• Russian Gourmet: Mushrooms

    Mushrooms are a big part of Russian cuisine, they are plentiful in milder climates and many people are experienced mushroom pickers. Mushrooms can be easily preserved by drying, marinating, canning or whatever else people do to store them and that makes them available year round. I like mushrooms in soups, fried, sauteed, marinated, in stews, in salads, etc. Like Pavlov’s dog I buy every jar of mushrooms I see in front of me, most of the time just to be disappointed because someone just decided to drown them in vinegar and make them inedible. Most of the local grocery stores sell regular white mushrooms or champignones. For a better variety of canned mushrooms you need to head to your local Asian store. There you’ll find a whole aisle filled with cans of exotic mushrooms. Yesterday I picked up a large can of straw mushrooms at the 888 Market in Overland Park.

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    Straw mushrooms have a more rubbery, chewy texture, I usually like them peeled, although some sources say that they are better and more nutritious unpeeled.

    When buying and eating mushrooms you need to decide for yourself if you trust underpaid Chinese children to pick the right mushrooms for you. This blog will not be responsible for your untimely death from mushroom poisoning to which there is no antidote.

    This giant can cost me six dollars. The mushrooms are packed in slightly salted water which is pretty much tasteless. First thing to do after opening the can is to drain the water.

    After the water is drained the mushrooms look like this.

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    For this recipe you will need onions, garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaf if you have it, salt, oil and vinegar.
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    Slice the onions and peel the garlic, put as much as you feel like – you cannot over-onion this recipe. Then put your ingredients in the jar. You can do it in layers or not, especially if you are not taking pictures.

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    In retrospect, a better idea would be to mix it up before putting it in the jar. Oh well. The marinade is not supposed to be over salted  or too acidic. That’s why I am not giving any measurements, adjust it to your own taste by mixing salt, oil and vinegar. It should be slightly more vinegary than you’d like because the taste of vinegar weakens a little bit. Do not try to be Rachel Ray – olive oil solidifies in the fridge and I cannot guarantee the result with any specialty vinegar. Regular corn or vegetable oil and plain white vinegar will do just fine.

    You are done. The marinade should cover the mushrooms.

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    Do not hesitate to try the mushrooms and see if you like the taste. If not, add more of whatever is missing, usually salt or vinegar.

    Leave in the refrigerator for few hours or overnight. Then add as a condiment to any dinner, for example, freshly cooked BBQ riblets.

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    Add a cold glass of kvas and enjoy!

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  • Food Crumb-skiy

    There are so many websites covering all things food around this town that another one is hardly needed, however, I feel it’s my duty to continue with the coverage of cheap foods and places that don’t rip you off.

    I recently visited La Cocinita Mexicana – a place where my friend Chimpotle has been grazing lately gaining fat for upcoming winter hibernation. This place is located in a usual Johnson County strip mall so despised by people looking for “character” from across the county line. I am happy to admit that I never ate in Mexico outside of the buffets of Cancun so I will not be judging authenticity of the food, it looked Mexican to me and everyone behind the counter was speaking Spanish, which is the case for many restaurants around here, including Chinese. The owner/manager/chef XX was extremely enthusiastic and insisted that we try a variety of fillings before we made our selections. He mentioned several times that they are better than Chipotle, I would have to agree. Two large tacos, one good tamale and a Mexican pop – little over $7, that’s my kind of place. Both tacos – beef and chicken – were pretty spicy, with good amount of filling and plenty of toppings we chose from the topping bar. I’d definitely go there again for good food, low prices, friendly staff. Plenty of seating is available.


    Speaking of Mexican food, I finally bought salsa mix from Bebo at the City Market. I see Bebo at the Market every Saturday and he frequently calls into local radio shows never forgetting to plug his products after every conversation. A co-worker recently brought some excellent salsa to work and it was apparently made with one of the Mama Socorro’s mixes made by Chef Bebo (see I can play that “chef” game too).

    Chef Bebo

    Chef Bebo recommends to mix one package with a 28 OZ can of crushed tomatoes or a similar amount of chopped fresh tomatoes and let it set for 1 hour or overnight. Mine is doing it right now. Chef Bebo is offering other spice mixes and prepared salsas at the City Market and many local grocery stores. Here is another review of his products.

    Lastly, as if this being the Best Kansas City Blog of 2008 and recent presidential elections were not enough to make you think that the secret communist takeover of this country is going on as planned, Russian vodka now has its own billboard over I-35.

    “The Russians Are Coming” is so 1966. The Russians are already here…

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  • 20 Years Without The Iron Curtain:Military Draft

    Last year I wrote about the day I was drafted in the military. I tried to convey the atmosphere of that day, the feeling of getting into something scary and unknown, leaving one’s home and family, and realizing that there is no way back after one crosses the gate. Yesterday, when the photos of a modern day military draft in Ukraine went around the Internet, I realized that besides the new uniform not much has changed since the day when I showed up at the draft processing location.
    The military didn’t allow to keep the civilian clothes, so whatever possessions we had were either thrown away or taken by older soldiers who were allowed to bend the rules a little. I thought I was being clever when I showed up with a short but not bald haircut, like some of the recruits on this photo. Clever wasn’t one of the desired qualities in the military, so I was told to cut my hair again.
    Ukrainian conscripts arrive at a military training centre, the biggest in the former Soviet Union, in the village of Oster, some 90 km (56 miles) from the capital Kiev, October 29, 2009. About 19,500 thousand recruits were called up to the Ukrainian army this autumn.
    Here we see a group of “fresh meat” and a group of soldiers already processed. Typical barracks on the left.

    I never looked this good, nor was I ever a fan of walking around naked around people I don’t know. When I was taking my pre-draft medical test, I was lined up together with 5 or 6 more recruits in front of the table with several doctors; we were told to drop our pants down all at once. I guess they were trying to see that all of us had correct equipment down there, they were sitting a few yards away and couldn’t have possibly determined anything else. The arrow-sign on the wall says “doctor”.

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    In this shot the recruits are united with their new long underwear. In summer it was usually blue boxers and who-knows-what-color tank top. Winter season came with long underpants and long-sleeve undershirt. Every week at the showers the dirty underwear was taken away and the clean underwear was brought in a big stack. If you were slow you’d end up with a wrong size underwear for the whole week or even worse – see the streaks from the previous owner.

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    Somewhere along the way they were issued a piece of soap.


    Now on to the uniform.

    Boots are a definite improvement from what I had to wear.

    Hats stayed the same but there is mo emblem on the front.

    Last look at the old life.

    And now all ready to go. I have no idea what’s in these boxes.


    What stands out in all these images is a scared look in these kids’ eyes. Some things never change.

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  • Panaderia San Luis

    Few days ago I was getting a haircut and noticed that some culinary business next door had been replaced by a Mexican Bakery.

    I asked the lady who was cutting my hair if she tried it yet, but she sounded hesitant to try something different. I, on the other hand, can’t pass a bakery of any kind without checking it out. I’ve been to a Mexican Bakery (Panaderia) before and our local grocery stores frequently sell Mexican traditional baked goods, reflecting Olathe’s rapidly growing Hispanic population.
    Panaderia San Luis opened at this location little over 3 months ago and seems to be staying busy. It offers a variety of pastries like familiar fruit-filled turnovers, as well as a huge selection of Mexican baked goods.

    There are fresh rolls…

    …a cold case with several varieties of Tres Leches cakes

    …and tortillas and tamales to go.

    Most of the items are made in the store (I noticed a different address on the package of tortillas) and are priced 60 cents and up.

    Pastries that are not so obvious or priced differently are marked in English and Spanish.

    My usual pet peeve with ethnic businesses is their neglect of potential mainstream customers. Many times a curious shopper shows up but feels intimidated or overwhelmed by the amount of unknown items and no one around to explain what they are. Panaderia San Luis got this right – not only everything is clearly marked, the owner is there to explain and answer questions in English to your satisfaction. The experience is very different from my first visit to a Mexican Bakery in Kansas City, KS where no one seemed to speak English and I had to watch the other customers to figure out what to do. Instead of a basket you get a tray and a pair of kitchen tongs, then bring your loaded tray to the checkout.

    Panaderia San Luis located at 2077 E.Santa Fe in Olathe is a nice addition to a growing list of authentic eateries in my neighborhood and a definite step up from your grocery bakery department both in quality and freshness.

    I hope they stick around.

    *this post is not sponsored or compensated in any way.

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  • Old Photos: Sobriety Test

    Continuing with the alcohol theme, here are some photos depicting a sobriety test experiment performed in Kansas City in 1941. The cops slowly liquor up a test subject and then perform sobriety tests on him using a precision “drunkometer”.

    Subject taking first drink during drunken driving test. ©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject having drunkometer test made during drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject attempting to drive backward drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject taking fingers to nose test after fourth drink during drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject walking straight chalk line during drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject sorting deck of cards during drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Subject sitting at table after sixth drink during drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    Officer helping test subject to car to take him home after drunken driving test.©Time Inc. William C. Shrout

    The rest of the sobriety test photo shoot.

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