Kimchi This and Kimchi That

3 08 2008

So here in South Korea, you can eat just about everything with kimchi. Or, rather, kimchi is served with and in just about everything. I had kimchi dumplings for lunch today. Take your basic steamed dumpling and put kimchi in it and, voila! Kimchi dumplings. You get kimchi pancakes, kimchi in your noodle soup, kimchi eggs, kimchi casserole, roasted kimchi, boiled kimchi, cold kimchi, hot kimchi…you name it, it’s got kimchi. Although, I must confess that I have not had any kimchi cake or ice cream or candy…although I’m wondering now how a high quality 70% bittersweet chocolate would balance the spiciness of high quality kimchi in a chocolate truffle….hmmm, maybe something to try at home?


I Haven’t Met a Korean Food I Didn’t Like

1 08 2008

Wow. We’ve been eating so well here in Seoul. Traditional Korean cuisine is fast becoming my favorite of all time. The breadth and depth of the dishes is astonishing. Plus, I don’t think Koreans let any edible flora go to waste.

Tonight’s dinner was at a traditional Korean restaurant where everything, at least all the flora, served at the restaurant is produced ORGANICALLY within an hour’s drive of Seoul on a farm owned by the restauranteers. The menu included exotic delicasies such as cockscomb, bellflower, chickweed, violet, whitlow grass, shepherd’s purse, mulberry tree shoot, lily root, dandelion, common sow thistle, azalea, and hyssop.

I took notes and pictures, which I’ll post when I have better high speed access. For now, let me assure you that it was a fabulous meal, not in just the cuisine, but the presentation as well. We sat on the floor at low pine tables. All the food was served on custom hand made pottery which was stunningly beautiful. The walls were papered with traditional Korean paper which includes real flowers. The setting was rustic. We traversed a rutted dirt road, passing by lush vegetable plants loaded with eggplant, zucchini, onion, squash, etc.

Ahhhh…I was in epiciurean heaven…I think I’ll go to bed now and dream of kimchi.

Hello from Seoul!

30 07 2008

The endless feast goes on and on and on…this time in Seoul, South Korea. We arrived late Friday, July 25 and for 2 days felt totally jet-lagged. But did that stop us from eating? NO WAY!

Our hosts as Seshin Methodist Church have been nothing but generous and gracious. They began feeding us the minute we arrived from the airport. You can see the photos of the Welcome UVUC signs made from gummy bears purchased from none-other-than Costco. We felt right at home.

Our first dinner on Saturday night was at a sushi/korean/italian buffet bar…all you can eat sushi…say what??? Feast it was, and feast we did. The uni was great as was the octopus, squid and sea snails.

Our second dinner was at a traditional Korean restaurant where, as you can see in the photos, we sat on mats at low tables and were served a myriad of traditional dishes. You’ve got your acorn jelly, your seaweed, your re-hydrated shrimp, radishes, mushrooms, jelly fish, octopus, squid, tofu, barbecued pork and beef, and not to mention the kimchis- cabbage kimchi, white kimchi, whole radish kimchi, diced radish kimchi, cucumber kimchi…you can kimchi just about any vegetable as it turns out.

Dr. Kim was our gracious host. He made sure we went back to our apartment with bellies full enough to sleep off the jet lag.

Chocolate Pudding

8 03 2008

I was surfing around the NY Times Web site on Thursday and came across Mark Bittman’s blog post about vanilla pudding. Mark Bittman writes The Minimalist column for the Times and creates these hilarious videos on how to cook really basic, yet very delicious dishes. Check out this week’s video on octopus and last week’s Mr. Tomato-Face.

Back to the pudding, I happen to LOVE pudding usually the chocolate variety however. So the headline about vanilla pudding caught my eye. Read on, however, through the post to the comments and note the discussion about cornstarch. 

I felt compelled to weigh in on that discussion on two fronts, the pudding and the cornstarch.  I think all this jibber-jabber about cornstarch being so, so processed is much ado about nothing. I agree with the person who said that the problem is not the cornstarch, it’s the way we process it. I’ve read Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, too, and totally agree that we should do whatever we can to support the concept of local sustainable farming. Yes! We need to be mindful. But let’s get a grip.

I normally make chocolate pudding which has been a huge hit with my friends and family. It’s astonishingly simple to make and is the perfect comfort food for whatever is ailing you.

I adapted this recipe from Saveur. It appeared many years ago now and was called Chocolate La Taza.

1 c milk (in whatever fat content suits your conscience and tastebuds)
2 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened or milk) chocolate (I usually use Ghiardelli or Scharfenberger)
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Bring 3/4 c milk and chocolate to a boil. Stir to make sure chocolate is melted. Shake together remaining 1/4 c milk and cornstarch until the lumps are gone. Whisk into the hot chocolate mixture and simmer for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add vanilla to taste. (The higher the quality of vanilla, the better the epicurean delight.)

Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream (but this is completely optional.) Usually, I can’t wait until it’s cooled to room temperature.

This recipe has nursed a friend through breast cancer and another through a kidney donation operation. Another friend request this in lieu of traditional holiday and birthday gifts.

It’s That Time of the Year

6 03 2008

Yes, folks! Open That Bottle Night has come around again. We actually missed the “declared” holiday because our illustrious host had to make an unplanned sojourn to St. Louis, persevering through the snow storm. But we’ve rescheduled and it’s happening this Saturday. So stay tuned, I’ll fill you in.

What Does Cooking with “Mr. Tomato Face” Say About You

28 02 2008

Note the quote in my most recent post about how cooking reveals the personality beneath the chef’s hat or behind the apron whichever kitchen-wear you prefer. Then, consider the most recent offering from Mark Bittman aka The Minimalist and NY Times food writer. In this episode of Minimalist TV he makes a roasted tomato soup using canned tomatoes…ok, you say, what’s so unusual about that? Well, check out the video, he’s cooking with Mr. Tomato Face! He even feed him a spoonful of the delicious-looking soup at the end.

 Hilarious!! Very entertaining!

Cooking Is So Personal…Even More Than Sex

27 02 2008

An article about Polish sauerkraut stew  by Alex Witchel caught my eye on NY The opening line reads,

“IT is hard for me to cook for people I don’t like. I don’t have to do it often, but when I do, I find it a torment because cooking is so personal, so revealing. Even more than sex, I think.

You can have a perfectly good one-night stand, be greatly entertained, and still not know the other person when it’s done. But once someone cooks for you, it’s almost impossible not to discover who that person is.”

Well, there you have it!  Those of us who love to cook put their hearts and souls into the effort, it is so true! Although, I’d never thought about how much what I cook reveals about me.

But, now that I think about it, yes, indeed! For me, cooking is a very personal experience. And, when I have people into my home for a meal I’ve prepared, I do think very, very carefully…what my guests will like, how things will blend on the plate and over the course of the meal, what do I feel like making, how much will I spend preparing are all considerations.

Of course, the more important my guests are to me, the more energy and expense I put into the meal…do I buy the hummus or make it from scratch, do I soak beans for the chili or use canned ones, do I bake a 2-day bread or a 1-day bread, do I run to the free-range chicken farm or use A&P’s brand?  

So next time you’re invited to dine at someone’s house, take notice, even it you’re not a foodie. What is your host(ess) telling you?