My home is Brooklyn (and has been for most of my adult life, thank you very much) along with nearly 2.6 million other people. They are Hispanic, African American, West Indian, Chinese, Latin American, Korean, Orthodox, Hasidic, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Arabic, Italian, African, etc… You get the idea—it’s a GIGANTIC melting pot. All largely living cheek by jowl. The borders between neighborhoods are becoming increasingly blurred, but the cores remain pretty much intact. Each neighborhood boasts great ethnic eats, mostly super cheap not to mention fantastic markets. I could get on my bike or the subway and travel to the outer reaches for specialty ingredients—Sunset Park is great for Mexican, whereas Canarsie is great for West Indian—but sometimes it’s not always practical. As a reflection of my beloved borough’s shifting demographics, (and I don’t mean full-beared, tattoo-covered, roof-top chicken-raisers) Costco (my Costco) has begun to stock its shelves with some pretty esoteric, ethnic ingredients. Chinese sausage, Chapati flour, a full line of Kosher and Israeli foods, Gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) whole Halal lambs, Imported Italian single origin olive oil, oxtail and gandules (pigeon peas) sit next to more standard ingredients like Cheerios and Skippy. (Ah, Brooklyn!) The recipe that follows is my cross-cultural homage to Brooklyn (and Costco)
Greek feta, Italian capers and extra-virgin olive oil, and Korean pepper flakes get a little help from my garden. Ordinarily, I’d use Aleppo, but the gochugaru is remarkably similar and a fraction of the price. It’s a little perfume-y and sweetly spicy. Crushed red pepper flakes work really well too, but the result is much spicier. What I like about this dish is that while it’s great right away, the flavor deepens the longer it sits.
Here’s why you should make it: it’s dead simple and delicious. Here’s how you should eat it: with crusty grilled bread; sliced tomatoes; grilled meats, especially lamb; and in grain/green salads.
SPICY MARINATED FETA WITH HERBS AND CAPERS
Total time: 15 minutes, plus marinating
12 ounces feta, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 fresh oregano sprigs, leaves picked
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 ½ teaspoons Korean or Aleppo pepper, or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
In a clean and dry jar, add the feta in layers, sprinkling with the chives, oregano, capers and pepper. Cover with olive oil and refrigerate until ready to use.