Starka's Profile

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phx: are there any non-chain kitchen stores left?

It's not so great for the design-conscious gee-whiz tools, but Standard Restaurant Supply on 29th St. and McDowell has lots of day-to-day good basic tools.

I'd take a good, versatile hotel pan over an avocado slicer any day (grin). Good deals on heavy-duty Cambro plastic containers in many sizes, too.

May 06, 2009
Starka in Phoenix

Polish Appetizer Needed

Oof, it's a misconception that Polish food is all heavy!! Spring / summer means fantastic fresh veggie salads, fruit compotes, and a tradition of small canapes that don't have to be just smoked fish or heavy meats. All good as appetizers.

A standard summer salad on every table: Slice cucumber very thinly, toss with very thinly sliced white onion, sprinkle with a little salt and let drain. Make a dressing of sour cream thinned with white vinegar, a pinch of sugar to take the edge off, dried or fresh dill, S &P. Combine, serve in small ramekins or spoons as an appetizer. Same dressing works great for a sliced fresh tomatoes combined with thinly sliced pickles.

Depending on how early in advance you need to prepare, fresh-grated potato & onion pancakes can be very light and easy. Just use minimum amount of flour and 1 egg to loosely bind the grated potato and onion, S & P, and pan fry. Silver-dollar size and thin should retain good texture for transport. These are fine at room temperature, with a dollop of sour cream added when serving. I love these plain with a dusting of granulated sugar too; sounds odd, but very good.

Fruit compote shots! Stone fruit are best, plums, peaches, cherries. Simmer de-pitted fruit in water with a few cloves, cinnamon stick, some citrus zest is nice, and sugar to taste depending on how sweet your fruit is, until fruit is very very tender. Serve in small punch cups chilled. Add a shot of brandy if it's that kind of group.

And for a canape idea: cold thin slices of roast tenderloin, on salty buttered dark bread, with good horseradish on the side to taste, sliced pickles too.

May 06, 2009
Starka in Home Cooking

What was your favourite childhood concoction, which you now think is disgusting?

Growing up in Phoenix, we called 'em Kamikazes. And funny enough, now the QT gas chain actively encourages combining flavors from their many soda and coffee and "flavoring" and slurpee and whatever other nozzles they have (grin). Seems like everyone likes to experiment.

Dec 30, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Christmas Eve Traditional Meals

jeanmarieok- we continue the smuggled mushroom tradition at my mother's house (grin) for Wigilia and I've been training my new non-Polish husband in the ways of rollmops and barscht. He's come to love our home-pickled herring... (part of why I married him!) We always make two kinds of pierogies- the contraband wild mushroom / cabbage and potato/onion/farmer's cheese, boiled then lightly pan-fried. And instead of a white fish we tend to have a whole salmon fillet, broiled with lemon, as the main attraction.

But my favorite- usually just after New Year's, my mom will make a big batch of bigos. A thick, well, it's not really a stew, but combination of different types of meat and poultry roasted separately then shredded or cubed together plus sauteed shredded cabbage, onion, sauerkraut, prunes, I'm probably forgetting something else, all combined and then baked until perfection. Total comfort food. Polish chili? grin.

Dec 06, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Khachapuri in Phoenix?

I'm confused- all the khachapuri that I've had did not include an egg on top. Is that a regional specialty? I'm used to relatively unadorned yeast bread with salty melted cheese interior. There's a recipe in Darra Goldstein's "A Georgian Feast" cookbook that's pretty straightforward, if I'm remembering right.

(And don't know a source in Phoenix... but ask your mother-in-law to make some bean salads to go with it! Georgian food is amazingly tasty!!)

Nov 25, 2008
Starka in Phoenix

What food do you remember best from your wedding?

The idea that the bride and groom are too busy at the reception to eat certainly didn't happen at my wedding! And I remember all the savory foods much much more than I do the cake. I'll always associate the day with the taste of chicken and leek crepes in a basil cream sauce...

What food conjures up your wedding memories?

For better or worse? (grin)

Nov 07, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Family foods I thought was normal

Something similar in our house- cottage cheese omelets, and powdered sugar on top. Yum! Still a comfort food.

Open faced sandwiches on dark bread surprised the heck out of my childhood friends. My Polish mom * might * have gotten away with the toppings (liverwurst, sliced radishes, sliced hard boiled eggs, etc. or the less worrisome salami and sliced pickles) if only there was only a second slice of bread on top. Somehow the open face confused my friends most of all, go figure!

Nov 07, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Epitome of Polish Cuisine?

Ooooh, but caution: US customs won't allow dried mushrooms through. I've had the heartbreak of confiscation coming back from Warsaw a few times (even when they were in a pre-packaged / sealed bag). Ditto for sausage, cheese, preserves, etc... my custom checkers have had fantastic lunches...!

Oct 04, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Best Sandwich in Phx?

Hey, I was the co-author of that sandwich at Dragonfly! It was definitely one of the staff favorites. I haven't tried it since the new ownership (although I did go back once and was disappointed with the obvious changes in preparation/quality...) PS- Dragonfly's former sous-chef (and the second half of the turkey ciabatta) is now at AJ's on Central with a dedicated following for her weekend omelet station.

Jul 08, 2008
Starka in Phoenix

Are you a bagel scooper?

This sounds a lot like the "diet Coke and dessert" rationalizing act... But I'm all in favor of tweaking food construction for easier eating (except for soup in bread bowls, just say no).

HOWEVER- from experience on the opposite side of the kitchen line - know that your bagel sandwich makers are gnashing their teeth and cursing at your scooping requests. (It takes more time than you'd think to scoop without tearing through, throws off a line's rhythm, and has a twinge of... elitism? attitude? insult? there's something emotional there, being asked to gouge and toss out part of your meal before you'll touch it).

Jun 25, 2008
Starka in General Topics

Ladies' Weekend in Scottsdale and Sedona

Ladies? Lunch? Arcadia Farms is always a treat, especially when the weather's nice and you're out on the back garden patio. Plus it's in the middle of Old Town, so you can walk around afterwards, check out the boutiques and galleries.

Apr 09, 2008
Starka in Phoenix

Raw Milk / Home Cheesemaking in AZ?

It's legal in AZ to sell raw milk, but there's a lot of barriers with required permits/licenses/labeling red tape. I'll definitely check out the Rovey Dairy, thanks for the tip!

Dec 28, 2007
Starka in Southwest

Raw Milk / Home Cheesemaking in AZ?

I've gone through about 6 gallons of various milk brands, searching for the elusive non-ultra pasteurized kind, resulting in 6 gallons worth of curdled cheese-making heartbreak. Does anyone know where I can get non-pasteurized or "gently" pasteurized milk in the Phoenix area? A day trip to outlaying AZ dairy farms sounds nice, but I'm hoping to find a retailer closer to home.

And- any SW Chowhounds with home cheese-making chops out there? What are your favorites to make?

Dec 28, 2007
Starka in Southwest

Portion Size at Finer Restaurants

Hmm, how does this extend to elaborate tasting menus, where 7,8,9+ course of tiny taste explosions / textures add up to a huge bill and still grumbling stomach? (And in some cases, stomachs grumbling not from hunger but ingredient / flavor overload).

If you're paying for the *experience* at these high-end and high-concept places, are you getting your education *and* money's worth of calories when you leave the table?

On a side note- at a former restaurant that I cooked at, we had a customer finish their meal, then asked their server to bring them more food. Correction: they demanded more food. Their argument: if they were paying for a meal, they expected to be full at the end of it. When the waiter (having a brain freeze about how to respond) came back to the kitchen with the news, we all had a collective, "can you do that?" moment. Sometimes I wish I had the "audacity" myself to ask when dining out.

Dec 13, 2007
Starka in General Topics

Oh, Barley - how I love thee!

Sparkalina- I'm so with you! I grew up eating kasha (buckwheat) and other whole grains as breakfast porridge, in salads, soups, formed into patties, etc. Do you have trouble cooking barley on the stove because the grains stick together / get mushy? I've always had luck with stovetop kasha by doing the pilaf-method of tossing the grain in a hot fat (like, sauteing onions in olive oil / butter first, then adding the kasha and stirring to coat each grain until you get a nice nutty smell, then adding liquids to simmer). Rinsing the barley grains first might also help wash off extra starches that contribute to mushiness.

Dec 13, 2007
Starka in General Topics