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.
This is a tasty spread I often serve at Austrian cooking classes.
Liptauer is originally from Liptov, in Slovakia, formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The dish became quite popular in Austria-proper, and is now considered a classic part of that country’s cuisine.
In Austria Liptauer is made with a soft, fresh cheese called Topfen. Topf is the German word for pot, so Topfen can be translated as “pot cheese”. It goes by the name Quark (pronounced “KVARK”) in many other parts of Europe. Austrians will scoff, but the recipe below approximates Topfen by using a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream.
Besides cheese, the other essential ingredient in Liptauer is paprika, which is ubiquitous in several Eastern … Continue reading.
Aperitivo is the Italian word for aperitif. Ostensibly it is a drink taken before dinner.
In practice it is both drink and food. The fundamental idea of Italian aperitivo is that you order a drink and receive complimentary food. That food may be a fistful of olives, or it may be a no-kidding smorgasbord. Isn’t that amazing?
Let’s talk about drinks, then about food.
A Simple Bar for Aperitivo
Amari. If you can buy only one bottle of liqueur for aperitivo, it should be Campari. Campari is a bitter liqueur of about 25% ABV, flavoured with obscure herbs and fruit (eg chinotto, the myrtle-leaved orange tree). It was invented in Novara, Piedmont, by Gaspare Campari. It was first … Continue reading.
Amarone is the most fashionable Italian wine in North America. I’m in no way qualified to make such a sweeping statement, but I think the shelves of boutique wine shops offer ample testament. The wine is rich, concentrated, age-worthy, and expensive. It is by its very nature more pricey than most other wines: made from partially-dried grapes, it requires more kilograms of fruit to produce a litre of wine. The absolute cheapest bottles in Canada cost about $40, but most mid-level bottles sell for around $60. My first taste of Amarone was in the home of a self-impressed eye doctor. It was delicious.
Amarone is from Valpolicella, a small region in northeast Italy, just outside Verona. Valpolicella is an … Continue reading.
This is balsamic vinegar of Modena. We’ve all had it before: it’s brown, and sweet, and acidic. This bottle was produced by Unico. I think I bought it at Safeway.
Let’s look at the ingredients list. First is wine vinegar. Then concentrated grape must. “Must” is the winemaker’s term for unfermented grape juice. So concentrated grape must is just cooked grape juice. Next we see caramel, or cooked sugar, which gives the vinegar is characteristic colour, sweetness, and body. Finally we have sulfites, which inhibit micro-organisms and prevent unwanted fermentation. In other words, this condiment is sweetened vinegar.
Bottles labelled “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” have a faux seal on them that says “Indicazione Geografica Protettata,” or IGP. This is … Continue reading.
Preßwurst, transliterated “presswurst” and pronounced “PRESS-voorst,” is Austrian headcheese.
Headcheese is a polarizing preparation with a terrible name, but I think borrowing a trick from Preßwurst can make headcheese much more palatable to North Americans.
Both dishes are made from pork head and trotter. The meat is brine-cured so it is rosy pink, then simmered until tender. The meat is strained, shredded, and packed into a mold with some of the gelatin-rich cooking liquid, which firms into aspic when chilled. Full details on the procedure can be found in this post.
The most important way in which Austrian Preßwurst differs from North American headcheese is that after being packed into the mold, a heavy weight is rested on … Continue reading.
Schmalzfleisch is one of the staple Aufstriche (spreads) at an Austrian Heuriger. If that sentence made absolutely no sense to you, read this post before proceeding.
Schmalzfleisch literally means “fat-meat”. It is one of several dishes Austrians have developed to use up irregular scraps of cured meat, like the very end of a ham that can’t quite be passed through the meat slicer.
The process for making Schmalzfleisch is simple: pieces of cured meat are ground, then mixed with rendered lard to form a cohesive paste that can be spread on bread. Traditionally cured meat and fat are the only two ingredients. I like to add a touch of mustard for balancing acidity.
If you grew up in … Continue reading.