My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 3 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I think I died and went to sausage heaven...

My lifestyle is definitely not conducive to staying immobile for long periods of time. Hence my part-time job as a waitress, my addiction to working out and my life-long desire to give up my car and move to the Amalfi coast where a trek up and down 10 flights of stairs are a part of each and every outing from your house. My mom, always sympathetic to this (and not a fan of putting up with my crankiness when I'm stuck indoors for too long), allowed me a short adventure today as I nurse my swollen face thanks to my wisdom teeth removal yesterday...of my favorite kind...a food-filled trip to Starsky's. Starsky's is an Eastern European grocery store located in Mississauga. Since my nickname growing up among my family members was always the Polish Princess (and the Pasta if they even fit together?), it was like going back to the motherland for me. It was my second time visiting the store and this time was somewhat more painful. With my stomach rumbling for lunch, I slowly perused the deli, cheese and bakery counters, unable to pick up any of the numerous samples due to my inability to chew.

I whipped out my little Canon, excited to document my trip, only to be greeted by the dreaded "Change battery pack" notice as soon as I turned it on. Fortunately, I had my trusty Blackberry with I got to take some half-decent shots...until that little bugger died too:(...

Pickles and pickles and....pickles?...oh my! Yes, in true Eastern European fashion, there was a whole aisle dedicated to anything and everything pickled. They even had a jar of Grandma's Salad!! And can you guess what the ingredient list was on that one? If you guessed pickled cabbage and beets, you win the prize!
My mother, elated and just as excited as a "kiddy in a candy store" (those were her words, actually), debated on which type of pickled beets to take home...deciding on the shredded beet root with horseradish (for a kick). She wasn't too happy with the end result of her purchase...but that's a problem I will be more than happy to take care of for her.

We were on a mission, however, so spent little time in the aisles and most of our trip at the pride and joy of Starsky's: The Sausage Counter. Well, it wasn't just comprised of sausage, I have to admit, there was cheese and regular deli meats, too but the sausage counter was definitely where it was at. I actually had to battle through quite a few elbows to get a shot of it. (I'd also like to note that this was on a regular Wednesday afternoon at around 12:30pm....kudos to those who brave this place on a Saturday)

This is only a small portion of what Starky's offers by way of sausages...(and yes, those are the forbidden tempting samples you see on top of the counter). I actually couldn't get in to take shots of all of them, but they also had a variety of dried and vacuum-sacked sausages at the end of pretty much every aisle gondola.
I've never visited an Eastern European country, but this reminded me of all the meat and cheese shops in Italy. Displays are not just limited to behind the glass cases, but hung and shelved in every square inch of space available. Not sure about you, but it definitely adds to my appetite.
This lady made me laugh: a) why grab a toothpick if you're going to pick the meat with your hands? b) clearly blatantly disregarding the signs posted everywhere asking customers to "use a new toothpick with every sample they take'. Regardless, I was pretty jealous of her...
Ahhh, this is what we came for. Tucked neatly beside the plethora of cheeses (I guess they group their items according to strength of smell), was the smoked fish section. We went home with fillets of smoked mackerel, rainbow trout, sea bass and white fish. (My mom is hosting a lunch on Friday for some Lithuanian relatives visiting from Chicago) Seeing this took me back to the days when I would walk in the door after school and get slapped in the face with the odour of  fish courtesy of my dad's smoker in the backyard. I loathed it at the time, the look of the glossy-eyed dead little buggers, the smell that seeped into the walls (and my hair and clothes), the fact that I had to monitor it once my dad left for work...But there was something about those fish in that case that looked sub-par to me. I suddenly began to miss what I used to dread and found myself wishing I went on at least one of those fishing trips, helped make at least one catch and been a bit more eager to participate in a process my Dad enjoyed as much as he did...

I actually laughed when I saw this...Eastern Europeans, marinating in vodka!?...Why am I not surprised...

Obviously we had to hit up the salad bar...not the typical couscous, pasta and potato salad variety was offered, though. We went home with a big tub of creamy coleslaw (not as good as expected) and sauerkraut with wild mushrooms (which was amazing, even though I could only have a little bit as it acted as an immediate magnet to the back of my mouth).

Any food adventure is not complete without a trip to the sweet boutique. The language barrier continued to plague me in this section (did I mention that almost every label in the store is written in Polish, or some other foreign language, with translations into English sparse). We did not splurge on any desserts (we plan on making one of our own) but I thought I'd show you the type of selection available. Unfortunately, I have no idea what any of these words mean, but that doesn't mean they didn't look or smell incredible...

My picture may not be clear enough, but the cakes I have pictured here are the Smietanikov Cake (top right), Napoleon Cake (top left), the Wiedenski Cheesecake (a Polish Viennese cheesecake made with either vanilla or chocolate creme) (bottom left) and the Sernik Brzoskwinia (a Polish peach cheesecake) (bottom right)

The "Napoleon" cake was somewhat familiar to me. Lithuanians call it 'Napoleonas': a torte painstakingly made by stacking individually baked layers of pastry and cream. (Might I add that my Mociute is a master at this one...)

These smelt amazing! Traditional polish doughnuts..filled with "budyn" a Polish custard. Reminded me of the famous Bombe from waistline is thanking my face for being so swollen right now, that's for sure.

I ended my visit with a trip to the soup aisle, hoping I could find something exotic that would spice up my otherwise bland diet right now. Sadly, my mission failed. Oh, if only I spoke Polish as well as the folks at Knorr do...

Labels: ,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Le Ricette degli Nonni

As much as it is my ultimate goal/dream in life to live in Europe (at least for part of the year), I have to admit that Canada is a wonderful place. And what makes it most wonderful, in my opinion, is the fact that the majority of its citizens are comprised of either 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from all over the world. Being the curious person that I am, (I was once told by my second grade elementary school teacher that I am too curious and that I always have my "ears perked up like a little puppy dog"...I'll never forget that), the fact that our nation is a compilation of diverse cultures is perfect for me, allowing my culinary queries to be satisfied both easily and authentically. Fortunately, I am only second generation, and, being young, I have the privilege of being surrounded by many first generation-ers who have played such an important role in my growing appreciation for food and tradition. I, like so many others, have been blessed with the key to the past: I have participated in the rituals, I have been told and re-told the stories of home, I have ate the food of my ancestors, I have watched the magicians recreate the dishes with ease, I have access to their will I honour this privilege? When the population shifts from being comprised of both immigrants and their offspring, to merely their offspring, how will we keep the tradition alive? I have decided to fulfill my duty with the tools I know how to use best; I will contribute to my past by fusing it with my present: through technology.

Le Ricette degli Nonni will be a multi-part series to my blog. In it, I will profile our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, godparents, family friends, get the point...anyone whose citizenship in this country is "permanent resident" (or sometimes not even, eek!), and get the inside scoop on their take on tradition. Obviously the focus here is on food, but it will not merely focus on recipes. It will be all-encompassing--how food is important to their culture, to their families, to their history. Although the name may be deceiving, my research will not be restricted to people of the Italian heritage, (I just thought it had a nice ring to it), but will include memories of people from all over the world.

So prepare for a trip into the past, guided by the hands of our ancestors. Join me in their kitchens, as I uncover the secrets kept under the table and ensure that the past is not forgotten when they are gone, but it continues to live on in our hearts and on our plates.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Šaltibarščiai-Lithuanian Summer Soup

It's pretty obvious that I am quite biased to Italian cuisine. And by pretty obvious I mean I'm pretty sure I've stated it more than once, or five times for that matter. The simplicity of dishes like pizza and pasta make them hard for anybody to dislike. Especially children. If I kept a food diary growing up and someone went back and read up on my normal culinary routines, they would automatically assume I came from a strictly Italian household (of course, one that has been influenced also by being living in North America). But this is not the case. On the contrary, my mother's maiden name does not end in a vowel, she is actually a Zenkevicius, of Lithuanian decent.

Like every mother that comes to my mind, my mom pushed her foodie preferences aside in order to please her husband and his obsession with having a home-cooked, mama-styled, Italian meal on a daily basis. She took lessons from the queen of my father's heart (and stomach) herself (my Nonna), and instead only indulged in her own Lithuanian comfort foods on visits to her parents' house or holiday celebrations hosted by her siblings. Even special occasions held at our house featured Italian cuisine only, regardless of the heritage of our guests. As children, we followed suit with my dad, preferring an Italian meal and pushing away our plates while pursing our lips at the thought of one of those oddly-named, weird coloured dishes my Mociute (grandmother in Lithuanian) would prepare.

However, with age usually comes an increased openness to experimentation with food. So when my mom decided to make her favorite "pink soup" the other day, I did not cringe at the thought, but instead decided to indulge with her. I wasn't surprised that I was pleased, as the soup was made up of some of my favorite ingredients. Besides, what can be more refreshing than the idea of a hearty, yet cool, soup on a humid summer's day?

I posted the recipe for those who love to experiment in international cooking and eating as much I do...

(Sorry daddio, I can almost see you shaking your head in disappointment in my mind)
2 cans sliced beets
2 hard boiled and chopped eggs
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced and quatered
1 small bunch green onions, chopped
1 quart buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste
dill (optional)

Cut all beet slices into even thinner slivers, and, adding the juice from the beets, combine all the ingredients together. If soup is too thick, you can thin it with milk (butter or regular). Stir well and refrigerate. Stir contents thouroughly before each serving to blend. Serves 2-3 people, several times. Traditonally this cold summer soup is served with warm boiled potatoes on the side.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Memories of Love, Food, Travel...

Lately, my literary interests have led me into the world of memoirs-- typically of chefs, food writers, etc-- most likely due to my reality TV obsession. My last pick was a recomendation: Heat by Bill Buford. When I started reading, I thought it was going to be the result of a research project on Mario Batali, however I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The book not only traced the success of Batali through his mentors, but ended up taking me on a much enjoyed culinary trip through small-town Italy. Buford essentially retraces Mario's learning process by seeking out and working alongside all those people who made him into the Iron Chef master he is today. The book describes, in-depth, secrets to making the perfect pasta right down to choosing the perfect egg, conquering both beef and pork, learning how to read cook temps on meat through merely your sense of touch and smell, all the way down to dicing cucumber properly, without an inch of it going to waste. The book was a guilty pleasure for me, giving me an insiders look into the part of culture I love the most (food) from the culture I secretly favour (Italian).

Next I plan to replace my starchy cravings with sugar dreams with The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebowitz. Ahhh Paris...another city that holds a special place in both my foodie and romantic heart. Then I plan to take on the muli-volumed Oishinbo, the manga of Japanese cuisine...

I will discover the world, one memoir at a time.

PS--maybe I'm just a little too Ital-proud, but I totally believe there had to be some truth in the Caterina di Medici legend...did France's culinary success come through their young Italy queen? You decide...


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

1000 Tastes of Toronto

I was fortunate enough to make it out to one of Luminato's closing events this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, a bunch of Toronto's best restos, chefs, catering companies and cooking schools lined up along Queen's Park to offer samples of some of their great gourmet dishes at the price of just $5 a pop. Check out my coverage of the event on spotlightTO:


Gooey? Peanut Butter and Nutella Brownies...

Yesterday, after making it home earlier from work than expected (yipee), I decided to FINALLY make my mom those gooey peanut butter and nutella brownies I promised I would make her for her birthday...which was on Friday. Whatever, don't judge me, the only reason why I couldn't get it done is because I was busy making her a storybook..ya, sweet, I know, so I'm excused for the late dessert now, right?

So I thought I was prepared--ingredient wise that is--I had the nutella, the brand new giant PB jar (and yes, Mel this is the first time we've had to buy a new one since you left, and no the last jar isn't even quite finished yet), the full carton of eggs and the butter. But as I got to work I realized, shit, 3/4 cups of cocoa? I only have the equivalent of one teaspoon. But hot chocolate is just the American way of saying cocoa anyways right?....meeehhh, not quite.

I'm a proud baker and my experiments in the 9x13 are usually a success...but last night something went horribly wrong. Despite having been baked for way longer than the suggested 15 minutes, the brownies were no where close to done. I pulled them out anyways, since the edges looked crusty and borderline overdone, even though the whole middle of the cake wobbled like jello as I set it on the counter. So it turns out, Tim Horton's hot chocolate is not quite the suitable replacement for Fry's I later learned from my mom/ baking mentor. Fry's, being unsweetened, acts somewhat like a flour, whereas the hot chocolate already has sugar added...the reason that prevented my brownies for setting.

But fret not, my sweet friends...whether it be solid, slightly gooey, or completely runny, there is no way to serve peanut butter and nutella that is not deliciously indulgent. So what did I learn from this experience? Hot chocolate=not a baking substitute for brownies, however, may be the secret ingredient for very tasty molten cakes!

Check out the photos on flickr--->