All The Things I Eat

Korean-Style Kimchi From The Farmer’s Market

By on Friday, June 17th, 2022 at 4:33 pm

Kimchi from Kimchi Kooks in McGolrick park at the farmers market comes in neat little glass jars which have also been useful for food storage

The farmers market in McGolrick Park had a new vendor: Kimchi Kooks. The shop offered more than the usual cabbage kimchi, so I obviously had to sample some.

Kimchi Kooks is a Bay Ridge-based kimchi maker offered various types of fermented and pickled Kimchi.

The most common kimchi in America is made with Napa cabbage and flavored with garlic, onion and pepper flakes, but literally hundreds of different varieties exist in Korea — the term refers to side dishes of vegetables that are fermented, salted, or pickled.

Kimchi is at least a two thousand-year-old tradition, although early versions were made without chile peppers – a crop from the Americas that were introduced to Korea by way of Portuguese traders in the 18th century.

Japan also makes a form of cabbage-based Kimchi, although this is less likely to be fermented in traditional Korean styles, and back in the 1990s there the ongoing feud made it to the New York Times. Japan, once having invaded and colonized Korea, was now stealing a national dish.

Kimchi has grown in popularity in the United States in the last two decades or so, as interest in Korean restaurants has also gained popularity. Although not exactly available in every food court in America, Korean-focuses restaurants have gained significant attention in New York. My own neighborhood has two, one with more traditional Korean-American dishes, and another that is fusing southern (American) barbecue with Korean flavors.

The growing desire for fermented foods probably has also helped raise the profile of kimchi. Whether its Kombucha tea or René Redzepi’s The Noma Guide to Fermentation, letting food spoil slightly has never been more exciting. There’s good arguments too that fermented food is good for the gut biome.

I’ll be the first to admit that the fermented cabbage was something I was reluctant to eat when I was younger, but in the last decade I’ve come to appreciate kimchi. It’s now one of my favorite sides for tacos, sushi, or fried chicken cutlets. Seriously, it goes with a lot more things than you might think.

Meanwhile, during the pandemic, the new luxury apartment building around the corner leased the retail space to a gourmet grocery store. Like all Brooklyn gourmet grocery stores, nothing in the shop is cheap, but it does offer wide selection of Korean foods, including many different brands of kimchi. I’ve been eating my way through the various brands. None of them were as good as Kimchi Kooks.

Cabbage kimchi that has fermented with garlic is the most common kimchi in America, but this one from Kimchi Kooks was a superb example

Obviously I wanted to give the cabbage Kimchi Kooks a try to see how it compared to various jars already in my refrigerator. It was one of the best, and we finished off that jar long before some of the other commercial brands.

The pieces of cabbage had nice greens on them — something the commercial grade kimchi often doesn’t have. The greens also had a texture variation from the crispier part of the cabbage.

Jalepeno and daikon raddish pickled kimchi from the Kimchi Kooks bought the greenpoint farmer's market

But we also picked up a Jalapeño and Daikon pickled kimchi. The spice of the Jalapeño and peppery flavor of the daikon were both a bit muted by the brine. The brine probably also had soy sauce as a base, along with vinegar. Even sitting in the brine though the pepper and radish were crispy.

These were great on their own but also topped on tacos and rice dishes.

If we bring back our empty jars, we’re promised a discount. We’re definitely planning on getting some more the next time we’re at the market.

When Life Gives You Peppers, Make Pepper Relish

By on Monday, November 1st, 2021 at 5:52 pm

Peppers waiting to be dried

With pumpkin spice season upon us, we did the usual thing middle-aged, once upwardly mobile professionals with a young child do and headed out of the city to pick apples in the fields of the Hudson Valley. I grew up a few miles from the Warwick, New York, the center of autumnal activities. There are plenty of u-pick apple orchards to choose from here. In recent years, traffic overwhelms the narrow roads on weekends as urban dwellers flock to nature.

We happened to choose the hottest July-in-October afternoon. Rain had been threatening all week, but we committed ourselves. We lucked out though. We had awoken early with the baby and headed out before the rest of the world realized the predicted rain was delayed. It meant a lot less traffic and fewer people in the orchard.

There are plenty of farms to choose from in the Hudson Valley. Warwick tends to be close to the city, and for me personally, my parents house. If you are unfamiliar with the Hudson Valley, grab yourself a good guide, like Easy Weekend Getaways in the Hudson Valley & Catskills, designed for weekend escapes. Or find yourself rich friends with second homes. There’s a lot to do in the Hudson Valley beyond picking apples.

In Warwick, u-pick apples has been big business since before I was kid. In addition to picking fruits, almost all of them have stores for cider, cider donuts, and bags of apples for people who don’t want to get into the field. Pennings Farm is perhaps the most famous of the Warwick orchards. They actually have two locations, plus a massive beer garden and fields of pumpkins that have been picked and repopulated to simulate the feeling of ripping a choice pumpkin from the patch it was grown in.

I’ve always avoided Pennings because of the crowds and because they tend to be more expensive, but the farm has lots of activities as if its an agricultural theme park. I prefer the less popular destinations.

On the other side of town is Maskers, an orchard that was once the hidden gem. They have made it less hidden though, and it has been growing in popularity. It’s also accessible through without getting on 94, the main state highway running through Warwick. As long as the New York State Renaissance Faire has closed for the year, 17A is a great way to avoid long lines of cars.

But perhaps my favorite is Ochs Orchard. Approaching the farm takes you down a long, narrow, twisting road through scene pastures. Since its a bit off the main highway, it feels more like a farm stand than an agriculturally themed strip mall. Ochs is a bit smaller too, and that means fewer people. The top of the orchard also has a stunning view of Warwick below.

Someone at Ochs had the brilliant idea of adding all sorts of self-pick fruit and vegetables to the fields. The added selections meant a much longer growing season — Apples only begin to ripen at the end of August and wrap up by November. That’s a rather short period of time to make all the money to sustain a farm for a year.

The fields included a wide variety of items one expects in a Hudson Valley farm. Tomatoes, green beans, and raspberries would have been available earlier in the year, and in the early fall could have found a number of late season vegetables like broccoli. We went for the hot peppers.

The apple bags the orchard sells can be filled with any of the fruits or vegetables available for picking. After picking more apples than we could reasonable consumer in a season, we headed over to the peppers. Honestly we had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised to see rows and rows of hot peppers. There were numerous varieties still ripe and ready for picking. Since peppers are small and light, we topped off the apple bag and headed out just in time to avoid the promised rain.

We had plenty of ideas on how to use the apples: apple tarts, apple sauce, apple crumble, and of course, just plain apples. Peppers, on the other hand, were a bit more complicated.

I decided to dry some. We use dried pepper flakes all the time, so turning some of those bonus peppers into red pepper flakes was a brilliant idea. I knew I wasn’t going to string them up and let them air dry because I simply don’t have the patience to deal with tying each pepper off. And while pretty decorations, I wanted to use the peppers for cooking.

I checked out suggestions on temperatures. Concerned the gas oven would be too hot, I started them drying in our small electric toaster oven because it would let me set the temperature to 160°F. That was too low.

They began slowly drying out but after three hours they were only just beginning to wither. I need them to be desiccated. Finally i gave up on the little toaster oven and turned on the gas stove.

The stove is old and fickle in the best of times. The lowest temperature was 200°F, assuming it held a steady temperature.

I saw results almost immediately. With the oven door cracked, the temperature was kept low enough and the backdraft created by the open door meant a light flow of air expedited the drying process. It still took another two hours, but eventually they came out looking like this:

dried hot peppers

They are dried and preserved. Some will be crushed up for flaking onto pizza and into sauces. A few I will keep whole for those more intense projects like a braised pork shoulder.

I tried eating a slice of one. It was hotter than I expected and had to quench the burning with a thick lump of cream cheese. The relish on the other hand has a balance of heat and sweet I don’t think twice about scooping some out of the jar and eating it all by itself. Don’t try that at home.

I’ve crushed one up to toss with some Brussel sprouts, and they tasted great.

Drying the peppers wasn’t the end of the line for me, however. I still had a pile of mixed varieties.

I decided to experiment with a pepper relish. Not quite a hot sauce, and thicker than a salsa, the pepper relish is a sweet and spicy condiment.

I loosely followed a recipe chopping up the peppers and tossing them with some salt, sugar, and vinegar. I added some Hudson Valley garlic along with not so fresh store-bought onions.

The relish cooked down for about half an hour on a low simmer. I stirred it occasionally but otherwise it required very little attention. When I tasted the relish a bit too spicy, so I toned it down a bit more sugar, but otherwise it was a straight forward experiment.

pepper jam

The resulting pepper relish is spicy with a hint of sweetness. There is no doubt this is a hot condiment, but we’ve found a use for it on all sorts of foods from a variety of cuisines.

The peppers were a great addition to apple picking experience. I certainly had a lot more fun making pepper relish than I expected, and its been extremely versatile in what I’ve used it on.

Vegetarian Frittata

By on Friday, September 7th, 2012 at 5:01 am

This beat and goat cheese frittata highlighted the vegetable components while leaving plenty of calories for a midmorning donut.

Beats are sweet that always compliments the tang of goat cheese. Eat is a restaurant in Greenpoint focusing on locally source ingredients with a heavy emphasis on vegetarian foods. There was no meat on the menu at the time.

The restaurant is cute little place situated in an old Polish neighborhood; the other breakfast option was a sausage platter from an ethnically Polish diner that had sadly closed. The interior of the restaurant is the mix of modern and rustic. Unfortunately, there is a bit of confusion when it comes to ordering / waitressing / table service. We had to order at the counter, but then seat ourselves and have the food brought to us. Far too much to figure out pre-coffee on a Saturday morning.

124 Meserole Avenue

Eastern Inspired Slaw

By on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 at 6:22 am

cabbage slaw

Last Independence Day, a friend threw together an impromptu barbecue. I had a lot of cabbage and set about making a slaw.

Cabbage is a great anytime vegetable, mostly because it will keep for weeks in the refrigerator without going bad. Cabbage is also inexpensive and vitamin rich. Coleslaw slathered in mayonaise detracts from all the healthy qualities of a head of cabbage, mainly by adding fat and oil.

By eliminating the mayonaise and adding a handful more vegetables, the slaw offers a light salad to compliment grilled food. I dressed it lightly with sesame seed oil and vinegar, though more complicated dressing recipes might offer a complexity in flavor that I lacked. The bell peppers and carrots added both color and sweetness.

red and green cabbage mixed in a slaw

Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Yellow bell peppers
Sesame Oil
Sesame seeds

Slice or shred the cabbages. Thinly cut carrots and bell peppers to roughly the same size. Add sesame seeds and toss in a dash of sesame seed oil and vinegar.

Goat Cheese and Beet Salad

By on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 at 6:00 am

Beet salad with red and golden beets

Farmer’s market fresh beets are served best in a simple fashion highlighting their sweetness.

In this case, I had my hands on both red and golden beets. Golden beets are less common and smaller, but they also have more sweetness and less beet-ness. They also add a bright bit of color to an otherwise bloody looking salad.

The tartness of goat cheese contrasts the sweetness of the beets. Of course, your hands will also be a bloody mess.

Golden Beets
Red Beets
Goat Cheese

Roast beets in vinegar until tender, but solid. Remove skin. Slice thinly either with a knife or mandolin. Toss with goat cheese. Serve cold.