Country #10: Norway

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When you look at the Wikipedia page for “Norwegian cuisine,” the first thing that comes up is salmon. Everyone has heard of Norwegian smoked salmon, and it is now one of Norway’s largest food exports. When I decided to make Norwegian food in an attempt to come to terms with the continuing Boston winter, I wanted to make the most stereotypical Norwegian dish I could! Also, I may or may not have had a craving for lox. (Which, in my defense, is a craving I have almost every hour of every day, except for maybe the half hour just after I have gorged myself on the stuff.)

One thing to note is that this salmon, or gravlax, is cured, not cooked. As I learned in sushi class, one of the most common mistakes that people make when choosing fish to eat that will be uncooked is that they tend to choose the fish that they would eat when cooked - namely, many people would choose wild, unfrozen salmon over farmed, frozen salmon, because it is fresher and more natural. While this may be the case if you are cooking it, it is imperative that you buy either sushi-quality fish from a certified sushi retailer (in Boston, two places I recommend are New Deal Fish Market in East Cambridge and Sea to You Sushi in Brookline Village), OR you can buy commercially frozen, farmed fish from a reputable grocery store (such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s). Freezing fish kills parasites, which is crucial, and although wild salmon is generally preferable, the diet of farmed salmon is controlled, so you know that the fish has not eaten something weird from the wide open ocean.
So without further ado... gravlax!


Country #9: El Salvador

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This week’s recipe prompted the unanimous verdict that I need to start making a “Katya’s Favorites,” or list of the best things that I have made from the various countries. And the reason is Quesadilla Salvadoreña. More on that later.
When I studied in Spain, I took a class called Historia económica de latinoamérica (History of Latin American Economics). It was the best course I took there, and was incredibly detailed. One of the most important (and obvious) things that we discussed was diversification of exports, and how the lack of diversification among most Latin American countries (Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina being some of the exceptions) tended to really screw those countries over. For example, nearly 100% of Cuba’s economy was dependent on the export of cane sugar, and when beet sugar was discovered (a kind of sugar made from beets rather than sugar cane that was much cheaper to produce), it nearly put Cuba out of business as an independent nation. El Salvador had a similar issue in the 1800s, during which their main product was indigo. Then came the introduction of chemical dyes into the market, and El Salvador had to immediately switch to coffee production, which created a whole new series of issues in which former landowners had to sign their land away for coffee plantations.
I chose El Salvador this week for an unimpressive reason: I had a craving for fried plantains. I first tasted them when I was in Costa Rica during sophomore year of high school and have been addicted ever since. Whenever we went to Guanachapi’s in Waltham (an El Salvadorian/Guatamalan restaurant), we’d order their addictive plantains, but since moving out of Waltham, they are the main thing that I miss. So I learned how to make my own! The discovery of Sunrise Market (a cheap Latin market on Brighton Ave. in Allston) was a revelation.
The only thing that didn’t really work this time were the pupusas. I am clearly having dough issues and need to take some classes. Granted, this was my first time working with maseca, or Mexican corn flour, and the dough tends to be pretty dry and difficult to work with, but I look forward to getting better at it.
Now, the true revelation of this meal was quesadilla salvadoreña, which is not what we in the US know as a quesadilla. Technically, quesadilla literally means “cheesed,” i.e. anything that has had cheese involved with it. This particular quesadilla is a type of quick bread that for some inexplicable reason tastes like the most delicious cornbread you’ve ever had, despite the lack of cornmeal. Perhaps it tasted so amazing because I used double yolked eggs? All I can say is... wow. If you don’t make anything else I write about, make this recipe.


Country #8: China

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I apologize for the delay in posting; this post was many weeks in the making, and the past three weeks have been insanely busy. What am I talking about; who isn’t busy these days?
Other than a new post, I am also using a new computer! Super exciting. I have finally gone over to the Dark Side and gotten a Mac, which was partially in response to my Facebook post of “I am getting a new PC laptop and using it for mostly music and graphics, which should I get?” and 50% of the responses said to get a Mac. It is so pretty and shiny.
But you’re not here to read about technology! You are here to read about food. Delicious, flavorful Chinese food that makes you feel at home and on an adventure at the same time. To properly do a post for China, I decided to have a Chinese New Year party, that was slightly belated due to conflicted schedules. But the kitchen gods won’t smite me; I gave them too much of a feast for that! It took me three weeks to prepare, but I ended up making:
100 dumplings
50 spring rolls
Tea eggs
Beef noodle soup
Sauteed yu choy
New Years spiral moon cakes