Moroccan Preserved Lemons

From my modern American perspective, the essence of Moroccan food comes from two factors. The first is a mixture of several cultures. There is Arab influence, Mediterranean influence, French, African, and that of numerous traders who passed through.IMG_0328

 

The 2nd factor arose from the need to preserve ingredients in an arid climate with no refrigeration. When it comes to preserving meat, you simply kept it alive until you were ready to eat it.

Fish, Fruits and vegetables however, require more creativity. Thus, there is drying, salting, pickling, brining and this simple recipe for preserving lemons.

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Here is your list of ingredient, course salt, lemons, and a jar in which to put them.

“Make this recipe now so it will be ready in a few weeks when we make a Moroccan tagine that calls for preserved lemons”

 

Preserved lemons are an essential ingredient in Moroccan tagines.  The tagine is both the dish pictured at the top of this post, and the stew cooked in the dish.  This simple and easy recipe will be ready to use in a couple of weeks.

The acid from the lemon juice and high saline from the salt hampers bacteria, hence the preserved quality.  It is a fermentation however, so don’t be surprised if you find some pressure released when you open the jar.

 

You’ll need double the lemons you plan to preserve for additional lemon juice.

Cut the lemons in quarters, but not all the way through so each quarter is still attached.  Rub the inside of the lemon quarters with course salt, and then stuff them into a jar.

Cover the lemons with lemon juice from the additional lemons and seal the lid.  If you don’t have enough juice to cover them, you can invert the jar each day for a couple weeks.  My experience with this method, however, is that–due to the pressure from fermentation–all containers eventually leak when inverted.  So if you invert, put the jar in a bowl to catch the leakage.  It’s best to simply cover them with juice.

 

 

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Put them in a dry place at room temperature for a couple weeks. If possible have a happy wooden chef watch over them!

You can taste them at any time, but after a couple weeks you will notice a distinct change in flavor.  They will mellow considerable from the tart salty mixture you start with, and they will have a new flavor component that I find hard to describe, beyond saying it is faintly exotic.  They will now last indefinitely.

Make this recipe now so it will be ready in a few weeks when we make a Moroccan tagine that calls for preserved lemons.

Try them out in other recipes too!  Take a quarter lemon, pulp and all and cut it into thin slices and add to any dish near the end of cooking for a distinctive lemony flavor.

TT

Hawaii – Day 2 of 15 – The North Shore

In 2013, tonemanblog lost a library of photographs leaving many broken links on older posts.  The following post is a restored version from a trip in 2011 trip to Hawaii.


Day 2 would be our first full day in Hawaii and it was going to be a long one because we were still on east coast time.  At one point I woke up at 12:30 am pretty much rested!  I managed to sleep until 5:00 and then finally got up.  My wife swam laps in a pool she had all to herself while I went to the fitness center.  It’s pretty tough to beat an elliptical machine that looks out over the Pacific Ocean as the sun comes up!

We decided we would explore Oahu’s North Shore.  This is the absolute opposite end of the hustle-bustle Waikiki, not only geographically but in every other way.

Oahu’s North Shore, map courtesy North Shore Chamber of Commerce

To get there we drove up the center of the island.  This is a landmass formed from volcanic activity and the landscape is dramatically beautiful!  As we drove through a fertile valley planted with pineapples (the Dole plantation), coffee, and coccoa on either side of us were breathtaking lush green mountains.  I felt like I was on the set of Lost, or Survivor!

Coccoa plantation with mountains and sea in background

Coccoa plantation with mountains and sea in background

We arrived at the town of Haleiva (hahl-ee-ehva) and drove west all the way to Kaena Point.  It was here that we found our own deserted private beach.  On one side of the street was a small airstrip, a glider-port to be exact.  The whole time we were there we saw planes towing gliders up into the air and a while later they would come arc’ing into the strip to land.

We also saw a plane drop a dozen skydivers all at once!

On our side of the street however, was a beach that went on as far as the eye could see, and about 6 other people!

Practically our own private beach!

Our own private beach!

I could not believe that here we were in Hawaii and seemed to have the place all to ourselves.  I knew it would be a different story in Waikiki, but that was for another day.

We were swimming in what was a pounding hard surf.  Occasionally we would look up to the beach to see we had drifted quite far from our towels and bags.

We also had several friends in the water!  Sea turtles were everywhere and they were huge!  They would wash around in the surf, occasionally coming up for air but otherwise seemed happy to just float around.

Sea Turtle

We left the beach for the town of Waialua.  There we found an old sugar plantation that is now a coffee and coccoa business.  The owner explained that those were his fields we saw coming into the north shore and that they did the drying here, but did the roasting at another site.  We tried a sample of Waialua coffee (very good!) and tasted raw coccoa beans, unroasted but dried, very cool!

An old sugar processing plant, this spot in Waialua now grows and dried coffee and coccoa.

An old sugar processing plant, this spot in Waialua now grows and dried coffee and coccoa.

We continued to explore the coast, pulling into a store or beach when it looked interesting.  We ate in Haleiwa, a classic laid back surfer town.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant called Cholo’s and even Mexican food here has a distinct Hawaiian twist.  The fish taco is grilled ahi, the margarita is prepared with a Hawaiian tart spice called Li-Hing, and the restaurant is, like most buildings here, open air.

The Li-Hing Margarita

The Li-Hing Margarita

The food and the geography, the friendly people, it was all so inspiring that we decided to assemble the ingredients and flavors we had experienced to make dinner at our villa that night.

I bought some ahi tuna, as well as a tuna dish called Poke (pronounced pok-ay).  This is a sushi style dish in which raw sashimi grade tuna is tossed with soy sauce, seaweed, green onions, and sesame seeds.  It is so fresh and amazing!

Hawaiin Poke

Hawaiin Poke

We bought fresh local grown fruit, papaya, pineapple, and Hawaiian grown long beans, string beans which are each about a foot long.

The result for dinner that night was fantastic!  Seared ahi tuna on a bed of asian cabbage slaw served with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya.  For me this was the best of both worlds.  I got to cook, which I love, but Hawaii provided the inspiration, and the ingredients!

The ingredients for seared Ahi tuna on a bed of sesame cabbage slaw with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya

The ingredients for seared Ahi tuna on a bed of sesame cabbage slaw with cucumber kim chee and fresh papaya

This time we made it until it got dark, so we are beginning to adjust to the 6 hour time difference.

Tomorrow will be Memorial Day and we plan to visit Pearl Harbor.

π

Recipes That Didn’t Age Well

This post is part of the series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes“.  The series includes some timeless classics.  Some, however, are better markers of the past.

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With dubious distinction, this recipe wins on the first line alone, calling for a pig’s head with ears and brains removed!  It’s like someone requesting “wet work” in Pulp Fiction!  Then it actually uses the word “sloppy” in the recipe.  I’m sorry, you’re already starting with a pig’s head, the word “sloppy” just drives home the unsavory nature of this dish.

Head Cheese–in this case Hog’s Head Cheese–is a relatively common dish from the recent past.  It could take the form of a cold-cut like an olive loaf, but more often was a terrine, more like paté.  Anthony Bourdain (a favorite food and travel writer of mine) once said if people didn’t know what was in the Scottish dish Haggis it would be the second most popular sausage in America.  Be that as it may, I now know what’s in Hog’s Head Cheese and will definitely not be recreating it at home!

The thing is, I’m an adventurous eater and if served a sausage in a restaurant, I’m not going to trifle over where on the pig it came from; but this!  I mean, “pick out the bones and skin”?!?!  The recipe says, “It will be ready for use as soon as it is cold”  Cold in Hell maybe!

What really surprises me is that someone from Woburn, MA with the initials “M.E.J” actually wrote in to the paper asking for this recipe!  Did they say, “I’ve got a hog’s head and I don’t know what to do with it?”

I’m sure there are people who insist this was actually good back in the day and you can’t get good Hog’s Head Cheese now, but I am personally glad you can’t get this now!

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Seriously, back in 1935 someone wrote to a newspaper with a recipe for “hot dog stew”!  They didn’t even have the pride to put their own name on it, just, “Tillie’s Neighbor”.  They also offer the helpful portion advice that it could be halved if too much.

I can only hope that this is more reflective of the Great Depression than it is of the culinary state of the union in 1935.  Apparently my grandmother tried it and like it, actually making a note that it was “good”.  Hot dogs with fried onions, canned tomatoes and peas does not a “Frankfurt Luncheon Dish” make.

IMG_2530This one calls for boiling hot dogs, then skinning and grinding them!  You couldn’t already get ground hot dogs in a can in 1943?  Isn’t that what “Deviled Ham” was?  This got mixed with cracker crumbs, tomato soup, and an egg and baked for an hour.  An HOUR!  I’m half inclined to make this just to see how it comes out.  It seems like an hour in the oven would turn it into some sort of adobe block.

My grandmother has lots of good recipes in her files and many, like the Meatloaf Taste Test evolved through the years into modern classics.  These, however, are a few that will be left in the 1930’s and 40’s.

π

Meatloaf Through the Years – A Taste Test

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This recipe calls for you to take a piece of pork and a piece of beef and grind them together. That recipe would lose most of today’s home cooks right there on the first ingredient!

This post is part of the series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes“.  It is not so much about the food and recipes as it is about the history and commentary on the times.  There are, however, some great recipes!

The Meat section of Gram’s recipe boxes contains more meatloaf recipes than any other item.  Meatballs was a close second.  There has to be at least a dozen recipes, spanning from the 1930’s to the 1990’s.  Some came from newspaper clippings, some from friends and one peculiar mystery that appears to come from my Aunt Mary but someone crossed out Mary’s name and wrote that it was from her sister, Pat.  I’ll get to the bottom of that one.

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This handwritten recipe–from the apple-flavored category–was initially credited to my Aunt Mary but her name was crossed out and Aunt Pat’s was written in. It could have been an honest correction, Aunt Pat was not one to take credit for someone else’s work; but, one cannot rule out the work of a mischievous brother (my father) trying to make trouble!

I laid all the meatloaf recipes out on the counter and reviewed the differences.  There were a few items they all had in common.  All called for an onion, at least one egg, salt and pepper and of course meat.

There was also a few item types common to all with variations in what was used.  For example, all called for some sort of breading–usually breadcrumbs–but variations included cracker crumbs, oatmeal, and rice.

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I would create three representative meat loaves of each style and host a blind taste test for family and friends.

I put each recipe in one of three categories.  One was meatloaf at its most basic, almost generic version.  Most of these recipes had the title “Savory Meat Loaf”.

There were a number of recipes with variation in breading, flavoring, and additional ingredients.  I made a representative composite of these.

Finally, there were several versions that used apples or applesauce as a flavoring and that inclusion of the sweetness from apples intrigued me so that became a separate category.

I would create a meatloaf from each category and serve up a  blind taste test to my family and a couple neighbors.

The magic of Gram’s recipes:  The results were not only interesting but fun.  There was spirited debate on favorites, stories told, guessing on ingredients, and lively conversation of the family-dinner-table-variety.  More than a solid meatloaf recipe, what I am finding in these boxes is some of the close-knit family bonds that we associate with the past.  If my grandmother had any idea that filing a meatloaf recipe from 1943 would generate a cheerful evening of enjoyment more than 70 years, she’d be ticked pink and would say, “Isn’t that grand!”

Catsup vs. Ketchup

All of the recipes that called for it referred to it as “catsup”.  Curious, I did a little research  (i.e., I googled it.)  I learned that both words are derived from a Chinese sauce called “ke-tsiap”.  Relieved to know there was no connection to cats, I had a suspicion that “ketchup” was a trade name created by Heinz; that is not the case.  In fact, the original Heinz sauce was called catsup and was later changed to ketchup.  Both words were used from the very beginning as an attempt to create an English word that sounded like the Chinese name.  Ultimately “ketchup” simply became the American preferred term but both are considered appropriate to this day.

So here are the three recipes and the comments and votes they received.

Meatloaf #1 – Basic Savory Meatloaf

This was the version that was most representative of the basic savory meatloaf.  The older the recipe the blander it was and the more reflective of how they didn’t have expensive, out-of-season, exotic ingredients readily available like we do today.

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Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson and your representative recipe for meatloaf of the 1940’s.

For my version I used cooked rice as described in the recipe above and I would not do that again.  It took away from the “meatloaf” quality and was too visible, making it look more like a casserole (another plentiful category in Gram’s files).  I did use the evaporated milk as the liquid, and the poultry seasoning as the flavoring.  It had a mixture of beef and pork, about 3 to 1.

This was the least favorite of the group and in my opinion it was a combination of flavor and texture.  The mixture was rather watery going into the oven and I suspect that caused it to steam more than roast.  The result was no browning or caramelization.  The lack of any other flavors made the poultry seasoning so pronounced that dinner guests were commenting that there was “too much sage”, and it was “too herbal in flavor”. It suggests to me a good reason why my grandmother was constantly seeking to update her meatloaf recipe.

Meatloaf #2 – Using Oatmeal for breading, and a mixture of beef and pork

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This recipe came from a friend named Odessa Gamache, a classic French Canadian name. It called for Quaker oats as the breading, as did several others. I was interested to see what effect that had.

The use of oats interested me and I wanted to see if it had a cereal flavor, or if the oats were recognizable in the meatloaf.  Neither of those happened.  The texture was really nice and this recipe was a close second to Meatloaf #3 in popularity.  I also used chopped green bell peppers in this one and they added a nice flavor element.  Additional flavor was added by ketchup and yellow mustard, humble ingredients but they made a difference.  This recipe had the exact same amount of poultry seasoning as #1 but it did not come through as strong, perhaps because of other flavor elements.

Here is the recipe I used.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbs yellow mustard

Scald the milk (that is, heat it just short of a boil) and pour it in a bowl over the cup of oats and let them cool.

Add all remaining ingredients, put in a greased loaf pan, and roast at 350° for 1 hour.

Meatloaf #3 – Using Apples as Flavoring

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Ironically, the one meatloaf recipe on Gram’s pig recipe cards did not call for pork!

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I love the warning at the end. The recipe uses an apple in the meatloaf so for God’s sake serve a non-apple dessert!

This recipe was representative enough of the category that I made it as written.  It was the favorite among almost all of my guests and had a great flavor.  The sugar in the apples created a caramelization that caused people to guess ingredients like teriyaki, Worcestershire, and barbecue sauce.  The meat is all beef, no pork and the texture was closer to a hamburger than the other two and less “loafy”.

It’s a fairly recent recipe, coming from 1988 and it shows.  None of the recipes from the 30’s and 40’s call for such powerful flavors like garlic, fresh parsley, and horseradish.  It also called for three eggs and no other liquid which I think had a lot to do with the texture.  The conclusion of the group was that this was “how meatloaf should taste”.  It was my personal favorite as well.  While the green bell peppers made for an attractive presentation they did not add discernible flavor.

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The recipe is attributed to Lib Andrews and I wondered if that was a friend or neighbor but I later found a newspaper clipping of a column called “Cooking with Lib” with this recipe.

I hope this motivates you to try your own perfect recipe to reflect what you grew up with or what flavors you appreciate.  Please be sure and let me know if you do!

π

Tortiére – French Canadian Classic

This is the first post in a new series, “The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes

I grew up eating a lot of Polish food from my mother’s side of the family, and the food we ate from my father’s side of the family tended to be traditional New England dishes.  There was one, however, that my grandmother made around New Year’s Day that was pure French Canadian.  It is called Tortiére, although for some reason I remembered we called it “too-kay”.

As I have sifted through my grandmother’s recipes I decided this was the fitting recipe to begin this series.  The recipe is fairly simple, brown ground pork and beef and blend with baked potato.  Add allspice, cinnamon, and cloves and bake in a pie crust. The result, however, is a magical flavor and texture that evokes cold winter nights by the fire!

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Judging by the dog-eared edges, the revisions, and the actual food on the recipe card I suspect this was Gram’s go-to recipe for Tortiére

The recipes I found in my grandmother’s recipe files were all pretty similar, except for one thing.  Some were written in French!  Gram received a weekly French newspaper that was sent by mail.  It was published out of Woonsocket, RI and called L’Union.  I have mentioned the rich history of my grandmother and this is one small example.  As I researched this newspaper, I learned that there were numerous Franco-American newspapers all over New England as French Canadians immigrated.  L’Union came out of a fraternal organization called Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste or USJB, based out of Assumption College.  USJB was founded in 1900 for the purpose of teaching French culture and language to New England boys from French-speaking homes.

I found two recipes for Tortiére in clippings from L’Union.  Sadly, the clippings did not include the date.

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This French recipe is not radically different from my grandmother’s handwritten version but does add parsley, celery, and garlic.

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This version directed, “To those amateur chefs” calls for veal and the herb called savory (sariette).

The Recipe

I have not written this below as an exact recipe.  You have three versions above and many versions on the internet.  I do show, however, the technique for making it.  Take that and make it your own!

The Crust

In my pictures you will see the telltale aluminum foil pie plate that says I used store-bought pie crust.  I have a life to live and I make pie crust rarely enough that I can’t just bang one out in minutes, nor would it taste any better than the one I bought.  I will say, however, that this is one of those places where you can use beef fat in your pie crust.  Lard, beef suet, here’s your chance!

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For my version, I started by browning equal parts of ground beef and ground pork and added chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots.  This is simmered for 20-30 minutes to let the spices mix in.  I used allspice, cinnamon, and ground cloves.

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The next step is to blend in baked potato (without skin).  You cannot really see the potato once it’s blended in, and this is not like Shepherd’s pie in that respect.  It does, however, create a velvety texture and is, in my opinion, the secret ingredient that makes this dish different from just being a meatloaf in a pie crust.

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The whole mixture goes into a piecrust and topped with another (and vented) and into a 350° oven for about a half hour to 40  minutes.

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I hope you enjoy this new series and welcome your feedback!

π

Some of What Happens in Vegas!

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This spectacular view was from my hotel room in the Cosmopolitan! I was on the 33rd floor and my colleague was another 21 floors above me! The body of water is the fountain at the Bellagio.

I had the good fortune to make a recent business trip to Las Vegas.  It hasn’t been unseasonably cold in DC, but it is winter and I welcomed the warm sunshine of the Nevada desert.  I was attending an IBM conference and it was held at the swanky Cosmopolitan Hotel.  This is one of the newest hotels in Las Vegas and is a Marriott property (important if you collect Marriott points!).  The hotel is as luxurious as anything I have ever stayed in, yet the IBM conference provided a daily rate that was lower than what I pay in the Phoenix Courtyard!

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Right place at the right time! Anyone with a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane got a great view of the Grand Canyon on the way from DC to Las Vegas.

On the flight out, I had a real treat that only those in window seats on the right-hand side of the plane got, a view of the Grand Canyon.  I have never visited the Grand Canyon and I was snapping pictures like a total tourist!

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Long on my bucket list, this is the closest I have ever been to the Grand Canyon.

The descent into Las Vegas took us over Lake Mead, home of the Hoover Dam.  Then, after hundreds of miles of barren desert wilderness, the sprawling metropolis of Las Vegas hove into view.

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Lake Mead, home of the Hoover Dam

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Suddenly, in the middle of the desert is the sprawling metropolis of Las Vegas. Only a western city could have streets this long and straight!

The weather was gorgeous, mid-70’s and so sunny you couldn’t go out without sunglasses!  I got to my room and was blown away by the size and posh decor!  I had a living room with sectional couch, cool books all around, and the size of the room was that of a one-bedroom apartment.

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The front desk at the Cosmopolitan complete with projected media behind the desk. Every detail of this hotel is impressive!

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The living room of my hotel suite. Lest you think that I am THAT important, all of the rooms in the Cosmopolitan are like this!

Then I walked out onto my balcony and saw, from the 33rd floor, the most magnificent view of the Las Vegas Strip!  There was Paris, the Venetian, Bally’s, the Flamingo, the Mirage, and right next door, the Bellagio complete with a luxury suite seat for the famous fountain!

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I saw this view from my 33rd floor hotel room first, but knew the nighttime version would be even better! That view is at the top of this post.

The conference was great but like most of them, kept us in windowless meeting rooms all day long.  No problem, that is, after all, why I was there.  I have a great job with many fantastic benefits and the main reason I was here was to learn about IBM’s new channel organization and 2015 go-to-market strategy.  That said, I did manage to sneak away long enough to win $100 at the Roulette table!  It’s good to be me!

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When I say that the Cosmopolitan is impressive in every detail, I mean EVERY detail! This is the wall paper in the bathroom of my hotel room. If it looks like just a geometric pattern, look closer.

The first night we ate at a favorite restaurant of mine that happens to be right in the Cosmopolitan.  China Poblano was the subject of a previous blog post, and remains a superb atmosphere with original fantastic food.

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The Venetian, home to many things, including one of my favorite Las Vegas Restaurants, Sushi Samba.

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Caesar’s Palace

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The fire show at the Mirage.

The next night we ate at another Vegas favorite of mine, Sushi Samba.  It is a cuisine born of a Japanese population in Brazil and has elements of both–sushi, ceviche, kobe beef, churrasco.  We went omakase style, which means we put ourselves in the capable hands of our server (whose name happened to be Alice).  We gave her a price range and things we liked and she took it from there, bringing out surprise after surprise.

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We placed ourselves in the capable hands of Alice, our server and she did not disappoint! Among the amazing food she selected for us was a rice beer called RedRice.

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Tuna ceviche tacos with chili pepper foam.

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Hamachi crudo in jalapeno vinaigrette

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Kobe beef pot stickers

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When my iPhone camera saw this Big-Eye Tuna Sushi Roll it put boxes around each pair of “eyes” and asked me to tag each person!

On our walk back to the hotel we saw the fire show at the Mirage, and arrived at the Bellagio just in time for the fountain show which at this hour featured none other than Frank Sinatra.  Here is a video, enjoy!

π

The Food of Poland, Pt 2 – Polish Restaurants

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Lest you think we only ate pierogis and galumpki in Poland, we did eat at several fine restaurants…or as they say, restauracja!

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Polish service is paced differently from US service.  In the US, almost as soon as you are seated the waiter gets drinks to the table and plenty of ice-water.  In Poland, they let you sit a while, and when you place a drink order, you sit a while longer.  We experienced this in every restaurant, in every town.

Further, ice is not something you can get in quantity in Europe.  Occasionally we would get a waiter that would say, “Oh, you’re Americans?  I got you.” and he would bring a wine bucket filled with ice.  This was, however, rare.  If you ordered a cocktail the three ice cubes in it might not make it to the table before they melted.

That said, once your experience had begun, the service and the food were always fantastic.

When we stayed in Czestochowa we were at an old Palace that had gorgeous grounds and a very nice restaurant.  One day we had lunch, complete with a couple of nap-inducing bottles of wine and everyone’s meal was superb!

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The Hotel Palac Czarny Las (Palace of the Black Forest) was our lodging in Czestochowa and the site of a fabulous lunch!

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Seared duck breast on a ginger lentil sauce with small mushroom dumplings and baby beets at the Palac Czarny Las.

When we left Czestochowa, we stopped in a small town called Wadowice (vahd-0-veechay) and ate at a small cafe.  Sitting outdoors on the main square we were pleasantly surprised that this humble cafe with record slow service turned out to be some of the best food of the week!

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Lamb sausage with aioli on house made sauerkraut in Wadowice

One of the things the Poles do really well is mushrooms.  Wild mushrooms of all kinds, porcini, chanterelles, boletus, they were everywhere and always good.

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Veal scallopini with chanterelle mushrooms at Pad Aniolami in Krakow. The Polish really know how to get the most flavor out of a mushroom!

This is not a knock on any other city in Poland but the best restaurants for us were in Krakow.  It’s a big international city and the quality of most restaurants seemed to be a notch above.  From the moment you enter places like Pod Aniolami (Under the Angel)–and even before entering–it was beautiful.  From the frescos on the outer wall, to the warm rich colors, this restaurant was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend to anyone!

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Restauracja Pod Aniolami in Krakow

We also ate one night in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.  The place was the Restauracja Rubinstein, a 15th century building which had once been the home of Helena Rubinstein.  The Jewish quarter is one of the most charming night spots in Krakow with outdoor cafes and roving Klezmer bands serenading.  It didn’t hurt that we had perfect weather!  The restaurant featured a Jewish menu which included four courses.  Radek got that and we all got to sample it.

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The Jewish menu at Rubinstein’s in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.

I had been craving duck since we arrived because it was on every menu but each restaurant had sold out for the night.  So I got a roasted half duck and it did not disappoint!

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The roasted duck at Restauracja Rubinstein in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow was perfectly cooked with a berry sauce that was exactly in between sweet and savory with an herb finish.

 

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A roving klezmer band entertaining us in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow

 

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Mushroom soup with toasted almonds at Rubenstein’s in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow

Perhaps the finest dining in Krakow was Ancora.  This restaurant had a high-end gourmet menu.

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Slices of wild boar with tagliatelle in a green peppercorn truffle sauce at Ancora in Krakow.

 

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Fried leeks with three dipping sauces at Ancora in Krakow.

While the food always looked good, at Ancora it was like a work of art on the plate.

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Spanish sardines with caramelized juniper berries and chanterelles with a dill omelette at Ancora in Krakow.

While Ancora was easily the finest menu we saw, the finest experience was, hands-down, Wierzynek (ver-shevik).  Dating back to 1364, it is the oldest restaurant in Poland.  I had braised goose!  It was smokey and slightly exotic tasting but cooked perfectly and as delicious as anything I had in Poland!

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My meal at Wierzynek was the traditional goose, braised in mead with butter noodles and red cabbage.

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Jane ordered the fish and was a little hesitant when it arrived the European way…completely intact!

 

 

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…but she handled it like a champ, delicately removing the top filet and pulling away the head, bones, and tail in one smooth motion!

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Another treat was traditional Sorrel Soup. Herbal and tangy, this soup was fantastic and I would order it every time!

We at at many other fine restaurants and Warsaw had plenty of them, but these were the stand-outs!

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The Food of Poland, Pt 1 – Traditional Polish Food

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Polskie Smaki translates to “Polish Flavors”

THE FOOD IN POLAND IS FANTASTIC!  Traditional Polish food is typically made of simple ingredients, cooked a long time with deep wonderful flavor in every bite.  I have mentioned a few classics in other posts already, such as the first Pierogis, (we would go on to have a plate at the beginning of every meal!)  There was also the Polish donut,  the Paczki’s, and I wrote about dinner with Radek’s family, enjoying our first galumpki.

We ate almost exclusively Polish food.  We hadnt come this far for pizza, but Radek mentioned a couple times that Poles didn’t eat this food everyday!  It wasn’t hard to find either.  In big cities we found sushi restaurants, Italian restaurants, and even a few American fast food chains, but mostly it was Polish restaurants.

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OK, this is not Polish food, but they are everywhere! Three American fast food chains are all over Poland, McDonald’s (of course), Subway, and most of all, Poland loves the Colonel! KFC’s are everywhere!

Zurek

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Zurek is a sour rye soup. It is served with hard boiled eggs, Polish sausage, and ham. Often it is thickened with potatoes.

Our first day in Czestochowa was cold and rainy and we ducked into a Polish bistro that had clear French influence.  I got a classic Polish soup, Zurek.  This soup has a sour flavor, reminiscent of sauerkraut.  It can be created using vinegar and buttermilk, but we learned from Radek’s mother that the proper way to make it is with soured rye flour, in much the same way that one would use sourdough bread starter. It is hearty and delicious and served with ham, Polish sausage (kielbasa), and slices of hard boiled egg.

 

Galonka

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The galonka. Usually described as a “pork knuckle”, the was braised until falling off the bone, and served over a delicious mound of sauerkraut. Essentially it was a small ham! If you’re viewing the above picture on a 24” monitor, than it’s probably displaying in actual size. It is a LOT of food!

It was in Czestochowa that I tried my first Galonka! OMG this was so amazingly good!  We saw it variously listed as a “ham hock”, a “pig’s knee”, but mostly as a “pork knuckle”–in other words, it’s a small ham!  While none of these descriptions sounds particularly appetizing, the pork knuckle was the same as the German Schwein Haxe; but where the Schwein Haxe is roasted crispy and seals in all the fat, the Galonka is braised all day and renders much of the fat.

It’s also a really fun word, “Galonka” became our word for someone who eats too much or for feeling fat from a big meal (which happened three times a day) so you would hear, “Oh I have been such a galonka today!”

Pierogis

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This became our standard “starter” when we got to a restaurant.

I mean, c’mon! If you could start a meal off with dumplings wouldn’t you?  They were most frequently stuffed with potato and cheese, or sauerkraut and sausage; but I also found some delicious mushroom dumplings, stuffed with dark ground porcini mushrooms.  We even got to try blueberry pierogi’s!  These are only made when blueberries are in season, which in Poland is July.  They were hard to find but we were there at the perfect season of the year!

Bigos

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Bigos is a hearty hunter’s stew served with Polish rye bread and a shot of vodka.

Bigos is known as “Hunter’s Stew” and is made from cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms, various meats, sausage, and flavors like honey, juniper, and pepper.  It is served with hearty Polish rye bread…and always, with a shot of vodka!  While it sounds heavy and wintery, I got this on the first night there and after everyone tried it, we all sought it out at every restaurant!

Borscht

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Traditional borscht is about as beautiful a dish as I have ever seen and packed with flavor!

For some reason, maybe from watching too much Hogan’s Heroes, I always thought borscht was some sort of gruel from the Russian Front.  It is a fantastic cold soup made from beets.  The beets are chopped, cooked with their greens, and then flavored with sour cream.  They add chopped hard boiled eggs, and some raw vegetables such as radishes.  The result is refreshing and beautiful to the eye.

Galumpki

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Galumpki (also spelled as golobki) is a very personal thing, like chicken soup or lasagna, everyone believes their grandmother makes the best. I have yet to eat one I didn’t love!

Galumpki is the Polish food I ate most growing up and I have posted in the past on how I make it.  It is, however, a very personal food.  Ask any Italian about what makes a good marinara sauce, or anyone at all about chicken soup, and you will find hard requirements about certain ingredients, techniques, consistencies, etc.  Often it comes down to how their grandmother made it.  I will say this, I have eaten a lot of galumpki and some reminds me of my Babka, and some is less impressive, but I’ve never had a bad one!

Meats

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the Poles don’t mess around when it comes to charcuterie!

Polish meats are significantly more interesting than the standard American menu.  Every Polish menu had duck, rabbit, wild boar, venison, and a variety of kielbasa.  Breakfast buffets always included a selection of cold cuts as pictured above, and however they cooked it, the food was fantastic!

My next post will be on the restaurants of Poland with some less traditional dishes.  We ate fantastic food for nearly two weeks and in the coming months I plan to try and recreate some of these and share my recipes.

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Carolina BBQ – Going Whole Hog!

 On a recent trip to Raleigh I had two nights to eat at the best spots possible.  I asked the guys at the rental car company what was the one place I should eat in Raleigh and they immediately insisted I needed two nights.  I had to eat at Poole’s Diner and at The Pit.

Poole’s Diner they explained was a trendy hot spot and the Pit was the best Carolina BBQ I would find.  I went to both, and my review of Poole’s Diner was published earlier (Click on the link.)

The name, “The Pit” sounds like it’s going to be a grungy, picnic table type BBQ joint.  It is not!  It is a nice restaurant with a large bar.  They featured North Carolina beers on draft and both indoor and outdoor seating.

I noticed a large picture of Bobby Flay taken in the restaurant.  Subsequent research revealed that he filmed an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay there.  That alone is a tribute to a place being the gold standard for the food they make!

The beer list featured North Carolina beers including Durham’s Fullsteam Spring IPA with Kumquats!

I started with a beer from Durham.  The Fullsteam Spring IPA with Kumquats is not something I would normally order.  I’m not big on fruit in my beer but the bartender pulled a sample from the tap and insisted I try.  He explained that the fruit brought out the flavor of the hops and it was really nice.  He wasn’t kidding!  It was delicious!

The next thing he put in front of me while I made up my mind on what to order was the best southern biscuit I have ever eaten!

With a name like “The Pit” I didn’t expect such a nice restaurant!

I pondered the menu, trying to make a decision.  The list of specialties included chopped pork, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, smoked turkey, baby back ribs, full ribs, and more!  How was I supposed to decide?

Then I saw it, the Big Boy Meal Combo!  This gave a sample of all of their specialties.  I asked, “Is it an insane amount of food?”  “Yessir, it is.  Nobody has ever finished it.”  He was dead serious!

I decided this was the only way to go.  I took a breath and said, “I’ll have the Big Boy Special!”  and the bartender said, “What sides do you want with that?”

The specialties. How was I to pick just one?

Sides?!?!  It came with two sides, this dish that nobody has ever finished!  Oh the sides were good too!  The night before I had eaten some spectacular fried okra so I decided to get that again to have something to compare it to.  I also got a fav of mine, red beans & rice.

The sides alone were worth the trip!

I really could have eaten just the sides and been happy!  They were both memorable and perfect.

One unfortunate problem was that I did not get good pics of the food.  The restaurant was dark and I tried with and without flash and when I got home after my trip discovered that the pics were all too dark or blurry. 

Picture if you will, a single large plate with slices of tender beef brisket, a large scoop of pulled pork, and chopped pork (the former smoked, the latter cooked with vinegar), large tender spare ribs, and tiny succulent baby back ribs, a full chicken breast with wing, and a sizable serving of smoked turkey…and two sides. 

The fried okra served alongside two traditional sauces, sweet and smokey, and a tangy vinegar.

The plan was to try a little of each so that I could get a good sampling of all their specialties.  But there were two sauces, a tangy vinegar sauce and a sweet smokey sauce.  So naturally I was looking at a minimum of three bites of each meat, or a minimum of 21 bites…and two sides!

Well I ate both of the sides and you might say that a needless waste of space but they were both really good! 

Among the barbecue there were some standouts and some that were just ok.  The chicken was cooked as well as a chicken breast can be cooked but in the end could not stand up to the other items on the plate. 

The brisket was good, but not the best I’ve ever had.  This could be my prejudice that the best BBQ brisket comes from Texas.

This said, the pulled and chopped pork were both magical.  They had a silky texture, were loaded with flavor, and had a subtle smokey flavor.

If I had to go back and choose a single item to eat however, it would be the full-sized spare ribs.  These were the most sublime ribs I have ever enjoyed.  They were not fatty, not too smokey, they were absolutely perfect.  I later learned that it was the ribs that Bobby Flay came down and challenged them on…and Bobby lost!

The back of the menu included a large written piece on the 350 year history of barbecue in the US, attributing the first of it to the native Americans, and explaining how it evolved across the country.  It was very interesting and I read it all.  There is a lot of interesting bbq history on their website.

It turns out the settlers took the Indian method of splitting the hog lengthwise and roasting it to cooking the entire hog which kept in juices.  Hence, the expression, “going whole hog”!

In summary, great restaurant, great food, and if you go to Raleigh, make sure you have two nights to eat!  (and btw, I did not finish the Big Boy Special!)

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Tin Fish – Fabulous Fish Tacos in San Diego!

Directly across from the San Diego Convention Center is Tin Fish (http://thetinfish.net).  It is a small restaurant with most of its seating outdoors–not a problem in sunny San Diego–and it serves primarily one thing, fish tacos. They do serve hamburgers and chicken nuggets; so if your convention partner doesn’t like fish tacos, bring them anyway.

Californians take their fish tacos seriously and here you can get your choice of 6 different kinds of fish and preparations.  The important thing about this is that the world over convention centers offer the epitome of pre-packaged inedible food.  I have experienced convention center food in at least 12 major American cities each and they all make airline food look appealing.

But here, just a short walk across the street is this gem of a spot.  I went at lunch during a week-long conference, so drinks were not on my menu but it did look like a fun “beachy” bar to spend some time.  It also looks like a spot that would be crazy busy during  a Padres game since Petco Field is a block away.

The yellowtail fish taco at Tin Fish.

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