Today I spent too many hours running around. I bought supplies for the Fancy Food Show (Made by Lukas will be at booth# 3954! Come say hello if you’ll be there) and took care of long neglected tedious matters, such as those that require visits to the bank and to the DMV. And over the course of the day, as my backpack got heavier and my limbs more loaded with shopping bags, and as the mugginess revealed itself via back sweat, pit stains, and periodic whiffs of B.O., and my scowl threatened to become permanent (just as my mom always warned me it would if I wasn’t careful), I realized that come dinnertime, if I was still going to finish the stack of work left to be done before tomorrow instead of keeling over in front of the air conditioner, I would need to lift my spirits with some kind of treat.
Treats are how I bargain with my procrastinating half. Finish drafting this recipe and test that other one, write these five emails, make those four dreaded phone calls, and—and then I get a treat. Usually I’ll go get a cookie. They have a terrific grasshopper cookie (and really wonderful bread) at a newish bakery in my neighborhood called Nine Chains, and before that, in my old neighborhood, I went to the Greene Grape Annex for a chocolate chip cookie because I believed (and still do believe) that they make the best one in Brooklyn.
But at dinnertime, a salad can be my treat. There are virtuous salads with sprouts and sunflower seeds in them, basic green salads that are just lettuce and vinaigrette, side dish “salads” like the ones that appear at Thanksgiving, and compost bin salads meant to clean out the crisper. But salad can also be an enticement and reward, and this is one of those. It edges its way into the comfort food category.
A former colleague who used to work at Murray’s Cheese in Manhattan was the first to tell me about combining sharp cheddar and kimchi on a grilled cheese sandwich. This sounded insane to me—kimchi and dairy just don’t seem right together—so I had to try it. It works. Think of the kimchi as a spicy, sour, funky jam, or as salsa or chili-garlic paste, like a sambal. The richness of the cheese and the aggression of the kimchi both temper one another, but make their separate fermented complexities more amplified and complicated.
I took that combo to the salad I’ve been enjoying lately: a pile of baby spinach, a handful of grated good, sharp cheddar cheese, a thin slice of toasted bread torn up into pieces, and an egg fried in olive oil. The oil doubles as dressing, poured hot over the salad so that it wilts the spinach, and then to approximate vinaigrette, the kimchi brine here subs as vinegar.
This salad did what it I asked to do tonight. The combination is unusual and perfect, ripe and deep with so many good textures and flavors. My scowl faded, my resolve returned. Forgive that there’s only one photo, and that it’s not a good one. Mercury is in retrograde for a few days more and the past few weeks have been trying for everyone I know. There’s no time to waste.
(One bit of business: We’re preparing the first installment of the Made by Lukas newsletter, which will have news about Made by Lukas veggie burgers, events, vegetable lore, recipes, and more. Sign up here if interested!)
Wilted Spinach Salad with Kimchi, Sharp Cheddar, and Fried Egg
2 to 3 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup grated good, sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup drained, chopped cabbage or bok choy kimchi
1 thin slice toasted good quality bread, torn into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons kimchi brine
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Combine the spinach, cheddar, kimchi, and toasted bread in a heat-safe mixing bowl. Add the kimchi brine and toss to combine.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the egg. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Fry until set on top, crisp around the edges, and the yolk is set to your liking.
Add the egg to the salad, then carefully pour the hot oil over the salad. Toss with tongs, until well combined and the greens are slightly wilted.