Polish-style spring and summer
By Robert Strybel *
THE POLISH CHEF
ul. Kaniowska 24, 01-529 Warsaw
Super markets stock green-picked and artificially ripened strawberries in
January and hothouse tomatoes all the year round, but nothing can beat the
locally produced, vine-ripened variety in season. The seasonal nature of
traditional Polish foods means that each time of year brings with it something
to look forward to. Here are some examples of typically spring and summer
BABY BEET-GREEN SOUP (botwinka): Wash
extremely well under running water 1 bunch baby beets (which should be no
larger than small radishes) together with their greens (tops). Trim away any
damaged or blemished sections. Chop quite fine and cook in a small amount of
lightly salted water containing juice of 1/2 a small lemon until tender.
Add to 6 c strained meat stock (veal stock is excellent!). Add 1/2 c or
so juice from canned beets or 1 T beet concentrate to improve color. Cream with
1/2 c sour cream with and a heaping T flour. Simmer several min without
boiling. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a pinch or 2 of sugar and a squeeze
FRESH TOMATO SOUP (zupa pomidorowa): Wash,
hull and quarter 1-1/4 lb vine-ripened tomatoes and simmer covered on low heat
with several T stock and 2 T butter 15-20 min. Sieve into 6 c meat or vegetable
stock and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cream with 1/2
c sour cream or plain yogurt fork-blended with 1 heaping T flour. Simmer gently
several min without boiling and serve over noodles or rice.
CAULIFLOWER SOUP (zupa kalafiorowa): Break up
1 cauliflower (about 1 to 1-1/4 lb) into small flowerlets, scald drain and add
to 6-7 c hot vegetable stock. cook uncovered 10-15 min vegetable stock.
Dissolve 1 heaping T flour in 1 c milk, add to pot and bring to boil. Add 1 T
butter, salt & pepper to taste and garnish with fresh chopped dill. Serve
over egg-drop noodles or croutons (see below).
CROUTONS (grzanki): Allow roughly 1 slice French
bread or 1/2 a Kaiser roll 1 t butter per serving. Cut bread into 1/2” squares
and brown in melted butter in skillet to a nice crunchy golden-brown at least
on 2 sides. Variation: Rye-bread croutons have extra zest and don’t go soggy as
quickly as those made with white bread.
EGG-DROP NOODLES (lane kluski): With fork beat 2
eggs with a heaping T flour and 1/4 t salt to get a thick batter, adding a
little water to make it smooth and pourable. Pour in thin stream into hot
boiling soup and simmer 2-3 min.
CREAM OF SORREL SOUP (zupa szczawiowa): Wash
a handful of fresh sorrel (about 1/3 lb) very well in plenty of cold running
water to remove all sand. Trim off and discard stems. Chop and simmer in 2 T
butter in sauce pan about 5 min. Dissolve 2 T flour in 1 c meat stock or
bouillon, add to sorrel and simmer several min longer. Add to 5 c meat or vegetable
stock and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Fork-blend 3/4 c sour cream,
gradually adding 1 c soup 1 T at a time. Gradually stir into soup and simmer
several min. Serve over halved hard-cooked eggs, allowing 1 egg per serving.
Note: Ready to use bottled sorrel is available at Polish markets and
COLD BEET-GREEN SOUP (chlodnik na botwince): Trim,
wash well, drain and chop fine 1 bunch baby beets (including greens), place in
pot, cover with water, add 1 T lemon juice, 1/2 salt, bring to boil, reduce
heat and cook about 10 min. Set aside to cool. Peel and slice or dice 1
cucumber, chop 4 green onions (tops and bottoms) and slice very
thin or grate coarsely 6 - 10 radishes. Combine with cold, cooked beets and 5 c
cold soured milk (buttermilk or kefir). Add 2-3 T finely chopped fresh dill and
refrigerate covered until well chilled. Serve over sliced hard-cooked
eggs, allowing 1 egg per serving.
COLD CUCUMBER SOUP (chlodnik ogorkowy): Peel 2
cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then slice thin into bowl or tureen. Add 2
peeled, coarsely grated brined dill pickles and 1 c of the pickle brine plus 2
-3 T finely chopped fresh dill. Drench with 6 - 8 c cold buttermilk or
smooth-whisked sour milk. Salt & pepper to taste. Cover and let stand in fridge
for flavors to blend several hrs. Serve over sliced hard-cooked eggs in bowls.
COLD FRUIT SOUP (zupa owocowa): Start with about 3 c
of a single fruit or whatever combination you like: small strawberries;
blueberries; sour cherries (pitted), peeled and sliced apples and/or pears or
halved, pitted plums. Place fruit in pot, add 5 -6 c water, bring to boil,
reduce heat and simmer 8 - 10 min or until fruit is fully cooked. Dissolve 1 -
2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) in 1/2 c water and stir into hot soup. Sweeten
to taste (with sugar or sweetener) and (optional) season with a pinch of
cinnamon, ground cloves or ground nutmeg. Simmer 2 -3 min. Serve over
cooked egg noodles or fried croutons. A dollop of sour cream (or low-fat
yogurt) may be added to each bowl. Note: Fruit soups can be served hot, warm,
at room temp or chilled.
COLD RHUBARB SOUP (chlodnik rabarbarowy): Wash,
trim and dice 1 lb young rhubarb and place in pot. Add 5 -6 c water, bring to
boil, reduce heat and simmer several min or until rhubarb is tender. Remove pot
from flame. Dissolve 1 - 2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) in 1/2 c water
or milk and stir into hot soup. Add a heaping T strawberry or cherry jam
or jelly to improve the soup’s color, then sweeten to taste (with sugar or sweetener).
Simmer 2 -3 min. Serve over cooked egg noodles or croutons. A dollop of
sour cream (or low-fat yogurt) may be added to each bowl.
CUCUMBERS & SOUR CREAM (mizeria): Peel 2
cucumbers and slice into thin rounds. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 min.
Pour off liquid. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, 2- 3 pinches sugar and 1
T lemon juice or vinegar. Lace with 1/2 - 2/3 c fork-blended sour cream (or
plain yogurt for weight-watchers). Optional: Garnish with chopped
CUCUMBERS & VINAIGRETTE (mizeria z winegretem):
Slice, salt and drain cucumbers as above. Toss with 1-2 small onions sliced
thin and broken up into rings. Dress with vinaigrette (see below) to taste.
HOME-MADE VINAIGRETTE (winegret domowy): To
prepare slightly more than 1/2 c vinaigrette dressing, combine 1/3 c cider
vinegar or white-wine vinegar with salt & pepper and a pinch or 2 sugar to
taste, 1 clove crushed garlic (or 1/4 t garlic powder) and (optional) 1/2
t Italian seasoning. Mix well and stir in 1/4 c Canola or olive oil and mix or
shake well. Variation: Lemon juice may be used in place of all or some
of the vinegar.
LETTUCE & RADISH SALAD (zielona salata z
rzodkiewka): For a genuine Polish-style salad, select (rather than iceberg,
leaf, romaine or other varieties). Twist off and discard the cores that holds
the leaves together on 2-3 heads Boston.
Separate the leaves and wash well and pat dry. Toss with 8 - 10 thinly sliced
radishes. For the dressing, fork-blend 2/3 - 3/4 c sour cream with juice of 1/2
a lemon, 1/4 t salt and 1/2 - 1 t sugar and pour over lettuce. Garnish with
chopped green onion and/or chives.
LETTUCE & VINAIGRETTE (zielona salata z
winegretem): Dress the above lettuce & radish salad with vinaigrette
(instead of sour cream) to taste.
TOMATO SALAD (salatka z pomidorow): Wash
and slice 2-3 firm tomatoes and arrange on large serving dish in a single
layer. Chop 1 med onion fine. Salt & pepper tomatoes and sprinkle with a
little lemon juice. Sprinkle a little chopped onion at center of each
tomato slice. Variation: Slice, arrange and season tomato slices as
above. Slice 2 small onions wafer thin and arrange on top of tomato slices.
Sprinkle salad with chopped chives or green onions.
CUCUMBER & TOMATO SALAD (salatka z ogorkow i
pomidorow): Assemble several tomatoes and onions and a cucumber or two of
roughly equal circumference. Peel and slice the onions and cucumbers and slice
the tomatoes. On a lettuce-lined serving platter arrange even rows of
overlapping, alternating cucumber, tomato and onion slices. Fork-blend 1 c sour
cream (or plain low-fat yogurt) with juice of 1/2 a lemon and salt, pepper and
a pinch of sugar to taste. Pour dressing down the center of each row, garnish
with some chopped chives and (optional) 2 chopped hard-cooked eggs and dust
with paprika. Serve at once, as long standing can makes this salad ‘soupy’.
RADISH SALAD (surowka z rzodkiewek):
Trim if necessary, wash, dry and slice thin (with knife or on slicer blade of
hand-held grater) 2 -3 bunches radishes. Place in serving dish and toss with
1/2 c finely chopped fresh dill. Salt, sprinkle with 1 - 2 t sugar and drench
with 1/2 c fork-blended sour cream.
RADISH, CUCUMBER, GREEN-ONION SALAD (surowka w
rzodkiewek, ogorka i szczypioru): Trim, wash, dry and slice 2 bunches radishes.
Peel and slice thin 1 cucumber. Chop 4 - 5 green opinions. Toss ingredients
together and dress with sour-cream sauce as in Polish-style lettuce
(above). Optional: Garnish with 2 - 3 sliced hard-cooked eggs
dusted with paprika.
LEEK SALAD (salatka z porow): Remove and
discard (or freeze and use for soups) green tops of 3 leeks. Cut leeks in half
lengthwise and wash well under running water to remove imbedded grit. Cut each
half in half lengthwise, producing 12 leek sticks. Place them on cutting-board
side by side and slice thin. Place in bowl. Add 2 peeled cooking apples,
diced fine, sprinkle with lemon juice and toss ingredients. Season with salt,
pepper and a little sugar and lace with mayonnaise.
CABBAGE SALAD/COLE SLAW (surowka z bialej kapusty):
Shred or grate 1 small head cabbage, sprinkle with salt and let stand at room
temp 30 min. Pour off any liquid and squeeze dry. Sprinkle with lemon juice,
season with a little sugar and pepper and lace with fork-blended mixture
of 1/3 c sour cream and 1/3 c mayonnaise.
BREADED PORK CUTLETS (kotlety schabowe): Cut
bones away 6 center-cut pork chops (reserving them for soup stock) or slice
boneless center-cut pork loin 1” thick and pound with meat mallet pound on both
sides until 1/4” – 1/3” thick. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of
marjoram and/or garlic powder if desired. Dredge in flour, dip in egg wash and
roll in fine, plain bread crumbs. Gently press breading into cutlets so it
stays put during frying. Fry to a nice golden brown on both sides in hot lard,
vegetable shortening or oil, drain on paper towel and serve immediately with
dilled new potatoes and lettuce or radish salad.
CHICKEN-BREAST CUTLETS (kotlety z piersi kurczaka):
Pound 4 skinned and halved chicken breasts to between 1/8” and 1/4” thick.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and (optional) hunter’s seasoning, dredge in flour,
dip in egg wash and roll in bread crumbs, shaking off excess. Fry in several T
hot butter to a nice gold-brown (several min per side), drain on absorbent
paper and serve immediately. Dress portions with parsley sprigs and lemon
wedges. Serve with rice or potatoes and mizeria or lettuce.
& RICE GOLABKI (golabki): Prepare filling by combining 1 lb raw ground
meat (pork, pork & beef, pork-veal-beef combination, or ground dark-meat
turkey) with 4-6 c undercooked rice, 1-3 chopped butter-fried onions and 1 egg.
Mix ingredients well and salt & pepper to taste. Place oblong portion
of filling at base of wilted, parboiled cabbage leaves with thick
center vein removed, roll up and place snugly in roasting pan in no more than
two layers. Drench cabbage rolls in roasting pan with either 4 c tomato juice
(plain or containing several dashes Tabasco
or ¼ - ½ c spicy-style ketchup) or 3 c puréed or stewed tomatoes. Bake covered
at 350° 1 hr. Reduce heat to 325° and cook another 2 hrs. They’ll be even
tastier when warmed up the next day.
MINCED CUTLETS (kotlety mielone): Soak stale
white bread rolls (app. ¼ lb) in water or milk until soggy. Fry 2 sliced onions
in a little fat until golden. Run drained soaked bread and onions through
mincer or process briefly. Combine with 2 lbs ground pork (or pork & veal
or pork-veal-beef mixture), add 1-2 eggs, mix well by hand to blend ingredients
and a dash of garlic powder, a sprinkle of marjoram, and salt & pepper to
taste. Form 12 - 16 meatballs depending on size desired. Fry in hot fat as is
or (if you prefer crustier cutlets) first dredge in flour. Fry to a nice
golden-brown on both sides, flattening them somewhat with spatula. Reduce heat,
cover and simmer on low another 10 min or so until fully cooked.
POLISH BURGERS (kotlet w bulce): Apart from a
sit-down dinner, the above cutlets can e slipped into a bun to form a “Polish
burger”. With a splotch of brown Polish-style mustard and a crunchy dill pickle
on the side, this is are (hot or cold) at picnics and Polish festivals.
NEW POTATOES (mlode kartofelki z koperkiem): If you can get real,
young, walnut-sized new potatoes, instead of peeling them use nylon scrubber to
scrub away the thin skins under cold, running water. Place 2-1/2 lbs scrubbed
new potatoes in pot, cover with boiling water, add 1 t salt and cook on
med heat about 30 min or until fork-tender. Drain. Dot with butter (about
1 T) and garnish with finely chopped fresh dill. Toss gently to evenly coat
potatoes with melting butter and dill.
CALIFLOWER POLONAISE (kalafior po polsku): Remove
any green leaves from base of cauliflower and trim off core. Place cauliflower
cored-side-down in a pot tall enough so the cauliflower is at least 3” from the
top rim. Add cold water coming up 1/3 of the way up the cauliflower and 1 t
salt, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook covered at a gentle rolling boiling
about 20 - 30 min or until fork-tender. Meanwhile, in saucepan heat 3-4 T butter
until it bubbles, stir in 2-3 T bread crumbs and simmer, stirring frequently,
until it is nicely browned. Remove cooked cauliflower from pot, drain well,
place on serving platter and spoon the browned bread-crumb topping over it.
This can be a side dish or a nice vegetarian meal in itself with some sliced
tomatoes and dilled, buttered new potatoes on the side.
VEGETABLES POLONAISE (jarzyny po polsku): Other
vegetables may be prepared the same way as cauliflower polonaise, including wax
and string beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, peas, peas &
carrots, cabbage, etc. Simply cook vegetable in lightly salted water until
tender, drain well and garnish with browned buttered bread crumb topping. Optional:
Instead of plain water, vegetables may be cooked in stock or simply add a
bouillon cube to the pot. Note: Adding a little sugar (1 t or so per 2 c
water) will improve the taste of many vegetables.
EASY SUMMER BIGOS (latwy bigos na lato): Skin and
dice or slice thin 1 lb smoked kielbasa. Dice chop. Place in pot, add boiling
water to cover and simmer covered 30 min. Wash
well 1 head baby cabbage at the loose-leaf stage (not yet formed into a compact
head). Trim away base and any wilted or damaged leaves. Chop cabbage coarsely
and add to sausage pot. Mix well and simmer under tender, stirring often.
In saucepan lightly brown 2 T flour in 2 T bacon or fatback
drippings and stir into cabbage. Simmer covered another 5 min. Season with salt
and pepper and sour to taste with lemon juice or cider vinegar. Serve with
bread or boiled, dilled new potatoes. Note: Any cooked cubed meat you have on
hand may be added.
CAMPFIRE KIELBASA (kielbaski z ogniska): Use a
hotdog-roasting fork or forked stick (stripped of its barks) to impale a 4-inch
piece of smoked kielbasa on and roast over a campfire, turning to ensure even
cooking. The sausage can also be cooked on a grill. Provide rye bread, mustard
and horseradish. Served in a bun, this is a good Polish-festival food.
BLUEBERRY PIEROGI (pierogi z jagodami): Remove any
leaves or stems from about 1 lb fresh blueberries, rinse and drain well in
colander or sieve. Dust berries 1 t potato starch (or cornstarch) to make the
cooked filling less runny. For the dough, combine 2 c flour, 1 c dairy sour
cream, 1 small egg and 1/2 t salt. Work ingredients together to form a smooth
dough and knead briefly. Roll out thin 1/3 of the dough, leaving the remainder
under a warm inverted bowl so it doesn't dry out. With drinking-glass or
biscuit-cutter cut dough-sheet into rounds. Place a spoonful of
blueberries at center of each dough round, bring ends together and pinch edges
together to seal. Cook in large pot of boiling slated water, gently stirring
occasionally. When they float up, cook another 2 min. Remove with slotted spoon
and serve with sugar and sour cream.
STRAWBERRY OMELET (omlet z truskawkami): For each
serving allow 2 eggs, 1 t cold water and a pinch of salt. Whisk well and pour
mixture into heavy skillet containing hot unsalted butter (scant T per serving)
over entire surface. Cook on low heat, picking up sides with spatula and
letting runny egg mixture to flow onto hot surface. It is done when bottom is
golden brown and top is set and glistening. Fold in half and serve topped with
sliced, sugared strawberry, strawberry preserves or any jam of choice. A dollop
of sour cream may be added.
POLISH APPLE TART (szarlotka): Combine 2-3/4 c flour
with 1 c confectioner’s sugar, 4 egg yolks and 1/4 t salt and blend ingredients
into a uniform dough. Do not knead! Roll into ball, wrap in foil and
refrigerate at least 30 min. In pot combine 2-1/4 lbs tart cooking apples,
peeled and sliced, with 3/4 c sugar and 3 T water and cook, stirring
frequently, until apples are tender. Season a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or
ground cloves or any combination thereof. Divide chilled dough in 1/2.
Roll one half out thin into a rectangle or square to fit your baking pan.
Pierce all over with fork and bake in preheated 390° oven 10-15 min. Sprinkle
surface of baked dough with 3-4 T crushed vanilla wafers and spread apple
filling evenly over surface. Season with 1 t vanilla sugar. Roll out remaining
dough half and cover apples. Reduce heat to 350° and bake about 45-60 min.
APPLE SPONGE CAKE (placek biszkoptowy z jablkami):
Peel, core, and slice thin 5 good-sized cooking apples. Sprinkle with a bit of
lemon juice and cover so they don’t discolor. Separately, beat 5 egg yolks at
high speed until fluffy, gradually adding 5 T confectioner’s sugar and 5 T
sifted flour. Beat 5 egg whites and gently fold into yolk batter. Pour 1/2 the
mixture into a buttered tube pan, add the apples and top with remaining batter.
Bake in preheated 375°oven. Serve warm or cool dusted with confectioner’s
PLUM CAKE (placek ze sliwkami): Beat 1/2 c butter
and 1 c sugar until smooth (about 2 min). Continue beating, adding 2 eggs
1 at a time. Mix 2 c flour with 2 t baking powder and 1/4 t salt and sift into
bowl. Gradually stir in the butter-sugar-egg mixture, 1/2 t vanilla extract and
3/4 c milk, beating the whole time until smooth. Transfer dough to greased
square or rectangular baking pan. Top dough with ripe Italian plum halves
(wegierki) cut-side-up and sprinkle with a pinch or 2 cinnamon (optional). Dot
with about 2 T cold butter and bake in preheated 350° oven about 40-45 min, or
until inserted wooden pick comes out clean.
STRAWBERRY KISIEL (kisiel truskawkowy): In
pot combine 1 c water and app. 1/2 c sugar and bring to boil. Remove from heat.
Dissolve 3 T potato starch in 1/2 c cold water, stir into sugar water and
slowly bring to boil stirring constantly. Add just under 1 lb hulled, washed,
dried, crushed (processed) strawberries. Portion out into dessert bowls
pre-rinsed with cold water. Chill. Serve kisiel (pronounced: KEY-shell) with
cold coffee cream, half & half or vanilla sauce (The latter can be easily
whipped up by combining 1 c cold milk with just enough instant vanilla pudding
mix to produce a nice, pourable sauce!)
STRAWBERRIES & SOUR CREAM (truskawki ze smietana):
Hull, wash and drain fresh
strawberries and cut small ones in half and slice larger ones. Fill individual
dessert dishes and provide sweetened sour cream (1 c sour cream fork-blended
with a heaping T confectioner’s sugar) for your guests, allowing app. 1/4 - 1/3
c sweetened sour cream per serving.
STRAWBERRY ICE-CUP (puchar lodowy z truskawkami):
Hull, wash and drain 1 qt
fresh, ripe strawberries. Halve or slice strawberries of roughly equal size and
sprinkle with sugar (app. 1 T sugar per 1 c berries). Let stand 30 min at room
temp. Into parfait glasses place 1 scoop vanilla ice cream or frozen
vanilla-flavored yogurt, a heaping T sugared strawberries, add another scoop
ice cream, top with another spoonful of strawberries and, if the parfait glass permits,
add another scoop ice cream and top with a little more strawberry mixture. Top
with a dollop of real whipped cream and crown with 1 nice, whole,
SUGARED STRAWBERRIES (truskawki z cukrem):
Place whole, hulled or unhulled, washed strawberries in a bowl with a dish of
granulated sugar next to it. Invite your guests to take the strawberries with
their fingers, dip them in the sugar and enjoy.
SUGARED TOMATOES (pomidory z cukrem): Sprinkle
sliced tomatoes with sugar and enjoy. The taste is reminiscent of red currants
HONEYED CUCUMBERS (ogorki z miodem): Peel cucumber
and cut into spears. Drizzle with honey and serve. Tastes a bit like watermelon
– only better!