Bein’ Fat and Polish: Carb-Loaded Vegan Pierogi

Oh-gy Pierogi! Damn, it’s good to be Polish.

Why?

Because although, yes, Italians have gnocchi and tortellini, and Americans have chicken dumplings or whatever, and Asian cultures have steamed buns and such, there is just not a good comparison between the joys of eating one of those definitely delicious foods and the mind-blowing physical experience of a perfectly pressed and presented pierogi.

Pyrohy

Mmmmm sweet, salty, doughy deliciousness. Even on your thighs.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Polish staples, pierogi are made by letting rise a simple dough, stuffing with any number of ingredients, pressing around the stuffing, and then boiling the dumplings to cook. The best way to enjoy them? Sauteed in the skillet, with some butter, margarine, or oil all up in there to get it snuggled and crisped. Oh, it’s perfection when you get a springy dough, a moist and plump middle, and a bit of crunch on your exterior that’s also a little salty on the tongue. And, of course, you gotta finish it off with a good sauce. Old schoolers will tell you a pyrohy is nothing without sour cream, and while I am inclined to agree, our diet is not. So, here, in addition to providing you with the recipe I used, which is done in the traditional eggless way, I also present you with two different (vegan) fillings I came up with and a fricking fabulous sauce that is creamy, tangy, and utilizes one can’t-live-without ingredient for most Poles (you know, besides sour cream): a good horseradish.

I used the dough recipe from Tasting Poland with MUCH success; the dough was smooth, easy to work with, not too sticky, and yielded very springy, firm pierogi when boiled – which, from my experience eating and making pierogi, is exactly what you’re looking for. Once the pierogi are properly stuffed and pressed into dumplings, drop them into boiling water and allow them to float to the top, stirring frequently enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, sides of the saucepan, their pierogi friends…pretty much anything. They’re sticky while they boil! Once they float, boil them an additional 3-5 minutes, testing them for firmness, doneness, and a touch of spring when you gently push them. Imagine that they should resemble the Pillsbury dough boy in “pushback” when given a gentle but solid poke. Don’t be afraid to burn your finger.
Note: I used 100% whole wheat flour both times I made this dough and only found that I needed to add a bit more water and a bit more rising time, but that is typical of any baking or cooking done with whole wheat flour when a recipe doesn’t necessarily call for it. Expect approx. 1/4-1/2 c. extra water per batch, and about 5-10 extra min. of rising time.

Paper bag pierogis

These are just the leftover dumplings; imagine row upon row of orgasmic pierogi here instead.

Here’s a great reason to ask for paper instead of plastic if you forget your reusable bags at the grocery store (or if you like to walk to the liquor store and need something opaque for your return journey): you can use them to drain all that extra fluid from your freshly boiled pierogis lest you decide to throw them in all wet and end up with tiny burning droplets of oily liquid sun fire reigning down on you like arrows in a scene from 300. ‘Cause that happens. So, you’ll drain the boiled pierogis for a few minutes at least, then saute them on medium to medium-high heat in your fat of choice until they are your desired brown. We love Canoleo Soft Margarine because it’s vegan and genuinely tastes like salted butter, but is both not butter and not made from 100% canola oil like many other margarines. However, olive oil for savory pierogis, grapeseed oil for either savory or sweet pierogis, your favorite vegan margarine, or whatever oil/fat you please depending on your existent or non-existent dietary preferences should work just fine. I can’t recommend grapeseed oil enough for something new to try once in a while; it has a high flash point, neutral taste, and a lot of purported health benefits, including its high level of omega-6 fatty acids.

Sweet Filling: Apple-Cran
3 medium peeled apples, diced
~1/4 c. dried cranberries
margarine
brown sugar
a bit of lemon juice
fresh ground nutmeg

Simmer the ingredients (most of them to taste) on medium-low heat until the mixture begins to get sweaty and juicy, about 20-30 minutes. The lemon juice will keep the fruit from browning due to air exposure, and cuts through some of the sweetness. Fill your pierogis carefully, trying hard not to get any fruit juice on the outer portion of the dough where you will be pressing the dumplings closed. These were very good plain and with vegan sour cream.

Filling 2: A New Spin on Tradition in Potato and Onion
about 5 large red potatoes, cubed
about 3 stalks of green onion, diced very small
minced garlic
a little olive oil
salt, pepper, and basil or parsley to taste
optional: tofu, Boca veggie crumbles, or seitan

For this filling, boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Drain into a strainer, rinse in very cold water, and then mash by hand in a large bowl. Mix in other ingredients (again, most of them to taste, but go easy on the oil) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors get acquainted. Stuff the pierogis, boil, saute, and eat with this awesome sauce:

Saucin’ the Supper: Vegan Creamy Horseradish Sauce
1 ramekin of vegan mayonnaise (we use Grapeseed Vegenaise)
good horseradish (we buy ours at the Broadway Market in Historic Polonia, so we know it’s good)
lemon juice
onion powder

Mix the ingredients until you get just enough kick from the horseradish, and an acceptable consistency from the lemon juice (you could also use apple cider or white vinegar). You won’t want to leave out a bit of onion flavor from the onion powder, or, if you like onions more than I do, you can add some diced green onion to the sauce and enjoy. If eating with people who are unsure about the enjoyment they may derive from horseradish, put the ingredients on the table and have a make-your-own-sauce party. Personally, I add at least 2 tbsp. of horseradish to every 1/4 or 1/3 cup of Vegenaise. I love the slight kick in the back of the nose and the slightly sweet taste of tart vinegar and root that every childhood family get-together was punctuated with in the presence of my Polish grandfather.

Moral of the story? Vegans can still get their Polish on. So next year, when you go out to buy your pussy willows and squirt guns for Dyngus Day, make sure you stock up on more than just Sobieski so you can enjoy these delicious pyrohy.

vodkasobieski.com

commons.wikimedia.org

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When Life Gives You Lemons

Oh, dietary indulgences...

I wanted to write an Easter recipe for the ol’ blog this year, but…the truth is that I don’t celebrate it, and it just didn’t seem right. Though I frequently decry corporate holiday celebrations, it is, quite frankly, impossible to say no to candy. So far, the peanut M&M’s, Jolly Rancher jelly beans, and Cadbury eggs have been “simply irresistible.” And tomorrow, I will hardly be able to hold back as I raid the stores for discount sugary Easter bits. There’s simply nothing like bringing it back to your childhood–digging in the plastic green, pink, and yellow grasses for the jelly beans your mom dumped ruthlessly in the basket, scooping the succulent “yolk” out of the chocolate egg’s center as it dripped all over your face and fingers, biting gluttonously into the peanut butter eggs that always make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth…

We celebrated many Easters at my grandmother’s house in my earlier years. There was always a ham–a big, salty, fatty, nasty packaged ham that my grandmother or aunt attempted to spruce up with pineapple rings–and there was always the pearl onions, the mashed potatoes, the cream cheese and olive ants on a log. And candy. There was always candy. The thing about Easter is that I never really liked the food we ate. I still really despise ham, and though it may seem surprising given my love of bacon, it is still my least favorite part of the pig by far. Pearl onions were good, but you can’t eat more than a few of them when you’re a kid; they are onions, after all. Mashed potatoes were too typical, and the few times the women in my family attempted scalloped potatoes, they were…just a big brown crusty mess! My mother never cooked on this holiday, and so the food was relegated to the mundane, the uninspired, and the untouchable, particularly for my small mind.

Instead of Easter dinner, my partner and I will be feasting on sandwiches from Sub Shop here in Oswego–one of the things we wanted to do before we graduated. Because, after all, you are not truly an Oswegonian, or a true Sub Shop fan, unless you’ve had the Eric Cole and the Al Roker. Though we spent basically all weekend inside recovering from hours and hours of travel, the nice weather inspired a picnic mood in us.

Today’s recipe is a simple homemade lemonade. What I love about this recipe is that you can control the added sugar; many store-bought lemonades have obscene amounts of sugar, and they are often not sour enough for my liking. Plus, homemade lemonade is so easy! It is the pinnacle of any picnic, or any lunch/dinner in the summer, for that matter. We added a little alcohol to ours last night as well, and let’s face it: if you are making drinks for a party, why spend 7 or 8 dollars on pre-made drink mixers with high fructose corn syrup and chemical preservatives when you can buy a few lemons and call it a day? Life handed me lemons this weekend–the stress of moving to Buffalo from Oswego, and graduating, is really setting in–but, like the old adage, I made lemonade.

Homemade Lemonade

Nice, Cool Pitcher...

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 bottled lemon juice
1/2 gallon filtered water
extra lemon juice
extra lemon wedges
ice
Svetka vodka (optional)

-Mix hot water and sugar together until you get a syrup, then add fresh and bottled lemon juice, and cold filtered water.
-Place in the refrigerator and let cool for approximately 20 minutes (less time if put in freezer, but don’t forget about them! You’ll have a solid lemonade pitcher)
-Pour 8 to 12 oz. over ice, and add an optional 1-2 shots of Svetka vodka. Tip: Squeezing (or saving) extra lemon juice and/or lemon wedges will allow you to make your individual lemonade more puckery!

Hollandaise Revisited: Mockandaise

Hello, my name is Whitney. Hi Whitney. I have been an artichoke addict for about a month now. This week, I caved twice: once at my partner’s parents’ house, and once again at 2 AM this morning. I feel I shouldn’t be indulging myself with artichokes, but…they are absolute bliss. After a weekend of the world’s most delicious cheesecake and heaps of red meat with gravy, who can blame me for craving a leafy green artichoke in all its glory? I couldn’t sit still as I waited for the pot to boil; always 45 minutes to wait for the exotic thistle to soften, the cynara cardunculus of my dreams.

If this addiction were to continue–if I let myself give in–there has to be a better way to make hollandaise sauce, a healthier way, so my waist band doesn’t expand as my addiction deepens into obsession….with artichokes.

I experimented last night with a preparation I thought might work and…lo and behold! It did. After making my first hollandaise recipe, which resulted in an excess of this smooth, fatty emulsion, I reduced the old recipe by 33% and still had plenty for 2 servings (while the old recipe is more like 3, which I don’t need for two people). When there is a large bowl of this stuff in front of you, it’s hard not to dip in and lick the bowl, so the result of my crafty cutting is sure to cut back on the nutrition in a huge way:

Old Hollandaise: New Hollandaise: Mockandaise:
2 artichokes                                    2 artichokes                                       2 artichokes
3 egg yolks                                       2 egg yolks                                         1 large egg
6 tbsp.                                              4 tbsp. butter                                     2 tbsp. unsalted butter
—-                                                    —-                                                        2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. lemon juice          1 tbsp. lemon juice                            1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. water                                   2 tsp. water                                         2 tsp. water
salt and pepper                              salt, pepper, garlic powder             salt, pepper, g. powder

Calories: 387                                  Calories: 260                                     Calories: 260
Total fat: 41 g                                 Total fat: 27.5 g                                 Total fat: 28 g
Saturated fat: 24 g                        Saturated fat: 16 g                             Saturated fat: 9 g
Polyunsat fat: 2.3 g                       Polyunsat fat: 1.6 g                           Polyunsat fat: 5.1 g
Monounsat fat: 13 g                     Monounsat fat: 8.6 g                        Monounsat fat: 12.6 g
Cholesterol: 400 mg                    Cholesterol: 267 mg                          Cholesterol: 124 mg
Sodium: 1200 mg                         Sodium: 1200 mg                               Sodium: 1200 mg
Total carbs: 1.4 g                           Total carbs: 1.1 g                                Total carbs: 0.5 g
Protein: 4.3 g                                 Protein: 2.9 g                                      Protein: 3.3 g

The nutritional differences are striking enough that one may consider switching to the “mockandaise” sauce…

This now concludes our session of ALA (Artichoke Lovers Anonymous).

Artichokes and Hollan-daze

Prior to last night, I had never really eaten an artichoke before. And if you’ve only had artichokes marinated in jars, or done up in dishes with sauces or pastas, thenyou’ve never eaten an artichoke either. When my partner suggested in the produce aisle that we buy artichokes ($1 each at Price Chopper this week) I was a bit skeptical; I had never prepared an artichoke before, in spite of how much I love them, and their spiny, poky leaves seemed….well a bit difficult. But, always ready for a challenge, I agreed. My mind immediately wandered to artichokes and hollandaise sauce, a classic and probably one of the most involved ways to eat an artichoke I could think of. I looked up the recipe and the results were to die for.

As you pull off each tender leaf, there is a small bit of “meat” at the end: this is the stuff. I dipped the leaves in the hollandaise, which I made thicker for the occasion, and scraped the last third of each leaf off, the succulent cream-colored parts the treasure to be discovered in every bite. It may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. I truly believe that artichokes anywhere else, served any other way, are not really artichokes. As you scrape, the whole thing melts in your mouth, the soft plant and smooth egg wedded in their own way. Unforgettable. And it’s funny how, immediately after you’re done, you just want another artichoke even though your stomach is bulging and you don’t want to think about the fat and cholesterol in the steaming bowl of hollandaise.

I opted for a “healthier” hollandaise: I cut the amount of butter to be used by at least half, and the results were delicious anyway! The hollandaise was very flavorful and particularly lemony, thick for scooping and smooth. Plus, there was leftover!

Artichokes and Hollandaise
2 artichokes
3 egg yolks
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. + optional 1 tsp. lemon juice
salt + pepper

-Cut the stem off the artichokes so they balance, snapping off the bottom two rows of leaves with hard pulls so they don’t string.
-Cut the top inch or so off the artichoke and snip the sharp points off the leaves that remain unclipped.
-Bring large saucepan of water to boil and drop the artichokes in. Cover and boil for 35-45 minutes. To test for doneness, take a pair of tongs and try to pull off one of the outer leaves – if it comes off very easily and you’re within the 35-45 minute time span, remove the artichokes from the water. Place in strainer upside down.
-Turn down the heat on the water so that it is simmering lightly. In a metal bowl, combine the egg yolks, water, and 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, whisking around for a few seconds until they are combined and pale.
-Place the mixture over the pot, whisking constantly so the eggs get thick. Make sure the eggs do not begin to scramble; if this happens, remove from heat quickly and continue to whisk. Having a bowl of cold water ready is advisable, but it probably won’t be needed.
-Once the eggs begin to get frothy, begin adding the butter slowly. The butter should be completely melted so it can be dripped into the mixture. Whisk constantly. The sauce will begin to get thick. This should only take a couple of minutes.
-Once all the butter is added, remove from heat (if not already removed) and add salt, pepper, and another tsp. of lemon juice if desired. Serve the hollandaise sauce in a bowl immediately so it stays hot.

Almost too good to be true

To eat the artichokes, peel off the leaves and scrape with your teeth toward the bottom. The leaves are soft and fleshy, and will be easy to pull the meat off of – even better if you dip in hollandaise first! You will get to the tender inner leaves, which are yellow, and you should remove them and scrape the inner parts out. The inside will be “fuzzy” and you will see what looks like unformed leaves – scrape all this out. You will be left with the artichoke heart and the bottom remaining stem; this is all edible and delicious!!

I served this with my polenta, which I made with only 1 and 3/4 cup water to make more firm. On top of the polenta I put a simple cheese mixture of gorgonzola and cream cheese, mixed and melted with dried cranberries and dolloped on top of the polenta. If you like blue cheese, you’ll love this!

Gorgonzola & Cranberry Spread
2:1 ratio gorgonzola and cream cheese (I used 4 tbsp. gorgonzola and 2 tbsp. cream cheese)
dried cranberries to taste

Just mix and melt!