Thanksgiving weekend November 2012 we did a four day visit to Poland’s former capital. This was our first time visiting Poland overnight (Sarah once took a day trip to Bolesławiec for some regional pottery and came back with these). We met up there with an old friend who flew in from Moscow and had a wonderful time getting to know the city. Continue reading Krakow

Natasha’s Borsch(t)

My friend Natasha is originally from the Ukraine and we confer on cooking quite regularly. She recently showed me how to make borscht (apparently, the t is either silent or non-existent in Russian). I’ll try to recreate what I saw her do, but it looks like one of those recipes that you feel your way through. Read the instructions all the way through (a couple times) before starting as timing is pretty important and you need to be able to do several things at once.

3-4 white potatoes, chopped (bite-size)
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium carrots, coarsely shredded
half a small head white cabbage, shredded fine
1 large fresh beet
juice of half lemon
1 cup tomato sauce (with basil, if you can get it)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt or vegetable broth powder to taste
1/3 cup fresh chopped dill

Fill soup pot (at least 5-quart) to half-way with water and put potatoes in water. Add some salt and bring to a boil. At the same time, sauté onion and garlic in a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil. After a couple of minutes, add carrots to skillet and sauté until tender. After potatoes have been simmering for 5-7 minutes, add cabbage shreds to soup pot. When carrots are done, add skillet mixture to soup pot and stir, keeping at a simmer.

Now things get kind of complex. Peel the beet and shred it coarsely – don’t do it before or the purply-red of the beet will be less intense. Sauté beet shreds in onion pan over medium heat, pouring lemon juice over them to retain deep red color. After 3-4 minutes, add tomato sauce to beet and stir thoroughly. Tomato sauce will take on beet color. When beet shreds are tender, pour them into the soup pot. Add chickpeas to soup pot and simmer for 10 more minutes, tasting frequently and adding salt or broth mix as necessary. When potato is fork-tender (but not mushy), soup is finished.

Remove soup pot from heat, put in dill and cover. Allow to sit for at least an hour before serving. Serve with dark bread.

Potato Latkes

Gentiles: these are something you should really experience, if you never have. You may know them as “potato pancakes,” if you’re not familiar with them from an Eastern European/Jewish cuisine background. Potato pancakes are kind of seasonal fare here in Germany, often sold by street vendors fresh out of the fryer with apple sauce to sweeten them up and cool them down somewhat. We had some at the Weihnachtsmarkt out on the square, but they paled in comparison to the ones I had in Cologne. So Sarah found a recipe, and we made them, and they are just awesome. We were inspired by this recipe.

6 large potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 pinch sugar
flour (enough to hold ingredients together, you’ll be able to tell when you’ve added enough)
shortening (we used butter-flavored shortening)

Cut peeled potatoes into chunks or spears and shred in food processor. Cut onions into chunks and shred in food processor.Mix potatoes and onions together in a colander over a large bowl. Allow to drain.

Pour mixture into a large bowl and add beaten eggs, salt, pepper, baking powder, sugar, and a tablespoon of flour at-a-time until mixture holds together. Mix well.

Latkes In a fry pan, melt shortening. You’ll need about 1/8″. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the oil. Flatten each spoonful with the back of the spoon to make thin latkes. Fry until the edges turn a dark brown. Flip over to fry the other side.

Drain on a paper towel. Serve with apple sauce and/or sour cream.

Cabbage Roll Casserole

This one is far more than the sum of its parts. Don’t get squicked out by the rice and noodles – the small amount of rice only serves to add some body and richness to the sauce. And the smoked paprika isn’t just me being fussy; the smoky flavor enhances the beefiness of even humble ground beef. Serves 6-8.

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves chopped garlic
14.5 oz or 400g can tomato sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped, tough ribs discarded
1/3 c uncooked rice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 (14 oz) can beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large skillet, brown beef, onion and garlic in oil over medium high heat until pink is gone. Drain off fat.

In a large mixing bowl combine the tomato sauce, Worcestshire sauce, cabbage, rice, salt, pepper and paprika. Add meat mixture and mix all together. Pour mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pour broth over mixture and bake in the preheated oven, covered, for 1 hour. Stir, replace cover and bake for another 30 minutes. Serve hot over buttered noodles and top with sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Sauerkraut & Sausage

This one comes courtesy of my mother-in-law. I was never a fan of sauerkraut in the U.S., partially because I came across it so rarely (my mother has this general distaste for cruciferous vegetables). When I moved up to Detroit and had my mother-in-law’s version, while it was a revelation, I didn’t have a burning desire to make my own. But then we moved to Germany and it was everywhere, so I decided I needed to learn to deal with it and do it well. It’s important to not over-rinse the sauerkraut; even if you’re not a fan of the tang, you’ll need it to balance the richness of the sausage and give the potatoes some flavor. And the apples don’t make it sweet, they just take some of the edge off of the cabbage.

2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 t caraway seeds
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 k/2 lb polish sausage, thickly sliced (kielbasa or Rohpolnisch are good here)
3-4 small potatoes, cut into chunks (about the size of a halved wine cork)
2 small cooking apples, cut into chunks (smaller than the potatoes – use tart apples if you want to avoid it being too sweet)
2 large cans sauerkraut, lightly rinsed and NOT squeezed out
1/2-1 c water

Heat oven to 175 C°/350 F°. Cut first 4 ingredients together and set aside. Heat a large, oven-safe Dutch oven with lid over medium heat and add sausage. Cook sausage until well browned, then remove Dutch oven from heat. Add potatoes, apples, sauerkraut and brown sugar mixture and stir until well combined. Add water and place in oven covered. Cook for about 2 hours, checking every 40 minutes or so to stir and add water if needed. It’s done when you can pierce a potato with no resistance.

Also works in a crockpot (low 7-9 hours/high 3-4) or on the stove top (low heat, stir more frequently).

Pierogi Casserole a.k.a “Rogi-Sagna”

It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of dishwork afterward, but man is it ever worth it!

6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
450g bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 pkg Pasta Käse (=pasta cheese, because cheddar is damn near impossible to find in Germany)
salt and pepper to taste
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. Place the potatoes in a large pot with water to cover over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, drain, then combine with the milk and 6 tablespoons of butter, mash and set aside.
3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the bacon, onion and garlic in the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon is fully cooked.
4. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions and cool under running water.
5. Place 1/2 of the mashed potatoes into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top this with 1/3; of the cheese, followed by a layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat this with the remaining potatoes, another 1/2 of the cheese and a layer of noodles. Then arrange the bacon, onion and garlic over the noodles, then another layer of noodles, and finally top all with the remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F (175°C) for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with sour cream and chopped fresh chives.

Tangy Sauerkraut and Bratwurst

2 lbs drained Sauerkraut (1 c juice reserved)
2 tsp Caraway Seeds
2 T Düsseldorfer Löwensenf Mittelscharf (or any medium-spicy german mustard)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 C Beef Broth
1 pkg Nürnberger Bratwürste (any kind of available bratwurst will do)
2 bay leaves

1. Heat sauerkraut in skillet over medium heat. After heated through, add caraway seeds, mustard and black pepper.
2. In large flat pan, brown sliced bratwurst. Set aside.
3. Add sauerkraut juice, bratwurst, beef broth and bay leaves to sauerkraut. Cover and stir occasionally, until sauerkraut is slightly browned and most of liquid is cooked off.