Saturday, December 10, 2022

Honey Cake Trifle

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.   The lights, music, decorations, gaily wrapped presents and sharing special moments with family and friends are very special to me.  But it is the smells of pine, narcissus, cinnamon, clove, orange, ginger, honey and chocolate that evoke memories of times past for me. Memories of baking Christmas cakes and cookies with my Mother and Grandmother.  

One of the first things my mother-in-law ask me to make for Christmas Eve dinner was piernik, the honey cake. 

 My first attempt as a new wife was an epic failure (See blog article New Bride Kitchen Disaster, Wednesday, February 9, 2011 for all the details).  But over 49 years of marriage, I mastered it. This year I decided to take the flavors of the honey cake and turn it into a trifle, another family Christmas favorite.  The base for the trifle is honey cake cubes, layered with a raspberry curd, grated chocolate and vanilla custard topped with an almond whipped cream.  The results got rave reviews from my neighborhood taste testers.  This trifle could be my new favorite Christmas dessert.  Hope you like it too.

Honey Cake Trifle

7-8 cups of cubed honey cake or gingerbread (Use your favorite recipe or our Honey Cake From Warsaw, on page 90 in Polish Classic Recipes.

Raspberry Curd (Recipe below)
Vanilla Custard (Recipe below)
Almond Whipped Cream (Recipe Below)
1 bar of semi-sweet chocolate grated

Make a layer of honey cake in the bottom of a trifle bowl.  Layer half of the raspberry curd over top of the cake.  Grate 1/3 of the chocolate over the curd.  Pour a layer of half of the  vanilla custard over the chocolate.  Repeat the layers. Pipe the whipped cream over the top and garnish with the remaining grated chocolate. Decorate with fresh raspberries and optional gingerbread men.

Raspberry Curd
2 1/2 fresh or frozen raspberries
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, softened
Place butter in one medium bowl.  Place fine mesh strainer over another medium bowl.
Place the raspberries, lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan  Cook on medium to low heat until the raspberries soften, burst and become mostly liquid.
Press the raspberry mix through the strainer to remove the seeds and the zest, scaping the bottom of the strainer.  The raspberry liquid should measure about 3/4 cup.  
Discard the seeds, rinse the strainer and dry it.  Set the strainer over the bowl with the butter.
Return the raspberry liquid to the saucepan.  Add the sugar and stir.  The mix should be cool.  If not wait a few minutes before adding the eggs.  Whisk in the eggs .  Return the pot to the stove.  Cook the mixture on medium heat.  Whisking until the curd is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
Pour the curd through the strainer over the bowl of butter.  Press to get as much of the curd through the strainer as possible.  Stir the curd and the butter until butter is melted and you have a smooth curd. 
Cover the bowl and chill until thickened.

Vanilla Custard
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks together in a saucepan.  Whisk in the milk in a thin, steady stream.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of a custard.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.  Let cool completely.

Almond Whipped Cream
2 cups of heavy whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Whip the cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar and almond extract and continue beating until stiff.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Cabbage Roll Soup


Autumn leaves in brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red are carpeting our lawns.  The air has a bit of chill and some places across the US have already had their first snow fall.  With colder temperatures our thoughts turn to comforting soups and stews.  After raking leaves all day,  everyone is ready for a warm and filling dish.  Our Polish Classic Recipes Cookbook is full of soups, stews and other cold weather comfort dishes you might like to try. Soups like Polish Sour Soup (p.34), Christmas Dried Mushroom Soup (p.37), Dill Pickle Soup (p. 41) and Hunter's Stew (p.45). Pair any of these dishes with a crusty bread and your favorite wine for a delicious meal.

This fall I decided to transform my cabbage roll recipe into a soup.  Making Cabbage Roll Soup provides all the luscious flavors of my cabbage rolls without all the rolling and the long cook time.  The soup ingredients include the usual elements, cabbage, onion, tomato sauce, rice, ground beef and pork.  While the soup is simmering your kitchen will be filled with a heavenly aroma.  


Cabbage Roll Soup

1 large diced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

1 head of cabbage (approximately 3 pounds), coarsely chopped

1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

4 cups of beef broth

8 ounces tomato sauce (Use the following recipe for my Grandma's sauce or use store bought)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, fry the onion in butter or bacon fat until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Mix the onion and garlic mixture with the beef and pork and season well with salt and pepper.

Make tiny meatballs with the meat mix and brown. (Or you make choose to just brown the meat mixture.)  Remove the meatballs and set aside.  

Add cabbage to your pot and cook until soft. Add the diced tomatoes, beef broth and tomato sauce to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low. Return your meatballs to the soup pot.  Cover the pot and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the cabbage is tender.

Add the cooked rice to the pot and continue to simmer until rice is warmed.

Grandma's Tomato Sauce

1 14 ounce can plum tomatoes

1/2 cup of butter

Salt and pepper

In a sauce pan , bring the tomatoes and butter to a boil.  Break up the tomatoes as they cook.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the tomato butter mixture until it thickens.  This may take 20-30 minutes.

Blend mixture on low in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

On June 2, 2022, my husband, Peter, lost his long battle with cancer. His last few days were spent peacefully at home under hospice care surrounded by his family. This blog was a very special project for him. He enjoyed sharing his love for Polish food and culture and he loved hearing from all our followers. Many thanks to all of you for the love you showed both of us over the years as we traveled to various programs and festivals.
This Friday, September 23, would have been Peter's 75th birthday and the family has chosen this time to celebrate his life with our close friends. The menu will include some of his favorite foods including gołąbki and his favorite birthday dessert, Walnut Torte. There, without a doubt, will be many toasts and shots of Polish vodka. Our family hopes that all of our followers will raise a glass in remembrance of this man who is greatly missed.

The recipe for the Walnut Torte can be found on page 86 of Polish Classic Recipes.

Please stayed tuned. I would like to continue the blog but it may take me a while to figure it all out. Most of my time was spent cooking and baking the recipes that were posted but Peter was the wizard behind the blog. Hope to see all of you soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

 Wesołych Świąt (Happy Easter)! 

Our Easter menu has remained pretty much the same through four generations and over 70 years since the Zeranski’s emigrated from Europe.  For 2022 it will be again be a blend of Polish traditional delicacies with some American favorites – all intended to please our family’s diverse palates. 

Poles the world over love their Easter sweets, many of which can be found in our book: Polish Classic Desserts. 

The cornerstones of the main menu are always platters of traditional sliced ham, kielbasa, roast pork and more.  

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 to the next level.   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   (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. 


Monday, January 17, 2022

Polish-Hungarian Goulash

 Witamy!     Brrrrr!  It’s cold in many parts of the world so preparing delicious, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food is a top dinner choice for many cooks.  One-pot meals are especially appreciated because they don’t have to take a lot of prep time and can be left alone while cooking.  This is especially true of dishes that can be prepared in a slow cooker or crock pot.  We love one-pot meals because the left-over’s can be reheated a couple of times and often taste better over time.  That’s because the ingredients have more time to infuse into the whole dish.

Students of classic Polish cuisine will know that many Polish dishes evolved from recipes first popularized in near-by  countries.  That occurred for two main reasons --  first was the inter-marriages of nobility from neighboring countries, dating as far back as the 14th century.  The second reason has to do with Poland’s long history of changing borders.  During the last 100 years or so, Poland’s land mass was claimed and occupied by several countries such as Germany and Russia.  The result was an integration of cultures, customs and food that took hold over time.

Here is an economical and tasty one-pot dish that borrows heavily from its Hungarian roots yet still retains a Polish spin through the inclusion of caraway.  It's actually better if made a day early and reheated,  but that takes patience.  (The dish actually tastes much better than the photo looks.)   Smacznego!

Goulash With Sauerkraut

½ pound of bacon, diced
4 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup water
4 pounds stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 green peppers, cored and sliced
Salt, to taste
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained and rinsed very well
2 cups cooked rice
1 pint sour cream

Brown the meat on all sides and set aside.  Sauté the bacon until transparent.  Add the onions and sauté until golden.  Add the paprika, caraway seeds and garlic.  Mix well.  Transfer to a pot, add the water, meat, peppers.  Cover tightly and simmer for one hour.  Taste the liquid and add more paprika and caraway if desired.  (We happen to like bolder flavors and usually add more flavorings than most recipes call for.)  Add the sauerkraut and simmer for one more hour.  Taste again.  Let cool, If you have the time, refrigerate overnight.  Before your meal, reheat the goulash slowly. Before serving, add the cooked rice, bring to a low boil while stirring.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the sour cream.  Serve in large bowls with crusty bread, sweet butter, and your favorite adult beverage.    
Serves 12