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Cherry Tomato Salad

mini cherry tomato salad

This tomato salad is a reinvented caprese salad. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (yes, I had to google the spelling of his name) calls it the best thing David Chang has ever made.

Let me tell you a story about Mr. Vongerichten.

Last summer, I had lunch with some of my girlfriends at Jean-Georges’s 3 Michelin star restaurant in NYC. We ate in the main dining room, which was light, airy, and beautifully green thanks to the Central Park trees outside.

parmesan-crusted confit leg of chicken from Jean-Georges

I had the parmesan-crusted confit leg of chicken. The first bite was delicious! Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. Everything about this dish was beautiful, even the hair embedded in the parmesan crust was pretty. Wait, what!? The waitstaff was, of course, deeply apologetic and replaced my chicken immediately with a hairless one (and ended up comping my meal). The macaron for dessert (the best I’ve had in North America) more than made up for it, but needless to say, I took the whole “best thing David Chang has ever made” thing with a grain of salt.

Click here to see the hairy chicken. Warning: Gross link

Still, I had pretty high hopes for this salad, because I love caprese. The cherry tomato salad is a simple recipe: tomatoes, shiso, tofu and dressing. Sounds easy, right?

cherry tomatoes, shiso leaf, soy sauce, grapeseed oil, soft tofu, sesame oil, sherry vinegar

Nothing’s easy when you’re OCD. In the book, the helpful photo accompanying the recipe has colourful little red, yellow, and green cherry tomatoes. Of course, I too had to have the multicoloured tomatoes so I went to every grocery store in my nearby vicinity to find the perfect mix. I looked at many, many clamshells of red cherry tomatoes to be had, but the colourful mix I so desired was nowhere to be found.

I finally found success after four stores. Urban Fare, a boutique-ish type grocery store around the corner from us, not only had the technicolor tomatoes, but some of them were beautiful little mini heirloom types!

colourful cherry tomatos

With my tomatoes in hand it was time for a quick blanch to peel off their skins. My paring knife was so dull it couldn’t cut through the tomato skin (I know, I know, I should keep my knives sharp).  While Mike helpfully sharpened my usual paring knife, I used one of the knifes I hardly ever use to cut little Xs in the bottoms of the tomatoes. They were dropped in boiling water for 10 seconds and then put into a ice bath. Not having a timer or watch (who wears a watch these days?) I counted out loud from 1 to 10.

tomatoes in ice bath

“That’s about 10 seconds, right?” I asked Mike.
“That was 1 second,” he answered. “Try, 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand…”

That worked all fine and dandy for the new batch of tomatoes, but I ended up fishing out the ones that were in the ice bath and re-blanched them. I guess I don’t count seconds a lot in real life. But there’s a quick cooking lesson: real 10 second blanched tomatoes look different from my 10 second tomatoes (and peel differently too).

peeling tomatoes

I tried one of the tomatoes right after peeling – delicious! Fresh tomato flavour without any chewy skin in the way. After all the tomatoes were peeled (which by the way, freezes your hands if you leave them in the ice bath) I dressed them in sherry vinegar, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and grapeseed oil. Thinly sliced shiso leaves were used as garnish.

peeled tomatoes

Shopping for the shiso leaf was almost as bad as the tomatoes. I originally thought it would be pretty easy to find shiso, because I know I’ve seen it recently while shopping at T&T. This time though, when I needed it, there was none to be had. We checked out a few other grocery stores with similar luck. I was getting so obsessed with shiso that, while Mike was waiting in line at Urban Fare, I decided to ask the produce guy if they had any. Such was the wild look of intensity in my eyes that the produce guy looked a little scared. The exchange went a little like this:

“Do you guys have shiso?” I asked.
“Shiso? Is….that a produce item?” he stammered.
“Yes, it’s a produce item. It’s a leaf.”
“Uh…we don’t have that here,” he answered.

Vancouver being the sort of town that it is, I got the feeling that he thought I was using some sort of code for pot. He was probably thinking: 1) Is shiso some kind of variety I haven’t smoked yet? and 2) What’s this crazy girl trying to buy some off me in a grocery store?!

multicoloured peeled tomatoes

Urban Fare dude, shiso is a produce item, not another kind of leaf. As further testament to my commitment (and craziness), I made Mike stop the car while we were on our way to a Chinese New Year Dinner with my friends when I saw a Vietnamese market named Supermarket 88. It looked like the kind of store that would have shiso, and it did! I think it’s shiso anyway – it looks like it, it tastes like it, we should all just agree that it is shiso.

Tomatoes and shiso aside, you need to cut your block of tofu into rounds. Cookie cutters make doing that really easy, but if you want even more convenience, just buy the round tofu!

Finally, plate it up and you have the best tasting Asian-style caprese salad ever. It was a revelation for me, truly. The creaminess of the tofu, the sweetness of the sherry vinegar in the dressing and the freshness of the peeled tomatoes came together perfectly. Even Mike, who doesn’t even like tofu thought this salad was good. He actually willingly ate tofu, that’s how good this salad was.

mini tomato salad

Jean-Georges, I don’t blame you for the hair in my chicken. You probably weren’t even there that day. The chicken was insanely delicious, even the one bite out of the hairy one. Your opinion of this cherry tomato salad? Bang on! Mr. Vongerichten, you have good taste!

cherry tomato salad

Proteins and carbs found in the Momofuku Noodle Bar recipes.

roasted pork belly

This is the last of the obsessive-compulsive lists for the Noodle Bar recipes. It makes me kind of sad, but the category of this list makes me happy: meat and potatoes! Let’s see what Chang cooks with. Check out the master Noodle Bar list of recipes if you’re still curious.

Proteins

baby octopus (31)
chicken (2, 3, 19, 21)
chicken wings (20)
crawfish (30)
eggs (1, 9)
fish cake (1)
littleneck or butter clams (28)
meaty pork bones (2)
mussels (27)
pork belly (1, 7, 17)
pork shoulder (1, 8, 14)
shrimp (33)
smoky bacon (2, 5, 19, 23, 23, 28, 33)
tofu (25)

Carbohydrates

quick-cooking grits (33)
ramen (1)
rice cake sticks (11, 14)
short grain rice (14, 19)

Bacon is clearly the darling of Chang’s kitchen, mine too!

List of produce used in Momofuku Noodle Bar recipes

Yet another obsessive compulsive list! This list can be used in conjunction with the Master Noodle Bar list, or you can just gawk at it and see what kind of strange produce David Chang likes using and in how many recipes.

apple or asian pear (15)
asparagus (22)
beets (15)
bird’s eye chili (15, 32)
brussel sprouts (24)
carrot (2, 14, 15, 16, 24, 31)
cauliflower (15)
celery (15)
cherries (15)
cherry tomatos (25)
corn (23)
crosnes (15)
cucumber (15, 16, 19)
daikon (15)
fennel (15)
fingerling potatoes (28)
fresh horseradish (26)
garlic (16, 20, 27, 32)
ginger (10, 15, 16, 27, 32)
melon (15)
napa cabbage (15, 16)
onion (2, 13, 16)
radish (15)
ramps (15)
red radishes (26)
scallions/green onion (1, 2, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33)
shiso leaf (25)
sugar snap peas (26)
sunchokes (15)
Tokyo turnips (15)

Obviously Chang likes scallions a lot.

Shopping at H-Mart for kimchi ingredients

H-Mart is a Korean American grocery store, America’s T&T Supermarket if you will, but Korean instead of Chinese. They have aisles and aisles of instant ramyun, seaweed, kimchi and Korean snack foods.

I figured I would be able to find most of my ingredients pretty easily, except for the kochukaru and jarred salted shrimp. H-Mart had a entire section devoted to packages and packages of red pepper powder, but none with a “kochukaru” label. Since there wasn’t any other chili powder in the store, I went with the red pepper powder, coarse ground.

kochukaru, korean chili or red pepper powder

The jarred salted shrimp was marginally easier to find. I thought it would be in the can/jar section, but it was actually refrigerated. It was labeled “salt prawn” and was in what looked like a peanut butter jar. Good enough for me!

jarred salted shrim/salted prawn

Good enough for the friendly Korean cashier as well. I asked her what the Korean name for the red pepper powder was. “Kochukaru. You’re making kimchi?” she asked. Before I could answer, she scanned the jar of salt prawn and laughed, “yes, this goes in kimchi!”

produce booty

So, looks like Momofuku kimchi will have some authentic Korean ingredients! I better get started, it needs to ferment for 2 weeks for optimal kimchi-ness.

Planning for kimchi stew

After the Ramen Spectacular I had a lot of broth and pork shoulder leftover. It was obvious: time for kimchi stew! Of course to make kimchi stew you need to make kimchi. No worries. I can do that. First things first, shopping for ingredients.

Shopping List:
-green onions
-carrots
-onions
-daikon
-napa cabbage
-garlic
-ginger
-sliced rice cakes
-kochukaru, a Korean chili powder
-jarred salted shrimp

As diverse as T&T’s Asian aisles are, I don’t think I’ll find the kochukaru or jarred salted shrimp there. Next plan of attack: Korean Supermarket H-Mart!