My last night in Seoul was an adventure in its own right. A trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market. Tough fish ladies wore rubber aprons and boots, fishing giant lobsters out of the tank. Fish mongers yelled to get our attention, promising the best prices and freshest products.
Walking around Seoul was so much fun at any time of the day. Vendors peddling all sorts of goodies, from sweets to boiled fish cakes, could be found in all sorts of busy streets and corners. Catering to a clientel of fleeting passerbys in a hurry, the vendors were ready to the nines to take them on.
Though I stuffed myself silly with delectable treats at every opportunity, my favorite food moments were at the hands of two of my aunts. The irreplaceable warmth of hospitality that accompanied their food is forever cast into my happy memories of Korea.
Jang nal in Yesan was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Jang nal is a farmers market that takes place every five days. There were rows and rows of vendors, mostly grandmothers selling a few specialty items. Every corner and turn had a new scene to observe, new characters to note.
My brother and I stepped off the plane onto Korean soil on a chilly October evening. Cloud, wind and rain greeted our first return in twenty-three years. Anticipation grew as we fled the gloomy scene of Seoul for Grandma’s, with the sleepy moon shining through the haze.
The hot sun was shining down on me hard the day I first tasted it. About fifteen people deep in line I waited my turn impatiently. One by one, people walked away gleefully with their treat and I inched closer to the table. Finally it was my turn. There was no moment of hesitation when I said firmly “Watermelon & Basil!”
My hash history is painted with comforting meals of corned beef, romesco pulled pork, homemade merguez… and now pork confit and chermoula. A bit of satisfaction comes with a successful leftover transformation and hash is one of the easiest way to do that. In this transformation bits of pork confit were sauteed with yukon gold potatoes, white beech mushrooms, chermoula and parsley. The coriander, cumin and paprika from the chermoula gave a nice warmth to the dish. The only thing left to do was add a poached egg whose deep yellow, warm, runny yolk would runneth over all that deliciousness.
I love that osso bucco mean “bone with a hole”. This dish of braised veal shank will make you melt just like the marrow is in the middle of bone. My osso bucco had a tiny small hole though that would be not let up the warm marrow. It was so deep in flavor and unctuous that the marrow thwart quickly became a thought of the past.
I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe for the veal shanks and paired it with the saffron risotto, channeling Suzanne Goin. A gentle saute of asparagus and English pea garnished the dish for a seasonal uplift. I get a certain level of pure pleasure shelling, sorting and blanching the green little babies. There is calm in the repetition. The osso bucco, like many stews and braises, was exponentially better after it rested in its juice a day. It made the best “brown bag” work lunch.
The warm seasons of Southern California brings with it such a bounty of beautiful produce. We are so lucky to be spoiled with this climate. When I start seeing fava beans at the farmers markets I always get a little jolt of happiness knowing that spring has finally arrived. Not much need to be done to a beautiful fresh ingredient. Ricotta gnocchi, pancetta and mint joined the bright green blanched favas for a delightful spring combination.
Bacon makes the world a better place. The smokey, cured pork goodness even makes long-time vegetarian mouths water. Over the years it’s been paired with even sweet ingredients such a chocolate and caramel, to delightful results and pleased palates.
However, I think one of my favorite partnering is a conventional one. Bacon and corn. Delicate, fresh pasta combined with smokey bacon and sweet corn juice, lightened by floral basil. Hello summer.