Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eastern European Easter Entree

I stayed home this Easter. Being too lazy to go out and too cheap to order in, I decided to make myself an Eastern European dish (at least my idea of it). This was what I came up with (sans the veggies, which I ran out of), which is basically kasha cooked with Polish kielbasa. Apologies for the above alliteration (and this one as well).

1 1/2 cups kasha (I used medium granulation)
2 eggs
2 cups water or broth
1 large kielbasa link (I used wiejska), sliced
1 onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots and celery
ground spices (I suggest caraway and paprika for that Eastern European flavour)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter

1. In a large saucepan (I actually used a wok), saute the kielbasa until its natural juices ooze out. Add the onion, carrots and celery; turn down heat so they just sweat instead of saute (add oil if needed). When veggies are cooked through, add water and bring to a boil.

2. While doing (1), beat eggs in a bowl, add kasha and mix, coating the kasha granules with a thin, barely discernible layer of egg. Microwave the kasha-egg mixture for two minutes on high, then use a fork to separate the granules. This step is needed to ensure that the kasha granules won't stick together when they're cooked. This also adds protein to the kasha, since buckwheat is gluten-free.

3. After doing (2), add kasha to (1), which should be boiling by now, and simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the kasha is cooked (it should have the texture of coarse couscous or fine brown rice). This should take no more than 10 minutes if you're using medium granulation. Add salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

Top with butter and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Makes around four cups. This is a meal on its own, but you may also eat it with roast chicken or rissoles.

If kasha is hard to come by, you can replace it with whole wheat couscous or brown rice; just skip (2) and instead lightly brown in oil before adding to the water. You may also replace the kielbasa with Hungarian sausage. King Sue used to sell a version of Polish kabanosy (they spelled it "cabanossi", if I remember correctly), but I can't find them now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Of Corned Beef, Fasting, Salmon, and Chorizos

This week marks two major food events-- St. Patrick's Day and Holy Week-- both being Christian holidays and unintentional food days.

St. Patrick's Day is known for copious pints of Guinness and corned beef with cabbage. While the pints are truly St. Paddy's Day "fare", this article says that corned beef with cabbage is more of a stereotype. Speaking of corned beef, there is no corn (i.e., maize) in corned beef. The term "corned" refers to the old method of dry-curing beef with grains-- or corns-- of salt. Nowadays, corned beef is cured in salt water (process called brining), but the name has stuck.

Of course, this week is also Holy Week, so there will be no corned beef in Catholic homes on Friday. So when should Catholics really fast and abstain? According to the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1248-1253), "abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday", while abstinence is to be observed on "all Fridays". Note, however, that the bishops' conference (in our case, the CBCP) has final authority to determine what fasting and abstinence entail (Can. 1253). From what I remember of catechism, Catholics (at least Filipino Catholics) may substitute fasting or abstinence for some other act of piety or charity. In my experience, though, fasting is the first penitence to be substituted for piety as abstinence becomes an excuse to enjoy an all-seafood feast.

Speaking of seafood, I am the happy owner of eight 16-ounce fillets of smoked Alaskan sockeye salmon. I have four preferred ways of eating them: as is, in an omelette, with pasta, and sauteed with potatoes. The fillets are smoked and packed by Kasilof Fish Co.; their website-- perfectly describes me. Aside from the eight smoked fillets, I have six cans of salmon chunks and seven fillets of frozen salmon. Salmon ranks up there with bangus and fatty sardines as my all-time favourite fishes. One guess what I'll be abstaining into this coming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Come Easter I'll be all fished out and will be raring to go back to meat. I currently have a pack of Campofrio jamon serrano and a can of La NoreƱense Asturian chorizos in my pantry, and I'm looking for the perfect time (and recipe) to open them. As I said in a previous post, I think Spanish cured meats are the best of their kind out there. The Italians come close with their salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but chorizos, salchichon, and jamon still have a slight edge. I heard somewhere that the Spaniards concocted their great pork dishes and cured meats after the Reconquista, celebrating their freedom to eat pork after kicking out the Moors. Well, that's at least one unambiguously good thing that happened as a result of all those wars.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Arya Persian Restaurant

See my review on my multiply site here. Also a brief review by my Dear here.

For a quick summary, here are the scores (read about the rating scale here):
Quality = 8.0
Size = 7.0
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 8.0
Service = 8.0
Value = P936.78
Price = P700
Sulit Rating = 1.34 > 1

Bottomline, Arya is not exactly cheap eats, but its quality and authenticity make it well worth the cost.