• Ukrainian Gourmet: Smoked Salo

    WARNING: This post is not kosher on any day of the year.

    My imaginary friend Moxie Mama wants to celebrate her 1/4 Ukrainian heritage by eating what real Ukrainians eat. Well, that’s real simple and no cooking required to boot. Ukrainian National Food is salo which is non-rendered pork fat. There is nothing like a thick slice of salo with a piece of rye bread rubbed with garlic. The only thing better than regular salt-cured salo is smoked salo and just for saying that I expect a mob of angry quarter-Ukrainians attack me with pitch-forks (which is Ukrainian national weapon). Salo is usually salt-cured and can be kept outside of the fridge for a long time. Smoked salo doesn’t have the same shelf-life but it has tender buttery texture with a more delicate,slightly smokey taste and chewy skin if you are lucky to get it. (Sorry I had to run to the fridge and take a bite).

    salo

    In Kansas City you can satisfy all of your salo-eating needs at the Russian Store, which coincidentally carries real-tasting rye bread. For an alternative for ethnically-challenged, head on over to Fritz’s Smoked Meats around 106th and State Line in Leawood, where I procured some smoked salo (ask for smoked bacon, they are Germans) just yesterday. The difference between this bacon and some crap in a vacuum packaging at the grocery store is that it doesn’t contain any unknown liquid (WTF is that anyway- formaldehyde or something?). Your friendly employee will slice it from a giant slab right in front of you. (Sorry I am off for another bite). DO NOT order it sliced thin, go with the medium or thick. I have a feeling that some synagogue is obtaining a restraining order against me as I type this. Well, if God didn’t want us to eat salo…, you know the rest.

    salo

    Your next step is to obtain rye bread. American people between the coasts have been deprived of real bread and forced to eat who knows what, albeit sliced. We have to hunt the bread down. Baking it is not so hard, but generally you can’t go wrong with Farm-to-Market bread CO (Hen House on 135th and Metcalf bakes it fresh) or pick up a loaf at the Russian Store. There are few places like this one and others where you can obtain normal crusty bread.

    You are all set. Get your favorite bottle of vodka from the fridge, peel yourself some garlic (rub it on the bread crust,see that’s why you needed the crust), pour yourself a shot and take a bite of your sandwich. Your Ukrainian Grandma would be proud.

    salo

    After a shot or three, listen to this song. You’ll notice you can now understand the words.
    Na Zdorov’e!

    More Photos

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  • Somewhere in Kansas

    Just a few photos here and there…

    Prehistoric squirrel discovered along my walking trail:

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  • Russian Gourmet: Pickles

    This post is about pickles. Not your regular brownish-green vinegary mouth-puckering pickles. It’s about bright-green, crunchy, slightly salted pickles that taste fresh, slightly garlicky and with a hint of dill – pickles of my childhood. The closest thing to these that can be found in your regular grocery store is the Claussen Pickles but they are a far cry from the real thing. Rarely you can find excellent Ba-Tampte Half Sours usually in the kosher refrigerated section. For a better version head on to the Russian Store, they are sold by weight at the counter (grab yourself a couple of pickled apples and tomatoes while you are there).

    Sometimes you can find a pickling spice mix at a Russian store, or if you have friends who will smuggle it for you illegally from Eastern Europe.

    In the absence of pre-made spice mix I always use dill weed (fresh or dry) or dill seed, lots of garlic, some black peppercorns, maybe a hot pepper (be careful how hot), if you have cherry leaf or two, a horseradish leaf (which I’ve never seen sold here) and a few bay leaves.

    Yesterday after a downtown lunch I stopped by the City Market and bought about 5 lbs of fresh pickling cucumbers.

    These are not gigantic-looking things sold in Wal-Mart, they are small, light-green,bumpy and crunchy. In this area they are available only during the summer. I brought them home and soaked them in the kitchen sink to let all the dirt come loose. I also cut the ends off and pierce the cucumber with a knife in the middle. This way the brine has more surfaces to penetrate the cucumber.

    From there on the process is simple – wash the cucumbers and put them in the jar, adding garlic and spices at the same time. The hard part is to guess the amount of salt. The general rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in 1 liter (quart) of warm water, I think it has to be a regular tablespoon heaping with salt. Lately I’ve been using 2 measuring tablespoons of salt per quart of water.It doesn’t have to be extremely salty, maybe slightly saltier than you’d like to taste. The whole point is to keep the fresh taste and crunchiness and not to over-salt the pickles. Fill the jar to the top, cover and leave on the counter. You can start tasting the pickles the next day or two. When they reach desired taste, place them in the refrigerator.

    They are good with any food or drink, a hot dog, a sandwich, a shot of vodka or just by themselves.

    They are good when you are eating with great friends…

    …or when you it’s just you, pickle and this song….

     

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  • Old Photos: School Visit to the Nelson Gallery

    Sometimes random bits of information come together nicely. Here is a quote from a local blog…

    I attended Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools way back before Kansas City became a hollow shell of a city and before the school district lost its will to live. From the fourth grade on, we were regularly treated to visits to the Nelson, The (then) Kansas City Philharmonic and other cultural treasures of the area.
    In the sixties, Corinthian Hall was the herding place for throngs of children, delivered by groaning yellow buses from all corners of the district. We sat, cross-legged on the floor, ready to buddy up and explore, two-by-two, the wonders of the world contained inside the limestone and marble wonder.

    … and here are some photos to go with it.

    School children visiting William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art.

    School children visiting William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. © Time Inc. Ed Clark

    School children leaving the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (1954)

    School children leaving the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (1954)© Time Inc. Ed Clark

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  • Healthcare Reform-skiy Opportunity Missed

    Hit it! [audio:https://www.kcmeesha.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Tony_Babino_-_LInternationale_from_Capitalism_A_Love_Story_by_Michael_Moore.mp3|titles=Tony Babino -L’Internationale (from Capitalism A Love Story by Michael Moore)]Since I wrote about the healthcare reform last year the situation didn’t get any better. Whatever will be voted in or “shoved down the throats of the American people” – depending on which TV channel you are watching, it will not produce a meaningful reform in this country. If President Obama was even half as good as some people believed him to be, he would have used his position and Congressional majorities to institute a single-payer system paid for by an increase in taxes. That would have been the right thing to do. Sometimes the right thing needs to be done, even if it’s unpopular. Previous administration had no problem doing the unpopular and wrong things like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan based on the wrong information and misguided convictions. Obama seemed to have the right information and plenty of conviction but not enough courage, persistence, or desire to do what he promised or implied in his campaign appearances.

    What will be passed soon is in no way a reform – more band-aids; few things that sound good but will be easily loopholed by the healthcare industry; few accounting gimmicks that will make spending increases look like savings; few giveaways and favors in exchange for votes with most of the changes delayed for years. Nothing here says “vision”, “courage”, “hope” and definitely not “change”. More like “lame”, “sellout”, “weak”, “dishonest”, “gimmicky” and “disappointment”. Any talk about this legislation opening doors for more reform or debate is just that. For years no one will dare to touch this subject, and there won’t be another chance of 2 branches of Government being in sync to produce anything meaningful.

    The sad part is that most of the clowns protesting the healthcare reforms and spitting on congressmen are poor schmucks who are one or two paychecks away from begging for the government healthcare and other various forms of assistance, or are already using it based on income, age or previous military service. There may be problems with Medicare of VA but they are free or cheap and, most importantly, available. That’s the most important thing about the government services in general, they may not be the best but they beat not having any. Too bad that many protesters don’t understand that this is the direction we are headed in – not having enough/any coverage. Most of the workplace benefits disappeared or deteriorated and will continue to do so in the future, many people (including myself) now have to dig deeper in their pockets before the insurance payments even kick in. In this situation the failure of the President to pass the real reform is unacceptable; his attempt to mislead the people with the neutered bill they are about to pass is just disgusting.

    After the election, when everyone was crying with the fake tears of joy even I let my cynicism down a bit to see if something really can happen. Looks like my streak of not voting will continue unbroken.

    In conclusion, a few old photos of a socialized healthcare at work. As you can tell it looks worn out and poor. This is a small country hospital where my Father worked, you can see him making rounds with a group of colleagues (he is on the left in the top photo). The system wasn’t perfect and many times was just broken and inefficient but it was there. People were getting treatment, doctors cared, no one lost their possessions due to a medical treatment or a hospital stay. People who remember that time will tell you plenty of horror stories, but at the same time having this system available took away at least one thing to worry about.



    The best chance to have a healthcare reform in this country was wasted months ago. Even when it gets passed there will be nothing to celebrate; it’s a failure at best, but is probably worse because it will allow the President to hang a “mission accomplished” banner of his own and act like the right thing was done. Too bad.

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