Category Archives: Special Topics

Schnitzel

Pork schnitzel with parsley potatoes, cranberry, and lemon.

Subtitle: The Subtle Art of Hitting Meat with a Hammer

Long before I knew anything about European cuisine, I was familiar with the term Wiener Schnitzel.  Well, sort of.  My mom baked us frozen “Wiener schnitzel” from M & M Meat Shop every once in a while.  But I didn’t know that Wiener means “from Wien”, or that Wien is the actual name of the city English-speakers call Vienna.  I also didn’t know that “schnitzel” is related to the word schnitte, which means “slice.”  Wiener Schnitzel is a piece of veal, traditionally from the leg, pounded out with a mallet, breaded, and fried.

I love veal, but I almost never have it in my house.  It’s hard to come … Continue reading.

Homemade Frankfurters

Homemade frankfurters with potato salad and mustard.

In Vienna these links are called Frankfurter Würstl, named for the city Frankfurt am Main in Germany. In most of the rest of the world (including Frankfurt) they are called Wieners, which means “Viennese.” Go figure. Whatever you call them they are the ancestor of the North American hot dog.

The old world version is usually 100% pork in delicate lamb casings, lightly smoked. North American hot dogs can be pork, beef, or a combination of the two, usually in synthetic casings.

I link mine extra long, so they barely fit on a dinner plate.

To emulate the very fine texture of the commercial varieties I grind twice through a 3/16″ plate, and then do a lengthy mixing phase, roughly … Continue reading.

Three Meals in Piemonte

Photo by Lisa Zieminek

I’ve always felt that whether you’re in Edmonton or Manhattan or Red Deer there will be good food and there will be bad food.  No matter where I’ve travelled I’ve had great meals and abhorrent meals, often in the same day.

Of course, I haven’t travelled everywhere, but this idea has been corroborated by several writers, even regarding Paris.  Jeffrey Steingarten acknowledges that most baguettes, even in Paris, are shit.[1]  George Orwell went so far as to say that his time in Paris “destroyed one of my illusions, namely, the idea that Frenchmen know good food when they see it.”[2]

In other words you can’t look at one city or region and say unequivocally, … Continue reading.

Greek Lamb Sausage

I have Greek food on the brain.  The current infatuation has many diverse origins.  For starters this summer is the ten year anniversary of an epic trip through southern Greece, and I have been reading old food notes from the journey.  Also I’ll be doing a class on Greek mezze for Metro Continuing Education this fall.  With all this in mind last week I made a Greek lamb sausage.

Coils of Greek lamb sausageIn 2008 I spent five weeks in Greece, eating in tavernas two or three times a day.  I don’t think I ever had a sausage like this.  In other words this sausage is not traditional, but it is very much inspired by Greek loukaniko, a pork sausage flavoured with orange … Continue reading.

Buranelli Cookies

Buranelli cookies in the traditional "esse" shape.One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine.  In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria.  You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack.  A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.

Buranelli are from the Venetian island of Burano.  The dough is a bit like shortbread (more sweet and less buttery than my preferred Scottish-style Continue reading.

Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil

A couple bottles of Styiran Gold brand Styrian pumpkin seed oilStyrian pumpkin seed oil (Steirisches Kürbiskernöl in German) is a remarkable artisan product.

Styria (Steiermarck in German) is a province in the southeastern part of Austria.  Here and in parts of adjacent Slovenia they grow pumpkins that produce hull-less seeds.  These seeds are roasted and pressed to produce a fabulous oil that puts all other pumpkin seed oils to shame.  Whereas most North American versions are a yellow-brown colour, Styrian pumpkin seed oil is deep forest green, and powerfully redolent of roasted nuts.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a high-quality Styrian pumpkin seed oil at any of the continental import shops in Edmonton like K & K.  To get my fix I purchase online from … Continue reading.

Goulash

A plate of goulash, Hungarian beef stew, served with ServiettenknödelnGoualsh is a beef stew originally from Hungary but eaten all over Central Europe.  It is the kind of preparation that Europeans will fight to the death over.  Matters like whether it is properly called a stew or a soup, whether it contains tomatoes, or potatoes, or what starch it is served with (if any) often become violent.  It is estimated that 12 Europeans are killed every year in goulash-related arguments.[1]

The following is an original recipe, inspired by the goulash made at Seewirtshaus in Semmering, Austria.  When I worked there they made a goulash similar to this using Maiboc (May deer) and served it with Serviettenknödel.  Many would take exception to my use of tomato paste and … Continue reading.

Spätzle

All the spätzle.Spätzle are little dumplings.  They are sometimes described as egg noodles, though they are quite different than the broad, flat, twisted dried pasta sold as egg noodles.

In former times spätzle were shaped by cutting small pieces of dough with a knife or spoon and rolling them into a pot of boiling water.  This process gives the noodles a long, tapered, vaguely avian appearance, which is the alleged origin of their name, which literally means “little sparrows”.

Originally a specialty of Swabia in the far south-east of Germany, spätzle is now common throughout southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  Shorter, more rounded versions are sometimes called knöpfli, which means little buttons.

These days most spätzle is made using a special board … Continue reading.

Ouzo

Ouzo is a strong, clear, anise-flavoured spirit made in Greece.  The taste may remind you of liquorice candy, or other anise spirits like sambuca, pastis, and Pernod.  The term is a protected regional designation within the EU, meaning that if it’s not made in Greece, it can’t be called ouzo.  It is usually about 40% ABV.

Ouzo is made by infusing a relatively neutral spirit with anise and other botanicals.  The neutral spirit is a grape pommace distillate, just like Italian grappa or French marc.  In most of Greece this grape pommace distillate is called tsipouro, though the Turkish word raki is also common, especially on the islands of Crete and Cyprus.  Tsipouro has been made for centuries, and over … Continue reading.

Greek Salad – Horiatiki

horiatiki_greek_salad.JPGThe actual Greek name of the ubiquitous Greek salad is Horiatiki, which means, roughly, “village salad.”  As I mentioned in my general post on Greek food, one Greek restaurateur told me that the primordial Greek salad was just feta, onions, and olive oil, and that traditionally the cucumbers and tomatoes are flourishes added only in the summer months.

There are really only two things you need to know to make superlative Greek salad.  The first: for this dish more than maybe any other you need to use amazing ingredients.  Greek salad with pale tomatoes and thick-skinned cucumbers and canned olives is really one of the saddest things you can eat.

I use the following:

  • Gull Valley vine or
Continue reading.