Brunch Made Simple

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Brunch is supposed to be a relaxed, chill vibe. A time to hang with friends and family. The whole idea is rooted in the premise of sleeping in, then eating lazily in the late morning.  That is true if you are going out to eat, or to someone else's home.  But if you are hosting, it's a bit harder to sleep in. Plus it can feel a bit overwhelming, knowing there are mountains of ideas on what to serve.  I am guilty of wanting to offer up more options than are possible to consume.  (Or to make, for that matter.) The essence of brunch is that beautiful crossover of food from breakfast items to lunch or even a few heartier items. There in lies the rub.  All those choices create a mind numbing battle of what to serve when the possibilities seem endless.

That was my dilemma a while back when we hosted a brunch for our dear friends Carl and Malcolm. I had all sorts of ideas, but I was determined to keep it as simple as possible.  In the end, I felt like I accomplished that, so much so that I recreated the same menu for a Sunday brunch with our other dear friends, Nicki and Jeff. 

A little forewarning, in order to keep this post manageable, each recipe below is a hot link, bolded and highlighted in blue. Just click to be whisked away to see how to make it.

Let us begin:

There were two slight changes to the menu for Nicki and Jeff versus the original. I didn't serve the polenta cake, but did add an amuse-bouche of Ibérico ham, Marcona Almonds, olives.  It was a nice way to greet our friends and settle in a bit as we caught up on our life tales and the many moons that had passed.

Now, you've heard me say many a time that it is essential to serve warm items, room temp and chilled items. This holds especially true for brunch.  Certainly, if I were serving brunch in the winter I might lean on a few more warm plates, but this combo seems just right for the rest of the seasons. Plus, as we head into summer we are in prime time for more entertaining in general, especially outdoors.  Brunch is ideal for backyard entertaining.

 

 

After the nibbles that amused our mouths and whetted our appetites, we started off with a chilled dish, then moved on to all the other plates. Let the party begin with a refreshing and clean burst of citrus.

Citrus Salad Martini

 A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

Next up was a continuation of fruit, transitioning to savory with this lightly tossed salad.

GRAPED UP BOSTON SALAD

 Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion.  It's bright and light.

Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion.  It's bright and light.

Something warm with...

TOMATO & GOAT CHEESE PIE

 Warm and savory.  The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Warm and savory.  The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Something room temp and hearty...

Salmon Salad Platter, Deconstructed

Polenta Cake

 Polenta cake cut into slices.  

Polenta cake cut into slices.  

Ingredients

2 c polenta (cook according to package)
1.5 T butter
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/3 c goat cheese
salt, pepper

Instructions

Once the polenta is cooked, remove from the burner and stir in the butter, goat cheese and chives, salt and pepper until combined.  Lightly oil a cast iron pan and pour in the polenta. Bake at 350 degrees until a crust forms. Turn onto a board or plate and cut into wedges.  Best served warm but room temp is good too.

What I love best about this meal is that so much can be done in advance. The big plus is that any of these can be served at room temp, therefore, less stress about timing and getting the plates to the table.  

Then for dessert, I kept with the same theme of simple.  Prepped ahead of time and waiting on the kitchen table, I brought out a small platter of fresh cheeses (Manchego & Ibores),  grapes, strawberries and Sweet Olive Oil Crackers. Certainly, you can go sweet at this stage of the meal, but this felt right, and I believe our guests thought so too.

So, although YOU might not be sleeping in as late as everyone else, but taking the homemade brunch route doesn't have to stress you out.  Create the perfect crossover meal.  

 
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Left with Just Leaves Salad: Cilantro, Parsley, Fennel & Apple

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One day, quite awhile back when JC and I lived in our comfy, perfectly, suited for the time, co-op, we emerged from our home office starved. The realization hit us hard as we looked around the kitchen to discover we had barely anything to eat.  Like Little Miss Muffet, I opened every cupboard, and the cupboards were bare. Or so I thought.  One last search in the refrigerator revealed there might be salvation. I had the oddest combination of ingredients.  If you could call these items ingredients.  These are typically used to enhance a dish, not actually be the leading ladies. As I stared at them, I don't know who was begging more.  Me? - willing them to turn into something else.  Or them, shouting out, "TRY US, we can do it."
 
So, here goes an unusual bunch creating a surprisingly, refreshing salad. 

 Nothing but cilantro, fennel, red and green apples, parsley and red onion.

Nothing but cilantro, fennel, red and green apples, parsley and red onion.

Ingredients

1 bunch Cilantro leaves (approx. 2 c), whole leaves, remove woody stems
1 bunch Parsley leaves (approx. 2.5 c), whole leaves, remove stems
1/2 Red onion, thinly sliced
2 Apples, thinly sliced (I used Red Delicious, Green Granny) 
1 bulb Fennel (approx. 2 c), thinly sliced  
Fennel fronds

Dressing
zest of whole lemon
1/4 c lemon juice
2 T lime juice
1 T mustard (I like spicy brown)
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/2 c olive oil
crushed garlic, optional

 Dressing line up.

Dressing line up.

Since I didn't have any lettuce greens I knew I needed to use as much of the cilantro and parsley as I could. These were going to have to do the work of lettuce.  So I lovingly plucked off each leaf leaving it whole. I did my best to not include the stems. I really wanted the purity of the leave to shine.  Once all plucked, they got washed in cold water and took a went for quick whirl in salad spinner for a good dry.

 Pluck, pluck, pluck.

Pluck, pluck, pluck.

 Look at those fresh, crisp beauties.  You are going to love their flavors front and center.

Look at those fresh, crisp beauties.  You are going to love their flavors front and center.

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Since I needed as much volume as possible, I used the fennel fronds, too.  I shaved them off the tops and then rough chopped them.  Onto to the fennel bulb, which I thinly sliced.

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 Chop, chop. Just enough so they mingle in.

Chop, chop. Just enough so they mingle in.

 Thinly slice the bulb and some of the stalks.

Thinly slice the bulb and some of the stalks.

Keeping with the theme of thin.  I sliced the onions and apples in the same manner. (I usually use a mandolin for all the thin slicing.  So if you have one, this is the perfect time to bring it out. I felt like using a good, sharp knife this time.)  Normally, I like to cut salad ingredients using a variety of different sizes for the items.  But I knew this salad would require an even more delicate touch since eating parsley and cilantro leaves whole might be a bit over-powering.  This is why all of these ingredients are nice and thin in order to mingle well together.

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Since apples can turn brown once cut, a good trick is to place them in acidulated water, which is nothing more than cold water with a big squeeze of lemon juice. This both helps to keep them crisp and prevents ugly brown spots, but only if you will be plating the salad within 15-30 minutes. If you keep them in the water longer, than it actually has the opposite effect.  Check out this interesting, helpful link for other ways to prevent browning.

 Apples happily floating in lemon water.

Apples happily floating in lemon water.

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Keeping everything at the same thinness allows each to stand up to one another.  And so they did, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette. 

 

Never underestimate those dangling participles left in your fridge.  Those usually making supporting appearances, or a walk on extra without a speaking part can make a starring role if you let them. These were so proud of their debut as stars of the show! 

Eat this salad on it's own, or add it to a brunch plate, or dinner plate.  Whatever plate.  Just pile it on.

 Thin slices keeps this salad so crisp and clean.

Thin slices keeps this salad so crisp and clean.

 Oh, the freshness truly brighten an already delicious brunch plate.

Oh, the freshness truly brighten an already delicious brunch plate.

Ziti, Eggplant, Sun-dried Tomatoes & More - Pasta Sunday

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Sure, I recognize that Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and maybe you were expecting a taco or fajita recipe.  I'm figuring... No, I'd bet the farm that there are a gazillion other sites that will provide you with oodles of Mexican celebratory dishes.  I like Mexican food but I'm Italian (well, as we all know now with 1/4 Polish, shhh). Plus, you're gonna need a dish for  Sunday.

What can I tell you?  I'm a creature of habit and I love me some pasta on a Sunday. Well, any day really, but Sundays are a must. And it's usually the kind of pasta dish where I'm just throwing together things that I unearth from the back of the fridge or from a pantry rummage.  As my grandmother, who didn't quite understand my need for experimentation, used to call it, Mescolanza. Roughly translated; 'mixed up mess' which doesn't sound very appealing, right?  Consequently, the need for another title was apparent.  Thus the renaming of these types of creations to Something from Nothing Specials was born. Although not super sexy, it does sounds more creative and less like a mistake.  I have to admit, with some pride, that I can't recall a time when I experimented with pasta and it didn't taste good.  Could bias play a role by sheer virtue that I crave pasta like a smoker craves nicotine? Sure, but I have confirmation from others that they like my creations, too.   

So this past Sunday began a bit slow and lazy. When I woke up I had in the back of my mind that it was a pasta day. Although Spring had been trying to eek its pretty little neck out, this particular day was quite chilly, and even a bit nasty. Pasta always warms my soul and my belly. Heck, who am I kidding?  It's Sunday. I don't need any other excuse to make pasta.  So, after doing some Spring cleaning, my reward was to whip me up some comfort and serve it up like a trophy for my work. (I think I might have a serious pasta problem.)

Sure, I had fresh tomatoes.  I even had mushrooms. But that big, hunking jar of sun-dried tomatoes was staring me down as I opened the refrigerator door.  Those jewel colored, intensely flavored bites reminded me of how often I cooked with them in Miami. I was immediately transported back with memory waves of the other ingredients that were my favs: artichoke hearts, capers and olives.  Always trying to keep some solid staples on hand, of course I had capers and olives at the ready.  But with artichokes in attendance, it seemed imperative that I resurrect an old dish.  Also making an appearance, but as a new addition were some baby Italian eggplant. Throw in a few aromatics and we have a pasta dish, y'all.  

 The main line up.

The main line up.

Ingredients

1 lb pasta (I used gluten free Tinkyada ziti but use whatever you like)
3 small Italian eggplant, cut in 1/2" strips (approx. 4 c)
1 c artichoke hearts, quarters
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, sliced (approx. 1.5c)
2 T Kalamata Olives
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1.5 T capers
3 T olive oil
1/2 -1 t salt
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 c basil, chiffonade
Goat or Feta cheese, or Pesto, optional

 
 
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Instructions

Put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Sauté the onions in oil, adding 1/2 t salt and red pepper over low heat.  Let soften while you slice the eggplant and garlic. 

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Add the eggplant and slightly raise the flame to medium low.  You want to brown the eggplant a bit.  While the eggplant is cooking, prep all the remaining ingredients, and add the pasta to the boiling pot. Once the eggplant has browned, add a tad more oil in the middle of the pan to cook the garlic. Then add the capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.  Lower the heat and let warm through. At this point, give it a taste for seasoning.  Capers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes can be salty which is why I only started with 1/2 t salt to start, and then added another 1/2 t before adding the pasta. 

 It's important to not overcook the garlic, so only add that once the onions and eggplant are browned.

It's important to not overcook the garlic, so only add that once the onions and eggplant are browned.

 The aromatic line up: Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts.(Notice I only had a few olives, so that's the amount I used.)

The aromatic line up: Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts.(Notice I only had a few olives, so that's the amount I used.)

 Add them all to the pan so they cozy up together.

Add them all to the pan so they cozy up together.

By this time the pasta should be ready.  Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain the rest.  Add the pasta to sauce pot, stir together.  Add the pasta water as needed to loosen up. Turn off the heat and add the basil.  Serve immediately. 

 Add the pasta to the mix and stir together.  Now is the time to add the pasta water to your liking. 

Add the pasta to the mix and stir together.  Now is the time to add the pasta water to your liking. 

 Add the basil at the end to keep it from cooking all the way through.

Add the basil at the end to keep it from cooking all the way through.

Grate some cheese over top.  This dish would also be delicious with chunks of feta or goat cheese stirred in. I didn't have either but can completely imagine and taste it in my mind.  

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Since I had so much basil, I made walnut pesto which I used to warm up the leftover pasta.  Let me tell you that was a winning combination.

Happy Sunday or any day.

Print Friendly Recipe
 

 
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White Bean Dip

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I am a serial food pleaser. I caught the entertaining bug from my grandmothers and mother while watching them put out dish after dish, platter after platter for holiday events, Saturday BBQs, or a Sunday meal.  There was something about those moments that dug in deep with me.  Preparing and offering up food made with love seemed to awaken a real joy in me. I loved the excitement of it. I love the way it makes me feel. Entertaining is part of my DNA...DANA. 

 In my parent's kitchen on Long Island with sumo sized vats of food.  Yes, I say from WAY back.  That was my brother's bird named Qubiert.

In my parent's kitchen on Long Island with sumo sized vats of food.  Yes, I say from WAY back.  That was my brother's bird named Qubiert.

 Part of my High School gang. I guess I convinced them with more than just wine and cheese.  It took 16oz Buds!

Part of my High School gang. I guess I convinced them with more than just wine and cheese.  It took 16oz Buds!

From way back when, luring friends and family to come over to nibble on my food experiments has been a constant agenda. I giggle at the memories of my high school years when I would try to convince my friends to gather at my house for wine, cheese and board games instead of their suggestion to go to a bar.  Nerd, or early onset foodie? Either way, it was and still holds true. Given the choice, I much prefer hosting a small gathering than going out.  Seeing as it's been a while since I've used my usual bullet point list, here goes a few reasons to entertain at home:

  • Your guests can stay as long as they like, no one hovering over with a check waiting to seat the next group
  • You can make whatever food you like, and experiment and use them as test subjects
  • You don't spend nearly as much as in a restaurant
  • You don't have to deal with a bunch of people who aren't part of your group
  • You can laugh and dance and play whatever music you want
  • You can move around from room to room, sit on the floor or lie on the couch or be outdoors
  • You can display all your table decorating talents 
  • You can wear comfy clothes
  • You can kick your shoes off, although I never do

When I lived in a studio apartment in NYC, my entertaining was contained to having a friend or two over for dinner.  After moving to Miami, I had the space to entertain but with crazy work hours, I barely had the time.  Go figure!  I was left with one option to soothe my aching entertaining soul.  Throw myself birthday parties.  I knew I could at least carve out time for my own birthday, and I also knew friends would make the effort because of that.  Buffet style was mostly how these shindigs went down.  It made it easy to put all the food out and have people fill and refill as they wished, at their pace.  Less fussy that way, too, kept the mood relaxed, informal and moveable.  You've heard me talk about the importance of having some food cold, some room temp and 1-2 options warm.  With these annual parties the guest list was usually my same dear friends. That meant I needed to come up with food ideas that would check all those boxes and as well as be different from the previous year. 

 Friends always willing to help. Yay, for me.

Friends always willing to help. Yay, for me.

 Dear friends that I still have as a part of my life to this day.

Dear friends that I still have as a part of my life to this day.

 My dear friends: Kathy, who sadly is no longer with us, me, Emilce and Helene. Can I blow them out? Sure, I've got plenty of hot air.

My dear friends: Kathy, who sadly is no longer with us, me, Emilce and Helene. Can I blow them out? Sure, I've got plenty of hot air.

I promise to post more of those old favorites in upcoming posts, but today I want to share a white bean dip.  Reason being is that I recently revived this recipe during our latest trip to Miami.  So, it seems only fitting having first made it decades ago in Miami.

While on this trip, we had a few people over our apartment.  Perfect time to feed my need to 'food please'. So I whipped up a few bites.  JC always laughs because he says, "No, biggie we can just put out some cheese" and then I decide we need a few other nibbles, and in a flash we have a spread of food.  

 I'm as comfortable as can be in George and John's kitchen.

I'm as comfortable as can be in George and John's kitchen.

On our last night of this past trip we were invited to our friends', John and George, house for dinner.  We  adore them for many reasons but are belly tickled that they are food lovers as well.  We make a perfect complement in the kitchen together.  Their part: the main meal. Our part: the appetizers.

 Making the potato topped with with smoked trout & sour cream

Making the potato topped with with smoked trout & sour cream

 You don't always have to make all the dishes. Sometimes buying really good prepared foods is just the right answer. Marinated olives & feta.

You don't always have to make all the dishes. Sometimes buying really good prepared foods is just the right answer. Marinated olives & feta.

 Leftover heirloom tomatoes from the night before...

Leftover heirloom tomatoes from the night before...

 Cut up to make the topping for bruschetta.

Cut up to make the topping for bruschetta.

Talk about an excellent time to revive an old dip. This task was also going to require me tapping into my something from nothing style as we only had a few food items left in our apartment due to our return to NY.  Time to whip up what's available.  I had made the potatoes topped with trout and had extra, so that was on app down.  I had leftover heirloom tomatoes, chopped up made a tasty bruschetta. Lastly, in the cupboard... white beans.  In the fridge, standing by wanting to be needed: scallions and cilantro at your service. Perfect aromatics to jazz up a white bean dip. 

This is a dip that can be modified to use what you have available or what flavor profile you like.  Clearly, not a lot is needed to create this one. You can use a different kind of bean, or basil instead of cilantro. Mix and match to what you have, or whatever will rock your taste buds.

 Only a handful of ingredients, so make sure they are fresh.

Only a handful of ingredients, so make sure they are fresh.

 Chopped garlic

Chopped garlic

Ingredients

1 15 oz can Cannellini or Great Northern beans
1/3 c cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
2 T lemon juice
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/3 c scallions, sliced (plus extra for garnish)

Instructions

Drain the liquid from the beans reserving 1 T.  Place the beans, garlic, salt, pepper, oil, lemon juice in a mini food processor.  I used a blender because it was all I had, but found it didn't chop as well as I would have liked.  Buzz them up to your liking.  You can make this dip super smooth and creamy, or leave it a little chunky.  I like it both ways.

 

 

Remove this mixture and place in a decorative bowl.  In same blender, add the scallions, cilantro and reserved bean liquid.  Buzz until you get a chopped mixture.  Dollop this mixture in the center of the bean mixture.  Then slice a few more scallions and cilantro and sprinkle on top.  Serve with crusty bread or vegetables like cucumber slices, celery, carrots, or even blanched broccoli.  

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 Dollop the scallion, cilantro mixture on top.

Dollop the scallion, cilantro mixture on top.

 My appetizer offerings make with love part in our Miami home, part in theirs.  

My appetizer offerings make with love part in our Miami home, part in theirs.  

All of the appetizers were a big hit at our friends' house. But the dip got the most ohhs and ahhs. I almost felt I should have made more!  John's sister loved it so much she kept asking for the recipe. Hey, guess what? I have a blog just for that reason.  So, here you go Ann, and for all of you who might enjoy this super simple dip that will please your own guests, or bring to a party and please other guests.  Either way, a crowd pleaser.

Pierogi - The Polish Ravioli

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Truth be told, I'm only 3/4 Italian. The remaining 1/4 comes from my Polish grandfather on my mother's side.  His mom only spoke Polish and made all sorts of traditional dishes.  Gołąbki, Kabusta, Kielbasa, and the all time favorite, Pierogi.  Seriously, who wouldn't love a big ravioli style dumpling stuffed with potato, onion and cheese?  Who, I ask?  If you say no, keep it to yourself.  You're in the minority.

My beautiful Italian grandmother married a handsome, blond hair, blue eyed Polish man who was the most gentle, lovable soul. He was adored by all, but especially by her.  I'm just spit balling here, but I image those blue eyes and big smile charmed her into learning how to make all those familiar and delicious dishes.  As they say, a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. And so this polish dish was then passed on and loved by a big Italian family.

 After decades of marriage, she was still sitting on his lap, full of smiles as they shared food, laughter and love with family.  Those smiles tell the story.                             Photo credit: Paul Majewski

After decades of marriage, she was still sitting on his lap, full of smiles as they shared food, laughter and love with family.  Those smiles tell the story.                            Photo credit: Paul Majewski

 LOVE, LOVE, yes, stirred with LOVE.

LOVE, LOVE, yes, stirred with LOVE.

 My twin sisters, Alyssa and Jill.  Mom always dressed them in the same outfits.  I love that being out in the 'country' turned them into barefoot, wilderness adventurers.    

My twin sisters, Alyssa and Jill.  Mom always dressed them in the same outfits.  I love that being out in the 'country' turned them into barefoot, wilderness adventurers.   

Making Pierogis was like a team sport
when we were growing up.  I can
remember going to my great aunt's
house way out on Long Island. Which seemed like a long drive from Brooklyn,
but when you are a kid everything seems bigger or longer.  Although, it was pretty far out on the Island. Living in the city, we didn't have big yard. It was a path of concrete with rose bushes and fig trees on either side.  It certainly was not big enough for a swing set. So when we were out in the country we took full advantage of the outdoors and the playthings. All the kids would run around the yard while the adults made the meals.

 

 

 

Every now and again we would sneak into the kitchen to watch the elder stateswomen rolling, stuffing, boiling up hundreds of Pierogis as we anxiously awaited the potato filled platter to hit the table.  We even had a contest to see who could eat the most.  It was reminiscent of Cool Hand Luke pounding down hard boiled eggs!  Only eating Pierogis was, and still is, way more enjoyable.  

 My great Aunt Ann                                    Photo credit: Paul Majewski

My great Aunt Ann                                   Photo credit: Paul Majewski

 My Grandmother                                  Photo credit: Paul Majewski

My Grandmother                                 Photo credit: Paul Majewski

After my grandmother passed away, making these belly filling dumplings took a hiatus in our house.  That is until my sister, Alyssa asked my mom if they could make them together.  For whatever reason, I have not been around during these sessions.  So, I was thrilled that this year I was in town when they decided to make them again.  

When my sister and I arrived at our parents' house we found our mom already deep into the preparation.  She had peeled, boiled, mashed and already made the potato mixture.  And was wrist deep into dough mixture. Oh well, so much for all the usual prep photos of each stage.  Sorry, blame it on my mom, who seemingly couldn't wait for our grand entrance. We took off our coats, plopped our shit down and dove right in.  (Yes, I washed my hands first, in case you were wondering.)

 Happily mixing the dough.  Don't you just love that smile.  Reminds me of the above photo of her mother sitting on her dad's lap. 

Happily mixing the dough.  Don't you just love that smile.  Reminds me of the above photo of her mother sitting on her dad's lap. 

It is a fairly simple recipe but rolling out, stuffing and pinching the Pierogi to perfection does take practice.  The good thing about these carb bombs is they taste just as delicious no matter what they look like.  Another valuable point to note, they wouldn't be so labor intensive if you only made a 1/4 of the recipe. The amounts given below make 60 pierogis.  Unless you are feeding a Polish army, you won't need that many.  Although, if you are going through the effort, I say, go ahead and make the whole amount, freeze them, and enjoy them at a later date.  Which is what we did.

 

Ingredients

Filling
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 lb cream cheese
1 onion, fine chop
1-2 T butter
Salt

Dough
6 cups flour
1 large egg
2 cups warm water
1 T butter
Salt

6-8 T melted butter for the finishing sauce

 My mom spelled pierogi incorrectly but I love seeing her handwritten recipes.

My mom spelled pierogi incorrectly but I love seeing her handwritten recipes.

Instructions

Peel and cube the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until soft.  While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions in butter just until soft and translucent.  When the potatoes are done, drain, mash and let cool.  Then add the cream cheese and salt to taste.  Make the dough by combining the flour, egg, water, salt and butter together.  

 It starts out like any dough, rough and not pulled together yet.

It starts out like any dough, rough and not pulled together yet.

Knead the dough until it is smooth.  You may need to add sprinkles of flour if it's too sticky, but add sparingly.

 Keep kneading until smooth.  Mom needed a rest.  

Keep kneading until smooth.  Mom needed a rest.  

It's important to get it smooth.  Mom needed a break so I took over the kneading to get it to the finish line. By now, I have a ton of experience in dough kneading. That was not always the case.  It took years before my grandmother would allow me to touch any dough, but then I graduated to bringing it to the finish line. On the job training that I hope to pass off to my nieces and nephew.

 I took over to get it to a smooth consistency.  

I took over to get it to a smooth consistency.  

With the dough soft and smooth as a baby's bottom, cut a small piece, roll into a thick rope, then cut 1.5" pieces. Roll each one out creating a small round about the size of your palm, approximately 3.5" diameter.  Then take a full tablespoon of the potato filling and place in the middle. 

 A nice round dough waiting to be filled.

A nice round dough waiting to be filled.

 Place a heaping tablespoon in the center of the round.  Take note of the small cut piece. That is the size before being rolled out.

Place a heaping tablespoon in the center of the round.  Take note of the small cut piece. That is the size before being rolled out.

 It may seem like a lot of filling but they should be completely filled with the potato mixture. If it seems too much, simply stretch the dough to close.

It may seem like a lot of filling but they should be completely filled with the potato mixture. If it seems too much, simply stretch the dough to close.

Fold in half and crimp the edges, pressing flour into them.  Place them on a dry towel until all are made and you are ready to boil them. 

 Team effort is the only way to make 60 pierogi unless you have time.

Team effort is the only way to make 60 pierogi unless you have time.

 Alyssa and Mom happily making, and anticipating the finished product.  Is there anything more heartwarming than keeping traditions alive with your mom?  I don't think so.

Alyssa and Mom happily making, and anticipating the finished product.  Is there anything more heartwarming than keeping traditions alive with your mom?  I don't think so.

 Perfect little potato dumplings.  Well, not so little.

Perfect little potato dumplings.  Well, not so little.

 About to take the plunge...

About to take the plunge...

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil then add 14-16 pierogis at a time.  (It will depend on the size of our pot.  You don't want to overcrowd.) Once they float to the top give them a 1-2 minutes more and pull them out. 

boiling.jpg

To serve, melt butter, then pour and slather over top of the pile of Pierogis.  You can also go the next step and fry them in butter.  This was the way we traditionally eat them the next day.  Either way, they are one of those comfort foods that qualify as a non guilty pleasure.  No guilt because you won't be making and eating these once a week or even once a month.  So go ahead, take time to make them, eat them and treasure them as the specialty food they are without any apology.

 Boiled and smothered with melted butter.

Boiled and smothered with melted butter.

 Alyssa and me.

Alyssa and me.

So here's to the 1/4 percent Polish I am, and to all the women in my life who passed down the tradition, and to the ones keeping the tradition alive and well.  And especially to Alyssa, who revived it, setting up the next generation of potato dumpling makers.  There is nothing I love more than tradition, and doing it together with the family I love.

 And nothing more delicious that frying these up. Crispy outsides, and soft, yummy insides.

And nothing more delicious that frying these up. Crispy outsides, and soft, yummy insides.

Post Script:  My aunt Ann's daughter and my cousin, Mary Ann sent me a two good suggestions. 

  • Dough Kneading:  She said for those who haven't mastered kneading dough or just want to make it a bit easier, you can use a bread machine or a mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough.
  • Freezing: For best results, her tip is to let them cool in iced water after they've been boiled, drain well and freeze to have whenever you need a fast potato fix.