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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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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Łazanki (Noodles with Cabbage and Onion)

Łazanki is Polish recipe that typically combines wide flat noodles with cabbage (or sauerkraut), onion, and sometimes meat and/or mushrooms. Łazanki also refers specifically to the wide noodle used. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then łazanki came to Poland and the region in the 16th century when the Italian born Queen Bona Sforza introduced a multitude of new foods, including lasagna-type noodles. I believe it! Bona Sforza brought all sorts of vegetables up north-east with her and the Polish names of some of these foods sound like their Italian counterparts, like tomatoes (pomidori-pomidory).

This recipe is vegetarian, but you can add kiełbasa or bacon and use melted pork or chicken fat as well. Łazanki noodles are difficult to find outside of Polish delis, so you can use wide egg noodles, or even break up lasagna noodles instead. It is important that you give the onions and cabbage enough time to cook down and naturally sweeten.

Smacznego!

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Red Barszcz (Czerwony Barszcz Wigilijny)

Barszcz, borscht, borshch, are all names for beautiful beet-based soups of Eastern European origin. Beyond beets, there are few similarities between barszcz recipes from country to country, region to region and family to family. Many people typically think of a Ukrainian variety (barszcz ukraiński), filled with chunks of vegetables, and some with meat. There’s also chłodnik, a refreshing cold beet summer soup that is served with sour cream or buttermilk.

This barszcz is more of a broth, with small bits of grated beets on the bottom and is the variety that is always served for Wigilia, or Christmas Eve. This soup is usually paired with small mushroom dumplings.

Many other Christmas Eve barszcz recipes yield a sweet flavor. I don’t know if this is a regional variation or simply a family variation, but I did not grow up eating barszcz with any sugar or sweetness beyond what came from the beets themselves. To each their own! Continue reading

Lentil Soup

Have you ever neglected to go grocery shopping for a while, looked in your kitchen and wondered what on earth you were going to cook? Well if that happens, chances are that you have at least 75% of the ingredients necessary to make this dish.

Flavorful, economical, and easy, this is a great soup to make on a Sunday and bring to work, or have ready for dinner for a few days when your day is over. If you don’t have all of the spices, don’t worry! Soups are rarely a perfect science, so just omit it if you don’t have it! Continue reading

Savory Sweet Potato and Harissa Waffles


This is a breeze to put together and is a good waffle to throw into the rotation if you like savory options. The harissa I have has red bell pepper in it so it is not as spicy as other varieties I’ve had. If you have one that’s all/mostly chili pepper, cut the harissa down to 1 tbsp to adjust the heat level. Continue reading

Cheese Burek (Cheese Pies)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz feta cheese block
  • 5 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion/scallion
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 packages (4 sheets total) puff pastry dough
  • *Optional sesame or poppy for topping*

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