Double Take

Whenever someone visits me, I always get a sudden rush of “Oh crap I have to show you around my area like a certified tour guide,” meaning I end up going to my favorite places, eating at my favorite restaurants, and drinking my favorite coffee. Through this process of showing someone else my home, I end up appreciating it a lot more myself.

So last Friday, I decided to take a break from the reality-based grind that is working Monday-Friday, and go take pictures of my favorite neighborhood. At one end of the neighborhood is a big Arts School, and at the other, a residential area. In the middle it’s a quirky, manageable, almost quaint area of Seoul that is entrenched in art, street graffiti, and cafes galore.

It is a mixture of big business buildings and small houses that tout the best tea in Seoul (a bold claim, sir, a bold claim),  chain restaurants and independent-neo-hippy-artsy-caffeine-stops. It’s what I love about cities.

This place is a pretty amazing place to take pictures because of the architecture, the fashion, the store fronts, but also because of the street art. It’s something that I pass everyday, but now that I can show them to someone else (that’s you, mysterious reader),  I start to appreciate them so much more. Maybe it’s the anticipation of performance, maybe it’s the anxiety of “am I really proud of these?” Or maybe it’s just because these art shots are sweet.

That pride and anxiety seeps back into my cooking too. When I cook for myself, I barely think about anything. Garlic, Onions, Oil, Salt, Pepper, Vegetable, Stir Fry, maybe add a pasta or bread, done deal. Don’t get me wrong here, I love cooking, but I never try to impress myself (unless I’m in a playful mood). I’m trying to make my food delicious and healthy, but not really presentable. But when it comes to presenting food to others (see: dinner parties, cookie gifts, food blogs) I, again, end up playing the “oh look how cool this can be!”

And today, I realized that I had been cooking for myself a bunch, but not writing about it. So in turn, I had no reason to “kick it up a notch” (did I really just quote Emeril… for shame). That changed just an hour ago as I stood in front of my refrigerator with intention: I am going to cook something delicious and write about it. How vain.

I wanted to play around with vegetables, but I didn’t want do the same old same old. I grabbed the first thing in my fridge (sweet potato) and ran with that as the theme of my meal. Earthy, slightly sweet, hearty, wintery. Let’s go.

I abandoned my normal onion-garlic-oil mirepoix and went the sweet-savory route. Sweet potato, green pepper, eggplant, and zucchini (that I grabbed off the “going bad” produce shelf at my local grocer) all found their way chopped up and in a pan full of water that was taking them to deliciousville.

Now for the seasoning. Salt, pepper, chili, and a bit of oil? Not today. Today, I wanted to show off the star of the dish’s flavors more; I wanted to heighten the sweet undertones of the potato and play with the crisp, clean flavor of green peppers, and have the zucchini and eggplant soak up the sauce to the fullest (also know as: act as the foundational back-up players). So I grabbed what I’ve never grabbed for a lunch dish: brown sugar and vanilla extract.

And to my surprise, my experiment worked. The sweetness stayed concentrated to the two sponges of the dish, while the green peppers acted as a textured palate-cleanser, and the sweet potatoes stole the show and won the Oscar as a hearty Earthy powerhouse.

Satisfying, delicious, and perfect for the edge of fall, plummeting rapidly into winter.

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6 thoughts on “Double Take

  1. well done, sir, well done. all i can say is that usually, when you get creative in the kitchen, you pop up and not only show it off, but let me have a taste. 🙂 it looks delicious. i am curious how the brown sugar and vanilla tasted in it. i would think with the chili and the sweet potato it would have been delicious!

  2. Enjoyed the tour of your neighborhood. Looking forward to today’s dish when you get back to the States, though I would like veggies above ‘almost spoiled.’

  3. so you say the sweet potatoes do not taste the same there as here huh? Sure do look delicious! Pictures also, top shelf, not going bad shelf 🙂

  4. Josh, how are you? I bet you didn’t expect me to write. I have kept the emails from you your mother has so graciously forwarded to me in their own separate folder. I love them.

    That dish looks amazing. If I could only get Luis to eat more than just corn and raw carrots. Did the brown sugar carmelize or was it only a pinch? Vanilla too! Are you a frustrated Chef?

    • Steven! I’m so happy you are reading the blog! Seoul is amazing; I think Korean food could get anyone eating more than just corn and raw carrots. And the brown sugar slightly caramelized as lowered the heat — It was such a nice treat.

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