Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vegetable Borscht and Homemade Pierogi


I wanted to show off these beautiful pierogi I made. I made them extra large because that is how my grandmother made hers. I also browned them in some butter the way she did, but they're great simply boiled. I've never seen pierogi this size anywhere else; they're usually about the size of potstickers. I used a great recipe from the book, From a Polish Country House Kitchen. After making them, I bought the book, and it's quite awesome. The pierogi recipe is here on Serious Eats if you'd like to take a look.

The dough was very easy to work with. I also made the filling with peas, bacon and ricotta, which was really tasty. I couldn't leave well enough alone, however, so I also made a mashed potato and ricotta filling (plus salt and pepper and nothing else--delicious). I did all this one day when I was home by myself, and it was a ton of work. If I had my favorite kitchen helper with me, it would have been a lot easier. And of course, there's always a learning curve when you cook something for the first time.


I think I will try this again, but I'll stick to one type of filling and make smaller pierogi, as these take forever to boil. I also learned that it's important to roll the dough as thin as possible, so the pierogi aren't too doughy, for lack of a  better word.

I wanted to make borscht and pierogi on the same day, but fortunately I was wise enough to give up that dream. So I made this the next day, and it was so full of flavor and vegetal goodness! Easy too. I referred to the borscht recipe from that same cookbook as well as several others and came up with my own ideal version, which is below.


Vegetable Borscht
Pureeing some of the soup in a blender adds body and silkiness.

Serves 6 to 8 

2 tbsp canola or safflower oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
4 or more cups water
4 to 6 beets, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2 to 3 carrots, cut into 1/2” pieces
2 to 3 parsips, cut into 1/2” pieces
Greens from the beets or 1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped; or a few handfuls of spinach leaves
1 to 2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon, or to taste
Chopped fresh dill for serving
Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving
Hot sauce or sriracha for serving

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot on medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, caraway, fennel, thyme, marjoram and cayenne, and stir occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring well.

Add broth and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add beets, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. If there is not enough liquid to easily cover all the vegetables at any point, add additional water. Add carrots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add parsnips and simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes more. Add greens and simmer just until tender (time will depend on the type of green you choose). Add vinegar and lemon juice. Check seasoning and add additional salt, pepper or cayenne as needed.

Ladle about one third of the soup into a blender and puree (carefully). Return to the pot and stir until heated through. Serve with a generous sprinkling of fresh dill and pass yogurt and hot sauce at the table.