Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Laura's Awesome Strawberry Pie

 Note: We're reposting this amazing recipe from a year ago because most of the U.S. is now enjoying beautiful fresh strawberries. Laura just made this pie a couple of days ago for the family, and it was devoured in seconds.  This morning I visited a nearby farm and brought home another 4 pounds of juicy berries so that Laura could make Strawberry Jam which we'll share with family and friends.  Farm to table in 15 minutes.

Witamy!
I don't know for sure if this recipe is truly Polish, but I do know that strawberries are a favorite fruit in Poland. And the number of recipes for strawberry dishes could stretch from Belarus to Germany or from the Baltic Sea to Slovakia - many times over.  Here in central Virginia, where we now live, the first crops of strawberries are just being picked.


We visited a near-by farm yesterday and picket a couple of buckets of fresh, warm juicy berries - right off the vine.  In fact we got these berries before the local farmers market had any, so we really lucked out.  On the way home Laura asked if I had any requests for the berries and I chose her strawberry pie in a nano-second because it is absolutely to die for and super-easy to make.  Truth be told the recipe below is not a heritage Polish recipe but it is Laura’s heritage recipe which she has tweaked and perfected over time.

As soon as we got home, we wanted to taste-test the farm-berries against some berries we had bought at the grocery store just the day before.  These were imported from California, and while they looked picture-perfect on the outside, that’s where the similarities ended.

Both samples were cut in half – the imported berries were quite pale in the center and the farmer’s berries were deep red throughout.  We bit into each and rolled the fruit around our taste-buds, just like a fine wine.  The “shipped-in” berries were rather bland and did not have that intense strawberry flavor simply because they were picked before their time.  But the farmer’s berries on the other hand, were juicy and had that bright sweet flavor that let us know they were still on their stems just earlier that morning.  There’s an obvious moral to this story…if you have access to a berry farm or a farmers’ market, it’s well worth the extra pennies to buy berries that are totally satisfying.  

Laura’s Strawberry Pie
(serves 8)

1  9-inch baked pie crust (homemade or purchased)
2 quarts  fresh strawberries 
3 tablespoons  corn starch
½ to 1 cup  sugar (depending on the       sweetness of the berries)
1 cup  water
1 teaspoon  butter 

Wash the strawberries and remove the hulls.  Mash enough of the strawberries to make one cup.  Put the mash with one cup water in a 1-quart or larger glass measuring cup.  Add sugar ¼ cup at a time, mix and taste until you achieve the desired sweetness.  

Microwave the strawberry mixture on high for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture is boiling.  Watch carefully so the mixture does not boil over. 

Soften the corn starch in a couple of tablespoons of water and whisk quickly into the strawberry mixture.  Microwave the mixture another 2 to 3 minutes on high or until mixture thickens.  Stir in the butter.

Let the mixture cool completely.  Cooling may take 30 minutes or longer.

Arrange the remaining strawberries, either whole or sliced, in the baked and cooled pie crust.  Pour the cooled strawberry glaze mixture evenly over the top of the berries.  Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours, before serving.  Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
Smacznego!

Friends:  This is a great time for exploring your Polish roots by trying some new heritage recipes.  Our books each have 45 traditional Polish dishes that have been handed down from our family or our friends’ families.  They’ve been updated for modern kitchens, so no more “pinch” of this or “glass” of that.  And each has been extensively tested, much to the delight of our friends and neighbors.  Each recipe is accompanied by beautiful photography. Each book contains poignant family stories about growing up Polish. And each book is full of helpful hints and tips to help make your dishes successful.  The books are available autographed and personally dedicated, on our website (in the U.S.) or a bit cheaper from any online bookseller such as Amazon (worldwide).  Your family will love you for it. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart - Polish Style

 Witamy!

Poles love fruit tarts.  They’re nothing like American grocery store style fruit tarts with huge chunks of fruit in a yellow custard, and drenched in a shiny sweet glaze.  Those are pretty to look at but I prefer other European pastries that are less sweet.   

The classic Polish berry tarts we grew up with have fewer ingredients, they are simpler to make, less sweet and focus more on the natural flavors of the fruit.  This one is a favorite because it combines the flavors of berries and rhubarb for a wonderful contrast of sweet and tart.

Have your local farmers markets opened up yet?   As the weather gets warmer, more and more berries will be showing up for sale.  And since they are usually local and fresh picked, the berries are bright red and super-sweet. 
Now we’re also seeing rhubarb which is a bakers’ dream ingredient.  When raw it looks like red celery, and it’s quite tart on the tongue.  But when you cook it down with some sweetener, it can add such a beautiful bright fresh note to any fruit it is paired with. 

This is a favorite “go-to” dessert of ours because it is so easy and frankly flexible.  Any berries will work although we like it best when the berries are paired with the rhubarb for a more natural and fresher flavor profile. 

Yields 32 squares

Cake Batter
1¼    cups butter, softened
¾      cup sugar
1½    cups flour
1½    teaspoons baking powder
½      cup milk
4       eggs, separated
1       teaspoon vanilla extract
1       pound rhubarb, cut into thin, ½-inch wide slices
1      pound ripe strawberries, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a 10x15-inch pan.

Using a standing mixer, blend the butter and sugar and until pale and creamy.  Mix the flour with the baking powder and add to the butter - alternately with the milk.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating constantly.  Add the vanilla and blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold into the dough and mix lightly.  Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan.  Combine the strawberry and rhubarb pieces and distribute the fruit mixture evenly on top of the batter. 

Topping
½    cup butter, softened
1     cup flour
¼    cup brown sugar, lightly packed

Mix the butter and flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Sprinkle the crumb mixture over top of the fruit.


Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the crumb topping starts to brown too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake.  Remove from oven.  Cool and cut into portion-sized squares.   A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side would be a no-brainer! 

*  Note:  if your fruit pieces are too small they could render too much moisture and the middle of your tart will be wet. If so, bake a little longer, keeping an eye on the crust not getting too dark.

Smacznego!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Our Easter Traditions - Kicked Up Polish Style

 Wesołych Świąt (Happy Easter)! 


Our Easter menu will remain pretty much the same this year - as it has through four generations and over 70 years since the Zeranski’s emigrated from Europe.  For 2021 it will be again be a blend of Polish traditional delicacies with some American favorites – all intended to please our family’s diverse palates.




The Polish sweets, such as this Gypsy Mazurka

are in our Polish Classic Desserts, and the savory classics are all in our Polish Classic Recipes 
book,  both of which make great Easter gifts.

The cornerstones of the menu are always platters of traditional sliced ham





partnered with at least two or three aromatic varieties of kielbasa and hard boiled eggs.

Next are bowls of steaming aromatic cheesy scalloped potatoes and a chilled Polish vegetable salad. 


On the side we sip traditional peppery Barszcz (clear beet broth).  The combination of sweet and peppery flavors balance so well with the rustic garlicky kielbasa and more delicate vegetables. 


For dessert Laura always has such a hard time choosing between the traditional Babas, Cheesecakes or Mazurkas.  Everyone’s mouths are already watering intensely with the anticipation of this meal.


As we start to make our plans for this wonderfully traditional Easter meal, we quickly understand that a couple of sauces to garnish the cold sliced meats, are the true difference-makers that elevate the feast into something truly special.  The added layers of flavor just intensify the pleasure of each bite.
These are classics and easy to prepare ahead of time.  A dollop or two on your plate, right next to the ham and kielbasa, will kick the flavors up and make the meal truly memorable…until next year.  

Mustard Sauce   (Makes 1 cup)
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 cup sour cream
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients well. Chill well.   

Green Onion Sauce   (Makes 1 ½ cups)
1 cup sour cream
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 tablespoon chopped green onions
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients.  Chill well.  

Beets & Horseradish   (Makes 2 cups)
2 14.5 ounce cans beets (not pickled), drained & rough-chopped 
5 ounces prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients, place in an airtight sealed container.  Best after 24 hours.  We often add an ounce or two of more horseradish just before serving for an even stronger kick.   

Dill Pickle Sauce   (Warm)   Makes 3 cups
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons instant flour
½ cup beef stock or bouillon (hot)
3 large dill pickles, shredded
½ cup dill pickle liquid from the jar
½ cup sour cream
Salt to taste


Mix butter with flour over low heat. Gradually stir in the hot bouillon and then the pickle juice. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Add the pickles and sour cream.  Heat, but do not boil. Add salt to taste.  Serve warm. 

Smacznego!