and a pinch of sugar (just mix it till it tastes good to you). I didn't have any kiwi this week, and was going for a quick and simpler meal. I used some of this marinade for the tofu dish as well. The noodles are pad thai style rice noodles, we also had a stir fry of tofu and vegetables, sliced lettuce, blanched broccoli and cauliflower, and some carrot "ribbons' made using a vegetable peeler. The great thing about this dish is that the meat is so flavorful, that a very small amount of it flavors a whole bowl of food, which is good for your health and your bank account.

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