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




Turkey Taco Pizza

Tonight I was trying to decide what to make for dinner with the ground turkey that I bought.  My family likes Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, so I decided to make my own version of tacos.  The only problem was I did not have corn tortillas, but I did have flat bread.  When I took then out of the package the first thing that came to mind was pizza.

I do not claim that this recipe is in any way authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex, but I can tell you that it is delicious.  It is so much better to season the ground meat yourself instead of using taco mixes.  This way you can control the fat and salt content, and using the turkey meat instead of ground beef makes it a little healthier.

The taco pizza can be used as an appetizer or main dish. I kept it simple with cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and sour cream, but make them the way you like with your favorite toppings.

Ingredients:
1 – medium onion
1 – lb. ground turkey
2 – cloves garlic
2 – tbls. tomato paste
1 1/2 – tbls. chili powder
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flake
1 – tsp. cumin
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 – tsp. Adobo seasoning
1 – cup chicken stock
1 – can black beans
1 – package of flat bread or pita bread

Toppings:
16 – oz. grated cheddar cheese or any cheese you prefer
2 – ripe tomatoes
Cilantro
Sour Cream

Directions:
Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a large skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and red pepper flake and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Push the onion mixture to one side and add the ground turkey. Break the meat up into fine crumbles and cook until the pink color is gone. Mix the meat with the onion mixture and then make a small space on one side of the skillet, and add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Mix together and cook about one minute. This helps to release the flavors of the spices.  Now combine with the meat mixture until the meat is well coated with the spices.

Add chicken stock, salt, black pepper, adobo, and black beans. Stir, reduce flame to a simmer and let cook about 25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Now it is time to assemble the pizza.

Preheat the oven to broil. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture over the flat bread and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Place on a pizza stone or cookie sheet and place under the broiler until the cheese melts. Watch it closely so not to burn it.

Remove the flat bread from the oven and top with diced tomatoes, cilantro, and dollops of sour cream.

Serve immediately.

Makes 5-6 ten inch flat bread pizzas

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 




Frittata with Bell Peppers and Onion

Frittata con peperoni e cipolle

Frittata is basically an Italian omelette. It can be made on the stove top or in the oven. The frittata makes a great main dish or can also be used as an appetizer. There are countless combinations of vegetables, meats, and cheeses that can be used to make the frittata flavorful, such as asparagus, spinach, mozzarella cheese, sausage, bacon, and many other options.  It also makes a good vegetarian option.

Today I am making the frittata on the stove top with bell peppers and onion, the way my mother did.  She used to make this meatless meal for us on Friday’s during Lent. Serve it with a salad and some crusty Italian bread and you have a delicious meal. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:
1/2 – red bell pepper
1/2 – orange bell pepper
1/2 – medium onion
6 – whole extra-large eggs
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/8 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 – cup parmigiano cheese
1 – tbls. olive oil

Directions:
Slice the red and orange peppers lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slices and set aside. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Place the flat side down and make thin lengthwise slices of one-half of the onion.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a well-seasoned 8″ iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) and heat oil on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add the peppers and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Now add the onion, stir and continue to sauté the onion and peppers until they start to brown about another 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and stir occasionally.

In a large bowl, add 6 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Whisk the eggs thoroughly, then pour them over the peppers and onions. Make sure the egg is evenly distributed in the pan.

Sprinkle evenly, the grated parmigiano cheese over the top of the egg mixture.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Let cook about 8-10 minutes.

Run a knife or spatula around the edges of the skillet to loosen the frittata from the sides. Place the skillet lid upside down on the counter. Pick up the skillet, and with the help of the spatula, lift the frittata out and slide it onto the lid. Be very careful with the hot skillet.

Using an oven mitt, pick up the lid by the handle underneath. Now take the skillet by the handle (be sure to use an oven mitt) and turn it upside down on top of the lid.

Flip it over to return the frittata to the skillet. Return the skillet to the flame and cook about 2 minutes more.

Remove the frittata onto a round platter. It should slide out of the pan with ease. You can use the spatula to help guide it.

Serves 4 people.

Buon Appetito!




Chili Pie with Potatoes and Cheese

img_1124I created this recipe just for the Super Bowl. The combination of the Chili with the potatoes and cheese put together in a pie crust, meets the challenge of Super Bowl food criteria; it is filling, satisfying, and delicious. It is not finger food, but you will not mind taking out a plate for this.

I use the Pillsbury pie crust that you can find in the refrigerated section at the grocery store for convenience, but the Chili is homemade. It is easy to prepare, and to save time you can prepare the Chili the day before and assemble the pie on the day you want to serve it.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. ground sirloin
1 – cup diced green pepper
1 – cup diced onion
2 – cloves garlic minced
3 – tbls. tomato paste
1 – tbls. chili powder
1 – tsp. ground cumin
1/4 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 – cup chicken stock or water
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 – 15.5 oz. can black beans
1 – large Idaho potato
1 – cup Pepper Jack Cheese
1 – cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 1/2 – tbls. butter
Sour cream for serving

Directions:
Pour about 2 tablespoons of canola oil into a large skillet. Mince the garlic and dice the onion and green pepper, then add them to the oil. Sauté until they start to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Push the onion mixture to one side of the skillet and add the ground beef. Break up the meat into crumbles and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Stir often. Once the pink color is gone, mix it together with the peppers and onion.

Clear a small space in the skillet and add the tomato paste, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Stir and cook about 1 minute, then add about 1/4 cup chicken broth (or water) to deglaze the pan. Combine the seasoning with the meat and onion mixture. Add salt and black pepper. Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the skillet. Stir to incorporate the beans into the meat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes on a medium-low flame, stirring often.

img_1103

In the meantime, place the pie shell in a deep pie plate. Peel the potato and slice it into 1/8″ thick rounds. Once the chili is ready, add it to the pie shell.  Real cheese lovers can add a little extra cheese to the meat mixture.img_1105

Top off with a layer of potato slices. Start from the middle and place the slices around in a circle, overlapping rows until you reach the edge of the pie pan. img_1106

Brush the entire surface of the potatoes and the rim of the pie crust with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

img_1115

Put the pie into a pre-heated 425° oven. Cook for 40-45 minutes. The pie crust should be golden brown.

img_1118

Remove the pie from the oven and top with the grated cheeses. Return it to the oven and turn the oven to broil. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown. Watch the pie carefully as it will brown very quickly under the broiler.

You can serve this with sour cream, salsa, or guacamole.

img_1131

Makes 6-8 servings.

Enjoy!




Farfalle with Pesto

Pesto, Parfalle, Pasta
Farfalle al pesto

Traditional Pesto alla Genovese is made with seven specific ingredients, basil Genovese, Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino cheese, garlic, and salt.

There are, however, many variations of pesto that are delicious. I find a mixture of vegetables and nuts make a delicious alternative to the original recipe.  You can use basil, spinach, kale, and parsley; whatever you have available.  Pesto is a great after work dinner choice or for those impromptu guests. It is easy and fast to make, and it also freezes very well. I’m sure you have had to buy a large bunch of basil in your local grocery store when you only needed a handful. Basil, unfortunately, does not last long in the refrigerator. It has been my experience that even when it is put in water, it wilts within 24 hours. So, every time I have too much basil I make pesto and freeze it.

You can freeze about one cup servings that will be the perfect amount for one pound of pasta. To freeze the pesto, spoon one cup, of it into a small glass or plastic container that can go into the freezer. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to keep out the air so that it will not oxidize. You can keep it in the freezer for up to six weeks.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. Farfalle pasta
1 – cup packed basil leaves
1 – cup packed baby spinach leaves
2 – cloves garlic
1/4 – cup walnuts
1/4 – cup almonds
1/8 – cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmiggiano Reggiano

Directions:
In a food processor, blend the nuts and garlic until finely ground. Add the basil and spinach leaves. As you blend the leaves add the olive oil a little at a time until creamy. If it seems too dry add a little more oil. Add salt and black pepper.  I do not add the cheese to the pesto, but add it instead to the pasta when I put it together.  Set the pesto aside until the pasta is ready.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, add 1 tsp. salt and the pasta. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together. Bring back to a boil and cook according to the package instructions. If you want the pasta al dente  (a little firm to the bite), then check the pasta about 2-3 minutes before the time directed.

In a large serving bowl, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the pesto. Mix together. Drain the pasta, but be sure to save one additional cup of the pasta water in case you need it. Add the pasta to the pesto and mix. Add the cheese. If the pasta seems too dry, add a little more pasta water. Serve Immediately.

Buon appetito!




Saag Paneer – Creamy Spinach and Cheese

img_0864

Saag Paneer is a great vegetarian side dish that is the perfect accompaniment to spicy Indian dishes. This recipe that follows is from Aarti Sequeira, one of my favorite chefs. You can serve it with Chicken Tikka Masala, which you can find on my blog.

Start with making the cheese.  Do not worry, it is much easier to do than you may think.

Ingredients for the paneer:
1/2 – gallon whole milk
1/4 – cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
1 – pkg. cheesecloth (can be found in most grocery stores)

Directions for the paneer:
Pour the milk into a large pot and heat on a medium flame until it just comes to the boiling point. Stir often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It will take about 12 minutes or so to do this. The milk will become frothy; do not rush the process.

In the meantime, line a large colander with the cheesecloth and place it in the sink so that it is ready when the cheese is ready.

Squeeze the lemons and strain it to remove the pulp and seeds. Once the milk is ready, turn down the heat to low and add the lemon juice. Stir in circles and you will see the milk form curds almost immediately.

img_0832

You will notice a greenish, thin liquid form. This is the whey that separates from the curds. If for some reason the curds do not form, you can add a little extra lemon juice. (I have never had that happen).

Strain the curds into the cheesecloth.

img_0834

Once the whey has drained off, rinse the cheese gently under cold water to remove the lemon.

img_0837

Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and form a ball with the curds. Twist the ends of the cloth to wring out the excess liquid. Be careful as the cheese is still hot. At this point, let the cheese drain for about 5 minutes or so.

Now the cheese should be cool. Keep it in the cheesecloth and form it into a wheel of cheese. Place it on a plate and put another plate on top, and place something heavy on top of it (like a heavy can or bowl) to flatten it a little and make it smooth. Place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before using. Remove the cheesecloth and set aside.

img_0845

If you are not going to use the cheese right away, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. You can make the cheese the day before if needed.

Ingredients for the Saag (spinach):
12 – oz. paneer (cheese, recipe above)
1 – tsp. turmeric
1/2 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1 – tsp. salt
3 – tbls. canola or vegetable oil
16 – oz. frozen spinach
1- medium white onion
1- inch piece of fresh ginger root
4 – cloves garlic
1 – serrano chile (optional)
1/2 – tsp. garam masala
2 – tsp. ground coriander
1 – tsp. ground cumin

1/2 – cup plain yogurt

Directions for the Saag (Spinach)
First, cut the paneer (cheese) into 1/2″ cubes. Cut it carefully so that it does not fall apart. Next mix together the turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt with the oil. Add the cheese cubes to the mixture and coat evenly. Let the cheese marinate about 15 minutes. Heat a little oil in a skillet and add the cheese cubes. Cook until it becomes a little brown on both sides. Set aside while you prepare the spinach.

img_0853

Thaw the spinach. Once the spinach is thawed, use a food processor to blend the spinach into a fine chop. It is not necessary to purée the spinach.

Finely dice the onion and Serrano pepper and mince the garlic, and ginger root. Heat 2 tbls. oil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add the onion, Serrano, garlic, and ginger and sauté slowly until it becomes caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn, you can add a spoon or two of water if necessary.  Next, add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Stir to incorporate the spices and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Stir often so that the spices do not burn. Again you can add a spoon of water if necessary.

Add the spinach, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 tsp. salt and stir well. Bring to a boil and let cook about 5 minutes. Remove the spinach from the heat and add the yogurt a spoon at a time. Return the spinach to a medium-low flame and add the paneer. Stir gently so you do not break up the cheese. Cover and cook about 5 minutes more and serve.




Bruschetta 3 Ways

img_0469

Bruschetta is a simple and versatile appetizer to make for any dinner party or holiday gathering. You can use what ever ingredients you like…vegetables, cheese, beans, prosciutto or other cured meats. The only secret is to use good ingredients. Here are three easy ideas for you to try.

Ingredients:
1 – loaf of French baguette or crusty long loaf of Italian bread
2 – cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil

Bruschetta #1: Tomato and Basil:

Ingredients:
2 – medium ripe tomatoes
1/2 – medium shallot
7 – fresh basil leaves
1 – tbls. fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 – tbls olive oil

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes. I suggest dicing them by hand so they maintain their texture. Place the diced tomatoes in a medium sized bowl. Add finely diced shallot and chopped basil. You can stack the basil leaves together, roll them, and then chop them all at once. This makes it a little easier to do.  Next chop the parsley and add to the tomatoes.  Drizzle the olive oil and add salt and black pepper to taste.  Mix and set aside until ready to use.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, and take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it on the surface of the warm toasted bread. Brush olive oil over the bread and top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #2: Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey

Ingredients:
4 – oz. Goat cheese
4 – oz. raw walnuts
Honey

Directions:

Toast the walnuts (the quickest method is on the stove). Do not chop the nuts. Place them in a dry, heavy skillet on a medium flame. Cook them about 2 minutes until they start to brown. Stir constantly so that they do not burn.  Set aside until ready to use them.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly under the broiler. Remove the bread from the oven, and spread the goat cheese directly on top while the bread is still warm. Place two or three pieces of walnut on top of the goat cheese, and then drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #3: Cremini Mushrooms and Red Bell Pepper:

Ingredients:
1 – red bell pepper
1 – medium shallot
10 – oz. cremini mushrooms
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/4 – tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and slice in quarters (more if mushroom is large). Slice the red pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds then make 1/4″ slices. Heat 1 tbls. of olive oil in a large skillet and add the peppers. Cook about 2-3 minutes until they just start to soften. Dice the shallot and add to the peppers along with the mushrooms. Add salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onions soften. It will take about 6-7 minutes on a medium flame. Stir often to avoid them sticking to the pan.

Prepare the bread in the same manner as for Bruschetta #1.

Buon appetito