bay leaf pudding

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I have so much free time right now, but I am so not using it wisely!  I am now living in a new city and looking for new jobs and trying to save money so my mind is not focused yet.  It’s so exciting though, I feel positive.

I lived in New York, Brooklyn specifically, for 7 years.  It was such an amazing adventure.  I learned a lot, worked my butt off, did stupid things, did really cool things, wasted time and wasted money.  After everything I was burnt out!  I needed a different pace, I needed to spend less money and I needed my family around.  New York is amazing, but after a while, it’s just too much for someone like me, a year goes by like three months.

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(New York from a rooftop in Brooklyn)

I have never really put together a list of stuff to do in a city but maybe I will do it for New York/Brooklyn, from the perspective of someone living there and seeing how much there is and not really having money, time and especially energy to do it all.  It can either be a really good list or a really lame list, we will see.

And now Chicago, I really love this city and kind-of want to keep it a secret, let’s just keep it at that for now…

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(Lincoln Park in Chicago)

And even though I have lots of time right now, you might not, and this is a such an easy but amazing dessert!  This stuff is addicting!  Seriously, I can eat the whole thing and more.  I have a thing for puddings, any pudding: rice, chocolate, lemon.  But bay leaf?  I am not sure how to describe the flavor, it’s a bit herbal, maybe a hint of licorice, but it’s very subtle and does not overpower.

Bay Leaf Pudding

2 1/2 cups milk

6-10 dried bay leafs (I used a lot, and you can also use fresh, experiment and taste!)

1/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

– heat 2 cups of milk in a small saucepan on medium heat until almost boiling.  remove the milk from heat and crush up the bay leafs into the milk.  let it sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the milk does not create a film on top.

-strain the milk and reheat until almost boiling again.

-mix the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a small bowl a little at a time so it breaks down evenly so there are no lumps.  turn the heat down a little on the milk and add the sugar.  stir for about 5 minutes.  keep stirring and add the cornstarch mixture. stir occasionally on low heat for about 5 minutes.

-remove from heat and let it cool down a bit.  pour into a bowl or whatever your using and place plastic right on top of the pudding to help not create a film (or not if you don’t mind).  let it cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.

yummmmm

-Jrad

 

celebration salad

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I am calling this salad celebration salad because I am not sure what to call it really.  It is obviously olivier salad, which in Poland they call sałatka jarzynowa – which basically means vegetable salad.  It is a salad my family has pretty much every time there is a holiday and possibly birthday.  I am sure if you are Polish you might have a similar experience.  If you are not Polish you might think it is a rather weird salad.  I was eating it yesterday and someone asked me what was in it and I said, “Vegetables with mayo, and pickle and egg, and apple”.  She is from Michigan and said that sounds like her potato salad, and I agree.  It is a bit like potato salad with potato not being the main component, but instead each bite has different layers of flavor.  By far not the most stylish looking salad, unless we are back in the 1950’s, but that is why I love this salad, it has a lot of charm to me.

I have many good memories with this salad.  My dad is always the chopper of the vegetables, he doesn’t cook much but can be (like many men in the kitchen) very precise about his chopping, but my mother always gives him a hard time anyway.  And my brother, who doesn’t like many other traditional Polish dishes, loves this salad and often complains it doesn’t always taste the same, probably because there is no real recipe.

Alas, here is a recipe.  There are so many versions of it, but this is how I like it, no meat or fish just simple.

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Celebration Salad

2 medium potatoes, peeled (or three small)

2 medium carrots, peeled and ends cut off

1 medium parsnip, peeled and ends cut off

1/4 big celery root (or half a small one), peeled

4 eggs

1 green apple, peeled and diced

2 cups defrosted frozen peas

3 big dill cucumbers in brine (pickles), diced

1 small leek, very thinly diced

2 cups mayo

2 tsp dried marjoram

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tsp freshly grated horseradish (or 1 tbsp from a jar)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

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– place the potatoes, carrots, parsnip, celery root and eggs in a large pot and cover everything with water.  bring to a boil.  once the water is boiling set a timer.  after 12 minutes take out the eggs and place them in cold water.  after about 30 minutes take out the potato, parsnip and celery root.  if they are not soft yet leave them a bit longer.  leave the carrot in for about 35 minutes.  keep checking because each vegetable is different.  remove everything when ready.

-let the vegetables and eggs cool. chop up the apple, pickles and leek into even diced pieces.  once the cooked vegetables have cooled to room temperature chop them up the same way.

-place all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl.  mix the mayo, mustard, horseradish, marjoram, salt and pepper in a small bowl until well combined.  mix the dressing with the vegetables thoroughly, adjusting seasoning as needed.  place in the fridge to cool some more.  the salad will last a couple of days in the fridge. I think it usually tastes best the day after being made.

and celebrate!!

peace, jrad

knedle (plum filled potato dumplings)

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I’ve been missing in action writing here, and cooking in general.  I went on a last minute trip to ARMENIA! with my husband to be.

It was mainly to see his family, but I had a lovely time being somewhere different and learning about the culture.  It’s a beautiful place that many people do not know much about, and I encourage people to visit, there is a lot of history there and it is a very unique place.  The food was really great, since it is such a small country it seems that much of the food is very local and fresh.  We ate a lot with Gevork’s aunt, she would make very simple dishes and they were all so good!  Lamb patties with herbs, lamb chops with tomatoes and herbs, eggplant and other veges slow cooked, chicken with mushrooms or again with tomatoes and herbs, meatballs without anything basically except seasoning (really gotta learn this trick!).  My favorite salad was just simple tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and cucumbers cut thick with oil, salt and again lots of herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley, and some other ones I am not sure because they were not translated to me in English – one was purple, maybe purple basel or lovage?).  Everything was served with fresh lavash that she would get every morning.  I am obsessed with lavash, it is the coolest tastiest secret, only in Armenia can you get really good lavash.

I hope to be a better story teller next time, it was definitely a new experience for me, but also a bit overwhelming with family stuff and getting comfortable.  So I will be prepared next time to share the wonders!

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This recipe is similar to the lazy dumpling in my last post, however these might be my favorite dumplings.  I didn’t eat these much growing up but they are still somehow special to me.  On my last trip to Poland I went to a restaurant in Krakow and ordered these because I wasn’t eating meat and I was so happy I did, they were delicious!  I also remember eating one of the best mushroom soups I’ve ever had there.

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Knedle

500 g potatoes – pick a sturdy cooking potato (once peeled and cooked will weigh 400g – even if it doesn’t, just use that much for the dough)

100-150 g unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tbsp potato flour (it makes for a softer dough)

1 egg

15-20 small RIPE Italian plums (not so ripe that they are rotten, just with a nice squish when tested)

2 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar

salt

1 cup sour cream

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-peel and chop your potatoes into cubes.  boil in a pot of salted water until cooked.  drain and mash them very well so there are no clumps. let them cool.

-cut each plum longways on one side. if they are ripe the pit should come out really easy, so that is a good test.  remove all pits and set aside, plum should still be attached just cut on the side.

-once the potatoes are cool mix them with 100g of flour, the potato flour and the egg in a bowl.  mix well with your hands or with a spoon if too sticky.  it will be very sticky but if it is not coming together add more flour.  every potato is different so you have to figure it out as you go.  the more flour you use the denser the dough will be and we don’t want that for these. let it sit for a bit.  flour your work surface well.

-fill a big pot with water and salt well.  turn on heat and bring to a boil while you do the next part.

-make sure you have very well floured hands for the next part.  take a third of the dough and roll it into a log about two inches thick and six inches long, cut it into pieces and flatten out a piece.  you want to be able to fit a plum in there so use your own judgement on how big your plums are.  fill a plum with a little powdered sugar and place it into the dough with the cut side facing side.  pick it up in your hands and gently start pushing the dough up so it covers the plum.  seal it with your fingers, keep flouring those hands if you need.  roll it around in your hands so it seals shut and let it sit on a floured surface or plate while you repeat.  repeat until you run out of dough or plums.

-once the water is boiling gently place the dumplings in the water, in batches. once they float to the top let them cook another 5 minutes.  take them out with a slotted spoon and let them drain in a strainer for a second and them place them on a plate.

-mix about 1 cup of sour cream with 1 1/2 tbsp of powdered sugar.  serve with the knedle.  there is also the option of sautéing them in butter and sprinkling with sugar, or even bread crumbs, but I was quite satisfied with the sour cream 🙂

na zdrowie!

lazy noodles (kluski leniwe) with pesto

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I have been so lazy lately.  But seriously, I am not sure what is going on.  There are two possibilities I can fathom, allergies or the end of summer just makes us lazy. Here’s to being lazy!

So lazy noodles is a thing in Polish cooking.  Who doesn’t love lazy cooking.  We need more recipes like this in life.  They are also sometimes called lazy pierogi or lazy kopitka (which means little hooves and is another dish that uses potato instead – but I guess the lazy way is like this with cheese).  It seemed like the best thing to make since I’m lazy, and because it’s actually really good.  They are similar to gnocchi, using cheese and flour to make little dumplings.  But they are a bit more sloppy and lazy perhaps.  Pesto is also a bit of a lazy choice in my opinion, plus the basil you can get now!  Lazy noodles are often just served with browned butter breadcrumbs, little bacon bits or just sugar and butter.  But really they can be served with many other sauces, but just remember – keep it lazy.

Also I don’t do the whole pine nut pesto thing, in America pine nuts cost an arm and a leg, and I like my limbs thank you very much.  It’s walnuts for me.

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This version of lazy noodles I made is not the laziest.  The laziest would be to just take some farmer’s cheese and mix in an egg and then just add flour until you get the consistency you need.   I wanted mine to be extra good so I went for the slightly less lazy version where you beat egg whites and soften butter and all that jazz. The lazy part is that you don’t have to knead.

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Lazy Noodle (Kluski Leniwe) with Pesto

3 eggs, separated

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cup soft farmer’s cheese

pinch of salt

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour (plus more for shaping)

1 1/2 cups basil, washed and dried

1/3 cup walnuts

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 garlic clove

juice of half 1 lemon

salt and pepper

-fill a large pot with salted water and set to boil.

-make the pesto by mixing the basil, oil, walnuts, olive oil, cheese, garlic and lemon in a food processor.  don’t over blend it, just pulse until it’s all blended nicely into a paste/sauce type texture.  season and pulse a couple more times.  set aside until the noodles are done.

-beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside.  mix the egg yolks with the softened butter.   mix the farmer’s cheese with the yolks and butter and add salt.  gently fold in the egg whites.  fold in the flour in small batches and mix well.

-flour your work surface well.  the dough will be very sticky so use a bunch of flour and don’t overwork it.  divide the dough into four parts.  take one part and gently form it into a long thin tube shape. use your fingers to pinch and form it then roll it back and forth the make it longer.  you can make it as thin as you want but not too extreme, then cut it into even pieces and place on a floured plate or cutting board.

-place them into the boiling water not all at once.  they will float to the surface when they are done, just a minute or two so keep checking.  place them in a strainer and when they are all done toss them in your pesto!

violà -jrad

chłodnik (cold beet soup)

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Oh you’ve never had a cold pink soup before?  Pretty awesome right?  It looks exotic but it is basically beets, radishes and cucumbers with some kefir and buttermilk and lots of herbs.   Perfect for a hot day.

And it’s been hot.  So hot that I don’t want to cook.  I don’t want to turn the oven on and I definitely don’t want to carry two heavy bags of groceries home from my train stop or even the closest grocery store.

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So this is a Polish, among other countries, soup.  Chłodnik basically means something cold, in this case a soup, and it seems to always refer to this type of soup.  The ch is pronounced like an h and the ł sounds like a w, and everything else sounds like it should, so good luck saying it.  Gevork, my boyfriend, speaks Russian and he has so much trouble pronouncing the chł combination, which we practice with the word for boy: chłopiec.  This chłodnik also includes botwinka (w sounds like a v), which is the greens of young beets.  Cold soup doesn’t seem to be a popular choice in America, and it is a shame.  This soup is full of summer goodness.  There are many variations of how to make it, it’s kind-of like all soups where you can really play around with it once you’ve made it once.  I am leaving a simple classic variation here but feel free to get inspired.

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Chłodnik

4 small beets with leaves

1 lemon – or beet kwas – or both (I used some kwas I made to give it a tang – recipe here)

handful of radishes (about 6)

handful of small cucumbers (about 4)

2 cups kefir

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 tbsp salt

pepper

freshly chopped parsley, dill and chives

hard boiled eggs, quartered

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-peel and chop the beets into small diced cubes.  chop the leaves and stems finely as well.  place the beets and leaves into a large pot and cover with water and boil them for 15-20 minutes just until the beets are cooked but the color stays.

-meanwhile clean the radishes and cucumbers and cut off the ends. julienne them into thin little matchsticks.  place them in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  pour the kefir and buttermilk on top.  toss in the herbs and stir well.  refrigerate if needed.

-once the beets are cooked let them cool with the liquid at room temperature and then place in the fridge for a bit to cool more.

-pour the kefir mixture into the beets and mix well.  the color should look beautiful now!  let the whole thing cool, season more if needed and serve with hard boiled eggs.

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smacznego!

rhubarb tarragon spelt scones

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I am on the tail end of my moment with scones and just starting my next phase of tarragon.  So this is perfect, also because rhubarb – I love you.  Right before spring started we finally watched Sherlock and then I finally watched The Great British Baking Show, so you could say I have British treats on my mind.  There were a couple of weeks where I was making scones on Sunday and then putting them in the freezer so that Monday morning I would just turn the oven on and pop in a scones or two and wait.  It was a great way to start the week.  It is starting to get hot, air conditioners have been put in the windows, so this might be my last scone Monday.  Sometimes I get the urge to not turn on the oven all summer, but maybe we will get some cooler rainy days too because I don’t think I can last without an oven.

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Tarragon has a licorice flavor and in Armenia (where my other half has origins) they drink tarragon soda.  It’s actually great for digestion, but don’t drink too much of it! I tried making some tarragon soda recently and it was delicious! Here I think it tastes really nice with the tanginess of the rhubarb and the nuttiness of the spelt.

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Rhubarb Tarragon Spelt Scones

3 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks

1/4 cup + 3 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup spelt flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces

2 tbsp chopped tarragon

2/3 – 3/4 cup heavy cream

– toss the rhubarb in the 3 tbsp of sugar and set aside.

– mix the flours with salt, sugar and baking powder.  mix the butter into the flour mixture and using a pastry cutter cut the butter until little pea size pieces form.  mix the rhubarb and tarragon gently. slowly add the cream, do 2/3 and then add more as needed until you have a dough.  use your hands to combine but don’t knead too much, just until formed together.

– preheat your oven to 425° F if making now.

– divide the dough into two pieces and make a disc with each one. cut each disc into 4-6 triangles.  arrange the pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or freeze them separately to bake them later.

– if not frozen already, freeze them for 10 minutes on the tray. bake about 20 minutes until starting to brown a bit.  you can freeze them for a week or two, watch the baking time, it might need to be longer.

-jrad

strawberry pierogi

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Hey!  Strawberries are in season, yes they are!  Did you know that you can make strawberry pierogi?  And you eat them with sweet sour cream and dream about the Eastern European countryside.

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I think rolling and kneading pierogi dough might be may favorite thing ever.  It has a great texture.  It’s really soft and supple and quite elastic.  There are a couple of ways to fill pierogi with strawberries, but I think this is the best one.  A whole little strawberry tucked inside the lovely supple dough.  The other way would be to cut the strawberries into little pieces and shape them differently, more like a half moon.  But these are more cute, right!?

So here you go, try and love them.

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Strawberry Pierogi

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 large egg

2 tbsp neutral oil (like sunflower or grape seed)

1 tsp salt (plus extra for boiling water)

1/2 cup – 3/4 cups warm water

1 pound small strawberries, hulled and cut in half if not small

1 tbsp powdered sugar

sour cream and powdered sugar for serving

-to make the dough pour the flour into a large bowl.  make a well in the center of the flour and crack the egg, pour the oil and sprinkle the salt.  mix a little with a fork and then slowly add the water, just 1/2 cup at first.  start to mix with your hands forming a dough.  add more water if too dry and flour if too wet.  flour your kneading surface well and knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until well incorporated and it looks like the gluten has formed well.  keep adding flour as needed.  place the dough ball on a well floured surface and cover with the mixing bowl you used before, let it rest for about half an hour.

-meanwhile prepare your strawberries.  once they are cleaned and cut toss them gently in the powdered sugar. and set a big pot of salted water to boil.  prepare a cutting board with flour.

-once the dough has rested take half of it and roll it out on a well floured surface until thin but not see through.  use a wide thin cup to make circles, as close together as you can.

-take out a circle and use the stickier side to fill.  place a strawberry, or half in the center.  using your thumb, index and middle finger on both hands take all the corners like you are pinching to make a little cross and then and seal it tightly.  they will look like cute little packages.

-place each one on the floured cutting board, making sure they don’t touch each other.  you will put them in the freezer after doing a couple and keep adding.  they cook nicely if a little bit frozen.  repeat with the rest of the dough.

-once they are ready plop them in the water, not more than 10 at a time.  stir them a bit to make sure they don’t stick. after they float to the top let them cook another 5 minutes. strain them out with a slotted spoon into a strainer.

-they taste the best served right away.  mix some sour cream with a little powdered sugar and enjoy!

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-julia rad

sorrel soup

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I just got back from a lovely couple of days in Chicago visiting my parents.  It wasn’t the Bahamas or Iceland but it felt so nice nonetheless.  Anytime we get away from our normal routine it is so refreshing.  I used to come visit and get very anxious to get back to my life in New York and would feel that Chicago was so boring and lame.  But I just welcome it so much now, because I’m pretty lame and Chicago is actually pretty cool.  I do love the mid-west, I know mountains and oceans are better but the midwest is special, there is something in the air that floats around and makes you feel ok about yourself.

We celebrated Easter and it was lovely.  Saturday we got our baskets blessed and I made a traditional Polish Easter dessert called mazurek, we dyed hard boiled eggs and had an array of sandwiches and babkas and cheesecake.  I think Easter is my favorite holiday and I never come to Chicago for it and I’m so glad I did this year.  We also went to the botanical garden and I got some glamour shots of how beautiful nature is!  I wish I was as beautiful as a flower!

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My mother’s garden is also starting to slowly show signs of life.  The nettle and sorrel are the strongest and when I saw the sorrel I got so excited to make sorrel soup!  I tried to make it last year in the summer and it is so hard to find sorrel in the city. I found some at the farmers market but it would be just small little bundles and only for part of the season.  So I made this great soup yesterday.  It is simple farm food, sorrel is easily found in Europe and a popular ingredient for soup and sauces.  If you can find it here get it and enjoy it, or if you have a garden plant some!  It is a sturdy plant.

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Sorrel Soup

1 small onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp butter

3-4 small potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups vegetable broth

salt and pepper

1/2 pound or about 6 cups sorrel, chopped

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

hard boiled eggs, cut 4 ways

parsley or dill for garnish

-heat 1 tbsp of butter in a stock pot on medium.  add the onion until soft and fragrant.  add the garlic. add the potato with salt and pepper and cook about 1 minute.  add the broth and bring to a boil.  turn down the heat and simmer until potatoes are almost cooked, about 30 minutes.

-meanwhile heat a skillet and add 1 tbsp butter.  add the sorrel until wilted, it will turn a muddy green.  turn off heat and add the sorrel to the soup once the potatoes are cooked.  continue simmering.

– mix the sour cream with flour in a bowl and add about 1/4 cup of broth slowly until combined. this will insure it does not curdle and clump.  add it back to the simmering soup.  simmer a bit more, until the potatoes are cooked.

-serve with pieces of hard boiled egg and chopped herbs.  season to taste.

-this can also be eaten cold.

cheers, julia