Korean Pottery by Park Jong IL

When we visited Korea last year we were impressed by the beauty of the traditional hand-crafted teawares that we saw. We had the good fortune to meet several of Korea’s notable potters and we learned a great deal about the aesthetics of Korean teawares from each of them.

Korea has a very ancient tradition of pottery production, and today the tradition of teawares is continued by many fine potters who specialize in functional and uniquely Korean tea bowls, teapots and tea cups.

The Korean teawares style is simple and humble, quietly elegant and natural in feeling. The ideal is to express beauty through pleasing shapes, soft, warm glazes and an overall natural feeling. In addition to aesthetic concerns, Korean potters understand that teawares must showcase the tea, and be a pleasurable vessel for the person making or drinking the tea. Teawares should not be a vehicle for showing off ostentatious glazes or creative hand-crafting techniques.

Korean potters are also concerned that their tea bowls and tea cups feel good in the hand and are comfortable to hold, and that each piece has a stable foot ring that allows the bowl or cup to sit securely on a table. A well-formed lip is important, too, for pleasurable tea drinking. Most Korean pottery is wood fired, which adds a rustic elegance to the works and respects the fact that nature always has a hand in the outcome of the pottery fired in the kiln.

It is difficult to find handmade Korean pottery in the USA, so we are thrilled to have a selection of teapots and teacups from Korean artist Park Jong Il.

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Park Jong Il lives a humble and spiritual life in the mountains. His studio and kiln are located next to his house, and he fires his pottery with wood that he cuts in the forest surrounding his house in a traditional orumgama – a chambered climbing kiln.

Park Jong Il is a remarkable artist who believes that there is a spiritual connection with the earth, the clay and the tea that will be steeped and drunk from his bowls, cups and teapots. His pottery reflects the simple humble nature of Korea pottery and also the talent and craft of a master artisan.

To read more about Korean potters and their pottery, please visit our post on this blog from June 21st, 2010.

To purchase pottery by Park Jong Il, please visit our website: http://www.cooksshophere.com/products/tea/tea-necessities/Teapots.htm

Photographs of Park Jong Il courtesy of Arthur Park – http://dawan-chawan-chassabal.blogspot.com/

My ‘New’ Green Tea Book

Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers & Sweet & Savory Treats

A lovely woman who produces a food radio program telephoned me recently to set up an interview about my ‘new’ book on cooking with green tea. She caught me off guard because I don’t have a new book on cooking with green tea. Then I realized she was referring to a book that I wrote in 2006 titled: Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats ( Harvard Common Press, 2006).

We got it straightened out, had a laugh, and fortunately she still wanted to have the interview.

After this, I started to think about my book and the idea of cooking with tea. Back in 2006, cooking with tea or using tea as in ingredient in cooking and baking was an unfamiliar concept here in the US, and it did not resonate with most. Its not that it wasn’t a good idea – it was and still is a great idea – but only a few short years ago the conversation about tea was vastly different than it is today.

Back then, tea drinking had not yet reached the widespread popularity that it has now, and education about premium tea from traditional places of origin was still in its infancy. Spreading the word about the different classes of tea (green, white, yellow, oolong, black and Pu-erh) was challenging for those of us in the tea business as black tea was the most commonly drunk tea at that time, and the only tea that many people were familiar with.

Fortunately, my book sold well and is still in print –yea!- but I have come to realize that the subject of cooking with tea ( and my book ) was ahead of its time. For Green Tea I developed original recipes in these categories: hot and iced green teas, smoothies, green tea cocktails, savory dishes and sweet endings, and often when I would describe to someone back then what my book was about they would look at me as if I had holes in my head.

In fact, even in Taiwan, where I gave a presentation at an annual tea meeting to a room full of tea growers on the idea of cooking with tea, and where there are dishes that utilize oolong tea in the preparation, many there looked at me as if I had holes in my head, too.

But today, just five years later, the idea of cooking with tea, or using tea as a culinary ingredient, has caught on. Not like wildfire, but with enough traction to be included in various tea conversations and for others to pursue the topic.

Cynthia Gold, the Tea Sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, has co-authored a book with Lise Stern titled: Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World ( Running Press, 2010). This delightful book explores the concept in depth, and provides much guidance for those looking to experiment with all classes of tea in their cooking.

Some restaurants, too, feature tea as an ingredient in various savory dishes and cocktails. Green tea in particular is showing up pretty regularly in sweets and desserts. But I fear such desserts will suffer from over-exposure and incompetent hands, and become culinary outcasts in the same vein as tiramisu, molten chocolate cake, and anything kiwi.

I am reprinting (with permission of my publisher) one of my favorite cocktail recipes from Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats.

Tropical Sky
( serves 2 )

  • 12 ice cubes
  • 3 ounces chilled green tea
  • 1 cup chilled pomegranate juice
  • 3 ounces gin
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • Maraschino cherries, lemon wedges and orange wedges for garnish

1. Put 4 ice cubes, the green tea, pomegranate juice, gin, and amaretto into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

2. Divide the remaining 8 ice cubes between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Make a skewer for each glass by threading 1 cherry, 1 lemon wedge, and 1 orange wedge onto a decorative cocktail pick. Strain the cocktail into the glasses and drape a fruit skewer across the top of each glass. Serve immediately.

Mexican Food Products from Susana Trilling

I am very excited to have Seasons of My Heart food products from Susana Trilling. Susana is a chef, founder of Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, Mexico, and author of the vibrant cookbook Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey through Oaxaca, Mexico ( Ballantine Books, 1999)

Susana’s book is a companion guide to her 13-show PBS series in which she shares her deep passion and anthropological knowledge of this fascinating region whose cuisine remains virtually untouched by influences from the outside world. Oaxaca invites a deep appreciation of Mexican culture, and Susana is a gracious ambassador for the region she loves so much.

Susana Trilling

 Those of you who have visited Mexico know that the local markets are wonderful places, and taking the time to stroll around and absorb all you see is a fragrant, colorful sensory event. Spices, foods, fruits, candies, crafts, clay cookware and simple, charming clay dishes and bowls, embroideries and weavings offer serious temptations.

In southern Mexico, in the markets of Oaxaca and the neighboring villages, you will also see quantities of chile-based seasoning pastes – mole* – for sale in rich earth tones of red, brown, and nearly black. The flavors of these moles are as extraordinary as the colors are vivid, and the tastes of each mole will be different one to another.

But each is unique and essential to the traditional cuisine of Oaxaca. Choosing just one mole is never an option when shopping in these vibrant markets!

Mole lovers know that these tasty and essential pastes traditionally take a day or longer to make and require a very long list of ingredients to obtain the proper flavors: fruits, nuts, spices, chocolate and chiles. The flavor of a specific mole is dependent on particular chiles which can be difficult or impossible to find in the USA.

If you rather not spend a day or more in your kitchen making mole from scratch, you can use Susana’s moles to create delicious, authentic tasting dishes for your family and friends.  Susana has created three of the most famous of these mole pastes – Oaxacan Mole Negro (Black Mole), Mole Coloradito, and Mole Rojo (Red Mole) that are made with the right chilies, all natural ingredients and no fillers.  All that is required is that the mole be reconstituted into a sauce and served with a generous portion of chicken, turkey, pork (or a combination of the three). And only you will know that you have Susana at your side!

Another not-to-be-missed item is Susana’s Chintestle (Smoked Chile Paste), something that I now cannot live without! I first tasted this product several years ago when I met Susana at a food conference but there was no way to purchase this product for resale at the time. Believe me, I have thought about this flavorful smoked chile paste more than a few times in the years since!

Lastly, we also have Susana’s chile jellies ( three types…red, green and yellow….which are excellent toppings for soft goat cheese for quick and tasty summer snacks on the patio…with a Margarita, perhaps ?  ) and coarse and crunchy Mexican sea salt to flavor your favorite dishes .

*Chile pepper expert, food historian, magazine editor and cookbook author Dave Dewitt has this to say about mole: “Perhaps the most famous Mexican chile dishes are the moles. The word ‘mole’, from the Náhuatl molli, means “mixture,” as in guacamole, a mixture of vegetables (guaca). Some sources say that the word is taken from the Spanish verb moler, meaning to grind. Whatever its precise origin, the word used by itself embraces a vast number of sauces utilizing every imaginable combination of meats, vegetables, spices, and flavorings–sometimes up to three dozen different ingredients. Not only are there many ingredients, there are dozens of variations on mole–red moles, green moles, brown moles, fiery moles, and even mild moles”.

Please visit our website to read more about these items and to purchase:
http://www.cooksshophere.com/products/pantry/mexican-ingred.htm