Ikra (Eggplant Spread)

Ikra is an Eastern European eggplant spread that makes a great starter, but in my opinion, mostly belongs on a piece of nice toasted bread 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 small carrots, grated
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-15 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp hot red pepper paste such as harissa (or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Poke holes in eggplants using a fork. If you have a gas stove or grill, char the eggplant and red bell pepper over the flame, until the skins darken and get smokey (approximately 5 minutes each side). *If you do not have a gas stove or grill, simply bake the eggplant and red pepper whole in the oven at 400 F for approximately 30 minutes.*

Cool eggplant until cool enough to handle, remove skins, and chop into 1-inch chunks (a few remaining tiny bits of skin are perfectly fine). On a large pan, heat a few tbsps of oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and 1 tsp salt. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until eggplant softens significantly and loses a bit of liquid. 

Finely chop onions. Add to pan with eggplant along with garlic, and cook over medium heat for another 15 minutes, or until onions become soft, mixing occasionally. Using a a wooden spoon or spatula, press down on any larger pieces of eggplant to help break them down.

Grate carrots. Add to the pan along with tomato paste, coriander, a few cracks of black pepper, sugar, and hot pepper paste/red pepper flakes. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove the blackest bits of skin from the red pepper and add it to a blender or food processor along with parsley. Pulse 5-10 times, or until you get the consistency of a salsa. Add to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes over medium heat. 

Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and enjoy hot or cold!

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Cooked Shredded Beets

There’s already a shredded beet recipe floating around this website somewhere, but that is for a salad. These beets are served hot and are a delicious side dish, though there’s no reason you can’t have these cold as well. The caramelized onions really make a difference here, so be sure to get them nice and golden. To make this vegan, simply omit the sour cream and swap the butter for oil. You can probably make this without the flour and get almost identical results, but this recipe is written exactly as it was provided by the legend herself. Smacznego!

Ingredients

  • 4 large beets
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/4 cut diced leeks (or swap for 1 more small onion)
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tbsp butter (or oil)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lemon or orange zest (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash and scrub the beets well, and leave skin on. Wrap the beets all together in foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Dice onions finely. Heat butter on pan over medium heat. Add onions and leeks and a few pinches of salt. Mix frequently to ensure you don’t burn the onions and leeks. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden and sweet. 

Remove beets from oven and cool until you can handle them in your hands. Scrape off skin with the edge of a spoon. Grate the beets using the largest holes on a box grater (or grate in a food processor). Grate Granny Smith apple using the same size grater.

Turn heat down on pan to low and add flour to the cooked onions and leeks, mix vigorously so you make a roux. Add sour cream and mix until everything is incorporated. Add grated beets and apple to the pan and mix together well, and add optional zest. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for approximately 15 minutes. 

Taste the beets and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Remove from heat and enjoy!

Polish Cheesecake with Blackberry Herb Topping (Sernik z Jeżynami)

What makes a cheesecake Polish? The cheese! Instead of cream cheese, which is used to make New York style cheesecake, this uses farmers cheese, or twaróg. Oh, there’s also a cup of mashed potatoes! Why not? Serniks are traditionally made plain or with raisins. And apparently raisins are just as polarizing in Poland as they are elsewhere (I don’t get it, I like raisins).

Anyway, this sernik is paired with a sharp and refreshing blackberry and thyme topping in an ode to the wild berry bounty of Polish forests.

Smacznego!

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Garlicky Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup

This will be the fourth year I’ve made matzo ball soup for Passover Seder. I will say, if you have a matzo-liquid ratio that works well, STICK WITH IT, and simply add the ingredient that I think made the biggest difference: roasted garlic. I know the list of ingredients looks long, but that’s mostly seasonings, so don’t be alarmed!

To to add more flavor to the stock, I made sure to get some color on the onions before adding liquid, and also made the stock one day in advance so that the flavors could develop.

The keys to this recipe are:

  1. Add lots of roasted garlic to the matzo balls
  2. Get some browning on your onions
  3. Made stock one day in advance

Soup Ingredients:

  • 5 yellow onions
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 bunch of parsley (stems for stock and leaves for garnish)
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Vegetable Base (or other vegetable bouillon)
  • 1 tbsp marjoram
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • water

Matzo Ball Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 6 large cloves garlic (or more small cloves)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 tbsp olive oil (or whatever oil you have available [melted schmaltz if not making vegetarian])
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or dill or both)
  • 1/2 cup soup broth
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp marjoram (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Directions:

Halve 3 onions lengthwise with skin on. Add oil to large wide pot on medium heat. Once hot, add halved onions with skin up. Cook for about 7 min. until onions begin turning light brown.

Halve 3 carrots lengthwise and cut into 2 inch chunks and cut 2 stalks of celery into 2 inch chunks.  Add to the pot along with all other stalk ingredients along with about 16-20 cups of water (depending on pot size). Bring to rolling boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, finely dice other 2 onions. Add a touch of oil to a hot pan and lightly brown onions for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Set aside.

Cut remaining 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks into small bite size chunks.

Once stock has cooked for 1.5 to 2 hours, remove from heat and strain out vegetables. Then, return stock to the pot and add chopped cooked onions, carrots and celery, and simmer on low heat for another 20-30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, make matzo meal. Start by preheating over to 375 F and putting 7 large cloves of garlic with skin on (or more cloves if smaller size) with few drops of oil on a foil sheet. Wrap up foil and bake for 30 min. Remove from oven and open up foil for garlic to cool. Once cooled, squeeze out garlic into a bowl and mash with fork. Add eggs and parsley and whisk together.

In a larger bowl, add matzo meal and spices. Taste a pinch and adjust seasoning if desired. Then add baking powder, eggs/garlic/parsley mix, oil, and soup liquid to the matzo mix and gently stir together with fork until incorporated. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Bring soup to a rolling boil then reduce to a simmer. Wet hands and gently form chilled matzo mix into balls slightly larger than ping pong balls and drop into pot. Cover with a lid and cook for at least 40 minutes. Chop remainder of fresh parsley or dill (or both!) and add to soup and serve.

Mushroom Sauce (Sos Pieczarkowy)

Mushrooms, again! This sauce uses regular ole mushrooms like cremini or white varieties and goes great with pasta, kopytka, or meat. Using sour cream gives this the Slavic touch 🙂 If you want to up the mushroom flavor, you can put 2 or 3 dried wild mushrooms in a spice grinder and add that powder while the sauce cooks.

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Healthy Vegan Pea, Bean and Flax Spread (Breakfast or Snack)

If you are looking for an easy vegan breakfast option that is rich in fiber and protein, try this green pea, bean, and flax seed spread, which looks a lot like British mushy peas or avocado toast! This is budget friendly because the main ingredients are canned beans ($0.75 – $1.50) and frozen green peas ($0.79- $2.00 per 8oz). Just make sure your canned beans don’t have anything added other than water or salt.

Simply take a few minutes to make a batch, and have a container ready for the week. Pair this with a whole grain bread and voila, breakfast is served!

You can use these ingredients as a base and get creative with the flavors, additions, or toppings! Other ingredients could include garlic, nuts, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes or lemon juice. You can top toast with things like smoked paprika, coarse salt, more flax seeds, fresh herbs, or really anything 🙂

Btw, flax seed has been having a moment as a super food, but are there any other Poles who have memories of drinking ground flax seed with hot water to cure numerous ailments in their youth? Or was that just me? I still enjoy flax seeds despite those experiences…anyway, hope you enjoy this.

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Polish Christmas Recipes

Although nobody will be cooking for a crowd this year and celebrations will undoubtedly be different in many ways, maybe reaching for some nostalgic food can bring a comfort this people this Christmas. If you are looking Polish Christmas Eve (Wigilia) or Christmas Day recipes scroll down and see if anything strikes your fancy! Stay safe, stay healthy, and Merry Christmas/Wesołych Świąt!

Christmas Eve

Pierogi with Potato and Cheese (Ruskie Pierogi)

Pierogi are always a good option! These can be served on Christmas Eve or Christmas, or both.

Cod Cakes with Leek Mustard Sauce

Christmas Eve, known as Wigilia, is all about the fish, many many fish! Carp usually makes an appearance on Christmas Eve and is usually fried. This dish is good for a crowd (I see you, 2021…or 22) and is a nice change up.

Red Barszcz (Czerwony Barszcz Wigilijny)

Christmas Eve fish shares its spotlight with barszcz, which kicks off the meal. This meatless beet based broth is served with mushroom uszki or paszteciki (recipe below).

Paszteciki (Savory Mushroom and Cabbage Pastries)

Barszcz is traditionally served with mushroom uszki (similar to tortellini), but you can change it up by serving paszteciki on the side instead. These go quickly!

Christmas Day

Hunter’s Stew (Bigos)

This hearty dish made of sauerkraut, meat, and other veggies is good to make a day or two in advance because it tastes better after the flavors sit together. It also will make your fridge smell, but it tastes good, so make it anyway.

Vegetable Salad (Sałatka Jarzynowa)

Depending on where in the world you are, this salad goes by sałatka jarzynowa, olivier salad, Russian salad, or something else I don’t know about. This recipe is meatless, but you can add cubed ham or kielbasa. Either way, it shows up on many Polish holiday tables.

Łazanki (Noodles with Cabbage and Onion)

Caramelized onions and cabbage turn these simple and affordable ingredients into a satisfying meal.

Stuffed Cabbage (Gołąbki)

Cabbage rolls filled with meat are a classic. If you make these for a small 2020 Christmas (no big gatherings!!!), you will have leftovers for daysss. That’s a good thing!

Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms and soup…two things you can usually expect in some form at a Polish meal!

Pickled Carrot Slices

This pickling recipe can work for cucumber pickles, or anything else you might want to pickle! It is a base that you can add to with other seasonings such as mustard seeds (a Polish classic), allspice, chili peppers, or many other things. This recipe is all brine, no vinegar!!!

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Blueberry Pierogi (Pierogi z Jagodami)

Pierogi with fruit fillings are very popular in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus…that whole area. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, sour cherries, and plums are common because those grow so well in the region.

Try to make these when blueberries are in season, usually late spring through summer, because they ARE the filling. Out of season, blueberries tend to be, but are not always…flavorless. If you have a craving you can’t beat, you can use frozen blueberries and thaw them before use. 

Once pierogi are assembled, your can refrigerate them and cook them the next day, or you can freeze them for a few weeks.

This make about 3-4 dozen pierogi.

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