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
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
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

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.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Vegetables "Polonaise"

We love vegetables from the farm.  

When just picked, they are so fresh, vibrant and full of flavor.  Now that we’re in the primo harvesting season we’re eating a lot more green, yellow and orange stuff than ever before.  Right now in our fridge and pantry we’ve got: fresh asparagus, a yellow cauliflower, green & yellow beans,  a big bunch of very young carrots, orange beets,

 kale, and some zucchini we just brought home.  We hope the two of us can eat all that before it spoils. We see a couple of vegetarian meals in our near future!

But...Peter is always encouraging Laura to add layers of flavor to the vegetables. 

She’s happy with just a little butter and salt & pepper,  but Peter is all about attacking his taste buds with the flavors of garlic, herbs, infused oils, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, and more.

One delicious and easy way to satisfying
his flavor cravings is to prepare the vegetables the Polish way - “polonaise style.” 

This works with brussels sprouts,  beans, asparagus,  cauliflower,  young carrots, or whatever you can get at the market.  In fact, this preparation will work well with frozen vegetables (egads!) if you are pressed for time.  Try it tonight!

Serves 6
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 prepare 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. 

Note:   Peter likes a heavier dose of breadcrumbs so Laura often doubles the recipe, depending on the amount of vegetables being served.  But keep in mind that this is a topping to be sprinkled lightly.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rhubarb-StrawberryTart - Polish Style


* recipe corrected 5-26-16

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 you been to a farmers’ market yet this spring?  As the weather gets warmer, more and more berries are 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          pounds 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. 

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.