Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Awesome Apple Desserts - Polish Style


It’s apple time!  Local orchards are full and ready for picking.  Our farmer’s markets are overflowing with many varieties of fresh picked apples including those “not-so-pretty” local varieties. In fact Peter just read about one orchard featuring “heirloom apples”...yes, they were deformed and misshapen, but apparently just delicious. 

There’s an apple orchard just up the road and their apple cider barrels are brimming with fresh and tangy, amazing cider - if you can swat the bees away which are looking for a treat as well.  We’ve always preferred the fresh pressed, unpasteurized, straight-out-of-the-barrel kind because the taste is so much more intense. 

Apples are an important part of Polish cuisine and here are two favorite desserts that Peter’s Mom made for him every fall.

Apple and Rice Delight
Serves 6
    4  cups, semi-tart, peeled, cored and shredded apples  (use those ugly local ones, because they taste great, are often cheapest and most plentiful, and they support your local produce farms.) 
    1  tablespoon cinnamon
    1/2  cup brown sugar
4     cups cooked rice, not precooked or instant rice
cups sour cream
4     tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  In a bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar with the shredded apples and mix well.
Grease a 9-inch baking dish (or glass pie pan)  and spread out the rice and apples in the pan , in alternating layers  (rice/apples/rice/apples/rice) .
Cover and bake for 40 minutes.  In the mean time, whisk the sour cream and sugar into a sauce and set aside.
Let the dish cool down a bit.  Serve warm in small bowls, topped with the sweet sour cream sauce. 
Note:  the top layer of rice may get a little crunchy, but that gives it a great texture.

Stuffed Apples  (Serves 6)
·       3 tablespoons honey
·       3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
·       3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
·       2 tablespoons orange liqueur  *
·       6 medium apples  (sweet, not tart)
·       3 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  Mix the honey with the walnuts, cracker crumbs and liqueur  * or substitute with 2 tablespoons orange juice plus ½ teaspoon orange zest.    Cut the tops off the apples and core to remove the seeds.  Fill the holes with the stuffing.  Top with ½ teaspoon of butter and cover with the apple tops.    Place close to one another in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour.  Serve warm.  Maybe with a scoop of ice cream to be really awesome.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Chilled Fruit Soups - Summer's Delight

Witamy!   It's a hot summer this year and our local farmers’ market is overflowing with delicious fruit.  And the shelves in our local grocery stores are displaying huge varieties of summer fruit - just ripe and ready to be loved.  This is the time of year for chilled summer fruit soups – a unique and original element of Polish cuisine.  blueberry soup image courtesy of "
We serve them on hot summer days for lunch, as in-between refreshers, or even a light supper. They are refreshing, full of flavor, and always enjoyed by everyone in the family, regardless of age.  These fruit soups are not too sweet and Poles eat them as a first course for supper or as a heartier main course with noodles.  Sometimes they are served after the main course, as a healthier replacement for dessert.

Chilled Blueberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart blueberries
1 slice white bread
4 cups water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream

Add the blueberries and bread to one cup of boiling water. Bring back to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix in a blender for just a few seconds until smooth.  Add remaining 3 cups of boiling water, spices and sugar, blend well until smooth.  Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  Just before serving, add sour cream to the soup tureen and mix.  Garnish each serving with croutons.

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Serves 6
1 quart ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1 quart buttermilk
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
Using a blender, mix the strawberries and 1 cup of the buttermilk for a few seconds until smooth.  Add the sugar and remaining buttermilk and mix well.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with home-made buttery croutons. 

For two delicious varieties, substitute 3 pints of pitted Italian plums or 3 pints of pitted cherries, and increase the sour cream a bit to 2/3 cup.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Czarnina – Duck Blood Soup (With or Without the Blood)


Czarnina is a Polish comfort soup that originated decades ago on Polish farms as a way to use up every part of a slaughtered duck or goose. It’s a rural dish. It was brought over by early immigrants and is now revered by those who remember Czarnina at their Babcia’s kitchen table.  Today, I believe that this dish is one of those legends that gets bigger with age, but it also fades with age when trying to remember how this soup actually tasted.  Duck blood??  Really?  

Even though I can’t understand the pleasure from sipping the blood of a duck, even cooked, there must be a reason why duck’s blood is so hard to find these days. I called our favorite butcher and was told that fresh ducks were readily available, but only cleaned and dressed.  With all the regulations on commercial food handling, I’m guessing that not many will guarantee the freshness and safety of the blood.  I suppose one could get fresh blood directly from a farmer...if one knew a farmer.

But today you won’t need that farmer  to buy fresh duck blood!!

This link goes to a shop just outside of Buffalo, NY that sells a kit for making Czarnina. It includes the duck, 2 pints of freshy duck blood, the noodles, and more.  It’s not cheap because you are required to have the kit shipped to you by air to maintain the freshness of the blood.  But it’s real -- I actually called them today to verify.
But if you’re like me and can’t excited about the real thing, here is a recipe for a no-blood version, It still has a lot of flavor, but avoiding the blood is a better way to go, as far as I’m concerned.  It gets a lot of flavor from fresh or smoked neck bones, either pork or some variety of fowl – whatever you can get.  Try it and let us know how it worked. 

Mock Duck Blood Soup
Serves 8
  3 pounds meaty fresh or smoked neck bones, pork, turkey, duck, etc.
1 pound dried prunes, pitted
1 stalk celery
1 sprig parsley
1 bay leaf
5 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
¼ cup raisins
1 small tart apple, chopped
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
½ to 1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups light cream
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

If using fresh neck bones, blanch, drain and rinse them.  Place blanched or smoked neck bones in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.
2.     While the bones are coming to a boil, make a small bag from cheese cloth (or a clean cotton hankie) and place in it the celery, parsley, allspice and cloves.  Add it to the soup pot, reduce heat, add vinegar and bay leaf and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour.
3.     Add prunes and season slowly with sugar, salt and pepper (watch the salt if using smoked neck bones).  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer slowly, partially covered, for 1 hour or until meat falls off the bone.
4.     Taste again and adjust the seasonings, plus vinegar or lemon juice, to your own palate.  Add the seasonings slowly, and keep tasting.  The broth should have a slightly sweet tone from the plums and sugar, but with a slight and soft contrasting tartness from the vinegar or lemon juice.  Remove meat from bones and return to pot.
5.     Turn off the heat, cool soup and then refrigerate until fat is congealed on top for easy skimming and removal. 
6.     Just before serving, “cream” the cold soup by adding a few ladles of cold soup into a medium bowl and slowly whisking in the flour and cream; and whisking (or blending) until very smooth and all the flour lumps are gone.  Pour this mixture back into the soup pot and heat gently until soup is thickened and any raw flour taste is cooked out.
      Serve over noodles, if desired.   Smacznego!