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.

– Pre-heat 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. 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.

– S rve with pieces of hard boiled egg and chopped herbs.  Season to taste.

– This can also be eaten cold.

cheers, julia