butternut bundt with sour cream glaze

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Thanksgiving came and went.  I didn’t cook much, but I was so lucky to enjoy a lovely meal at my friends, they made everything to perfection and I kind-of screwed up my green bean casserole because I suck at frying (onions) and I ran out of paper towels.  And then something hit me, it’s basically December and I gotta step up my game.  Not just in cooking and baking, but I need to start knitting, my favorite winter past-time.  I finally broke out the needles this weekend, home alone with many episodes of Downton Abbey.  I finished one easy project and then got excited about the others I want to do and it just keeps hitting me, how much I need to do!

But baking and cooking is definitely on my list.  I have some Polish Christmas classics to tackle and perfect and some cookies to bake and some jams and preserves as well.  And of course I need to keep drinking my ginger tea and kombucha (homemade!) and move everyday (get a home routine) and force myself to do some cardio.

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I made this bundt because I love cakes that are not too sweet, but moist and with lots of flavor.  I mean it’s basically a vegetable cake.  And there is olive oil and sour cream.  I also like to use different flours when I can, rye is great here, you can’t even taste the difference.  And a bit of sugar because it’s a cake.  I also really love alliteration foods.  You can use pumpkin as well but it’s more fun to say butternut bundt isn’t it?

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Butternut Bundt with Sour Cream Glaze

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup rye flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup butternut squash purée (about one small squash cut in half, with holes poked, baked at 350 degrees, cooled, scooped out of skin and mashed)

1/3 cup olive oil

3/4 cup sour cream

for glaze:

2 tbsp sour cream

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

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-make sure you have your squash purée ready!

-preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F).

-mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl.  mix the sugar with the eggs in a separate bowl until smooth.  mix in the rest of the wet, again until nice and smooth.

-mix wet and dry together until everything is incorporated.  prepare bundt pan with butter and a sprinkle flour.  pour in batter.

-bake about 45-55 minutes, until toothpick come out clean.

-let the cake cool and make the glaze.  if it is too thin add a bit more sour cream and if too thin add more sugar.

-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 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!

 

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 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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So scones.  And now tarragon.  I saw a recipe for rhubarb tarragon sangria that I was intrigued by in The New Midwestern Table.  And then I saw this.  And was telling Gevork about it, who said he grew up drinking this in the Soviet Union.  So I spent Saturday night doing laundry and running errands and thinking about how I really wanted to make tarragon soda.  However, I was encouraged to try the real deal first, so who wants to go to Brighton Beach?  The tarragon was instead used to make these scones and I am very happy about it!

Tarragon has a licorice flavor by the way.  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 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 sugar.

-mix the flours with salt 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 in 1/4 cup sugar and then the rhubarb and tarragon.  slowly add the cream, do 2/3 and 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 degrees if making now, or freeze and make later.

-divide the dough into two pieces and make a disc.  cut each disc into 4-6 triangles.  arrange the pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  bake about 20 minutes until starting to brown a bit.  you can also freeze them for a week or two, wrap them tight and then bake them frozen and watch the baking time.

-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.

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)

lemon lavender farmer’s cheese pie

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I am a pie person.  I would make pies all day over cake hands down.  Cakes are pretty and delicate, like your friend who doesn’t leave the house without blow drying their hair and always has their nails painted.  Pies are like your friend who wears pony tails and whenever they paint their nails they chip in two seconds anyway so they gave up doing that (me).

Last summer, and probably the summer before, I was making lots of pies and one time I got a really bad burn that gave me a good scare.  I didn’t have pie weights or dried beans and instead thought I would just put a small pot on top of the crust. All good but when it was time to take the pie out I totally forgot that the pot had been in the oven and I just picked it up, and obviously dropped it right away, and then I freaked out for about an hour.  I was home alone but my neighbor who happened to be in nursing school came up and basically told me I was okay I just had a bad burn (it felt a lot worse) and I did all that he said.  And then I still took my pie and went to my party and just had a couple drinks to numb the pain.  A couple months later my friend who I saw that same night gave me pie weights and a pie case for my birthday!  You live and learn and now I have an awesome pie case that everyone loves.  (I was not scarred by this experience, I will forever be making pies.)  I have another bad pie story, but I think that is enough for today.

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I am indulging in the fact that spring smells so good that I just want to eat flowers so I’ve infused this with lavender.  As for the cheese, it doesn’t really taste like cheese.  Farmer’s cheese is a pretty mild cheese so you can flavor it really nicely and it tastes great with honey.  If you can’t find it you can make it!  (This version is the best but it might take a couple of days – and I am hoping to make some using buttermilk! and post it).

Or use ricotta.

I have also really been liking putting rye flour in my pie dough, and I think it’s a good choice here.  It is a little tougher to work with, so know it isn’t as smooth and elastic.

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Lemon Lavender Farmer’s Cheese Pie

dough:

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup rye flour

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces – plus more for pie pan

3 tbsp ice water (plus extra in case you need more)

splash of apple cider vinegar

pie:

2 cups farmers cheese (or ricotta)

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup honey

3 eggs

1 tbsp edible lavender flower buds

juice and zest half a lemon

-first infuse the milk with the lavender.  pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the lavender.  bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and let it sit until you need to use it.  make sure to stir it a bit too, the milk can get a layer of film if you don’t.

– to make the dough mix the flours with sugar and salt.  i like to keep my chopped butter in the freezer for a minute or two while I get the flour and water ready.  the cold water I also keep in the freezer with an ice cube and a splash of apple cider vinegar already in it.  mix the cold butter pieces into the flour and use a pastry cutter to blend until you have little pea sized butter pieces, make sure not to blend all the butter and make sure it stays cold.  add a tablespoon of water at a time mixing with your hands to form a dough that is not too sticky or to dry.  add more water if too dry and more flour if too wet.  make a flat disk and wrap it in plastic to let it sit in the fridge for at least a hour.

– the crust will be partially pre-baked.  so preheat your oven to 425 degrees and spread butter in a 9-inch pie pan.  roll out the dough and place in the pan leaving some on the edge.  poke a few holes with a fork.  leave it in the fridge until the oven is ready.  fold the edges however you like, here are some options.

– place parchment paper on the crust and place either pie weights or dried beans on top.  bake 15 mins until just slightly golden but not fully cook.  remove and let it cool.  I put mine in the fridge for a bit after it cooled to room temp.

– strain the milk and squeeze out the milk from the lavender buds.  mix the cheese with milk, honey, lemon juice and zest.  mix it well and add the eggs one at a time.  pour into your cooled pie crust and the whole thing can sit in the fridge.

– preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  place the pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack and bake the pie for 35-40 minutes, rotating half way through.

– let it cool for about 2-3 hours before eating.

-juliaradish