Pierogi

Potato, Pierogi, Cheese

The first pierogi I ever ate were made by my mother-in-law.  I was instantly hooked. They were pasta filled pockets with creamy mashed potatoes, cheese, and onion…what’s not to like. Pierogi can be filled with many things, other than potato, such as sauerkraut, ground meat, cabbage, and cheese, to name a few. 

Mom made three different kinds of pierogi—two savory and one sweet. The savory are the potato with onion and farmer’s cheese that I mentioned, and the second one is fresh green cabbage with onion and farmer’s cheese. The sweet pierogi are filled with purple plums, a dab of butter and a sprinkle of sugar. They are light and delicately sweet.  My favorite, though, are the cabbage filled.  Mom used fresh cabbage instead of sauerkraut, which I prefer because it has a mild, sweet taste.

I learned to make the pierogi by helping my mother-in-law make them for the holidays. She did not write down the recipe for me, but while we worked, I payed close attention to the ingredients and proportions she used so that I could make them on my own. Soon it was my job to make them for the family holiday meals.

Over the years I have made some adjustments to the recipe. Today I am making my latest versions of both the potato and the cabbage filled pierogi inspired by my mother-in-law.

Potato and Farmer’s Cheese Pierogi

Ingredients:

2 – lbs. Russet Potatoes
2 – 2.5 oz. pkgs. Farmers Cheese
2 – medium-large onions
1 – stick unsalted butter
1/4 – cup whole milk
salt
ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In the mean time, peel and cut in quarters 2 pounds of russet potatoes.  When the water comes to a boil; add 1 tablespoon of salt and the potatoes. Cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking; dice two medium/large onions. 

Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large skillet, then add the diced onion and sauté until they are translucent.

Do not brown the onion. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper when they are almost done.

When the potatoes are ready, drain them thoroughly and place them in a large bowl.  Add the remainder of the stick of butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and 1/4 cup milk. Using a potato masher, mash them until they are smooth. 

mashed potatoes

Add the sautéed onions and mix well.  Let cool about 15 minutes before adding the cheese.

Once the potatoes have cooled enough you can add the farmers cheese. 

Mix well until all the cheese in incorporated. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Makes 3 dozen pierogi.

Now let’s make the dough . . .

Pierogi Dough

Ingredients:

4 – cups all purpose flour
3 – eggs
1-1/4 – cups sour cream
1 – tsp – baking powder
1-1/2 – tsp salt

Directions

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center then add two whole eggs and one extra yolk only.

Mix with a fork like scrambling eggs. Then add 1-1/4 cups sour scream into the eggs and continue mixing until well incorporated.

Once it is thoroughly mixed start to incorporate the flour a little at a time until it starts to come together. It will appear dry and lumpy. Turn it out onto the board and knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is soft, but not sticky.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble . . .

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface.

Notice how smooth and silky the dough is. Knead the dough briefly and cut it into 6 equal pieces. Take one of the pieces and place on floured surface and roll out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. While you are rolling out this piece, keep the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. I usually place the dough under a bowl to keep it moist.

Next use a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to make circles in the dough, then remove the excess dough, leaving only the circles. Put the excess dough with the rest of the dough.

Fill a small bowl with a little water. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of one of the circles, then dip your finger in the water and wet the edges of the circle. You can also use a pastry brush to wet the edges if you prefer, but I work better with my hands.

Fold the dough over the filling to make a half moon. You may have to stretch the dough a little to cover the filling completely.

Fold dough into a half moon

Use your fingers to press the edges of the pierogi together. You can dip your fingers in flour to help secure the edges.

Place the finished pierogi on a floured cookie sheet. Continue making the rest of the pierogi.

If you are not going to cook the pierogi the same day that you make them, you will need to freeze them. Fill a cookie sheet with the pierogi and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, long enough for the dough to start to freeze. This is necessary so the pierogi do not stick together. Next, place a little flour in a large zip lock bag and add the partially frozen pierogi. Freeze immediately. You can keep them in the freezer for about 6 weeks. When you are ready to cook them, do not thaw the pierogi. Add them frozen directly into the boiling water.

To cook . . .

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  In the meantime, dice two large onions and sauté them in 5 tablespoons of butter until they start to caramelize.  This process takes about 40 minutes.  Mix often not to let them burn.  

When the water is boiling, add salt and the pierogi one at a time.  Stir gently with a wooden spoon to make sure they do not stick together.  Cover and bring back to a boil.  Reduce the flame to a slow boil and stir occasionally.  Cook about 5 minutes.  The pierogi should float to the top.  Remove them with a slotted spoon into a large colander to drain.  Transfer the pierogi to a platter and pour the caramelize onions and butter over top.  Serve immediately.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

Here is the Cabbage Recipe . . .

Cabbage filling

Ingredients:

2 – lb. green cabbage
2 – 2.5 oz. pkgs. Farmers Cheese
2 – medium-large onions
1 – stick unsalted butter
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling add 2 teaspoons salt and one tablespoon white vinegar. In the mean time, rinse the cabbage then cut it into quarters.  Cut out the core, and  cut the cabbage into thin slices, cutting across the quartered pieces.

Add the shredded cabbage to the boiling water. Once the pot comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender about -5-7 minutes.

While the cabbage is cooking. Dice onions and sauté in 3 tablespoons butter until translucent. Do not brown.

When the cabbage is tender drain and let cool enough until you can handle it. Once it has cooled take a handful at a time and squeeze out the excess water. Then lay out the cabbage on sturdy paper towels and roll it up to absorb a little more water.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add the sautéed onions. Melt the rest of the stick of butter and add it to the cabbage. Add one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and mix well. Add Farmer’s cheese and mix well. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

The filling is now ready. See instructions above to assemble the pierogi.

Makes about 3 dozen pierogi.

Cabbage and Cheese Pierogi




Brussel Sprout Hash and Eggs

Brussel Sprout Hash, Bacon, Potato, Eggs

Brussel sprout hash and eggs is a delicious and healthy meal any time of day—breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner.  I don’t know about you, but my family and I like all-in-one meals, and this hash fits the bill perfectly. The shredded brussel sprouts are enhanced with a little bacon and diced potato to make a very tasty hash. The egg on top balances out the meal perfectly.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. brussel sprouts
1 – large red potato
2 – slices of thick-cut bacon
1/2 – cup diced red onion
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flake
1/2 – tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
4 – eggs

Directions:
Peel the potato and dice it into small pieces about the size of a blueberry. Finely dice the bacon and add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet. Once the oil is heated, add the bacon and cook about 2 minutes. Next add the potatoes and diced onion. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and black pepper, red pepper flakes, and stir well. Cook about 5-6 minutes until the potatoes are about half way cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, thinly slice the brussel sprouts. Add a little more oil to the skillet if needed, then add the brussel sprouts along with the remaining salt and black pepper. Stir well, and add 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until the spouts are tender. Stir occasionally.

When the hash is ready, turn off the heat and set aside. In a small skillet, fry one egg over easy for each serving. Add a little salt and black pepper to taste.

Place a helping of hash and top off with the fried egg.

Makes four servings.

Enjoy!

Brussel Sprout Hash, Bacon, Potato, Eggs




Italian Potato Salad

When I was growing up my mother would make Italian Potato Salad during the summer months. This potato salad is lighter and healthier than traditional potato salad with mayonnaise, and you don’t have to worry about the mayo going bad in the heat.

This dish reminds me of July 4th celebrations during my childhood. I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. The town was built around a steel mill that extended the length of the town, which is about 1 1/2 miles long. We lived on the Main Street of town, and on July 4th the parade was held there. People came from all over Beaver Valley and even from parts of Ohio to watch the parade. Everyone lined up along the Main Street to watch as the floats and marching bands went by, and the children waited anxiously to grab the candy and treats that were thrown into the crowd by the fire trucks.

Our prime location for the parade route turned our house into the place to be. Family and friends came from all over to celebrate the holiday with us. Mom put on a big spread and the celebration lasted from morning until after the fireworks that night. It was a special day.

Make your celebration special, and try this recipe.

Ingredients:
28 – oz. baby red potatoes
1 – cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
1/3 – cup diced red onion
1 – cup grape tomatoes
1 – tsp. chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 – cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 – cup red wine vinegar
4 – fresh basil leaves
1/2 – tsp. dried oregano
1/2 – tsp. garlic powder

Directions:
Clean the potatoes in cold water. Bring a pot of water to a boil then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the potatoes and boil them whole for about 10 minutes until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and let cool until you can handle them.

Dice the onion, slice the tomatoes in half, and cut the pepper into thin slices. Add the vegetables to a large bowl.

 

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper, oregano, and thyme.

Now slice the potatoes in half or in quarters if they are a little bigger.  Add the potatoes to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and mix well.  Roughly chop the basil leaves and toss in to the potato salad.

Let stand about one hour before serving.
For the best flavor serve at room temperature.

Buon appetito!




Potato Pancakes

Potato pancakes were not something I grew up eating; needless to say, they were not something that my Italian mother made.  As a matter of fact, the first potato pancakes that I ate were made by my mother-in-law.  I liked them so much that I made sure to learn how to make them.  The pancakes are made of basic ingredients, but they are packed full of flavor.

Potato Pancakes make a great side dish.  They go well with pork chops, kielbasa, or chicken.  They also make a great appetizer or work very well as a vegetarian main dish.  I like to serve them with apple sauce and sour cream. The combination of the savory sour cream and sweetness of the apple sauce enhance the flavor of the pancakes.  You can get creative and use any condiments or sauces that you prefer.

Ingredients:
2 – large russet potatoes
1 – heaping tbls. flour
1 – egg
1 – level tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
Apple sauce
Sour cream
Canola oil for cooking

Directions:
Peel the potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water until you are ready. Peel and quarter a small onion. Attach the medium shredding disc to your food processor (you can also you a block grater). Quarter the potatoes and grate them in the food processor.

Next grate the onion directly into the grated potatoes.

Empty the potato and onion mixture into a large bowl. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add it to the potatoes along with the rest of the ingredients: flour, salt, and black pepper.

Mix well.

Heat a little canola oil in the bottom of a large iron skillet. Add a large spoonful of the potato mixture to the skillet and spread out with the back of the spoon.

You can make them any size you like, but I generally make them about 3″ in diameter. Cook on a medium-low flame until golden brown, then flip onto the other side and do the same.

Do not be in a rush. Let them cook through slowly. Place on paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil.

Serve immediately with sour cream and apple sauce.

Makes 9-10 pancakes.
Servings 3-4




Focaccia with Potato, Grape Tomatoes, and Rosemary

img_1391
Focaccia di patata con pomodorini e rosmarino

This focaccia is moist and delicious. I like to serve it by itself or along with cheese and various types of salami. I learned how to make this from my best friend, Roberta. The unusual thing about this recipe is that it is made with potato. This is a common method used in Italy. The potato gives the focaccia the perfect texture…it is soft and moist and the crust has just the right amount of crispness. The focaccia also is a great alternative for making a sandwich.

Ingredients for focaccia:
1 – large Idaho potato (5 inches long)
1 – pkg. Active Dry Yeast
1 3/4 – cups warm water
1 – tbls. sugar
5 – cups all purpose flour
1 – tbls. salt
1/4 – cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for coating)

Toppings:
15 – grape tomatoes
1 – tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 – tsp. coarse sea salt
2 – tbls. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Scrub a large Idaho potato and place it in a pot of water to boil until a fork can be inserted into it easily, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and let cool completely. Peel the potato and mash with a potato masher or you can use a potato ricer if you have one.

img_1329

Take 1 3/4 cups warm water and add one package of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir and let stand about 10 minutes while the yeast activates, and becomes bubbly.

After 10 minutes
After 10 minutes

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture.

img_1331

Using the dough hook of your mixer, mix the flour and yeast until semi-incorporated, about 1 minute. Next add the mashed potato, salt, and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

img_1333

Continue mixing the dough for about 5 minutes.

img_1335

The dough will be a little sticky. Turn it out on to a lightly floured board.img_1339

Continue kneading by hand about one minute more until the dough is soft and elastic.

img_1341

It should be slightly sticky, do not over work the dough. Pour a little olive oil in the mixing bowl and return the ball of dough to the bowl.

img_1346

Drizzle a little oil on top of the dough, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let rise for about 2 hours in a warm area. The dough should double in size.

Doubled in size
Doubled in size

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a lightly floured board and knead by hand for about one minute. The dough should feel smooth and silky.

img_1371
After kneading by hand

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on a jelly roll pan (12″ x 17″) and spread around to cover the surface. Place the dough on the pan and stretch with your hands to fill the pan with the dough. It does not have to fill the pan completely. Using your fingers, poke holes in the dough.

img_1374

Drizzle a little oil over top and spread it around with your hands. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for another hour until it doubles in size.

Doubled in size
Doubled in size

While the dough is rising, slice in half about 15 grape tomatoes, and chop about 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, but first remove the needles from the stem. Set aside until the dough is ready to go into the oven.

Once the dough has doubled in size, place the tomato halves cut side down on the surface of the dough. Press them in gently. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over the top and spread it evenly with your hand. Then sprinkle the rosemary and salt evenly over the surface.

img_1377

If you do not like rosemary or tomatoes, you can use almost anything you like, such as onion, olives, peppers, and various herbs and spices.  Be as creative as you like.

Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 25-30 minutes, until the focaccia is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and slide the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack.  Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing so that you do not release all the steam.

img_1387

Buon appetito!




Garlic Mashed Potatoes

img_1086Mashed potatoes go great with many dishes. The creamy, buttery texture of the potatoes is the perfect comfort food. The little extra effort you need to make homemade mashed potatoes is well worth it. This recipe adds flavorful garlic and olive oil to make the potatoes extra special.

Ingredients:
4 – large Idaho potatoes
8 – cloves garlic
1/3 – cup whole milk (heated)
5 – tbls. unsalted butter
4 – tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 – tsp. salt

Directions:
Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring it to a boil. Peel the potatoes, rinse them in cold water and then quarter them. When the water begin to boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes. Put the lid on the pot and bring it back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the flame to medium-low and let cook at a light boil for about 10-12 minutes or until a fork goes through the potato pieces with ease.

In the meantime, peel the garlic and smash it with the side of a large kitchen knife. Pour extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic. Sauté on a medium-low flame turning often to ensure it does not burn. After the garlic begins to soften, smash each piece with a fork to release all the flavor into the oil. Cook another minute or two. Turn off the heat and remove the garlic pieces from the oil. Set aside until the potatoes are ready.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a collander. Return them to the pot and add the butter, 1 teaspoon salt (more if you prefer), and mash with a potato masher or you can also use a hand mixer. Add the warm milk to the potatoes and continue mashing. Pour the garlic olive oil into the mashed potatoes. Mix well until smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings