jagodzianki! (blueberry yeast buns)

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I am going to be honest with you.  I have been determined to get a a good recipe for these mostly because I love the name.  They are good, don’t get me wrong, especially when they are fresh.  But the name is just the best.  In Polish blueberries are called jagody, so it’s just a cute word for blueberry buns.  It’s a little harder in English because it doesn’t have as many ending options of making something cute, but it would be like saying blueberry bunsies, cute little blueberry buns.

Another thing I will be honest about is that these are more popular in the Spring and early Summer when blueberry season first starts.  This year I was a little late at making these the way I wanted and I was late to go blueberry picking in Indiana like I try to do every year.  But, I did go and now I have a freezer full of blueberries!  And actually these are perfect with defrosted blueberries, I think because they turn jammy better when baked.

They are easier than you think, just like with any yeast dough you gotta stick around and watch it, because it’s alive!  The folding can also be tricky, I had many a leaked jagodzianki.

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Jagodzianki

3 cups packed all purpose flour (or 500g)

1 cup milk

1 tbsp instant dry yeast

8 tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 stick of butter (8 tbsps), softened

3 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, defrosted

2 tbsps potato starch

for the crumble:

3 tbsps sugar

4 tbsps cold butter

5 tbsps flour

1 egg for brushing

– heat the milk until it is lukewarm, not more than 100º F.  mix in a little bit of the sugar and all of the yeast and let it sit until it blooms.

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– mix the flour, and add the rest of the 4 tbsps of sugar in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or in a big bowl with a large spoon.  add the milk mixture and mix on low in the stand mixture or continue with a spoon if you have a bowl instead.  add the egg and keep mixing until incorporated, possibly using your hands if not in a stand mixer.

– add the softened butter a bit at a time and knead or mix it in.  mix or knead for about 15 minutes, you want the dough to be very soft and elastic.  cover it in a bowl and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour.

– make sure there is no more liquid in the blueberries and mix the blueberries with the sugar and starch.

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– once it doubles in size take it out of the bowl.  divide the dough into about 12 even balls.  flatten each ball on a floured surface and place about 2 tbsp of blueberries on the dough.  pinch four sides together to make a little sack to cover the berries.  really pinch the sides and twist the top slightly, and fold it in.  really make sure there is no space for liquid to leak through and place it twist side down on a lined baking sheet.

 

– repeat with all of them and let them sit for about half an hour.

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– pre-heat the oven to 375º.

– make the crumble by mixing the flour and sugar first in a bowl.  cut the cold butter into small pieces and add it to the flour.  mixing with your hands or a fork, but probably ending up with your hands, mix the crumble into a nice crumble.  beat the egg and set aside.

– once the little balls have rested, brush with the egg and sprinkle some crumble on top.  bake for about 25-30 minutes.

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enjoy!!!!!!

pickle soup (zupa ogórkowa)

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Let’s talk about the weather, because food and weather always go together.  We are in that strange time of year where fall starts to creep up slowly. It starts with a couple of cool days that feel like heaven because the sun is still warm enough to tingle the surface of the skin.  Then it comes in fast with a day where we do not have enough clothes and we get a little tickle in our throat that turns into full on sore the next morning.  I am very much not looking forward to that day or to my first winter in Chicago in 8 years.  Every year I have dreams of trying to enjoy winter, we will see if I am better this year.  I really really want to like winter, but every time it comes around I can’t seem to keep my spirits up. What about you?

This soup seemed to me to represent this time, mostly because it isn’t really seasonal.  In some ways it is a winter soup because well, it is soup. But also because it is made from pickles so you don’t really need the bounty of summer produce to enjoy it.  But maybe it’s actually perfect right now when we are not in love with squash yet and so cold that all we want is fat.  We still want a little funky freshness, so try this funky delicious soup.

It’s a basic soup that is flavored with brine pickles to add a little tang, just enough.

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Pickle Soup / Zupa Ogórkowa

2 tbsps butter

1 onion, diced

1/2 tbsp dried marjoram

salt/pepper

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small parsnip, peeled and diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups of vegetable stock

4-6 pickles in brine (not vinegar pickles), grated on a cheese grate

1/2 cup pickle brine

1/3 cup sour cream (optional)

1/2 tbsp flour

dill

– in a large pot heat the butter. cook the onions until soft. season with salt and pepper and marjoram. add carrots and parsnip. cook about 5 minutes.

– add the stock and potatoes. bring to a boil and then simmer 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

– grate the pickles if not already grated. once the potatoes are cooked add the pickles and simmer another 10 minutes. add the brine.

– mix the sour cream in a small bowl with the flour until combined and then add 1 cup of the warm soup. mix it well until everything is dissolved. add it back to the soup. season with more salt/pepper to taste and serve with chopped dill.

enjoy!

celebration salad

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The celebrations are over obviously.  But there will be more.  I also got engaged over the holiday and so I have that to celebrate still and I get to start practicing making a wedding cake.

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.

(If you didn’t read the link to olivier salad, this was very interesting: The first version of olivier salad was apparently “grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck” – so I guess our version is like the poor man’s version!!!)

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

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

1 1/4 cup mayo

1 tsp dried marjoram

2 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp grated horshradish

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 gunbleached all-purpose flour

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

1 egg

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

2 1/2 tbsps 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 whole 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 hands or with 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 tbsps 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 beets and leaves into a large pot and cover with water and juice of one lemon and/or some beet kwas.  boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes just until beets are cooked but the color stays.

-meanwhile clean the radishes and cucumbers and cut off the ends. juilenne 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!

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 a couple 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 cuter, right!?

So here you go, try and 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

1/2 cup – 3/4 cup 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 6-8 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 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.  when they float to the top they are ready, sometimes i let them sit at the top a bit longer to get a bit softer. 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