Local Eats: Laurel Market - Charlotte, NC

photo by: Shane Cudahy of Evergreen Studio

Well word on the street is we're playing a show in Charlotte again at the Bojangles Coliseum. As excited I was about that I was also very excited when Laurel Market, a super sandwich shop in Charlotte, asked me to create a few signature sandwiches. Best part is, if you go order one of these sandwiches you're also entered in a chance to win a pair of tickets to the show on April 9th! Anyways, I've outlined my inspiration behind these sandwiches below. I hope you'll go give one a try and tell me what you think.

The first above is a vegetarian sandwich that consists of toasted sourdough filled with 2 eggs over easy, avocado, bibb lettuce, tomato, spicy mustard, salt, and pepper. It's filled with flavor and of course the nice richness from the eggs and avocado makes this a great sandwich even for NON-vegetarians. The idea behind this sandwich initially originated when I was trying to think of a dish with the letters AVETT in it. As it turns out Laurel Market doesn't have a fryer so couldn't serve it with Tater Tots. Bummer. So that idea was nixed and this was the resulting sandwich. (Avocado, Vine ripened tomato, Egg, Tater Tots)
photo by: Shane Cudahy of Evergreen Studio

My second creation is kind of a hodgepodge of flavors but it is loosely based off some bahn mi flavors. The nice juxtaposition of sweet and spicy is what I was going for here, all while maintaining a clean feel in your belly.

This sandwich comes on a baguette filled with Genoa salami, pastrami, mayo, jalapeno peppers, sweet pickles, cucumbers, red onion, and fresh cilantro.


photo by: Shane Cudahy of Evergreen Studio

This last sandwich was just added. My inspiration behind this was the Italian idea of wrapping prociutto around fruit. So, this sandwich comes on cranberry walnut bread with prociutto, fresh mozzarella, basil, cracked pepper, sea salt, horseradish, and mayo.

Well there you have it. Hope you feel inspired to check out this awesome gem of a stop in Charlotte!

--Joe Kwon

Recipe: Braised Tofu?

I found it difficult to name this dish because I don't know what the actual translation would be of the Korean word. For all your speakers out there this is my version of 두부 조림.

I took a sort of Japanese take on one of my favorite Korean side dishes. The process takes a while but it's not difficult at all. If you've never been a big fan of tofu then this is definitely the way to try it.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Rest Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 pack firm tofu
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp high quality soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1 green onion some reserved for garnish
a dash of toasted sesame oil
red pepper flakes or sriracha to taste

The reason this dish takes as long as it does is that you have to remove as much water from the tofu as possible. I do this by taking the whole block of tofu with paper towels on both sides and putting it between two cutting boards with a can of tomatoes on top for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

That's it for now, just let it rest and you can get the rest of the ingredients ready. Coursely chop up the garlic and makes little rounds with the green onion. Put the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and green onion along with 1 tablespoon of water into a small bowl and set it aside, you'll be using this later.

Remove the tofu and cut it in half making two blocks of tofu the same size as the original piece just half as thin. Now cut those in half width wise and making 4 smaller rectangles. Now cut those four pieces in half again making 8 pieces. Now cut along a diagonal making 16 triangles. Shoot me a message if that doesn't make sense. Pretty much just try to make the shape I have in the picture.

Now put the canola oil in a nice non stick pan or well seasoned cast iron and bring it up to heat on medium heat and drop in the tofu all on the same side. You may have to work in batches. Evenly brown all 5 sides of your triangles and remove the tofu onto a plate and let them cool to room temperature.

The last and final step is the part that I guess is like a quick braise. I know that's kind of an oxymoron but I just don't know what I'd call it. In a medium sauce pan make a layer of tofu with your fried tofu and spoon over your soy mixture from before. Now put another layer of fried tofu on top of that and spoon over some more of your soy mixture. Repeat this process until you've put all your tofu in the sauce pan and you have used up all your soy mixture. Now put the pan on the stove on medium heat and heat the tofu through spooning the mixture over top of the tofu from the bottom of the pan. 10 minutes later you'll have a nice salty/spicy tofu dish that'll be great with a side of rice and kimchee!

Hope you like the dish. It's a bit much for some tofu but I find pleasure in the dishes that take me a long time to make.
--Joe Kwon

Recipes: Potato Chips (VEG)

So I finally got that white Christmas I've been wishing for my whole life. Problem is, it came after it got dark. Beggars can't be choosers I guess. In any case, I got snowed in because I am afraid of driving in the snow and was rummaging through my pantry to find something to eat and my Em was telling me about how she had so much food at her mom's and that fresh chips were coming out of the fryer. *DING DING* That was it, the spark of genius I had been waiting for. This recipe is so easy I just thought I'd put together a quick post and get it out to you all. Hope you enjoy!

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 minutes per batch


2 large russet potatoes washed/scrubbed
1 quart canola/vegetable oil (peanut oil is best but not as "good" for you)
salt to taste

Fill a large bowl about half way with cold water. If you have a mandolin this next step will take you 5 minutes. If you don't have a mandolin go buy one. Sorry, but it's just one of those kitchen tools that makes your life so much easier. Using the mandolin slice the potatoes lengthwise directly into the bowl of water. Once you are done with both potatoes drain the water and fill the bowl back up with clean water. You're trying to remove the starch from the potatoes. Drain the water one more time and let your potatoes rest for 20-30 minutes. In the mean time heat up your oil in your favorite cast iron pan or deep fryer. Bring the oil to 365 degrees. Now drain the potatoes and fill the bowl up with water one more time.

Thoroughly drain the potatoes and move them onto a dry towel. Working in small batches and making sure not to cook your arm off with splattering oil, fry the potatoes until they are your desired texture. I like mine a bit darker and crunchier. Remove them from the oil and sprinkle with salt or any desired spice. Repeat this step till all the potatoes are done.

A little eco-friendly tip I learned from my buddy Leon (@doublelg); when removing the chips from the oil place them on a used paper bag from the grocery store. They work better than paper towels and hold much more oil!

You can really use all sorts of seasoning with this recipe. For garlic chips, toss them with some finely minced garlic and a little extra virgin olive oil. Or for a bit spicier kick, try cayenne pepper and a cider vinegar.

To store the chips I put them in an air tight container and with a disposable tea bag filled with uncooked white rice.

Inspiration is everywhere!
--Joe Kwon

Local Eats: Mediterranean Deli - Chapel Hill, NC

Fresh made pita bread
The freshest pita you can find in NC and other freshly prepared Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes are just a stones throw for those in Chapel Hill. This is probably the healthiest place I eat in Chapel Hill, even still I find myself frequenting Med Deli all the time!

Med Deli is situated on the west end of Chapel Hill's Franklin Street. A street filled with bars and mediocre restaurants for the most part, Med Deli stands out as a beacon of palette saving light.

Cold Selections and Deserts
The best thing about this place is the fresh food of course. Add to that the fact that they do make an effort to be green and purchase locally and you've got a recipe for praise. There is so much variety here that I don't think you could ever try everything before the menu changes up on you. You will never leave hungry, and it'll always be crowded with local Chapel Hill folk.

Cold Bar Condiments
The all you can eat cold bar is more just condiments for your food but the olives are amazing and the spicy pepper sauce makes my mouth water. Don't take advantage of the bar though. No one likes it when you waste food!!!

Greek Salad
There's nothing wrong with a nice glistening Greek salad for lunch. It's usually enough to fill you up for a few hours but you really should eat a piece of desert with it. And Med Deli has a great selection of finger deserts. After all you should reward yourself for being good.

The Daily Special
If you're feeling like you could eat a horse or you've skipped a meal or you can just put back a lot of food you should consider getting the daily special. It's a hodgepodge of some sort of protein dish over some saffron rice with a side Greek salad and of course some pita bread on the side. I've never actually seen anyone finish it all but it's all very nice if you're really hungry. All of that can be yours for just 7 dollars.

Soujouk Fatayer
The fatayer are new to the Med Deli line up. If you've been coming to med deli for years, you know that it used to have half the size with a row of market goods along the left wall. Since the time of a over packed house, they've expanded to half their size and the famous pita machine that pumps out pita bread like mexican restaurants pump out fresh tortillas. Along with all of the renovations came the fatayer.

A fatayer is practically a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern pizza. The soujouk fatayer contains turkish sausage, a fresh egg, feta and mozzarella all wrapped in fresh dough and baked. When ordering though make sure you know that these take about 15 extra minutes because of the prep and baking time. But if you have the time, it's definitely worth the wait.

Falafel Pita
This brings us to the ever classic falafel. I've always enjoyed a good falafel sandwich and Med Deli does a great job and keeps it very affordable. This is probably my most frequent go to meal because it's not huge like the special or the fatayer, and it's portable! And with the cold bar you can customize it to your spicy/garlicy/tadziki-y flavor. Perfection in a pita!

--Joe Kwon

For Mediterranean Deli's website click here.

Recipe: Fava Bean Salad (V)

This is a quick vegan/vegetarian side dish I learned from my Syrian buddy Bilal. I don't know what it is about this dish, but to me all the flavors that I want in a nice bean salad are there and nothing is lacking. This recipe is sure to be a big hit at your next supper club.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 ~14oz Can Fava Beans
2 oz onion thin diced
2 tbsp minced fresh flat leaf italian parsley
4 oz quartered grape tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Drain the fava beans and put them in a sauce pan on medium heat. In the mean time combine all of the other ingredients in a bowl. When the beans are heated through add them to the bowl and mix to combine all the ingredients. It's as simple as that. Serve it with some warm pita bread and a side of hot pepper sauce.

Fava beans are pretty hard to find fresh. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen them in the grocery store or farmer's market in my area but, these canned ones will do the job.

--Joe Kwon

Recipe: Broccolini and Sausage Pasta

A simple & delish pasta recipe you'll come back to over and over during the broccolini/rabe months. I used broccolini for this recipe only because I couldn't find any broccoli rabe but, I do recommend using broccoli rabe for it's bitterness. This dish can also be made vegetarian by just not including the sausage. Broccolini and broccoli rabe have such nice flavors they are great with just a little sauteed garlic and olive oil.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 lb Broccolini (Broccoli Rabe recommended)
4 italian sausages
4 cloves garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water 1 lb penne pasta
Crushed Red Pepper Salt Pepper Freshly Grated Parmesan

Start by putting on a large pot of water to boil the penne. While the water comes up to a boil you'll have plenty of time to prep your ingredients.
You can always cut up your garlic to whatever size you want. My tastes change from day to day and this day I wanted minced garlic. Most of the time I just course the garlic after smashing it with the side of my knife.
Coarsely chop up the broccolini/rabe to 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch sized pieces. I usually remove the woodsy part at the base of the broccolini that looks a bit too hearty to eat. Most of the time it's fine right out of the store. Make sure you find some really good broccolini or broccoli rabe since it's the real highlight of the dish.
Chop up the sausage into 1/4 inch coins. Make sure you use a separate cutting board when handling meats. Cross contamination is NOT fun! I used a nice organic italian sausage from Whole Foods. This sausage wasn't my favorite for this dish only because it didn't hold it's shape very well. I like a nice hard casing on my sausages normally.
When the water starts to boil go ahead and drop the pasta in and put a large dutch oven or pot on the stove and preheat it to a med-high heat. When the pan is nice and hot add the oil and make sure it's coating the bottom of the pan. If the pan is too hot it'll smoke so be careful.

Add the garlic and sweat them till they are almost brown. Make sure they don't go much further than that. Add crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Remember when you heat up pepper flakes they get a lot spicier than just eating them regularly because the oils have a chance to get out. Make sure the garlic and red pepper flakes don't burn or you'll be left with a bitter mess.

Add the sausage and saute for 5 minutes or until they are almost cooked through. When they have some nice brown to them add the broccolini, water, salt & pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the leaves have fully wilted.

By now your pasta should be just about al dente so strain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sausage and broccolini. Saute all the ingredients for a couple minutes to incorporate all the flavors. That's it!

Plate up the pasta and grate some fresh parmesan over top of it and enjoy!

--Joe Kwon