Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Laura's Strawberry Pie

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.    
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. 


Friday, May 8, 2020

Haluski - a Polish-American Comfort Dish

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.    

Witamy!
One of the favorite comfort foods of Poles on the East Coast of the U.S.  is Haluski – a scrumptious and satisfying combination of buttery egg noodles, fresh cabbage, and spices.   Traditionally, Haluski is a meatless dish often served during Lent.  But for the rest of the year, many home cooks like to kick in a little umph by adding bacon or kielbasa.  


Haluski may or may not be an original Polish dish.  Around Philadelphia, up-state New York or Buffalo, many claim Haluski as their own.  But others say that Haluski has Slovak or Hungarian origins.  But no matter – everyone loves it.  We’ve also heard that Haluski has been especially popular for many decades in Western Pennsylvania, specifically around Pittsburgh and the community of “Polish Hill.”   

These days Haluski is on the menu of several Pittsburgh-area restaurants serving Polish dishes.

As we travel around to various Polish festivals up and down the east coast, we almost always see Haluski being served in the Polish Food tents, right along with traditional Cabbage Rolls in tomato sauce, savory Bigos and flavorful Pierogi – and the recipes for the latter three dishes are in our book Polish Classic Recipes.  So here is an easy recipe for this simple and delicious dish which is perfect for supper on these chilly fall afternoons.  In fact we just made a big pan of Haluski, to test the proportions in this recipe.  It was delish and we've got left-overs for lunch! 


Serves 8 
6 cups green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced 
2 cups white onions, peeled and thinly sliced 
4 cups egg noodles, pre-cooked al dente and
     rinsed in cold water
1 stick butter or 1/3 cup cooking oil
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 tablespoon ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped garlic, to taste
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, to taste  (optional)
½ pound crisp, cooked bacon, crumpled  (optional)
1 cup smoked, cooked kielbasa, sliced and quartered  (optional)

Heat butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, half the salt, pepper and garlic, and sauté until translucent, stirring often. (Note, don’t let the butter turn brown).  Mix in the cabbage and keeping cooking while stirring often, until the onions turn golden and the cabbage is starting to change color and become limp – about 12 minutes.

Stir in the noodles and more salt, pepper and garlic - a bit at a time and while tasting.  Cook until the noodles are just done – keep tasting.  Add the caraway seed, if desired, and keep tasting while the flavors marry.  Let it all cook together for 5 to 10 minutes, on low to medium heat, allowing the flavors to come together thoroughly.  Taste the noodles so they don’t overcook.

Variation #1:   To add some kick to the dish, pre-cook the kielbasa and / or bacon, and add it to the mix when adding the noodles.  Caution:  if using fresh kielbasa make sure it is thoroughly precooked.  

Variation #2:   After the noodles, cabbage and all the flavorings have cooked for about 5 minutes, transfer everything to a casserole dish and finish in the oven, at 350°F for about ten more minutes, or until the top just begins to brown and crisp.  A few seconds under the broiler may help to crisp up the top quicker

Note: the big key to this dish is to not overcook the noodles or the cabbage, otherwise the whole plate turns mushy. 

2nd Note:  this is one of those dishes where the proportions of cabbage to noodles to kielbasa are totally up to you.  The flavors come from the spices and the marriage of ingredients, so more or less of one or the other will just reflect your personal taste. 
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. 



Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Polish Hamburgers...A Perfect Comfort Meal

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.    
Witamy:
I struggled with what to call these meat patties in English.  Google translate wasn't very helpful because they are not cutlets as we think of Pork or Lamb cutlets. As you can see from the picture, they aren't traditional burgers, they aren't baby meatloaves, and they aren't Caribbean meat patties. So I decided to just not worry about it, because anyone who grew up with classic Polish cuisine is probably familiar with these traditional "kotlety siekane."

The texture and flavor of these patties are vaguely reminiscent of a Polish meatloaf…only more dense.  What makes them truly Polish is that they are rolled in breadcrumbs, and browned before baking.  The recipe here is a classic version, but you can easily make it your own by adding into the meat mix some finely chopped, fresh mushrooms and dill (of course) or other herb.  But please be cautious with the herbs—too much, or more than one, could be overwhelming. After all, the meat is the star of this dish.

You can also freeze any leftover patties and serve them later for a quick and delicious cold lunch, sliced thinner on a very fresh, crisp hard roll with sliced tomato and a little mayo, and with a crunchy Polish dill pickle on the side.  

Yields 6 patties 

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 slices of dry white bread
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 ½  pounds meatloaf mix, OR: 
    1 pound ground beef
    ½ pound pork
1/3 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak the bread in the milk until all the milk is absorbed by the bread.  Rip the wet bread into very small pieces.  

Saute the chopped onion in the bacon drippings until golden.  Set aside to cool.  (Hint: we always keep a jar of bacon drippings in our fridge for just these kinds of uses.)

Combine the beef, pork, egg, bread, and onions in a large bowl.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Form the mixture into 6 thick, round patties about three inches across, and one inch thick.  Roll them in bread crumbs.  Brown the patties in the oil.  Place the patties in a casserole dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.


In the interest of healthier eating, you could also make these with ground chicken or turkey, as shown in this image borrowed from   http://www.mojkulinarnypamietnik.pl/

Garnish with a sprig of dill, and serve with your favorite vegetables, sliced tomato, cabbage beet salad, or any other seasonal side dish.
Smacznego!