Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cooking Korean in the Sweet Home Kitchen

During my almost half century of marriage to my Korean husband I learned to cook the dishes he loved as a child.  I apprenticed under a master chef -my mother-in-law who didn't speak much English but I managed to learn quite a few Korean words from her.    When all my other Korean sisters-in-law were gathered out my home for a feast she would pat me on the back and tell them how good a cook I was because I listened to her, unlike her daughters-in-law who had their own methods.  Of course I listened and followed because I didn't know anything about it.  Thank goodness Korean food is different from Chinese in its complexity and the number of recipes and dishes.

I'm happy that Korean food's popularity has finally taken told in America.  Kimchee, bulgogi, Korean Fried Chicken, and  Korean beef tacos are now household words.  In addition to its delicious taste, it's also healthy.  And, contrary to popular belief, it's not all spicy hot.  I also see many articles on healthy eating advocating kimchee  ( fermented cabbage ) because it's a probiotic like yogurt. Kimchee may also be the only vegetable dish in the world to have a museum dedicated to it.

Staples for the Korean pantry are rice, noodles,  kimchee, turnips, soy sauce, tofu, bean sprouts, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, green onions, beef stock made from shank, soy bean paste, laver, seaweed and hot pepper sauce, most of which can now be found in major supermarkets.

Below are the ingredients for a simple, nutritious soup that will make a meal when served with rice and kimchee.

To make this bean sprout and spinach soup bring about 6 cups of beef broth flavored with 2 tablespoons of soybean paste  ( miso ) and 1 tablespoon sesame oil  to a boil.  Cut the tofu into 1-2 " cubes and add them and about 3 cups bean sprouts and spinach to the soup stock .  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes.  Lightly beat 3 eggs to which a tablespoon or two of water is added , then mince the green onions  ( about 2 ) and add them to the eggs.  Bringing the soup to a boil , drizzle the egg mixture on top the soup and let it cook until they're set.

Unlike Chinese rice which is very dry and tasteless, Koreans eat sticky rice.  During my many years of cooking I've never under or over cooked the rice using this simple method :  1 cup short-grain rice to 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a rolling boil, stir the rice. Cover with lid and let steam for 20 minutes.  Open lid and stir to fluff up. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  Perfect moist rice every time.

When my children were young they were fortunate to have their Korean grandmother care for them while I worked and as a result that have a love of Korean food and cook it as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Last Rose of ?

In my Chicago garden I always dreaded the Fall cleanup which meant the end of the gardening season until Spring.  Months and months of gray skies, snow and bitter cold to endure before the first bulbs poked up out of the ground. Even after 4 decades of Chicago winters its the one thing I could never get used to much less love.  Having grown up in the sunny deep South anything below 70 is cold to me .

Here in North Carolina, however, my first garden ,which I planted a few months ago has thrived and is still in bloom.  I have been so bold as to even plant a winter garden of vegetables in pots on my back deck.  We've had a few nights of mid-30's and I've had to bring out the row covers but they still look good .

My favorite rose shrub , 'knockout ' is still blooming her lovely head off.  I picked up two of them at  Home Depot for $3 and $6 and they were looking sickly when I put them in the ground with plenty of compost and manure which they love.  They have since grown into beautiful shrubs that now fill the once empty space near my front entrance .

                         Unless December proves to be brutual this may well be the last rose of winter .

When the last roses of winter finally do fade I will than take the opportunity to prune them back to control their size.  Knockouts can get tall and leggy and  many gardeners tend to overfed them which only adds to their rapid growth.   I think they look best when kept at 4 ' and under.

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