We enjoyed dinner out tonight with friends at Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant in the former Etobicoke, just a 10 minute drive north of where we live. It turned out to be an early birthday celebration for Tuffy P, whose birthday is actually this coming Sunday.
A big thank you goes out to our friends tonight. We had a great time, with great food, conversation, a brief history lesson, a touch of trivia and even some (sort of) fortune telling action.
We started dinner with a table full of appetizers. I can’t begin to tell you the names of them all – just that they were all super-tasty. For a main course, I had a mixed grill – a crazy amount of delicious food, especially after all the appetizers. It came with beef Kofte, chicken kebab, spicy Adana kebab as well as lamb kebabs, all beautifully grilled and served with rice, bulgur, yogurt and yufka, a thin unlevened bread.
I recommend Anatolia if you’re in Etobicoke (it’s located in a strip mall on Dundas near Kipling) and you’re looking for terrific food at moderate prices. It’s a great place to go with friends. We’ve dined there a number of times over the years and it has never disappointed.
Last night we went out to 850 degrees here in Long Branch for pizza with Marianne and Steve (Georgie’s new best friends) – who are likely back in Vancouver by now. It was great to see them while they were in town!
We’re really fortunate to have such a great pizza joint here in Long Branch!
I had the pizza of the month, which comes with a salad in the middle…
One of my favourite ways of cooking involves improvising in my trusty cast iron pan. I was thinking about that today when I stopped in at Starsky’s for some groceries. I bought some beautiful spicy Slovak sausage and some fresh veggies to go along with whatever I might be able to find in the pantry.
Cast iron pans are great for one pot cooking. Today I used onions, garlic, wax beans, a small zucchini, mushrooms, a small red pepper – and in the pantry I found a can of diced tomatoes and a can of chick peas. There was fresh thyme in the fridge and I have some great smoked paprika, perfect for the sausage/chick pea combination. I finished it with a squeeze of lime juice.
Start with one MacIntosh apple. Leave the peel on and slice it into slivers. Get a medium sized pot. Take 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melt it and add one and a half tablespoons of your favourite hot curry powder blend. When melted, add the apples and cook for 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove apples.
Chop up a heap of scallions. Add them to the pot with the remnants of the curry butter mix. Add one and three quarter cups of water to the pot and bring it up to a boil with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, add a cup of couscous, stir, cover, remove from the heat, and wait ten minutes.
Chop up a half cup pistachios and about the same amount fresh mint. When the couscous is ready (10 min), combine apples, pistachios, mint, pinch of salt, with the couscous. Mix it all together and serve.
It wasn’t until after I realized that the cabbages I bought for cabbage rolls were not the most well-suited for the job that I remembered how fussy my mom was about her cabbages. You see, I only make cabbage rolls on the occasional Christmas. Now that I think about it, my mom would make my dad go to two or three stores if necessary to get the right ones. The perfect cabbage is on the small side, so each leave makes a modest-sized cabbage roll. As well, each cabbage has many usable leaves. She could tell the perfect cabbage at a glance.
The ones I bought were really too big, and the leaves thickened quickly as I worked through them. This isn’t to say my cabbage rolls are not going to be good. They will be super-delicious. I do after all know THE SECRET. However, they will not be the uniform perfectly-sized cabbage rolls my mom used to produce every time.
They’re in the oven now, and there they’ll stay for at least 3 hours. The house smells amazing right now. I put a strip of back ribs on top of the cabbage rolls the way mom used to do, and I nested them in a roaster lined with cabbage. That cabbage in contact with the roaster will darken and caramelize and become cabbage candy.
For today my work is done. Time to sit back and play the banjo for a while.
Vegetarian friends it’s time for you to surf another part of the web for a few moments because this post is all about meat. Not just meat – it’s about a Polish skewered meat dish called patychky which we grew up calling simply “meat sticks”.
My mom would use a combination of pork, beef and veal for hers, and I started out doing it the same way. One year though, I just used pork and they were so good I never looked back. My marinade is considerably different than my mom’s preparation as well, but the results are very similar. There is a lot of leeway in preparing this dish, but if you follow the basic idea – marinate, skewer, dip in egg, roll in spiced breadcrumbs, fry then bake – it’s hard to go wrong. You need a sturdy skewer for meat sticks. Not to worry. You can get them at Starsky’s. They have them in two lengths – in baskets at the meat counter at the back. Just remember the golden rule for shopping at Starsky’s – go directly to the deli counter and get your number (that’s where you stock up on kielbasa), then continue shopping, returning to the deli just before your number comes up.
This year we’re having a family dinner Christmas Day at our place, and family from both sides are going to break bread with us. Since I’m off work this week and have a little time, I’m going to make some of the foods my mom used to make when I was growing up. While I’m sure family would be happy with a turkey dinner (a much simpler approach), I like to cook from time to time, and I think it will be fun to make some of the traditional foods.
I’m going to start today by making pierogi. One of the good things about pierogi is that you can make them and freeze them (usually in bags of a dozen or so), and then cook them up whenever you want some.
We make potato and cheese pierogi – there are all kinds of other possibilities with
filling from mushrooms to braised cabbage or sourkraut to fruit fillings. We always do it with potato and cheese. I use a mix of pressed Polish cottage cheese and white cheddar.
Once the pierogi are made, there are a couple different ways to prepare them. One is boiled with “burnt” butter. While the pierogi are boiling, we cook a little butter until there are many brown spots in the butter. We call that burnt. When the boiling pierogi float in the water, we strain them, put them on a plate, and drip the burnt butter over them. Add a generous dollop of sour cream and you’re good to go. This is the way my mom and all our family made them.
Perhaps more common today is to boil the pierogi, then fry them up with bacon and onions or mushrooms. Also delicious.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom would get together with my Auntie Stella and the two of them would go into pierogi production. I remember that Stella was the fastest pierogi assembler I had ever seen. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but it seems to me she could do two at a time, one with each hand.
My plan is to make pierogi today – an old friend is coming by to help me – we plan to make a lot. Tomorrow, I’m going to make patychky – we called them meat sticks when I was a kid. This is basically pork on a stick. It’s marinated, skewered, dipped in egg, rolled in spiced breadcrumbs, fried and baked. I only make these
at Christmas time, and I like to think mine are very very good. I taught my sister-in-law Viv how to make them several years ago and hers are also excellent. Finally, Wednesday I’m going to make a roaster of cabbage rolls.
Cabbage rolls made the way mom used to make them had a very distinctive and intoxicating smell. This is because the meat is browned using salt pork. This may not be the healthiest food choice, but it is rare I make them and while you can use a healthier substitute, they just are not the same. I’m sure my brother and my sister will set me straight if I don’t get it just right.
This morning I headed out to Starsky’s to get what I need for this cooking extravaganza. Having had experience at Starsky’s at Christmastime, I left the house early to arrive there just after they opened at 8:00 AM. Good thing I did. By the time I left the store at 8:40, it was already getting busy. By this afternoon it will be silly-busy. The crowds around the sausage counter alone will be over the top.