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 Gevork.  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 (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.  It was so delicious, I am not sure I will ever find the same kind of lavash in America.  Also Armenian wine is very good, most of the wineries are quite new, after Soviet era, but apparently they also have the oldest winery ever!?

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Fall is slowly making it’s way into the city, the first cool day was actually such a treat!  I have finally turned on the oven again!

This recipe is similar to the lazy dumpling in my last post, however these might be my favorite dumplings, although I might be saying that too soon.  I didn’t eat these much growing up but they stick in my memory from somewhere.  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.

What I love about food blogs is that professionals sometimes forget to tell you the little things that matter, for people who don’t know better, which I feel like sometimes.  I tried to make these dumplings last week and they didn’t turn out so well.  And you know why?  Because the plums need to be ripe, which maybe someone said in all the different recipes I read but I didn’t see that emphasized.  So I cooked them beautifully and cut them down the middle and the plum was not soft and squishy like I remember, and that is really the best part.  I will blame myself because OBVIOUSLY they should be ripe!

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Another thing about these kinds of recipes is that traditional Polish women don’t really use traditional measurements.  So I tried that the first time, because it’s my goal to be able to cook like a Polish babushka one day.  For the dough I tried to mash my potatoes and then cut one third out and fill the hole with flour, so that is was one third flour to potatoes, by eye.  It might have worked honestly, but since the whole thing was a disaster with the plums I went safe this time and used some weight measurements, which I am going to recommend.

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I’m going to try this with sweet potatoes next.  It would be beautiful.  Tasty maybe too?

Here is a simple knedle recipe.

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Knedle

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

100-150g unbleached 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 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, however you like to mash your potatoes.  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 and the potato flour 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.  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 or all at once.  once they float to the top let them cook another 5 minutes.  take them out with a slotted spoon and let them drain 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.  I went to Chicago for a week and since returning it has been hard to want to cook or exercise or do anything productive.  I just want to take leisurely strolls through the park and read a book in the grass, drinking cappuccinos and eating bread.  Again, the city is even more empty the last two weeks of August and I love it so much but it is not helping my laziness.  Now it is September 1st and it’s chilly in the morning and evening, which is so refreshing!  Overall not a bad summer.

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).  I 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 (so good!), 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.

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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 white 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 snake shape (sorry, just makes the most sense to describe it like this!), 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 the snake 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.  But I honestly don’t mind the heat, maybe even so much so that I have developed an allergy to the cold.  I am totally serious it is a thing, and I have it!  I get hives when I’m in cold water and when my skin is exposed to cold air for too long.  Yes I think there is something secretly wrong with me, but I am trying to not overthink it and be positive and drink lots of nettle tea and other weird healthy concoctions.  My body is probably telling me to move to the Mediterranean, or Hawaii or maybe just California?  Sometimes I really think your body knows better than your brain, especially because it’s basically what I do for a living, trust the body.

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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 boy: chłopiec.  This chłodnik also includes botwinka (w sounds like a v), which is the greens of the 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 kvas – or both (I used some kvas I made to give it a tang)

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, dull and chives

hard boiled eggs, quartered

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-peel and chop the beets into small diced cubes.  chop the leaves finely as well. place beets and leaves into a large pot and cover with water and juice of one lemon and/or some beet kvas.  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.  Then juilenne them into thin little matchsticks.  place them in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  pour the kefir and buttermilk on top those vegetables and stir well.  toss in the herbs and stir well.  refrigerate if needed.

-once the beets are cooked let them cool 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.

I can’t believe it’s June already.  I am trying to enjoy the loveliness of Spring as long as I can, but right now that consists of sitting outside when I have a break, watching the clouds and sometimes I even walk with a spring in my step when I wake up to the sunshine and go home with sunshine (sometimes even at 8pm!).  I joined a community garden nearby but have not visited it enough and missed two work days.  I really want to up my gardening skills but honestly I think having your own garden must be better.

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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 oil

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 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 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 an hour.

-meanwhile prepare your strawberries.  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 just the right thickness, not too thick and not too thin, you’ll know when you start working.  use a wide thin cup to make circles, as close together as you can.  take out a circle and use the bottom side to fill.  place a strawberry, or half in the center.  using all fingers, pinch the circle around to cover the berry in a little cross and pinch tightly around all the openings.  they will look like cute little packages.  place 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.

-they will cook fast, so use your time how you need depending on what space you have.  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.

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

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-julia rad(ish)