How Does Your Garden Grow

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This week’s walk around the garden featured a few lovely surprises like this Asiatic lily. Multiple blooms on hearty stems peppered across the backyard truly stand out. Orange is the new black for a reason and so worth the dirt under my nails.

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Aptly named “goat’s beard” this hearty shrub is a wonderful back drop to those colorful lillies. So worth my aching back.

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Low growing dianthus spreads an electric pink carpet along the border. It’s sweet fragrance is just a bonus. So worth me feeling my age.

 

A shady area allows these astilbe to thrive. These feathery flowers come in many gorgeous colors. So worth the sweat on my brow.

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I get pretty excited when the fruit and vegetables show themselves. Please local deer keep away!

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Like small jewels these French strawberries are something special. I love them for breakfast or floating in a glass of wine come evening. The best is letting my granddaughter pick them. She pops them right into her mouth. How fun is that?

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The rock garden features a bounty of succulents. Interesting shapes and colors and easy to care for “chicks and hens” are quite a contrast to the rest of the garden. They need no help from me to flourish.

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Like all good things in the garden the perennials need to restore their root systems. After a bounty of delicious asparagus I must let some stalks mature into ferns. As they replenish themselves the ferns create the most lush green screen along the fence. Those unpicked spears grow about 6 feet tall and later develop eye-popping red berries.

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Have a beautiful week. Plant some seeds. Stop and smell the roses. Tell someone you love them.

 

Victory Is In The Kitchen

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My daughter bought me this poster at the Churchhill Museum in London. I love how she instantly thought of me when she first eyed it. Of course, as a competitive home cook, my version of victory in the kitchen and the intent of the poster are quite different. Imagine the war struggle and women on the home front struggling to make ends meet and keep a household running. A message like this was meant to motivate a commitment to the war effort. With increasing shortages of food women tended vegetable gardens and used their creativity to put substantial meals on the table with what little they had. They were portrayed as of equal importance in the winning of the war as that of the fighting soldiers.

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Maybe when it comes to creativity and a few ingredients I am not so much different from the women in the early 1900’s since winning in my kitchen has been a common occurrence lately. These mushroom lettuce wraps just took the grand prize in the Mad About Mushrooms recipe contest. Inspired by the olympics (Yay Team USA) and ingredients found in a local Korean market these meaty mushrooms soak up the sweet and spicy bulgogi marinade and are a light vegetarian option. Do you like lettuce wraps? What’s your favorite filling?

Korean Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

1 firm ripe Asian or bosc pear, peeled, cored, julienned

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, washed, sliced (stemmed shitake, cremini, oyster)

1/3 cup Korean bulgogi style marinade (bottled or homemade)*

1 teaspoon Korean sweet & spicy sauce (gochujang) *

2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

pinch kosher salt

2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated into cups

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In bowl, gently toss pear and rice vinegar; set aside. Heat a large, non-stick, skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic; cook 30 seconds or until garlic just begins to turn color. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring for 8 to 10 minutes or until mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown. Add Korean marinade and gochujang; cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until mushrooms are glazed. Turn off heat. Stir in green onions. Season mushrooms with salt. Spoon mushrooms into lettuce cups. Top with pickled pears. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 12 appetizers or can serve 4 to 6 as an entree.

*located in the ethnic section of grocery store or any Asian market

Here is my first video demonstrating how to build another version of a lettuce wrap. Pretty excited that I have taught myself another new trick. Victory is in the kitchen in more ways than one.

 

Han & Spring Chicken Stew

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As one who grieves the loss of a child I find my vocabulary limited in describing just how I feel on a day-to-day basis. Often described, as a rollercoaster of emotion or waves of ups and downs, grief seems to be somewhat of a mixed bag of sadness and hope. While I get the ebb and flow analogy it is something so much more.

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Will at his favorite store, Cabelas

In conversation with my friend Sonya who was born and raised in Korea I learned of the word “Han”. Han is an important and beautiful part of the Korean culture. Difficult to translate into English here are my thoughts. Han is an integral part of our being something so deep inside that it shapes and defines who we are. It is born of injustice. Like an evolutionary process it takes the best of hopeful and positive and the worst of sorrow and negative and weaves it into our DNA.

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We all love our children. Most likely we love our children more than we love ourselves, but you don’t REALLY know how much you love them until they are gone. That is Han emerging. It’s my Han telling me how grateful I am for having him for 23 years and it’s my Han telling me how deep my sorrow goes that he is gone. That interwoven hope and sadness is an integral part of my being every single day. It is intense. It is extreme. It’s a dull lingering ache in the soul that can’t be controlled. Han is the word for one who has lost a child. For those who have lost a child I think you understand and for those who have not I hope you never will.

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Like Han, Korean flavors go deep, too. Lately, I have been studying authentic Korean cuisine with two young ladies. Teaching cooking lessons with them has been a real joy as both are open to exploring new and sometimes scary things like sweet potato noodles, bell flower root and soused briny shrimp. We are stepping out of our comfort zone.

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the shrimp eyes are a bit creepy

The first dish we made is a Spring Chicken Stew based on a recipe in Noh Chin-hwa’s book Healthful Korean Cooking.The stew is easy to prepare, but very complex in flavor. Thankfully, when I opened the scary jar of salted shrimp the aroma simply reminded me of the ocean. My students liked it, too. The shrimp marinade lends the dish an incredible depth of saltiness without being at all fishy. The peppers, aromatics and sesame add layers of fresh and nutty flavor for a most pleasant beginning to the spring season.

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Oriental markets are main stream these days and I am happy to have several nearby. These same ingredients are most likely available on-line, too. As far as fresh produce goes feel free to use any peppers you prefer. Longhots are the perfect substitution for spicy Korean peppers.

Korean Spring Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

1 whole chicken

1/3 cup soused, salted shrimp

5 tablespoons chopped green onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1-tablespoon sesame oil

Black pepper

5 Korean red peppers, seeded, diced

5 Korean green peppers, seeded, diced

1 onion, diced

Grind sesame seeds and salt together. Cut chicken into pieces (2-inch pieces); mix with shrimp and seasoning and let stand 15 to 30 minutes. Fry chicken in sesame oil. Pour in ½ cup water; cover and simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through. Remove cover. Cut onion and peppers into ¼-inch squares. When liquid has evaporated add vegetables and stir-fry briefly.

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