Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's Lunch: Vegetables, Me, and Guaca-chi

Guaca-chi. Read on for the recipe.
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
When I heard that this month's theme for Let's Lunch, the virtual gathering of food bloggers that I belong to, would be in honor of my new book, "Eat Your Vegetables," I blushed about as red as a nice ripe peach. Really? Little old me?

Oh, who am I kidding? I love the attention, and am excited to see what my fellow Let's Lunchers come up with in answer to the question: What's the first dish that made you fall in love with vegetables? Or, if (like me) you can't remember that far back, what's something veg-heavy that you like to make these days?

For me, it's a hard call, given that: a) I spent the last year developing single-serving vegetarian recipes for "EYV"; and b) I write a column every Wednesday for The Washington Post, Weeknight Vegetarian, that showcases a new family-sized recipe. How on earth could I choose?

Well, this week the two came together when the Post's Food section ran an excerpt from "EYV" and, because it was our annual no-cook theme, included one of those recipes from the book. I thought it would be fitting to share that one for Let's Lunch because, well, I've had a little kimchi thing going for those posts, and why stop now?

So here it is, after the jump: Guaca-chi, so named because, in a Bennifer and Brangelina kind of way, it's a mashup of two of my favorite things: guacamole and kimchi. Or, more honestly, avocado and kimchi, because I don't actually like to mash it up, literally, for this. The avocados stay in chunks, and the kimchi gets chopped, and you sprinkle in a little lime juice and salt if needed, and that's about it. An instant party appetizer, good for those days when you're feeding not just yourself but, in the Let's Lunch spirit, a few friends.


This marriage of kimchi and guacamole isn't anything close to traditional, but it's what happened when I was called upon to make a quick appetizer for a group of hungry people while he was staying in an unfamiliar house. Don't mash the avocados the way you would when making guacamole; they're best left in chunks. The dish is best served just after it has been made. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Makes 1 3/4 cups (4 appetizer servings)

Flesh of 1 ripe avocado, cut into large chunks
2tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought kimchi, preferably spicy, with its liquid
Sea salt (optional)

Toss the avocado chunks with the lime juice in a serving bowl.
Chop the kimchi if the pieces are bigger than bite-size, then gently toss it and all of its liquid with the avocado. Taste, add salt if necessary, and serve.


Here's what some of the other Let's Lunchers are writing about vegetables this month. To join the Let's Lunch crowd, go to Twitter and use the hashtag #LetsLunch.

Cheryl's Egg-Drop Broccoli in Ginger-Miso Gravy at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Grace’s Vegetable Tempura at HapaMama

Jill’s Fusilli with Corn Sauce at Eating My Words 

Lisa’s Totally “Free” Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Annabelle's Farmers Market Gazpacho at Glass of Fancy

Eleanor's Green Beans Two Ways at Wok Star

Linda's Chocolate Zucchini Cookies at Free Range Cookies

Linda's Gateway Brussels Sprouts at Spicebox Travels

Lisa's Totally "Free" Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Pat's Umami-Laden Green Beans at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

Vivian's Kangkong With Fermented Bean Curd, Chili and Garlic at Vivian Pei


  1. Congratulations, Joe!! The new book looks amazing and I adore the looks of your guaca-chi! Brilliant idea...

    1. Appreciate it, Cheryl. So happy you like it -- and so grateful for the support!

  2. Love a good mashup. Now I'm craving a grilled kimcheese sandwich, oh clever one. Like I said, I peeked inside your book. Fabulous everything. Congratulations!

    1. Many thanks! I do love putting that kimchi all sorts of fun places...

  3. Kimchi goes with everything! Congrats!

    1. Word! It sure does. Thanks much, Linda!!

  4. Joe, Congrats on the launch of your second book! A total surprise is the zucchini, ricotta, radicchio sandwich. LOVE. My new favorite Go to book for veggie inspiration. Bonnie Deahl

  5. Cooking for One

    The rhythm of my life as a cook has been what I suspect is a fairly common one. On my own for the first time after college, I ate plainly most of the time. I seem to recall eating lots of salads, baked potatoes, and grilled meat and fish. On the weekends, I would frequently indulge in cooking marathons with friends, or host dinner parties with somewhat elaborate menus. There were a few clunkers along the way, but I was learning.

    Marriage changed all that. For one thing, my husband and I moved to Bloomington, and with a few exceptions, I did not work outside the home. This worked well for Craig and me, as I really liked to cook, and he really liked to eat. With so much time at my disposal, I was able to experiment with increasingly complex recipes, while also finding time to bake lots of goodies to satisfy Craig’s rather remarkable capacity for sweets.

    Dinner parties were common during this period that coincided with my fascination with classic French cuisine. Julia Child was my hero, and her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was my Bible. Craig was solidly on board with all of this. Frugal in many respects, he never once asked me the cost of any ingredient I chose to cook with. (Good thing, too.)

    With the arrival of the kiddies, dinners requiring hours of preparation came to a screeching halt. Anyone who’s ever parented a very young child probably remembers when the day’s biggest accomplishment was managing to eat dinner without stabbing yourself in the eye with your fork. As for following a complicated recipe? It just wasn’t in the cards.

    As Derek and Kathleen grew older, cooking for pleasure became possible once more, although Derek was a trial. He spurned my homemade baby food, and existed for years on bacon, grapes, Cheerios, pretzels, and carrots. Drove me crazy. Kathleen took after her father, however, and happily ate just about anything I put before her. The dinner hour was strictly family time, when the four of us gathered to talk about our day, TV and cell phones banned.

    Then, in what seemed like an impossibly brief period, the kids were gone, and Craig and I settled into the old routine. I happily experimented with new recipes that he (almost always) enjoyed. We were able to travel more, and – Philistines that we were – planned our trips around where and what we wanted to eat.

    Now that Craig is gone, I’m back to cooking for one, and I’m finding it difficult to get inspired to cook just for myself. I like to cook for people, I like to gauge their reactions to the food I serve them, and discuss what works, what doesn’t, and why. Sounds slightly obsessive, but this is what the four of us did.

    Determined not to return to the not-very-interesting and not-very healthful diet of my young single years, I resolved to invite one or two friends to dine at least once a week. This has worked out well, but I still needed inspiration for those nights when I’m cooking solely for myself. A handful of cookbooks have proved to be extremely helpful.

    “Cooking for One” by Mark & Lisa Erickson is arranged seasonally and calls for fresh ingredients. This book has a very modern feel to it, and everything I’ve made from it has been a success.

    Other favorites are “Going Solo in the Kitchen” by Jane Doerfer; “Eat your Vegetables” by Joe Yonan; “Serve Yourself,” also by Joe Yonan; and “The Pleasures of Cooking for One” by Judith Jones.

    The recipes in these books range from simple and quick to more complex and time-consuming. Reading them, most of the recipes call out: “Make me!” So I do, and that’s a good thing.