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.
In 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.
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 (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.
Goualsh 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.
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 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 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.
The 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:
… Continue reading.
Originally posted December 15, 2009 (if you can believe that). Re-posted today with some major corrections. I first read about cretons in an article in The Ottawa Citizen by then-food-columnist Ron Eade. He presented cretons as a Quebecois variation on rillette. A while back Emmanuel (Manu) of Pied Cochon, Joe Beef, and Woodwork fame gave me the skinny on cretons, and they really are not like rillettes at all. I am not able to find that original Ron Eade article to expose it. Presumably someone from the lower St. Lawrence forced him to remove it as libel or lies. Anyways.
Cretons is a pork spread made by simmering ground pork and aromatics like onion, bay, and clove in milk or … Continue reading.
Any country that pickles its national cheese in brine and adulterates its national wine with pine pitch should order dinner at the local Chinese place and save its energies for other things.
-Jeffrey Steingarten, on Greek food
As the above quote from Vogue’s food critic demonstrates, Greek food is not often taken seriously in North America. In fact, a trip to a Greek restaurant is not even about the food, as the food is more or less the same at all Greek restaurants. In our part of the world, dining at a Greek restaurant is about the experience, an experience that usually involves tables for twelve, bazuki music, belly dancing, liquor, repetition of the phrase “Opa!”, smashing plates, and … Continue reading.
Some shameless self-promotion: if the type of information contained in this post interests you at all, I’m going to be hosting a tasting of sparkling wines on Thursday, February 11, as part of Little Brick’s Home School series.
I’ve been meaning to write about Austrian wine for some time. Years, actually: ever since I wrote this post on Heurigen, which are rural taverns that serve young wine and cider.
Last week the Elm wine group did a tasting of Grüner Veltliner, the national grape of Austria, so I thought I would finally put down some info on Austrian wine.
If you haven’t had Austrian wine before, you’re not a freak or a philistine: there isn’t a whole … Continue reading.