Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Summer Barszcz - Polish Style

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!
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.  
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. 


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!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Celebrate This Easter With a Heritage Polish Easter Cheesecake


Happy Easter – “Wesołego Alleluja”

Are you bored yet?   Have you started thinking about your family’s celebratory Easter meal yet?  It’ll be a bit more challenging this year since we’re staying close to home and can’t always find all the groceries we need.  But with the extra time on our hands, it’s a great opportunity to explore our Polish roots and try a new Polish heritage recipe.
 Traditionally the Easter meal is a mid-day, room-temperature feast served after church.  Or this year, it may be church-on-line or on U Tube or some other social media platform.  Our family’s Easter menu has been pretty much the same for over a century, dating back at least to Peter’s great grandparents in Warsaw in the early 1900’s. The menu has been honored through six generations, including Peter’s emigration to Canada in the 1950’s, through our marriage, kids, and a 10-year old grandchild.  Lucy already has an adventuresome palate, is learning to cook, and last year loved some of our traditional Easter dishes.  She won’t be with us this year but we may still drop off some of this delicious cheese cake on their doorstep.   

So today we want to share with you a very traditional recipe for a Polish Easter cheesecake that goes back several generations.   It’s absolutely delicious, a perfect ending for your Easter meal, and not hard to make if you follow the recipe exactly.  And all the ingredients should be available in a regular grocery store – even in this time of shortages.

Yields 32 portions
Crust
1/3     cup butter
     cups flour
½       cup confectioners’ sugar
     teaspoons baking powder
1        egg
3        tablespoons sour cream
¾       cup seedless raspberry jam
          breadcrumbs

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, cut the butter into the flour until it forms coarse crumbs.   Mix the egg with sour cream and add, then add the sugar and baking powder.  Mix until all the ingredients come together into a soft dough.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out 2/3 of the dough to fit a 9x12-inch pan, buttered and sprinkled with bread crumbs.  Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes.  The crust will be only partially baked.  Remove from oven and cool.  Spread the raspberry jam over the partially baked crust.

Note:  if you wish to make a traditional decorative lattice on top of the cheesecake, reserve the remaining third of the dough and keep it cold until you are ready. If you’ve chosen to forgo the lattice, use the entire dough ball in the baking pan.

Cheese Filling
6        eggs
     cups confectioners’ sugar
     teaspoons vanilla extract
2        teaspoons lemon zest
2        teaspoons orange zest
2/3     cup unsalted butter, softened
     tablespoons flour
     pounds ricotta or farmer’s[PJW1]  cheese
½       cup candied orange rind, finely chopped
1        egg white, beaten

Using a standing mixer, beat the eggs with the confectioners’ sugar for 5 minutes at high speed.  Add the vanilla, and lemon and orange zests.  Combine the cheese with the butter and flour and add to the egg and sugar mixture.  Fold in the candied orange rind.  Spread mixture over the partially baked crust and raspberry jam.

Bake for 50 to 65 minutes or until the cake is firm.  Remove and cool.

To decorate the top with lattice, remove the cake from the oven after the first 30 minutes, or as soon as the filling is firm enough to support the dough strips without sinking. 

Form the remaining dough into thin, even rolls (like long straws) and place them diagonally across the top of the cheesecake in a criss-cross pattern.  Brush the latticework lightly with a beaten egg white.

Note:  for aesthetics, try to lay out the lattice rolls evenly parallel to each other, but don’t worry if they break or don’t quite stretch to the edge.  Stretch and seal the breaks and they’ll be just fine after baking – a few imperfections add rustic character to your cake. 

Return the cheesecake to the oven and continue baking for an additional 20-30 minutes until the lattice is golden brown and the cheesecake is firm.
Smacznego!


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. 









Sunday, March 15, 2020

Polish Pork Cutlets and Apple Raisin Cake - Polish Heaven

Witamy!

Polish cuisine often means delectable comfort food, but we can’t survive just on our beloved kielbasa, pierogi or stuffed cabbage rolls.  The days would get boring quickly.  So to help you mix things up, we’re sharing again two of our absolutely favorite heritage dishes which are guaranteed to please everyone at your table - Polish Pork Cutlets and Apple Raisin Cake. 
  
Pork Cutlets – Polish Style

Have you noticed how store-bought pork has changed over the last few years?  Center-cut boneless pork chops are lean and devoid of flavor compared to what we used to enjoy.  That’s why the safe cooking temp was lowered by the USDA to 145 °F - a full 15 degrees less than before.  And now the USDA says it’s OK to eat your pork slightly pink.  So we no longer buy boneless chops, opting for bone-in, with a nice layer of fat around the edges (great for cooking…it gets cut off before eating). 



Pork has always been an important part of the Polish diet.  This classic cutlet is a tasty choice anytime and anywhere in Poland.  Quite similar to Viennese Schnitzel, the Polish version is often served with boiled potatoes, dill pickles or Brussel sprouts & carrots. 

Serves 4
4        thin, center cut pork chops
3        tablespoons flour
1        egg, beaten
½       cup bread crumbs 
1        teaspoon marjoram finely chopped
          salt and pepper to taste
2        tablespoons olive oil

Use bone-in or boneless chops, either will work.  Trim most of the excess fat from the chops.  Pound the meat to tenderize until about 1/4 inch thick.  (Hint:  pound the chops under a plastic freezer bag to make the process easier and cleaner).  Cutlets may be cut into smaller pieces to better fit your skillet.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
Mix bread crumbs and marjoram.  Dredge the cutlets in flour.  Dip in the beaten egg.  Roll in bread crumb mixture and press in to make bread crumbs stick to the cutlets.

Pre-heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the cutlets until golden on both sides, until the pork is just barely pink - about 5 to 7 minutes per side. 

Garnish with fresh chopped dill.  Serve with your favorite vegetables, boiled baby potatoes, and slices of dill pickle.





Apple Raisin Cake

There are few better combinations of flavors than apples, cinnamon and walnuts.  This is one of our absolutely favorite desserts and one that we often prepare for sampling at book signing events.  Laura makes it in a mini-cupcake size and it works beautifully.  It’s very easy to prepare and it’s super popular with all our friends.

½ pound butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cups raisins
4 cups cooking apples, peeled & coarsely shredded
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. A standing mixer is perfect for this job but a hand mixer will work just as well.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat five more minutes (less if using a standing mixer).  Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and beat three more minutes.  Fold in the fruit and walnuts. 

Butter and flour a high 10-inch round spring form cake pan.  Pour in the finished batter and shake it around for even distribution.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half (60 to 90 minutes).  Test at 60 minutes for doneness with a toothpick.  The cake is done when the toothpick comes out dry.  Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before releasing the pan.  Yields 12 to 16 portions, depending on size of slices and how hungry your guests are.


 For our beautiful collection of heritage Polish recipes, check out our two globally acclaimed cookbooks, above.  If you purchase them on our site, we will autograph and personally dedicate each book to whomever you’d like in the U. S.  They’re also available from any online book seller such as Amazon – world-wide.

Smacznego!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Unique Polish Winter Soups - Dill & Sauerkraut


Witamy!  Peter’s Mom, who grew up in Poland, often recalled that soup was always an important part of a Polish dinner. Back in the day, appetizers were not served for every day meals, but soups were traditionally served as the first course of dinner - especially in winter when hardworking Poles craved thick, fragrant, creamy, hearty nourishing soups served in deep round bowls.  Before the days of coffee and tea at breakfast, country folks would often start their mornings with a steamy bowl of hearty soup to provide nourishment for the day’s work.  Here are two delicious soups that are uniquely Polish, revered by Poles all over the world.

Dill Soup (Koperkowa) can be served a number of ways:  with either hard boiled eggs as an enhancer (as with the iconic sorrel soup), or  with dribbled batter dumplings (lane kluski in Polish).  When Peter was young, “dribbles”  were an infrequent treat, even though they are incredibly easy to make.  Other popular choices are to serve Dill Soup with potatoes (cooked in the soup), with rice, or even egg noodles.  Regardless of the starch you choose, this is a tasty traditional soup that everyone will love.  

Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter, divided
¾ cup dill, finely chopped
6 cups stock, either: beef, veal, chicken or vegetable
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup cold water
1 egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

       
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, add ¼ cup dill and sauté gently over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.
·       Heat stock to boiling and add the dill and butter mixture. 
·       Dissolve the flour in the cold water and add to the stock.  Bring the stock back to a low boil.
·       If you are cooking the string dumplings (see below), dribble the dumpling mixture into the boiling stock and cook for one minute.  Keep soup at a low boil to avoid disintegrating the dumplings.

·       Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Gradually add 1 cup of the boiling stock and stir well.  Stir in the sour cream until the mixture is smooth.  Return this mixture to the soup pot.
·       Simmer for a minute or two but do not boil.  Turn off the heat, add the remaining dill, stir, cover and let stand for 2-3 minutes.
·       Adjust seasonings.

String Dumplings  (Lane Kluseczki)
1 large egg
3½ tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
·       Mix egg with flour and salt.  Beat with whisk or fork for 2 minutes.  Dribble batter slowly into boiling stock from a spoon.




Sauerkraut Soup (Kapusniak) (serves 10) 

1 pound sauerkraut
6 cups beef broth
¼ pound bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tables flour
3 tablespoons cold water
Salt & pepper

Rinse the sauerkraut well in cold water and chop finely. Cover with water and simmer in a covered pot for about 30 minutes, making sure the water doesn’t boil off (add water if needed).  Add the broth. Sauté the bacon and onions until golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and sauté for 5 more minutes while stirring. If the mix is very pasty, add some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir.  Add this onion mix and carrot to the sauerkraut and bring to a low boil. Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with boiled potatoes drizzled with butter and fresh chopped dill.


If you liked these recipes, please check out our globally acclaimed cookbooks:  Polish Classic Recipes and Polish Classic Desserts, available autographed on this website or from any on-line bookseller such as Amazon, world-wide. 

Smacznego!