I cannot be thankful enough that we live near a beautifully wooded enclave within the city, just steps away from a gorgeous park and lake shore. We make sure to take advantage of this rare natural gift by engaging in long, enjoyable walks along one of its gardens or to a nearby field. And when we do, I fall in love with all the trees, flowers, and weeds that grow wild in the area. Truly, what sweeter way to take pleasure in our gorgeous surrounds?
Autumn here in Toronto can swing up and down – sometimes nice and sunny, sometimes not. It’s a time when daylight slips away a little earlier than usual, and also the final chance for us to watch nature catch her last breath before snow falls. Isn’t it so pretty over here?
One thing good about October, though, is seeing apples of all kinds crop up in our greenmarkets. Aside from pumpkins, people go apple-crazy over here in autumn. It’s a popular season to hitch a wagon for a hay ride and go apple-picking – a fun activity for the kids before the weather turns arctic on us!
We love honey crisps, royal gala, and fuji apples for eating, so we make sure to pluck bushels of those from the farm to our home. And since apples are a darling to keep, especially when stored in the vegetable drawer of your fridge, we can horde plenty of them. Then comes the decision on what to do with them apples. Make pies? Apple butters? Apple jam? Apple muffins? Apple cookies? Apple bread? So many things…
One of the ways I like to use apples – aside from eating them straight up – is to incorporate them into my salad. I found inspiration in David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, where he has a very unique Fuji Apple Salad.
This Fuji Apple Salad uses kimchi as its dressing. Genius! You can use pre-made or store-bought kimchi, but if you are feeling industrious, you can go via the
hard rewarding way and make your own. The kimchi is, then, puréed into a chunky dressing, where the wedge-cut apples will sit marinating for, ideally, 1 hour but up to a max of 6 hours (any longer and they turn soggy).
I paired the apples with baby kale leaves, but you can also use other baby salad greens like arugula, spinach, chard, etc. David Chang’s recipe called for topping the salad with smoked jowl bacon, so I got some nice pieces of Berkshire pork guanciale from my local butcher. What doesn’t taste good with smoked bacon?
I finished the salad with a sprinkling of Danish blue cheese. Now, you may think that this is counterintuitive. Fermented (kimchi) over fermented (blue cheese)? But for fans, this is a dream! For those who think this combination is an antagonistic reverie, skip the blue cheese altogether.
Warning: this recipe is for adults only. PG required for children because of the spice factor. But before I hand you the recipe, it’s nice to know the health benefits of eating kimchi. Kimchi, is a traditional Korean dish of mainly fermented cabbage and spices. It is chock-full of vitamins A and C, and its fermentation process encourages the growth of probiotics, which aid in balancing the flora of our intestinal tract. Follow me to my salad…
- 4 Fuji apples, cored
- ½ cup cabbage kimchi
- ½ pounds sliced pork jowl bacon
- 2 cups baby kale leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cut the cored apples into ½-inch wedges. Too thin and the apples will be limp and overpowered by the kimchi; too thick and the kimchi flavour will not penetrate enough.
- Place the kimchi in a bowl of a food processor and purée.
- Set aside a few tablespoons of kimchi purée to toss the baby kale with at the last minute before serving.
- Toss the apples in the remaining kimchi purée and let sit for at least one hour, or up to 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Arrange the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet, preferable over a rack, and pop into the oven. Bake until browned and crisp, depending on thickness, about 5 to 10 minutes. If you are preparing the bacon in advance, slightly undercook them up to a couple hours ahead and then reheat them in a 200 F or 300 F oven. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- To serve, toss the baby kale leaves with the reserved kimchi dressing, add them to the apples and place on a plate or bowl.
- Drizzle with some olive oil, season with some salt and pepper, then sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese, if using.