Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thanksgiving With Polish Flavors

Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us with lightning speed.  Laura has already started to plan our feast.  Most of our family are definitely traditionalists so the menu hasn’t changed much over the years, except for making sure that we have a favorite dish for each guest around our table.

(image courtesy of recipeler.com)
Laura’s sister will be with us this year and she’s requested their family’s legendary lime green jello salad with little cream cheese.

A big twist this year is that we’re going gluten and dairy-free in deference to newly developed allergies.  But that’s a subject for another post.

The turkey has already been procured and is resting in the freezer.  Laura’s brand of choice is the Butterball
since 40+ years of experience has established a comfort level that’s impossible to argue with.  Last week several days were spent pouring over the food ads from the newspaper searching for the best price.  I’m not sure why we put so much effort into trying to save ten cents a pound, but it is what it is.  Next year we’re planning to go out of our comfort zone with a fresh, organic, free range turkey from a near-by farm...we’ll let you know how that goes. 

Even though Thanksgiving is primarily a North American holiday, devotees of Polish cuisine can very easily give the menu a Polish twist.  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.  Herbs such as sage, thyme, marjoram or parsley just don’t do well next to fresh dill.

A second way is to serve Vegetables “Polonaise “ style.  It’s very “Polish” and definitely makes your veggies more interesting.  

Vegetables Polonaise
1½ pounds of vegetables
½ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Salt & Pepper to taste
Lemon Zest (optional)
2 teaspoons of butter
2 tablespoons of toasted plain bread crumbs

Clean and prep the vegetables in your usual way.  Rinse them well.  Boil a small amount of water in your pot, add the salt and sugar.  Cook the vegetables for about 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the vegetable) until just under done (remember they will continue to cook and soften on the platter.  Drain well and place in a warmed serving dish. 
Melt the butter over a low heat and mix in the breadcrumbs.  Sautee for just a few minutes until golden brown and sprinkle over the vegetables.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Optionally, sprinkle a little lemon zest over the top for a little extra kick.

Another Polish twist could be to add a traditional Polish salad to the menu.  This Cabbage & Apple Salad goes very well with the turkey because it is colorful and bright tasting.

Cabbage & Apple Salad
1      small head red cabbage, shredded
2      apples, cored, peeled and shredded
Juice of 2 lemons
4      tablespoons sugar
Boil the shredded cabbage in salted boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain & cool.  Combine the lemon juice and sugar to make a dressing.  Toss the cabbage and apples with the dressing.  Cool well before serving.

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 puts his or her spin on the menu.  Each family’s Thanksgiving table usually showcases one or more family favorites...some beloved by all and some favored by just one or two.   And that’s just great because it’s really all about being together whenever possible and giving thanks – whether you’re cooking a big meal, enjoying someone’s else’s hospitality, or just grabbing a quick bite at a fast food joint on your way to work.  Just pause a moment to give thanks.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Apple Pie In Custard

It’s apple season.  Our 6-year old granddaughter Lucy loves to visit near-by apple orchards for the apple picking, cool & tangy fresh cider, caramel apples on a stick, or jars of super-fresh apple butter.  The bees or wasps that hang around the cider-pressing hut are a bother, but the payoff in your mouth is tremendous.
image courtesy of incredibleegg.org.
The idea of fruit pies covered with custard allegedly originated in Switzerland.  It’s long been a favorite Sunday treat for European families everywhere, including Poland, because it’s not too sweet,

not overly heavy, but healthful and nourishing.                                                              

Serves 6
1 ¾ cups flour
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pound plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter
I egg
Or, one store-bought pie dough

4 medium tart apples, peeled & sliced
½ cup milk
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup whipping cream
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  For the dough, combine the flour with salt and sugar.  Cut the butter into the flour and crumble with your fingertips. Add the egg and knead the dough quickly. Refrigerate for half an hour.  Or, use your favorite defrosted store-bought pie dough.

Roll out the dough and transfer to cover the bottom and sides of the 9 to 10 inch pie pan.  Pierce in a few places with a fork.
 Image courtesy of  foodnetwork.com.                                                                                                   
Arrange the apple slices loosely on the crust in the pie pan.  Fill up the pan at least half way.  Combine all of the ingredients for the custard in a blender until smooth.  Slowly pour over the apples.   
Bake for 40 minutes or until the apples are soft.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top and decorate if you wish. Serve warm.
image courtesy of cuisinerecipes.com


Friday, July 29, 2016

More Classic Polish Summer Salads


Poles have loved raw vegetable salads ever since they were introduced by Italian nobility in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Their bright colors enhance every plate and with heir fresh crunch, vegetables pair well with almost any main course for dinner or lunch.  And best yet, they’re a healthy way to improve your family’s diet.   Favorite “binders” are sour cream and favorite seasonings are dill, chopped green onion or lemon juice.  Now that hot weather is here and the farmer’s markets are trending big, there’s not much better than a fresh chilled salad on your plate.  These Polish classic salads are light, refreshing and pair well with just about any main course on today’s menu.  
(Note:  these salads lend themselves especially well to modern kitchen tools such as food processors or mandolin slicers.)

            (image courtesy of CosDobrego.pl)
Tomato Cucumber Salad
Serves 6

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
4 medium tomatoes,  sliced
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 tablespoon chopped dill (fresh is best)
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Arrange your tomato and cucumber slices alternately on a long serving dish.  Sprinkle with salt, sugar, green onions and dill.  Sprinkle with the vinegar.

Polish Summer Salad
Serves 6
2 heads butter lettuce
8 to 10 medium radishes, sliced
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 cup sour cream
Sugar and salt to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

image courtesy MangoTomato.com
Wash the lettuce, separate the leaves and dry, then tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Combine with radishes and cucumber slices.  Season the sour cream with sugar and salt and pour over the vegetables.  Sprinkle dill over top.  Serve immediately.  (Note, if you wait too long before serving, the cucumbers will start giving off liquid and the lettuce will wilt).

Radishes & Cottage Cheese
Serves 6

1 bunch red radishes, sliced
1 cup of creamy cottage cheese
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
Salt to taste
Lettuce leaves

Fold the radishes into the cottage cheese.  Top with green onions and salt.  Chill well.  Serve on the lettuce leaves or as a spread on your favorite crusty bread.

Cabbage & Pickle Salad
Serves 6

2 cups shredded cabbage
2 medium dill pickles, coarsely shredded
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons pickle juice (from the jar)
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 small tomato, sliced

Combine the cabbage and pickles.  Mix in the salt, sugar, pickle juice, and oil.  Arrange on a pretty dish. Chill well.  Garnish with tomato slices and serve.

image courtesy of MakesSauerkraut.com

Sauerkraut, Apple & Carrot Salad
Serves 4

½ pound sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1 large sweet apple, shredded
3 tablespoons salad oil
1 teaspoon chopped green onions

Rinse the sauerkraut really well, squeeze to drain and chop or shred finely. Sprinkle with sugar.  Mix in the carrots, apples and oil.  Chill well.  Taste before serving and perhaps add more sugar if needed.