Saturday, August 28, 2021

Summer Salmon Salad - Polish Style

 Witamy!

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 it really should be in your file 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

This is not one of those recipes where you mix everything in a bowl and serve.  This is prettier.  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. Dill is so important in Polish cuisine!  And now you can find it as fresh as can be  at many Farmers Markets. Chill for an hour and serve on lettuce leaves.  A glass of dry white wine or fresh iced tea would pair very nicely with this beautiful salad.   
Smacznego!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Summer Fruit Soups - Polish Style

 Witamy!

Polish cuisine is comprised of a very wide variety of dishes and flavors.  They come from the influences 14th century French and Italian royalty, from the worldly wives of 18th and 19th century Polish gentry, and from the flavors left behind by the invading armies of neighboring lands.

Among the most original Polish dishes are the soups, such as Sour Soup, Dried Mushroom Soup, Dill Soup, or Pickle Soup.  And among the best of Polish soups are the chilled fruit soups.  Served cold on a hot summer day, they are refreshing, full of flavor, and always enjoyed by entire families, regardless of age. 

Fruit soups are not too sweet and Poles eat them as a first course for supper or as the main, or for a heartier course with noodles.  Sometimes they are served after the main course, as a healthier replacement for dessert. 


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.  

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
Croutons


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.


For two delicious varieties, substitute 1½ pounds of pitted Italian plums or 3 pints of pitted cherries, and increase the sour cream a bit to 2/3 cup. 
Smacznego!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Sour Milk - A True Polish Delicacy (For Real!) "Zsiadłe Mleko"

 Really?  Sour Milk?  Oh yeah, for sure and for real!   Keep reading: 


One of my favorite childhood food memories was a summer delicacy called Zsiadłe Mleko or in English, Sour Milk.  Now before you scroll away or hit the delete key, just hang in there with me because there is nothing spoiled or sour about it and it is a genuine Polish delicacy.  I just devoured a bowl of it and it was an absolutely refreshing and tangy summer lunch.


Close your eyes and think slightly thin or loose yogurt…with a similar tang of buttermilk and the texture of a light pudding or flan.  It's served with buttered baby potatoes and fresh dill.   I promise that it really tastes fantastic and there’s nothing sour about it.   

There was a great story told by my Mom, who was active in the Polish resistance, that during World War II, there was a small band of Polish resistance fighters who found themselves in France behind enemy lines. They were lost and exhausted from dodging the enemy.  A French farmer took them in and let them hide in his cow barn. That farmer, seeing that they were also famished, apologized and said that all he had was some potatoes in the field, a few left-over sprigs of dill in the garden, and a bucket of soured milk which he was planning to feed to his pigs.  The Polish soldiers, hearing this, started laughing hysterically and pounced on the bucket of sour milk.  You see, where they grew up in Poland this was a delicacy known as “a dish for kings” -- a bowl of sour milk enjoyed best with a small plate of buttered potatoes and dill.  Amazing!


In Poland you can buy it commercially prepared but back in the day, this dish was made at home with unpasteurized milk.  But these days there is risk of germs or disease from consuming raw milk, so we strongly suggest that only pasteurized milk be used.

The Recipe:  First, the milk has to be “cultured” to become thick and tart.   Pour  a quart of whole milk into a glass or ceramic bowl (anything but metal).  Add ½ cup of sour cream OR 1 cup of cultured buttermilk.  Whisk or blend the mixture thoroughly.   Place the bowl into a warm spot (80 °F is great) and let it stand for 24 hours or until thick.  Do not move or disturb the bowl while the milk is setting up.  When it thickens to the consistency of flan or a light pudding, place the bowl into the fridge and cool for half a day or so.  To serve, spoon it into serving bowls and serve with young white potatoes that have been sprinkled with butter and fresh chopped dill.  

PS:  I had a bowl it for lunch – I started it two days ago with a quart of 2% milk and 3 tablespoons of sour cream.  The bowl just sat in our kitchen for a day and a half before it set up.  A little clear liquid separated in the bowl but I just poured that off.  I boiled a few baby white potatoes, sprinkled them with melted butter and dill.  My lunch was so refreshing on this hot day and just so delicious that I’ve got another bowl started.  

Smacznego!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Laura's Awesome Strawberry Pie

 Note: We're reposting this amazing recipe from a year ago because most of the U.S. is now enjoying beautiful fresh strawberries. Laura just made this pie a couple of days ago for the family, and it was devoured in seconds.  This morning I visited a nearby farm and brought home another 4 pounds of juicy berries so that Laura could make Strawberry Jam which we'll share with family and friends.  Farm to table in 15 minutes.

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. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart - Polish Style

 Witamy!

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 your local farmers markets opened up yet?   As the weather gets warmer, more and more berries will be 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       pound 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. 

Topping
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.

Smacznego!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Our Easter Traditions - Kicked Up Polish Style

 Wesołych Świąt (Happy Easter)! 


Our Easter menu will remain pretty much the same this year - as it has through four generations and over 70 years since the Zeranski’s emigrated from Europe.  For 2021 it will be again be a blend of Polish traditional delicacies with some American favorites – all intended to please our family’s diverse palates.




The Polish sweets, such as this Gypsy Mazurka

are in our Polish Classic Desserts, and the savory classics are all in our Polish Classic Recipes 
book,  both of which make great Easter gifts.

The cornerstones of the menu are always platters of traditional sliced ham





partnered with at least two or three aromatic varieties of kielbasa and hard boiled eggs.

Next are bowls of steaming aromatic cheesy scalloped potatoes and a chilled Polish vegetable salad. 


On the side we sip traditional peppery Barszcz (clear beet broth).  The combination of sweet and peppery flavors balance so well with the rustic garlicky kielbasa and more delicate vegetables. 


For dessert Laura always has such a hard time choosing between the traditional Babas, Cheesecakes or Mazurkas.  Everyone’s mouths are already watering intensely with the anticipation of this meal.


As we start to make our plans for this wonderfully traditional Easter meal, we quickly understand that a couple of sauces to garnish the cold sliced meats, are the true difference-makers that elevate the feast into something truly special.  The added layers of flavor just intensify the pleasure of each bite.
These are classics and easy to prepare ahead of time.  A dollop or two on your plate, right next to the ham and kielbasa, will kick the flavors up and make the meal truly memorable…until next year.  

Mustard Sauce   (Makes 1 cup)
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 cup sour cream
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients well. Chill well.   

Green Onion Sauce   (Makes 1 ½ cups)
1 cup sour cream
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 tablespoon chopped green onions
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients.  Chill well.  

Beets & Horseradish   (Makes 2 cups)
2 14.5 ounce cans beets (not pickled), drained & rough-chopped 
5 ounces prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients, place in an airtight sealed container.  Best after 24 hours.  We often add an ounce or two of more horseradish just before serving for an even stronger kick.   

Dill Pickle Sauce   (Warm)   Makes 3 cups
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons instant flour
½ cup beef stock or bouillon (hot)
3 large dill pickles, shredded
½ cup dill pickle liquid from the jar
½ cup sour cream
Salt to taste


Mix butter with flour over low heat. Gradually stir in the hot bouillon and then the pickle juice. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Add the pickles and sour cream.  Heat, but do not boil. Add salt to taste.  Serve warm. 

Smacznego!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pork Cutlets - Classic Polish Style

 Witamy!

In these crazy times, we're all spending more time in the kitchen and often crave basic comfort food, especially now that it's colder  (unless you live "down under").   But we've been spending soo much time in the kitchen that lately we're on the hunt for meals that are easier to prepare without sacrificing great and classic flavors. Pork is one way to go that has worked for us - especially pork cutlets. 
  
 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 cabbage, dill pickles or Brussel sprouts & carrots.  In fact we just made this dish a couple of days ago.


Heffron Farms
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. 


Preheat the oil in a large skillet and saute the cutlets under medium heat until golden on both sides and until the pork is just barely pink in the middle. If your cutlets are about a quarter inch thick, as we like them, they'll probably be done in about 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Watch them carefully while in the pan so the crumb topping doesn't burn.  

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or dill.  Serve with your favorite vegetables, boiled baby potatoes with butter and dill; on top, and slices of dill pickle.  Yum!

Smacznego!