Breaking the rules: Kimchee Quesadillas

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I have always obeyed authority and followed the rules. Anyone in a uniform, be they police officer with a gun or theater attendant with a flashlight, can count on my compliance. I feel guilty when I pass a police car even if I’m driving within the speed limit. When being seated in a restaurant, I dutifully accept my assigned table. In 1972 when my second husband politely declined to sit at a two-top next to the swinging kitchen door in a fancy Seattle restaurant, a new world opened. Question authority? What a concept.

I have also always hung sheets outside to dry. In 1950’s Nebraska when we moved from small town to small town, first Daddy put up a clothesline, then we unpacked. Lines full of sheets flapping in the summer wind linked neighbors from one unfenced backyard to the next. Women paused to visit, clothespins in their mouths, with next-door neighbors, children hid in the maze of clean laundry. Saturday night in Pender, Nebraska meant clean sheets after a mandatory bath. The only thing better than sliding in to clean to fresh-air bedding is—dare I say it—lying your head on an ironed pillowcase.

So, my connection with sheets dried outside and ironed by the breeze is long-lived and deeply felt. As a new bride in Dover, Delaware, I thrilled at the necessity of hanging out my very own sheets. Even in the winter, diapers hung outside as long as possible, and then were stacked like boards in the living room to thaw. 

When the Sweetie and I moved from Vashon to Los Angeles, I used a rudimentary rope clothesline strung in the alley behind our Westwood apartment. Sheets, pillowcases, and an occasional nightgown disappeared, but it was a small price to pay for sun-dried nightwear. In La Tijera, a West-central LA neighborhood, I used an umbrella-like contraption that was hard to put up and easy to fall down. At Normie’s house on Vashon, Bob put up the clothesline of my dreams that stretched across the entire backyard. When the line was propped with notched alder branches to catch the wind, the billowing sheets against the blue summer sky were a glorious sight. 

San Diego’s elegant Mission Hills was no exception to the Rule of the Clothesline. I expected my first incident of sheet hanging to prompt indignant outcries demanding the good taste of a laundry room, but no one said a word. Eugene was easy—clotheslines were as acceptable as hairy legs and alternative families. 

So, what could I possibly fear from blue-collar Tacoma? Shortly after we settled in to the 501, while looking through the Public Offering Statement I came across a tiny little paragraph that stated: 

Outside Clothes Drying Prohibited. Outside clotheslines or other outside facilities for drying or airing clothes are expressly prohibited and shall not be erected, placed, or maintained on the Condominium.”

What kind of backward thinking was this! My lifelong attachment to smooth, fresh-smelling sheets threatened by condominium by-laws! For months, I reluctantly complied, slept on crumpled, artificially-dried sheets and longed for smooth, outdoorsy sleeps. Then one day while I was gone, the Sweetie took the sheets out of the washer and smoothed them on the bed to dry instead of putting them in the dryer to wad and wrinkle. Much, much better! The five-foot leap from the bed to the deck railing was predictable. If I draped them just so, the sheets looked just like a comforter—and who could possibly complain about someone airing a comforter? Well, it didn’t take long before outside sheet drying became routine. 

So far, there has been no piper to pay. As I see it, I’m a pioneer—ahead of my time—going green—saving the earth from all those kilowatt hours of drying time. And after all, following the rules has its limits.

Ming Tsai’s Kimchee Quesadillas

  • 4 tablespoons minced ginger

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, whites and greens separated
1/2 pound ground chicken
1 cup kimchi, minced
2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
4 moo shu wrappers
canola oil for cooking

  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Kuchojang Aioli

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons kuchojang chile paste

  • 2 tablespoons scallion greens

In a large sauté pan over moderate heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites. Sauté until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.

On a clean surface, place two wrappers. Evenly distribute grated cheese over each, leaving about 1/2 inch edge.

Using a rubber spatula, spread about 1/8 inch layer of ground chicken on top of cheese. Next, add even layers of the kimchi and then the reserved garlic-ginger mix. Season with salt and pepper. Top both with more cheese. Place another wrapper on top to create two quesadillas.

Wipe the pan out. Reheat over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. One at a time, cook the quesadillas for 3-4 minutes per side, until chicken has cooked through and wrappers are nicely toasted.

Meanwhile, add mayonnaise, kuchojang and 1 tablespoon scallion greens into a small bowl. Mix together until well combined.

Transfer cooked quesadillas to a cutting board and cut each into 6 even wedges. Arrange on a serving platter. Garnish with remaining scallion greens. Serve with kochujang aioli on the side.

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2 Responses to Breaking the rules: Kimchee Quesadillas

  1. Jenni says:

    I can smell those freshly-dried sheets! Sunshine and wind. We got married in 1970, and I didn’t have a dryer until 1989. I hung sheets, towels, diapers, clothes — everything — outside in the good months in Fern Hill and in the basement during the rainy times. From childhood, I remember my parents buying aluminum clothes props at Sears. Love this post. Pretty sure you’re safe at the 501. Thanks for the memories

  2. Ginny says:

    As of late, I have found my noncompliant voice.

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