One of the weirdest questions I was asked multiple times during the year I spent planning my wedding was whether I would be doing the food myself.
My response was similar to how I felt when my grandmother, confused as to how I managed to book a plane ticket for a trip we were going on together without using her travel agent, asked me how I had "hacked into the Alaska Airlines ticket system."
In both cases, I was a little shocked to be asked such a question, but utterly flattered that the asker thought I was capable of executing such a feat. I know some people cater their own weddings, and I tip my veil to them because that is incredibly impressive. But I am a mere mortal and so hired a catering company. (I also did not hack into the Alaska Airlines backend, in case you were still wondering).
Park Avenue Catering and Patisserie Angelica in Sonoma County did the food, cake, and desserts at my wedding, and they both did a phenomenal job.
Oh yeah. Sorry to bury the lede, here. I'm thrilled to tell you that Evan and I got married this summer.
It was wonderful. We held the wedding at Kunde Family Winery in Kenwood, CA on July 3rd, atop a hill overlooking the entire Sonoma Valley. If you're the wedding stalker type, and want to see the whole album, here it is. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights.
Our ceremony was held under a chuppah constructed using poles made of wood from Camp Tawonga, my childhood summer camp, and a talis (prayer shawl) that Evan bought in Jerusalem last summer.
We have a special place in our heart for sunflowers (Evan brings me a bouquet of them every week--I know, we're nauseating), and we wanted them to be the only flowers at the wedding. Everyone thought this idea sounded crazy, but our wedding planner Ali Diluvio and Anita from Wine Country Flowers made it work perfectly, by pairing the sunflowers with blue glassware and rustic yet refined decor.
As I said, I didn't do the food, but it was delicious and beautiful. Obviously, I asked for lots of photos of food, and our wedding photographer, Jennifer Bagwell delivered big time.
I know everyone says this, but it was truly the best day of our lives.
Another reason why you haven't heard from me is that after the wedding, we went to Maui, where we ate all the poké on the island and drank more mai tais than we should have.
I cooked a little on Maui, in the oceanside condo we rented (so much better than staying in a hotel, as far as I'm concerned), but I was mostly making grilled fish with fruit. Seriously, we each ate at least one mango, guava, or dragonfruit per day. There is no fruit like ripe, local tropical fruit.
But now we're back. And there are books to write (I have 2 coming out in 2017! More on that soon), a schoolyear to dive into (for Evan), and, of course, cooking to be done. We're slowly readjusting to our real life and new matrimony. And of course, I'm back in the kitchen.
I've alway loved Bibimbap, a Korean dish of rice, meat, and vegetables, typically served in a stone pot, which serves to keep it hot and also to crisp the rice. I had never made it at home before, because I assumed I needed an actual stone pot. But a few weeks ago, as I was garnishing a panful of crispy roasted chicken legs, it occurred to me that my cast iron frying pan could probably produce the same results. I am so happy to tell you that was right.
The not-so-secret ingredient to a good bibimbap is gochujang, a Korean fermented chili paste. Look for it at Asian specialty grocery stores, or in well-stocked supermarkets.
This particular variety is too thick to pour, so it needs to be diluted a little bit with water.
Classic bibimbap recipes call for bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef), but I didn't have any beef, so I used chicken breasts, which I marinated half of the gochujang. You could also use chicken thighs, tofu, or some really meaty mushrooms.
This dish works well with leftover rice, but if you don't have any, now is a good time to make some. You will need about 3 cups of cooked rice. Pretty much any grain will work. I have also used quinoa and millet with great results.
I made some garlicky spinach with sesame seeds as one of the components. You could also use raw kale salad, pickled Asian pear, or just about any vegetable lingering in your produce bin.
I should say that you could probably make this dish using a regular nonstick frying pan, but since cast iron gets very hot all over, and is similar to a stone pot in that respect, I think it's better. Also, why don't you have a cast iron pan? They last forever and are very affordable. This one is my favorite.
I topped my bibimbap with a variety of vegetables, kimchi, and a couple of eggs. You'll want to gather everything up and have it completely preppred before serving.
Regarding the eggs, I like them fried with a runny middle, as the yolk adds lovely richness to the whole dish. But cook them however you like your eggs.
Once your pan is nice and hot, you add a litle oil and then use wet hands to carefully pat the cooked, cooled rice into the pan.
Let it cook until the rice begins to brown and get crisp, then top the rice with your toppings. and drizzle on the sauce.
Stir it all together, spoon it into bowls, and top each bowl with an egg.
Smash that yolk, stir it all together, and dig in. Note: Gochujang stains like a mofo. Do not eat while wearing white.