February 26, 2019

Polish-style Sour Soup with Sausage and Root Vegetables


1 kielbasa* (about 1 lb), sliced into half-moons
2 carrots, sliced into coins
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small celeriac (celery root, diced)
2 parsnips, diced
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 quart stock (chicken, pork or vegetable)
2 bay leaves
żurek or zakwas starter**
freshly ground black pepper
big pinch marjoram (dried or fresh)
4-6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the sausage until lightly browned. Add the vegetables and saute until the onion is softened. Add the broth, bay leaves and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in spices. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the starter and heat through, about 5-10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with quartered hard-boiled eggs.

*I used kiełbasa wiejska because it's my favorite and has garlic and marjoram in it.

**You can find this bottled at most Polish markets. The one I find most easily is made with white flour, called żurek. I've seen both refrigerated (preferred) and shelf-stable versions. I used a 32 oz bottle of fresh starter. Zakwas is basically the same thing but made with rye flour. You can also make it home using these instructions (in Polish, the Google translation is good enough). There is a lot of debate (even in Poland, apparently) about what the differences between soup made with one or the other should be but they are very similar--sausage, vegetables, eggs. You can read a bit about it here.

My thoughts:
I've wanted to make this soup for quite a while now. My usual Polish market has been closed for a few months while they renovate the Broadway Market so I didn't have access to my usual sausage. Then last week, I was driving down Eastern Ave and saw another Polish market that I had heard of but had never been to before. They had not only the sausage I liked but the żurek (starter) in the refrigerator. Score!

I'm going to be honest here and say I really can't speak to how strictly authentic this is. I had it years ago at a festival and while my aunt made several Polish dishes, soup was not one of them. 

I've read dozens of recipes in both English and Polish (my Polish is mostly food and color words so it was a slog and Google translate is not always the best) for zurek (the soup, not żurek, the starter which is nearly identical in spelling but is not the same--that is not a speck on your screen, it is an overdot) and biały barszcz ("white borscht") which are two very similar soups but biały barszcz seems to be a bit lighter and is made with fresh, kielbasa biały (white sausage) and is popular at Easter. I came across so many articles saying conflicting information (in Polish!) and that there are regional differences. 

I ended up going a little rogue and using the white flour-based żurek but with a more veggie-heavy soup with smoked sausage instead of tracking down the rye starter or making my own. It's still winter. The rye starter is a bit heavier and would be in good use here too. This is only my experience but it seems like it is easier to source żurek (especially fresh, refrigerated) here than zakwas.

Several of the Polish-language recipes called for parsley root which we don't really get here readily, so I subbed in celeriac (celery root) because I love celery and celery flavored things. Other recipes just called generically for mixed root vegetables or even just carrots. I think with homey soups like this, it really comes down to you and your family's personal preference and tastes. 

Additionally, many of the Polish language recipes for both dishes had you make vegetable (or pork) stock first, then adding more vegetables, and some of the vegetables from the stock back in to make the soup but since I have access to good quality homemade and store-bought stock, I skipped this step and went right to soup making. This speed up the process to being quick enough to make on a weeknight. 

Honestly, all this made my head spin a bit. However, it was worth it because the soup was extremely delicious! It wasn't as sour as say, sauerkraut, but it had a tang similar to sour cream or mild yogurt without being tart. The smoked sausage perfectly offset it and the root vegetables added a lot of depth. It was hearty without being heavy. I look forward to making more soups using this starter! Maybe I will track down some fresh sausage and make biały barszcz in the spring.

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February 22, 2019

Mushroom, Spinach & Swiss Hot Dogs


1/2 onion, chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 oz baby spinach
freshly ground black pepper
4 hot dogs
4 brioche hot dog buns
1-2 tablespoons Dijon
3-4 oz Emmenthaler cheese


In a medium pan, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Pour off any excess water.

Meanwhile, broil the hot dogs until heated through and lightly browned. (or grill on an outside grill) Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Spread the mustard on each bun. Top with a hot dog a portion of the spinach mixture. Top with cheese. Bake 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts and buns are toasty. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
As anyone who has been reading this blog for the last 15 years knows, I love hot dogs. For my birthday last year, we went to the beach so I could play skee ball and seafood and hot dogs. We went to what is now one of my favorite state-side hot dog places, Twilley's Willys in Fenwick Island, DE. There we discovered our new favorite brand of hot dog, Berks, and my husband had a hot dog very similar to the one I recreated here. It's cold out so I used the broiler but feel free to use a real grill. You can even cook the vegetables in a skillet on the grill for an extra smoky flavor and I bet that would be really good! The broiler does well in a pinch and the toppings pack so much flavor, you don't miss the smoke. 

I used Emmenthaler cheese which is a little trickier to find (I buy mine at Aldi when it's for sale) but any stronger tasting, imported Swiss would be fine. You need a strong cheese to stand up to the hot dog and one that melts well. The spinach is a bit unexpected on a hot dog but it totally works- just take care that it isn't too wet or it will make the roll soggy--and makes the whole dish seem a lot more healthy.

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February 20, 2019

Upside-down Cottage Pie

3/4 cup caramelized onions *
1 tablespoon butter
2 carrots, diced
2 parsnips diced
1 bulb fennel, chopped
6 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 3/4 lb cubed sirloin
1/4 cup dry red wine, optional
1 sprig's worth of rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 bay leaf
fine flour (like Wondra)
freshly ground black pepper
beef stock

to serve:
2 lbs warm mashed potatoes


In a medium, Dutch or French oven saute the onions, herbs, spices, carrots, fennel, mushrooms, and parsnips in butter until the vegetables begin to soften.

Toss meat with the flour. Add meat to the vegetables. Stir until the meat is lightly browned. Add the liquids to just cover the mixture.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until the beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

*I used leftover caramelized onions I made using this method and froze. I defrosted them in the pan in a bit of butter before adding the vegetables. Or caramelize 2 onions and use them instead.

My thoughts:
This year and I guess the end of the last has been my year to experiment with various types of beef stew dishes. I discovered that the stew meat at Aldi (where I am nearly every week anyway) is particularly good--not too fatty, not to lean and gets very tender equally well in the slow cooker or stove top.

I was going to make a traditional cottage pie (a shepherd's pie made with beef instead of lamb) with it this time but I had the idea to invert it and serve the filling on top of the mashed potatoes and skip the baking part. The downside is that you don't get the crispy corners of potato that you normally get with cottage pie but the upside it that it shaves like 30 minutes off the cooking time, making it possible to make this for a weeknight dinner (if you have 45 minutes to let it simmer virtually unattended on the stove) or a less time-consuming weekend meal. It also means less dishes and makes great leftovers.

I truly loved the results, the fennel and parsnips added a touch of sweetness and a ton of depth to the flavors and eliminated the need for any side dishes.

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February 15, 2019

Homemade New Jersey Style Sloppy Joes



14 oz bagged coleslaw mix (cabbage and shredded cabbage mix)
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
white pepper

Russian dressing:

3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
white pepper

1/3-1/2 lb good quality roasted turkey breast deli meat (I like Boar's Head*)
1/3/-1/2 lb turkey pastrami
1/4 lb imported (if possible) Swiss cheese
6 slices seeded rye or marble rye**
3-4 tablespoons room temperature, unsalted butter


The night before you want to make the sandwiches:

Make the coleslaw: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, and spices. In a large bowl, toss together slaw mix and carrot. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss to evenly distribute. Cover and refrigerate

Make the dressing: whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

When you want to make the sandwiches:

Squeeze out any extra liquid from the cole slaw. (This recipe makes a ton of slaw so feel free to only squeeze out half of it and use the rest in something else; we had it on hot dogs the night I made it) Set aside.

Butter one side of two slices of bread; set aside.

Top two slices of bread with an even layer of turkey pastrami. Evenly cover with coleslaw, then spoon on the dressing and smooth it out. Top with 1-2 slices Swiss to cover. Top each with a slice of bread.

On the second layer, place an even layer of roasted turkey, then coleslaw, then dressing, then Swiss. Top with the buttered bread (butter side down). Cut a triangle shape out of the middle  (leaving two half-moon shaped ends) and serve.

Yield: 2 sandwiches, can be doubled. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Use it to make a Cloak and Dagger or a Reuben along with the rest of your rye and Swiss. Or make the most of your leftovers and make a Rachel with turkey or pastrami, coleslaw, rye, and Russian dressing.

*If you are in Baltimore, somehow the turkey at Mastellone's tastes better than the Boar's Head turkey anywhere else. My secret theory is that it is from being stored in the deli case with all those yummy Italian meats but I have no scientific research to back this up.

**Traditionally this is made with a Pullman loaf of rye sliced horizontally into long slices. Good luck finding that. You can make your own but that's a lot. Other delis sell it on regular sliced rye cut in the distinctive triangle middle, half-moon sides way I did here. I like marble rye best. Just use the middle slices so they are large if using bread from a round loaf.

My thoughts:
I have always wanted to make a New Jersey style Sloppy Joe ever since I first saw one which, oddly was in a Shop Rite ad for party sandwiches. Now I do love the other kind of Sloppy Joe but this is no saucy, ground beef laden sandwich. This is it's equally messy deli long lost cousin. The origin is a bit murky (the same bar, Sloppy Joe's, may have inspired both sandwiches?) and outlined a bit here in this article but unlike with superheros, its origin story doesn't really matter.

Originally made with tongue (which can be tricky to find and I was unable to figure out if it was fresh tongue or corned) most versions use corned beef or pastrami and roasted turkey. To make it a little lighter, I used turkey pastrami but feel free to use the real thing. I thought the turkey pastrami worked really well here because there are so many other flavors going on. I made the coleslaw and dressing from scratch but took a few shortcuts--I used dill pickle relish instead of chopping up pickles and used bagged coleslaw mix instead of chopping up the vegetables myself--to speed up the process. I find that it is really important flavorwise to make your own dressing and coleslaw for the best flavor but it doesn't need to take all day.

The end result is a super tasty, not quite as messy as expected thanks to careful assembly, sandwich. Super flavorful and a lot more fun to eat than a basic deli sandwich. The coleslaw adds some crunch, the dressing somehow helps hold it all together and it just really melds together with the rye and the meat. A little more work than the average sandwich but not difficult at all.

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February 12, 2019

Rainbow Chard, Meyer Lemon and Dill Orzo


1 cup orzo
15 oz (canned) cannellini beans, drained
1 large bunch of rainbow chard or Swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped (separate the stems and leaves)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, cut into half-moon sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill
3/4 (loose) cup Italian or curly parsley*, chopped
juice and zest of 2 Meyer lemons
freshly ground black pepper


Prepare orzo according to package instructions. Drain and set aside, covered to keep warm.

In a large pan, saute the chard stems, onion, and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add in the leaves, dill, and parsley and saute until the greens start to wilt. Add the lemon juice, beans, salt and pepper. Saute until the greens are tender. Stir in orzo, cook 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: I made this as a side dish, then served the leftovers I reheated in a skillet as lunch the next day topped with a fried egg. It was quite good as a vegetarian main.

*I prefer Italian (flat-leaf) parsley but this was a grocery delivery order and was subbed curly instead. It was fine.

My thoughts:
I had a weird craving for orzo recently. I don't think I've had orzo in years except maybe at the Greek Festival we go to each year. Now I feel like I've been missing out! It's still winter unfortunately and not much is in season. Leafy greens can be quite good this time of year so I try to incorporate them into our meals as much as I can. Rainbow chard is one of my favorites because it is so colorful, something I really need in February.

I originally made this dish as a side to some halibut but it makes a lot for two people and I had plenty of leftovers. As I said in the note, I heated it up in a skillet and topped it with a lacy egg and I might have liked that even more than it in its original incarnation. The orzo got slightly crispy and chewy in a pleasant way. I encourage you to make it as a main if you are so inclined, the beans add some heft and protein and there is a ton of flavor from the fresh dill and parsley. Without the egg topper, it is totally vegan!

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February 08, 2019

Pulled Pork Haluski


2 tablespoons butter

1 small cabbage, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced into half-moons
10 oz wide egg noodles
2 cups pulled pork (I suggest using a slightly sweet pulled pork like this apple pulled pork)
freshly ground black pepper


Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, cabbage, salt, pepper and saute until the onions and cabbage are quite soft and just starting to brown. Add the pulled pork and continue to saute until heated through.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and add to the pork mixture. Stir and saute 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Halušky is an Eastern European dumpling somewhat similar to spaetzle but in the US, haluski (or haluska) is a cabbage and buttered noodle dish that is sometimes made with kielbasa or bacon. I always like to get at the Polish festival but never made it at home. I had a bag of egg noodles I got for free with a coupon and a cabbage so I thought today is the day! I love cabbage so much it sounded like the perfect dish. I didn't have any bacon or sausage but I did have some leftover pulled pork so why not use that? I'm always looking for a way to repurpose leftovers! This was a fun way to use the pulled pork without making hash (which I do love) or just having another sandwich. It was filling enough to have as its own meal yet didn't seem like I was eating the same thing I did the night before. Totally worth moving into the rotation.

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February 05, 2019

Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes

1 1/4 lb 90% ground beef
6 oz chili sauce (like Heinz)
3/4 cup water or beef stock
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon dry mustard
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

to serve:
hamburger dill pickle slices
rolls (I like mini sub rolls)
shredded cheddar

In a large saucepan, saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add beef and saute until brown, stirring to break up the meat. Add the remaining ingredients. Saute, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until thickened. Serve on rolls with cheese and pickles.

My thoughts:
I can't help it! I really do enjoy a good sloppy joe. We didn't have them a ton growing up, my father was a super picky eater so we only had them when he wasn't there and we used a jar of "Not So Sloppy Joe" which was fine but when I was an adult I realized I would make them from scratch however I wanted. I've made several versions over the 15(!) years I've had this blog but this one is perhaps the most family friendly and crowd-pleasing. They really do taste like cheeseburgers! Super classic and I think even easier than making hamburgers because you are just cooking the ground meat thoroughly and not worrying about how well done it is or keeping an eye on it. Just simmer and serve.

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