Saturday, 26 March 2016

Day 13: March 26, 2016 - Comparing Fast Food Fish Sandwiches - Part 2 - Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's - Part 2 - Συγκρίνοντας Σάντουιτς με Ψάρι από το Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King και Wendy's - Δεύτερο Μέρος -

Yesterday's Great Lent Gourmet entry was about our quest to find out how some of the major fast food chains' fish sandwiches compare - and whether or not they are a viable option for the consumer who wants something suitable for Lent (click here to see yesterday's entry). In case you haven't read yesterday's post, March 25 (2016) is one of the two days that the Greek Orthodox Church (and we believe all other Orthodox Christian churches) permits the eating of fish. March 25 is the day of the Annunciation (exactly 9 months prior to Christmas Day). The other day happens to be Palm Sunday.

Today we will share with you our personal opinions of the fish sandwiches we tasted. Again, for those who haven't read yesterday post, we explicitly asked each of these fast food chains to only include the fish, the bun and any vegetables (lettuce, pickle, etc.) when serving us our sandwich.

Let's start withe Arby's.  Arby's is one of the places that I have fond memories of going when I was young.  I used to love the "Horsey Sauce" there.  It is just horseradish mayonnaise, but, when younger, I thought the name was hilarious.  Now, I can honestly say that it has been 10 or more years since having gone to an Arby's for anything.  Even when driving past one, this is not what I would choose for fast food.  But, today we did, and I am glad!

Arby's has two different fish sandwiches.  Okay, they are the same sandwich, but with different bread.  The other one on the menu had a flatbread instead of a bun, but we wanted to compare apples to apples, and chose the sandwich on a bun.

The Arby's bun was flat and tasteless, and after having bitten it, we thought maybe the flatbread would have been a better choice.  But, then, we tasted the fish.  This tasted just like the breaded fish used at church when there is a makaria meal or mnimosino (memorial dinner after a funeral) .  It was flavourful, not overwhelming, and a good size.  You can see in the picture that we sliced the fish in half to see the inside of it.  We found that the fish had a decent texture and that it was pretty decent.  The shredded lettuce on the sandwich was messy, but gave the overall bite a little crunch.  And, a little crunchy texture can be nice on a soft soft bun.

We had several people taste this sandwich, as well as the others.  We all agreed that this was a good fast food fish sandwich, and of all the ones we tasted, the various tasters ranked this either #1 or #2 in order of preference.

Arby's Fish Sandwich options - served in two ways, one on a bun, the other on a flat bread.
Arby's Crispy Fish Sandwich - seen here, in a cross section. Notice the amount of breading and the flakey fish.
Next, we went to McDonalds and ordered a fish sandwich.  We asked for no cheese and no tartar sauce, because typically there is a slice of cheese on the fish (frankly, I never understood that, until doing a taste test).  At McDonald's, we received a piece of fish on a bun.  There was no lettuce, no tomato, no pickle -- just fish on a bun. That surprised us only after we put it next to the other sandwiches.  And, again, we asked for no tartar sauce (it is mayonnaise-based).

Our big surprise with the McDonald's Fish Sandwich was how flat it was -- flat fish, flat taste, flat bun. McDonald's has always been the "go to" fast food because it is tasty, easy, and rather inexpensive.  But, now, we have decided otherwise.

The fish is watery.  There is no individual flavour that stands out of this fillet to make anyone believe this is directly from a fish.  And, when you smell the fillet, there is not really a fish smell -- it actually smelled more like a McDonald's restaurant (the overall smell when you walk in to order) than like fish.

The coating on the fish was unique.  To us, it tasted like cornmeal.  And, you may know that with cornmeal, it is not flavourful at all, but it is all about what you add to it.  The other thing about cornmeal is that it is grainy.  The texture combined well with the fish, so we do not complain too much of this.  But,  neither the fillet nor the coating were flavourful, and we now know why McDonald's puts cheese on the fish sandwich.  For all the tasters, this was the least favourite fast food fish sandwich and ranked number 4 our of 4.

McDonald's Filet-o-Fish (without the mayo-based sauce and cheddar cheese that's normally included)
Cross-section of the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
Next, we tried the Wendy's fish sandwich.  We mentioned yesterday that this sandwich is available in the U.S., not in Canada.  We are blessed to have family and friends on both sides of the border, and that we have flexible schedules that we can go back and forth between the two countries.

We think that Wendy's should bring this sandwich to Canada.  For our tasters, this was the third favourite (of four) fish sandwich of the day.  Could that be because one of the tasters found a bone in one of the bites? Could it be that there were not enough pickles on the sandwich?  Or, could that be because this fillet is a bit watery?  It was interesting that there was actually a bone (about 4mm long) in the sandwich.  It was small, as you may find when eating a deboned fillet at a restaurant.  But,  that makes us believe that this was an actual fish fillet!

Husband thought that the smell and taste of the Wendy's sandwich was the strongest of all the four fish sandwiches. He actually preferred this one because he could tell that this was a real-deal cod fillet instead of the watery Alaskan pollock that the other three sandwiches were made of.

There are some fish that people choose because of the mild flavour.  This must be one of them.  Except for husband, most of us thought that the very light flavour and the extremely mild smell of this fish would be appealing to the mass market.  We also liked the bread coating on the outside of the fillet.  This was flavourless, but it had a nice texture to give some crunch.  Once again, we understand the appeal to the mass market.  The highlight of the Wendy's fish sandwich was the texture.  The centre had the texture of an actual fish fillet.  It was flaky and meaty, and probably was a full fillet, especially since we found that bone!  And, the other highlight of this sandwich was the pickles.  There were four or five pickle slices on the sandwich, and they were thick and crisp pickles.  These were the most flavourful pickles that we have had in any fast food restaurant.  

Wendy's Northern Cod Sandwich (U.S.A.)

Cross-Section of Wendy's Northern Cod Sandwich (U.S.A.)
Finally, we have the Burger King fish sandwich.  We saved this for last because for our tasters, this was the overall favourite.  This was the sandwich that had the best flavour, texture, and smell of all four.  And, surprisingly, it was the only one on a long bun, the same size as the fillet.

This fish fillet is as long as the bun.  That means that you get fish in every bite. You will also get lettuce and pickles, which made this sandwich more interesting to eat.  Texture has a lot to do with the enjoyment of food.  The lettuce was enough, but it was larger chunks than what we typically like.  And the pickles were exactly the pickles we expect from a fast food restaurant -- very soft, somewhat sour, and mild flavoured.

Here it the thing that stood out about the Burger King fish sandwich for all of our tasters -- the fish smelled like fish, but not overwhelming like bad fish.  It smelled like a fresh piece of white fish.  Most people don't smell the fryer.  But, with this sandwich, we found that it was not offensive in any way.  The bun was the best of the four sandwiches.  It had a plain, white bread texture, smell, and feel, and did not interfere with the sandwich (just like the breading on the fish did not interfere with the flavour of the fillet).  

Overall, for all the tasters, this was the best of the fast food sandwiches.  We actually ended up cutting it into bite sized pieces just so everybody could taste a little more because it was very good.  If you are going to eat fast food, and you are going to order fish, you should just stick to the one that is flavourful, worth the money, and filling.  We found that in the Burger King fish sandwich.

Burger King's Extra Long Fish Sandwich - although it was the longest of all four sandwiches, it weighed less than the Wendy's fish sandwich and the fish itself was equal in weight to that of the Wendy's fish sandwich

A cross-section of the Burger King Extra Long Fish Sandwich; notice the amount of breading.

Source of image:

Please note that today's quote is not meant to offend any of our readers. We genuinely believe in the value to community in attending church and we do so regularly. However, we thought that some of our readers might find it thought provoking.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Day 12: March 25, 2016 - Comparing Fast Food Fish Sandwiches from Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's - Part 1 - Συγκρίνοντας Σάντουιτς με Ψάρι από το Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King και Wendy's - Πρώτο Μέρος

There are times that life is so busy, and you don't have a lot of time to make something, so, as many do in modern society, we turn to fast food for something quick and easy to eat.  For some, this is a full meal, for others it is a small snack.  But, we wanted to know what it is that we are getting when we get a snack or a meal at a fast food restaurant.  Well, our travels led us to some of the choices that await you in the world today -or at least in North America (U.S. and Canada, in particular).

As we were recently travelling, in anticipation of today's post, we visited four different and popular fast food places to see what kind of offerings they had for us during this Great Lenten season.  It was harder to do than you can imagine.  You really have to know what comes on each of the fish sandwiches to know what to avoid.  We asked for no tartar sauce on all of them, and each restaurant gave us generous amounts of tartar sauce on the side, even if we did not ask for it.  That was surprising.  McDonalds and Burger King had the pre made squeeze packets, where Arby's and Wendy's filled small plastic cups with lids.  By the way, we would like to mention that the fish sandwiches at Arby's and at Wendy's are available in the U.S., not Canada.  For those of us in The Great White North we need to travel in order to have one.  Who knows?  It may be worth the trip!

Remember, since there are two days that eating fish is permissible during Great Lent -- March 25 (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) and Palm Sunday.    We are providing you the information so that you now have options of what to have on those two days and in the future for a fasting day when fish is permitted and you are travelling or you have a craving for a fish sandwich.

Today we will start this comparison by listing a few facts about each sandwich. Tomorrow we will provide greater details about what we thought about each of these sandwiches (click here to see Part 2 of this post).

Weight, with bun (no dressing or cheese)
Weight (just the fish, with no bun)
Official Company Photo and link with nutritional information
Arby's Crispy Fish 

(Fish: Alaskan Pollock)

122 g
84 g


(Fish: Alaskan Pollock)
98 g
58 g

Burger King (U.S.) Extra Long Fish Sandwich

(Fish: Alaskan Pollock)
132 g
76 g

Wendy's  (U.S.) North Atlantic Cod Sandwich 

(Fish: North Atlantic Cod) 
134 g
76 g

Wendy's North Pacific Cod sandwich is back and more flavorful than ever with a new creamy dill tartar sauce and crisp pickles.  Available for a limited-time, each Cod sandwich also features a wild-caught North Pacific hand-cut cod fillet lightly breaded in crispy panko crumbs and topped with fresh, crisp lettuce on a toasted bun

"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. read more.

Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them."

Matthew 4: 18-21

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Day 11: March 24, 2016 - Stuffed Eggplant; Μελιτζάνες Γεμιστές

Stuffed eggplant is not as common as you may think.  While Pappoutsakia (Imam Byaldi) are a form of a stuffed eggplant, this dish is more like a traditional yemista (or Greek-style stuffed vegetables).  Yemista versions are numerous, but typically are made with peppers and tomatoes.  We have stuffed onions, we have stuffed squid, and we have stuffed grape vine leaves.  Now, we are trying it with eggplant.  We chose to use the thin, Chinese eggplants for this dish, though any other type would work, too.  The beauty of a dish like this is that even if the eggplants have blemishes or bruises, you can cut away that part of the vegetable and use the rest.  They are cut and gutted, so the skin with a little of the eggplant meat form a base at the bottom of the dish.  Using day-old produce with bruises keeps this dish very economical and practical for last minute meal preparation.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

4-6 eggplants (we're using long Chinese-style eggplants for this recipe)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley or dill
1 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup rice
1 -2  TBSP oil
2 TBSP tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

As usual, our first step is to wash the produce, the parsley, and the mushrooms.  Chop the onions, mushroom, garlic, and parsley, and set that aside for now.

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise.  Make sure to remove the stem end and any blemishes or bruises from each eggplant.

In a shallow pan of boiling salt water, boil the eggplant halves for about 5 minutes to soften the meat in the middle.  You want to cook the flesh side down for five minutes, and then boil the skin side for another two minutes.  Make sure the water is salted because this, too, will help remove some of the bitterness in the flavour of eggplant.  You will know the eggplants are ready when the middle looks soft and turns a greyish colour.

Set each eggplant half aside while you finish boiling all of them.  Allow them to cool enough to handle with your hands, but still warm to make the next step easier.

Now, with a spoon, a grapefruit spoon, or a melon scoop, remove the centre of each half so that you leave about 1/4 inch of eggplant meat against the skin.  When the eggplant is warm, the centre will peel away from the skin rather easily.  Collect all the eggplant meat in a pile and chop it up so that you have small pieces, and set that aside.

Lay the eggplant shells in a large baking dish or casserole to get ready for the oven.  You can put a little oil in the bottom of the baking dish or not -- that is your choice.  We chose not to, but if you do, you will find this dish will be more in the category of Ladera Fagita (oil-based dishes).

In a frying pan, heat the oil.  Fry the onions, garlic, and mushrooms together at the same time until everything is soft and cooked. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add the chopped eggplant to this mixture and fry this so the eggplant is fully cooked.

Once the vegetables are cooked and seasoned as you like, then it is time to add some tomato paste.  We used about 2 Tablespoons of paste because we don't want the tomato to cover the flavour of tyne garlic and eggplant.  The onions add a little sweetness and the mushrooms add to the texture of the dish.  The tomato adds some nice colour, but if you really don't like it, then just add a little bit.  The tomato paste, when fried, brings a richness to the flavour of this meal and binds the vegetables with the rice.

After frying the veggies with the tomato paste for 3 to 5 minutes, add the rice.

Mix this well so that all the vegetables are coated with tomato and so that all the rice is too.  The rice will start to absorb any liquid in the pan and any oil that remains.  You will find that the mixture may start to stick a bit to the pan.  As that happens, add a bit of water to de-glaze the pan, or simply to unstick everything.  Allow this to simmer together for two or three minutes.  Most of the water will be absorbed by the rice, or it will cook away in the hot pan.

Now add the parsley and turn off the heat.  Mix the filling well so that all the components are evenly distributed in the pan.  Check the seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.  Make sure the filling tastes the way you want, because that is what you will get once it is baked, too.  Then, set this aside for a moment.

Now it is time to fill the eggplant shells that are waiting in the baking dish.

Fill each shell the best that you can.  Because we used thin eggplants, the available space is narrow and difficult to fill.  We spooned in as much filling as we could, and then, distributed the remaining stuffing all over the top of the eggplants.

Pour some water in the pan -- about 1 inch of water.  Technically, it should be a full cup of water so that the rice cooks at a two to one (rice to water) ratio.  But, you may need a little more water than that. So, make sure the water is about 1 inch deep in the baking dish.

Bake this in the oven at 375ºF (about 190ºC) for about 40 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.  The top part of the filing will turn crunchy in the oven, but check the rice under the top layer to see if it is cooked through. If you need to add a little more water for the rice to cook for a longer time, then do so.  Once the rice is cooked through, the dish is done.  See how beautiful all the components look when baked together.  You will find the filling is not solid, but sticks together because of the tomato and the starch of the rice  Serve this hot or warm, and use it as a complete meal or with a side dish of your choice, and enjoy.

"Humility is constant forgetfulness of one's achievements."
By St. John Climacus

Source of quote:

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Day 10: March 23, 2016 - Carrot Salad with Sesame Oil and Lemon - Καρότοσαλάτα με Σουσάμι, Σησαμέλαιο και Λεμόνι

We have talked about various salads, and we can add dozens of ingredients to make salad.  But, what happens when you don't have most of the ingredients on hand, and you don't have time to run to the store?  For us, we just omit salad from the menu or we come up with something else to fill that space on the menu.  Today, we have a lovely carrot salad that is a five minute dish, and can replace any traditional salad on a menu.  We find that we "always" have carrots on hand, so this is an easy substitute for the crunchy lettuce or cucumber.  And, carrots are good for you when raw, so let's make them a little fancy and enjoyable!

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 lemon -- rind and juice
2 tsp brown sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Start this by making sure that you have peeled, washed, and shredded the carrots.  You can grate them by hand or by machine.  We find that grating by hand gives us a much cleaner cut than when done by machine.  If your food processor has super sharp blades, then, maybe that will work.  When done by hand, you have the choice of long shreds (the length of the carrot), or shorter, slaw-like shreds.  Youc an even choose to have a combination.

After grating the carrots, rinse them in a colander.  This is because they have some water content, and everything near the carrots will turn orange.  Rinse them to remove this possibility, and allow the carrots to dry while you are preparing the dressing.  The dressing will take you two minutes to make, so you might end up shaking off the excess water from the rinsed carrots.  Try to remove as much water as possible before putting the carrots in a large bowl and adding the dressing.

Mix the sugar and oils together.  Add the lemon juice and the lemon rind to the oils.  Taste this and adjust the amount of lemon juice. The dressing should taste a little sweet and a little sour.  Now, add the oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.  It should be a small sprinkling of each -- you don't want any of these flavours to be overwhelming in the final product.

Pour the dressing over the dry, grated carrots.  Mix well so all the carrots are coated.  Serve just like that.  The longer this salad sits, the softer it becomes.  It is really like a carrot slaw, so it will keep for three or four days without losing all of the crunchiness.  Some folks have added raisins and/or chopped nuts to this salad.  We like the simplicity of just carrots, and choosing a garnish of sesame seeds really enhanced the sesame oil flavour.  It is one of those delightful aftertastes that lingers a little in your mouth making you want just a little more. You can decide how you like it.  For us, this crunchy sweet, sour, and sesame treat compliments any meal.

"Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody thinks about changing himself."


Source of quote:

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Day 9: March 22, 2016 - Almond Skordalia (Greek Garlic Dip with Almonds) - Σκορδαλιά με Αμύγδαλα

Our almond skordalia: it's not as creamy as a potato-based skordalia but it is very flavourful, with a strong garlic flavour!

In the past, we have made skordalia with different things.  We have used potatoes, bread, walnuts, sweet potatoes, and combinations of all of them.  We are always on the look out for an interesting new recipe for skordalia.  For us, the potatoes have been the classic favourite.  But, the walnut and sweet potato recipes were quite good, too.  Now, we want to introduce another option for making this delightful spread/dip -- we want to try the almond-based skordalia.

Almonds are versatile nuts and good for you in many ways.  We will use almond milk occasionally through Great Lent, and we will snack on almonds throughout the day.  Now, using them in skordalia is making us think about that lovely flavour that would balance the bite of the garlic.  In five minutes, we can make this dip in the food processor and serve guests or have as part of a meal as easily, without having the laborious process of cooking potatoes.  And, with the right food processor or blender, this should be super easy!

For this recipe to serve 2-4, you will need the following:

1/4 cup ground almonds (we bought it at a Middle-Eastern market in a bag)
2 TBSP bread crumbs
2-3 cloves garlic
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1/2 cup oil

Put the almonds, bread crumbs, and garlic into the food processor or blender.  Pulse until the garlic is fully chopped and unidentifiable.  You will see that the texture of this combination will start to become less dry and may even stick to the sides of the blender.  Our Ninja chops everything and is very effective.  But, we have made this in the food processor, too, and the same thing happens -- everything gets pulverised and some of it sticks to the sides of the container.  Use a spatula to make sure all the mixture stays together.

Once the dry ingredients are combined, it is time to alternately add the oil and the vinegar and pulse to combine.  Add these in small quantities until they are all used and well combined.  Although we just poured them into the mix today and pulsed momentarily before whipping for one minute, the method of adding a little of each allows you to control the quantity.  You may want a thicker skordalia, so you would add less oil or less vinegar.  Or, you may want to make the mixture thinner, so you are going to use the whole amounts in the recipe.  Either way,  you can adjust the amount of oil and vinegar to control the consistency of the skordalia.  Once everything is mixed and blended together, you should have a thick, creamy skordalia.  Serve this with bread, crackers, vegetables, or a meal.

That was so easy and tasty, and it may be a little strong on the garlic.  But, with the right accompaniments, this was really good.  The almonds and the bread crumbs were so neutral that it was all about the garlic.  There may be a time that we use smaller cloves or only 1 instead of 2.  The quantity was minimal, and it would be a good dip for up to 4 people.  Or, it would be a great sauce for a piece of meat or fish, and then, this is the perfect amount.  Regardless of if you make a little or a lot, this recipe is going on our list of foods to make for unexpected visitors and guests, or to take to others when visiting.  It is a nice treat and we are glad to have yet another alternative to our heavier potato version of skordalia.

"Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds."

Genesis: 43-11