Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Eve & New Year's - Preserving our Polish Heritage


Our traditional Christmas Eve supper (Wigilia)  is in just a few days. There are a lot of stories circulating discussing Wigilia traditions in great depth and talking about the history, meanings and significances of all the little details and nuances.  Those writings are interesting but today not so practical for many of us.  Over the time of several generations being removed from the old country, many traditions have become less strict and families have adapted to modern values and cultural comfort zones.
Yet, it is the responsibility of the family leaders to not let go of the traditions completely.

When Peter was young, his parents faithfully followed most of the big ones...starting Wigilia at the light of the first star, sharing the wafer (oplatek), setting an extra place at the table for the wayfaring stranger, 12 meatless course for supper, and so on. 

But Peter’s parents are no longer with us and our daughter is an adult with her own family.  Travelling to our house for Wigilia and then getting home for their American Christmas Day celebration makes life more complicated.   So the practicality of 12 courses starting at a strict time with the light of the first star becomes less important than making sure the celebration is stress free and focuses on the family.  Not everyone at our table eats fish and we’ve cut back the 12 courses for health reasons.  
But no one will be wearing jeans or a ball cap because after all Wigilia is special and only comes once a year. 

We still make our wishes for each other with the sharing of a wafer from Poland.  We’ve gotten away from a few of the less popular heritage dishes, but we each have something traditional on the menu that is special and beloved.

Each of the dishes we enjoy for Wigilia is in our book: Polish Classic Recipes:  

Crepes with Sauerkraut & Mushrooms
Classic Barszcz (beet soup)
Vegetables Polonaise
* Baked Fish with Mushrooms & Cheese

Holiday Nut Roll
Honey Cake 
And multi-national holiday goodies exchanged with the neighbors


If you aren’t going out this year to celebrate New Year’s Eve, you could host a dinner party for friends or family (or certainly both).  Make it easy on yourself, plan a delicious menu (from our book) and ask everyone to bring a dish.   For us it’s gotta be comfort food that goes best with the adult beverages to be consumed that night.

Greet everyone with a favorite cocktail or a glass of bubbly.  As an appetizer, serve a selection of pretty canapés made up that afternoon.  Use round crackers or cocktail squares of dark and light rye bread...see how creative you can get with stacking the ingredients. 

For the main course, you can’t go wrong with Hunters Stew (Bigos).  It’s a big-flavored savory dish that can be made up several days ahead of time.  Have a bowl of baby boiled potatoes nearby that have been drenched in butter and sprinkled liberally with dill.

 Some of our friends like an ice-cold Polish vodka with their Hunters we’re always ready with our favorite Polish vodka (Luksusowa)   but there will be no pressure on those that choose a non-alcoholic drink. 

If the group is larger, you may want to have one or two additional dishes.  If you have access to good smoked kielbasa, buy two or three varieties, slice them into ½ inch rounds and serve with Cwikla, the traditional Beets With Horseradish garnish that takes less than 5 minutes to whip up.  YUM...the hotter the better!

Early in the evening, keep the beverages flowing.  But you also have a responsibility to keep track of how much your guests imbibe.  Closing down the bar early, and switching to decaf coffee, well before folks start going home, is the right thing to do.

Finally, about 11:30 pass out the cheesy hats and noise makers, throw on the TV at 11:55, watch the ball drop in Times Square, kiss your honey, and if you’re like us, start thinking about heading home before the crazy drunk drivers take over the roads.  Get your beauty sleep and prepare for the next day’s football games or holiday movies.  Keep the left over Hunters Stew for a quick meal that doesn’t require cooking, because it will be even better after the flavors have had a chance to marry.  So good! Wszystkiego najlepszego na Nowy Rok (all our best wishes for 2018)!Peter & Laura!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanksgiving - Polish/American Fusion

Witamy!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

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 
                                                         Image courtesy of ButterBall & Betty Crocker

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 lime green jello with cream cheese, 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 with family or friends. 

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Haluski – Polish Comfort Food

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 Notethis 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. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

EZ Dumplings in Wild Mushroom Sauce - Polish Style

Through centuries of wars and tough economic time, Poles learned to never waste food. Even in upscale homes, throwing out bread was always considered a sin. There were too many hungry people in the streets.  According to one superstition, any children who dropped a roll or slice of bread on the floor, were asked to immediately pick it up and kiss it, as a sign of respect that was thought to guard against future hunger.  True or not, stale bread or rolls are easily transformed into tasty dumplings.  
Pour a little Wild Mushroom Sauce over top and serve with a pot roast or stew, for a lovely, filling, cold-weather meal. 

Dumplings (Serves 6)

4 slices white bread, cut into small cubes
4 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped finely or shredded
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
¾ cup flour
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the bread cubes in 400 degree oven for about ten minutes. Fry the bacon with onion until golden.  Add bread cubes and dill. Combine with eggs, milk, flour, salt and a dash of pepper.  Mix well.

Wet your hands and form the bread mix into small round dumplings about the size of a golf ball.  Drop into large pot of boiling water and cook about 8 to 10 minutes.  Test one for doneness in the center.  Drain well.  Top with mushroom sauce and serve with your favorite meat dish. 

Wild Mushroom Sauce  (Yields 2½ cups)

1/3 cup dried wild mushrooms
1 2/3 cups fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, shredded
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups light cream or Half & Half
1 tablespoon chopped dill  (fresh is best)
Salt and white pepper to taste

Reconstitute dried mushrooms by covering with boiling water – let soak for about 30 minutes. Drain well but reserve the liquid. Chop finely.

Melt the butter in a hot pan and add the fresh and reconstituted mushrooms, and onions and saute until golden and very aromatic.  Sprinkle with flour and stir in well for a few more minutes, taking care to not let the flour burn past a golden brown.  Gradually stir in the cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Taste…if you want more mushroom flavor, stir in some of the dried mushroom “liquor” a tablespoon at a time. Keep tasting.  While stirring constantly, let the sauce simmer and reduce a bit until it reaches the desired “saucy” consistency and intensity of flavor.

Pour over the dumplings and garnish with fresh chopped dill.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gluten Free Pierogi

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. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Salmon Salad, Polish Style

Canned salmon!  Yes indeed, canned salmon has a place in every pantry. It has more flavor than canned tuna and offers a world of options for a light healthy meal when time is short or you’ve had a hard day and your energy tank is running on fumes. 

This was a favorite dish of Peter’s Mom’s and we shared it on this blog once before in 2012.  We've brought it back because it really should be in your book of favorite recipes.  It's a perfect summer plate when you don’t feel like preparing a more complicated or involved meal.  

The fishing industry in Poland is growing rapidly as eating fish is 
becoming even more popular.  Baltic salmon is a unique Polish specialty item.  Unlike fatty farm-raised salmon, its firm flesh is only slightly pink (after cooking it is nearly white).  Whether cooked or smoked, wild salmon provides amazing taste sensations far superior to the farmed varieties.  It is available in cans and can be also eaten raw when salted.  Have you ever tried Polish canned salmon and what did you think of it?  We’ve not tried it in the U. S. but will look for some on the next visit to our favorite Polish Deli.  Laura likes the Kirkland brand canned salmon (packed in water) from Costco but any brand will work. 

Serves 8
16 ounces canned, wild salmon, drained and crumbled
2 cups young potatoes, boiled & sliced thinly
1 cup mayonnaise
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 tablespoon scallions or green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

The only prep is to arrange all the ingredients in layers, so how easy is that?  On the bottom of a serving platter, spread the potatoes in a flat layer.  Second, spread a healthy layer of the crumpled salmon over the potatoes. Third, spread a very light layer of the mayonnaise over the salmon.  Cover with alternating slices of tomato and the egg – show off your wild side and be creative!  

Sprinkle the chopped green onions, and lastly sprinkle generously with chopped dill.  Chill for an hour and serve on lettuce leaves.  A glass of dry white wine or fresh iced tea can be a very relaxing accompaniment.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Barszcz, Polish Style

Soups are a fundamental parts of Polish dinners.  Polish soups are usually robust, fragrant, creamy and filling.  However, during warmer weather, summer soups are often lighter and served chilled, taking advantage of nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables harvested from nearby farms.    (image courtesy of Adam Chrzastowski)

We love this cool and refreshing soup by itself for a really healthy lunch.  This version we sharing today was a favorite of Peter’s Grandmother’s.  It’s just one lighter spin
on the many versions which have been around for centuries.

Full of fresh flavors and a slight tang from the beets, cucumbers and sour cream, it’s immensely refreshing as a perfect lunch or light supper. We have a big bowl chilling in the fridge right now and we’ll serve it tomorrow with ripped hunks of fresh aromatic rye bread smeared with soft sweet butter and paired with a dry white wine.

Serves 10
2 bunches young red beets with tops, sliced & julienned, OR:
     2 cups of canned beets (not pickled)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup sour cream
½ cup juice from canned beets
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1 large cucumber, peels and sliced thinly
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or quartered
1 table spoon fresh chopped dill
2 table spoons chopped green onion or chives

Boil the beets with their tops in a pot of water with the lemon juice for 20 minutes or until just tender.  Cool completely.  (note: for the fresh beets, an ice bath will hasten this process).  Drain completely.  Or, if using canned beets, julienne the slices and simmer in their juice for 5 minutes or until hot. Drain, retain the juice, cool completely. 

Place the beets in a big bowl.  Stir in the buttermilk, sour cream, beet juice and cucumber slices.  Season with sugar and salt.  Gently fold in the hard boiled eggs, dill and green onion.  Chill for half a day. Serve cold with fresh bread and sweet butter.  
   For more great Polish cuisine, scroll through previous posts here or check out our 
   two heritage cookbooks by clicking on their covers. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pork Chops With Mushroom Sauce - Polish Style

Polish cuisine goes way beyond our favorite comfort foods such as pierogi, cabbage rolls, or kielbasa.  In fact, the favorite meat in Poland has always been pork and the most common way to serve it has been in the form of chops.

The pork we get in our grocery stores today has been specially bred to be extra lean but with that comes less flavor than back in the day.  So care must be taken to not overcook it and to add great flavors.  A little mushroom sauce on the side is a great way to go.  If you make some extra sauce, it’ll be great over mashed potatoes or over egg noodles – both of which pair very well with the pork chops.  Add your favorite vegetables for more color on the plate. 

6 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 inch thick
6 tablespoons seasoned flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with salt & pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup bacon drippings or vegetable oil

Trim most of the fat off the chops and pound them down on both sides to about one half inch thick.  Roll them in flour. Dip in the egg mixture and roll them in breadcrumbs.  Press the bread crumbs into the pork for an even coating.  Brown them on both sides over medium heat.

 Transfer to a large baking dish and bake in your oven at 325 ° F for 15 minutes.  They will be done if slightly pink (when you cut a small slit to check) or if they reach an internal temperature of 150° F on your instant-read meat thermometer.  Pour a little mushroom sauce over each, just before serving.  Pair with sauerkraut, or red cabbage salad, and mashed or boiled potatoes.  A hearty red wine, Polish beer or cold  vodka shots will take this meal over the top!  

Quick Mushroom Sauce
2 cups sliced mushrooms – darker varieties have more flavor
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon flour
1½ cups light cream or half and half
Salt and white pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms and onion in hot butter until just golden. Slowly add the flour while stirring.  Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until well blended.  Gradually add the cream while stirring constantly.  Cover and simmer for five minutes and voila, you’re done.  Easy, right?  Note:  For extra mushroom flavor, you can substitute a quarter cup of reconstituted dried mushrooms.                                                                                      image from                                                 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Growing Up Polish - Easter Traditions, 2017

Wesołego Alleluja  -- Happy Easter !

This is a recent conversation with Laura and Peter Zeranski about their Easter traditions:

Peter:  Easter is coming soon and for most Poles it is one of the two biggest religious celebrations of the year. I love the traditional foods and delicious sweets such as the sweet Walnut Mazurka pictured here.

Laura: As Peter’s parents grew older, preparing the food and keeping up tradition became my job.

Peter: About a week before Easter, my assignment was to dye a batch of hard boiled eggs – five colors with each pastel tablet dissolved in a coffee mug cup of boiling water.  After they dried we would shine them up with bacon fat. And even today it's still my job,

Laura:  And you do such a good job!  Then there is the butter lamb.  Most of the time Peter’s Mom would buy one at a Polish deli and it rested in the freezer until the big day.  It always sat on the table next to a chocolate rabbit. 

Peter:  Growing up I always had to bite into that rabbit’s head to see if it was hollow or solid.  If it was hollow, shards of chocolate would get all over the white tablecloth and I was in big trouble!

Laura:  A few years ago I found a lamb mold and I’ve been making my own Easter lambs…but you must be careful to fill the mold completely, otherwise we would end up with a deformed lamb – not a pretty sight.  Many Polish deli’s still carry butter lambs or you can find one on-line.

Peter:  We convene after church and first share bits of hardboiled egg and exchange Easter wishes – the same as we do at Christmas with a blessed wafer.  Our menu hasn’t changed much over the generations.  We sit down to cups of traditional clear, beet consommé, Barszcz...  

Laura: .. which is served hot in my best, elegant, china cups.  But the rest of dinner is served chilled or at room temperature.  There’s always a ham, Polish Vegetable Salad,  several varieties of Polish kielbasa, and on the side we always have a delicious mild mustard sauce plus Cwikla- a relish made of chopped beets and horseradish.  Easy to make:  just 5 parts finely chopped beets and one part prepared horseradish – m ore or less depending on how hot you like it.

Peter:  I always go for the big flavors so when Laura is not looking, I’ll sneak in an extra tea spoon of horseradish.  Years ago my Mom always got an imported Polish ham because it was a lot leaner and had a milder flavor than American brands.  Back in the day, it was said that Polish pigs were fed potatoes which gave them that milder flavor. 

Laura:  These days we go for a honey-glazed spiral sliced variety, just because it’s easier.

Peter:  Desserts used to include one or two Mazurkas, a Baba, and occasionally Grandma’s cheese cake.  These days we’ve cut back on the sweets but here is a Baba recipe that we particularly like because of the rum icing.

Laura:  The batter is made from margarine, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, milk, orange rind and raisins.    Place all the ingredients in a bowl, beat it with a mixer or 5 minutes and bake in a well-buttered 8-inch fluted ring pan, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Peter:  The icing is just simple syrup, orange juice, some white rum, candied orange rind and maybe some orange zest.   Transfer the warm cake from the baking pan onto a serving plate and immediately pour the icing slowly over the top, letting it drip down the sides.  Sprinkle the top with orange zest.  Let it cool before cutting.  Soo good!

Here is the full recipe for this Baba.  And there are several other delicious Easter treats in our Polish Classic Desserts book. 

1/3 cup margarine, melted
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
1 grated orange rind
½ cup raisins (optional)

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup orange juice (no pulp)
¼ cup white rum
2 tablespoons candied orange rind, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)

Batter – Place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer for 5 minutes at medium speed.  Bake in a well-buttered 8-inch fluted ring pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Icing – Add the sugar to the water in a heavy pan and cook until it becomes a heavy syrup.  Add the orange juice and rum.
Remove the warm cake from the pan onto a serving plate and immediately pour the icing slowly over the top, letting it drip down the sides slightly.  For a splash of color, sprinkle with bits of candied orange rind or orange zest.  Cool thoroughly before cutting.