Tuesday, November 10, 2020

 Witamy!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

American Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  In this crazy year of dealing with the Pandemic, customary plans for traditional big feasts must be put aside, in favor of safety and prudence.  Never the less, with a little creativity and an abundance of caution,  a lot of good can happen.

Most of us understand that Thanksgiving is not a classic Polish tradition.  But for the ten million Americans of Polish origin living in the U.S. that’s no reason why we can’t have a fusion of both cuisines – traditional American Holiday                                            fare with a Polish spin.  In fact, after a lifetime of traditional Thanksgiving feasts, adding a Polish twist is a pretty attractive and easy idea. 

The first way is to chop up a few tablespoons of fresh dill and combine with your favorite crouton or bread stuffing, replacing any other herbs that might compete with the dill. Consider that herbs such as sage, thyme, or marjoram just don’t do well next to fresh dill. 

By the way we recently learned that “stuffing” is what you place inside the turkey, but it’s called “dressing” if you bake it outside the turkey.  For many years Laura would stuff the turkey and then bake the left over stuffing in the oven.  But a few years ago she stopped stuffing the turkey after noticing that most of our guests preferred the “dressing.” It was less greasy and gloppy than the stuffing from inside the bird.  Makes sense to me!

So if you added a Polish spin to your stuffing (or dressing)  the rest of the “fusion” will come from the sides you choose. 

We love to do Vegetables Polonaise from Page 65 of our book “Polish Classic Recipes."  Cook the vegetables in salted water, drain, place on a pretty serving platter. Then garnish over the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs that have been sautéed in butter until dry.  So pretty, so colorful and with a new taste profile. 

Another way to enhance your turkey is whip up a small batch of Ćwikła (page 49) – the famed spicy garnish made with shredded beets, and prepared horseradish.  It’s easy:  five parts shredded beets (not the pickled kind), one part horseradish (more or less to taste) and a pinch of sugar.  That’s it.  Make it up a few days ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge.  Taste just before serving...Peter likes to add some horseradish but he likes it hotter. 

Another favorite that pairs well with turkey, is Polish Vegetable Salad  (Page 22)

4 cups cooked, diced potatoes
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and drained
2 cups frozen peas, cooked and drained
3 large dill pickles, diced (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
 Salt and pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Mix the potatoes with the vegetables, pickles, onions and dill.  Season with salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise with sour cream and mustard.  Combine dressing and vegetable mixture.  Chill thoroughly.  Arrange salad in a pretty bowl.  Sprinkle top with the chopped or sliced egg. A few slices of radish and sprigs of dill will add a nice touch of color.  

Our menu has evolved over the years as there are fewer guests coming to dinner and as we reduce the number of dishes and work for the cooks.  Everyone still gets their favorite but our feast is now Gluten Free and Low Carb.  Those are manageable challenges even with dessert.  The turkey dressing relies on croutons made from GF bread, and we’ve cut out potatoes and the pumpkin pie will be made from a GF crust.  

However you celebrate Thanksgiving in your family, it seems that there’s no real one traditional menu any more...culinary traditions vary from family to family as each cook’s version has evolved over the years.  Each family’s Thanksgiving table usually showcases one or more family favorites...some beloved by all and some favored by just one or two.  It’s all about compromise.   Peter is not a fan of green beans sauced with cream of mushroom soup, or sweet potato casserole loaded with marshmallows, but the jellied cranberry sauce, right out of the Ocean Spray can, is an absolute requirement.  Go figure!

Friends, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter so much what’s on the table, be it American, Polish, Italian or Chinese...a turkey, ham or hot dogs.  What matters is that every year we have a new opportunity to give thanks for our blessings.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to spend it safely with family or friends. 

May your Thanksgiving, be filled with Health, Love, and Harmony!
Laura and Peter

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Polish Apple Lemon Cake


Did you know that Poland is one of the largest exporters of apples in the world?  Poles love apples and Polish apple desserts are famous all around the globe.  Here is a recipe that was passed down from Peter’s Grandmother who received it from a friend back in Warsaw, probably around the turn of the century. 

This is a heritage wonder that features a slight back note of lemon to make the apple sing!  Laura just made this cake a couple of days ago for this picture, and the cut-out sample piece disappeared as soon as we put the camera down.  When we shared the picture with family they all texted their claims for a share right away.  Before we knew it there were only a couple of pieces left for us to save in the freezer.  It’ll go so well as an afternoon snack (podwieczorek) with coffee or tea.


½ cup and 2 tablespoons butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 ¾ cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

  2 medium baking apples, pared, cored & sliced into ¼ inch slices.

  2 additional teaspoons sugar

  Place the softened butter and ¾ cup of sugar in the bowl of a   standing mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium   speed until the mixture is pale yellow, light and fluffy.  Add the   flour, baking powder and lemon rind and beat for 4 minutes.  Turn    into a greased 9-inch spring-form pan.

Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle the top with sugar.  Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Remove the cake from the oven, brush the apples on top with the glaze and let cool.  .    

½ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt the jam in a small saucepan, add the lemon juice and stir until smooth.  Leave the pan on low heat so the glaze remains spreadable, until the cake is done.  It’s even better with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. 


Monday, August 17, 2020

Gluten Free Pierogi

 Note: During these unsettling times of staying at home, many of us are spending a lot of time in our kitchens.  So it's a perfect time for trying new Polish heritage recipes. For the next several weeks we will be reprising some of our favorite recipes for Polish comfort food.


Are you eating Gluten Free (GF) these days?  Are you missing Pierogi?  Well, despair not because there is no reason to deny yourself one of life’s greatest pleasures, delicious pierogi, arguably the most popular dish of Polish cuisine.  In truth, they are no harder to make than traditional Pierogi.

Laura made a batch of GF sweet pierogi this week with a cherry filling, just to test the recipe and the gluten free flour.  They were delicious and the whole batch disappeared quickly.  

If you’ve not worked much with GF baking, the key is in the flour. 

Laura used King Arthur © brand Gluten Free Flour, which is marked “Measure For Measure Flour” on the bag.  This makes it an easy one for one substitute for regular flour. This brand consists of several types of rice flour and assorted preservatives, but more importantly, it also contains xanthan gum which replaces the gluten in regular flour and makes your dough supple.  Be sure to check the list of ingredients on your package before buying.  If you can’t find a gluten free flour with xanthan gum, you can buy it separately and add about one teaspoon of xanthan gum to one cup of other gluten free flour.  You may have to experiment a bit, but according to “Google,” the rule of thumb for GF baking is that “for every cup of gluten-free flour in a recipe, use 1 tsp of gum for cakes and cookies or pasta and 2 tsp of gum for breads and pizza.”

Feel free to use your favorite recipe for pierogi, just substituting the flour, but first read Laura’s notes below.  Here is our updated recipe which has been thoroughly tested.  

2 eggs
2/3  cup milk
¼  teaspoon salt
2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose flour
1 to 2  teaspoons xanthan gum (if needed)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for sealing

Whisk together the two eggs, milk and salt.  Stir in half of the flour until flour is incorporated, then add the other half and continue to stir.  When the mixture comes together to form a thick sticky dough, place the dough on a floured surface.  Note: additional flour may be incorporated if the dough is too wet or sticky.  Using additional flour knead the dough until you have a smooth, supple dough that is soft but not sticky.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic or cover with a bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Take half of the dough and roll it out as thin as possible on a floured surface.  Note: When rolling and cutting, be sure to use lots of flour on your board and rolling pin. It should be almost translucent, approximately 1/8th inch.  Cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch rounds or circles.

Start by assembling one tester pierogi, just to make sure of your techniques and measures.   Using your favorite pierogi filling, place a small amount in the center of a dough round.

Be sure to leave about a 1/3 inch edge around the entire circumference of your round.  Note:  Gluten free dough is a bit more “crumbly” than traditional dough, so if you use too much filling the pierogi won’t fold in half properly, the filling could spill out or dough will tear.  Also, over-stuffed pierogi can burst during cooking.   

Brush the edges of the dough circle with the beaten egg.  The egg acts as a glue to hold your pierogi together.  Fold the dough in half into a half-moon shape. 

Pinch the edges of the rounds firmly together using your fingers or the tines of a fork.  Tight sealing ensures that the edges stay together during cooking.  If your tester pierogi was good, the filling stayed inside and the seal was tight, assemble the rest of the batch.  Keep the finished pierogi covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel, as you are filling the rest of the pierogi, to prevent the dough from drying.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the water is just simmering lightly.  If your water is at a high rolling boil, your pierogi may fall apart.  In batches, gently place the pierogi in the boiling water.  We only cook about ten at a time in a 6-quart pot, making sure they have room to “swim.”  And don’t let them stick to the bottom when they first go in.  When the pierogi float to the top of the water, continue to boil for 10-12 minutes.  The thicker is your dough, the longer they will need to cook – plus cooking time for gluten free pierogi will be a bit longer than pierogi made with regular flour – about 12 minutes or so.  Cut the first one open and taste, to see if the dough is cooked all the way through.  It should be the texture of moderate to firmly cooked pasta.  Remove the finished pierogi with a slotted spoon and drain.

Dessert pierogi are great when topped with a sweet sauce made from sour cream and sugar. But we love to serve savory pierogi that have been sautéed in butter and topped with caramelized onions and bacon.  Check out our Polish Classic Recipes cookbook for classic fillings and toppings. 

In closing, Celiac disease and gluten intolerances now affect many more people in the world than when most Polish classic recipes were first created.  Regardless of the why or wherefore, gluten intolerance is a reality of today’s life and anyone in the business of eating or cooking should be aware of this and other common food allergies. 

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.