Food & Drink

October 24, 2012

Carolina Kitchen: Recipes learned on a late summer vacation halfway across the globe

In September, I went on a culinary and cultural trip to Krakow and Zakopane, Poland, with Adventure Women Travel.

In September, I went on a culinary and cultural trip to Krakow and Zakopane, Poland, with Adventure Women Travel. I had never been to Poland or Eastern Europe before and this seemed like an interesting (and easy) way to explore a new place on the globe and the regional cuisine.

Our group of 13 met in Krakow on a Sunday morning then boarded a mini-bus and headed to the artist community/resort area of Zakopane, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. The Tatras form a natural border between Poland and Slovakia and are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. The Hotel Marilor would be our base for the next four days as we went out daily to cooking classes or rafting and hiking adventures in the surrounding villages.

In the village of Obidowa, the ladies of the village led us to the upstairs kitchen at the community center where we watched and learned how to make borscht, gulasz, traditional Highlander cheese, potato dumplings with plums and cookies with rose hip jam filling.

The ladies each had their own tasks to attend to: One kept the wood-fired stove (yes, wood) stoked and checked the simmering pots on the flat top, adjusting positions occasionally to control temperature; one woman was in charge of making the pastry for the dumplings and cookies; three younger ones acted like runners, making sure that the other two had what they needed for the recipes and kept the kitchen clean. (It reminded me of growing up in my grandmother’s kitchen. She ruled the stove and Shari and I measured ingredients or stirred a pot under her watchful eye.)

In the course of just over two hours, everything came together and we all sat down at a long table to enjoy the fruits of our kitchen labor as well as raspberry and cherry flavored vodkas.

Two days later, in the village of Ludzmierz, we created (and feasted on) a menu that included cabbage soup with ribs, pork roast, two types of pierogies, potato pancakes and plum and apple cakes. Again, the ladies cooked on a wood-fired stove fitted into the corner of a modern home with an electric oven on the opposite wall.

This time, word had gotten out that Americans were coming to the village. Our group was met by the mayor and his wife. After introductions were made, the distinguished gentleman opened a bottle of Irish whiskey and everyone toasted each other with shots until the bottle was empty. When another bottle was produced, some of us scattered away into the kitchen to help with the meal preparation.

After the meal, the ladies and the mayor serenaded us with local songs (although, in the mayor’s case, a bit off key). Needless to say, I opted out of the optional three-hour walk/hike that evening.

We returned to Krakow the next day for our final class at the Culinary Institute of Krakow.

In the professional kitchen, after being introduced to citrus and buffalo-grass flavored vodkas, we prepared a menu that included sour soup, steak tartare, herring (two ways), stuffed cabbage and a tasting menu of six different desserts that the chef had prepared for a catering event.

Since the weather will be turning cooler at some point, I’d like to focus on the soups that we sampled and learned how to make in the villages and at the Culinary Institute. I had to research a few of the ingredients; the recipe handouts and a cookbook that I purchased in Krakow just listed “soup greens” or “greens” as a single ingredient. Soup greens are the base for vegetable stock and, in Poland, consist of a combination of carrots, parsnip or parsley root, celery root or celeriac, leeks and savoy or green cabbage leaves and sometimes celery and flat-leaf parsley. Feel free to make it from scratch, as listed in the recipes, or substitute a pre-made vegetable stock.

Sour Soup (Zurek)

6 cups

Rye meal sour (Zur or Kwas)

3/4 cup rye flour

2 1/2 cups water that has been boiled and cooled to lukewarm

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Soup ingredients

6 cups water

2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

1 parsnip, peeled and sliced thin

1 celery root, cleaned and sliced thin

1 leek, white part, cleaned and sliced

1 cup cabbage, shredded

1/2 lb white sausage (kielbasa biala)

1/2 lb bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Rye meal sour mix (see above)

Salt and pepper to taste

Make the rye meal sour: In a Mason jar, whisk together the rye flour and water. Add smashed garlic. Cover jar mouth with cheesecloth and set in a warm spot for 4-5 days. After 4-5 days, mix can be stored, in closed jar, in refrigerator for up to a week.

Make the soup: In a large soup pot, bring water, carrots, parsnip, celery root, leek and cabbage to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Add sausage, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, fry bacon and saute onions. Place bacon and onions on paper towels to remove grease.

Remove sausage from soup stock, slice and set aside. Strain stock through sieve, pressing on vegetables to extract flavor, discard vegetables. Return stock to pot.

Add potatoes and rye meal sour mix to pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are al dente. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste.

Add bacon, onion and sausage to soup. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender.

Serve with rye or sourdough bread and a boiled egg (optional).

Fresh Mushroom Soup with Noodles (Zupa grzybowa borowiki z lazankami)

6 cups

1 chicken thigh or beef shank

8 cups of water

2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

1 parsnip, peeled and sliced thin

1 celery root, cleaned and sliced thin

1 leek, white part, cleaned and sliced

1 cup cabbage, shredded

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound fresh porcini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1/2 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, bring water, chicken (or beef) to a boil, skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add carrots, parsnip, celery root, leek and cabbage and return to a boil and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, saute onion and mushrooms in butter until tender. Add to soup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add tempered sour cream to soup. Cook 5 minutes. Serve with egg noodles (lazanki).

Cabbage Soup with Ribs (Kwasnica na zeberku)

Serves 6

6 cups water

1 lb of smoked pork ribs or sausage (kielbasa)

10 oz. of smoked bacon

1 lb of sauerkraut, drained

1/4 cup of sour cream

1 whole egg

2 tablespoons flour

Salt, pepper, Maggi* to taste

In a deep pot, bring water to boil with smoked ribs or sausage and bacon. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sauerkraut.

In a small bowl, mix together sour cream, little bit of cold water, egg and flour. Once mixed well, slowly add to the sauerkraut and meat, stir and cook for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, Maggi to taste.

Serve with boiled potatoes, boiled egg, ribs or sausage.

Goulasz with beer

Serves 4

1 lb pork shoulder

1 cup of beer of choice

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons of soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

4 Tablespoons of oil

5 cups water or vegetable broth

3 red bell peppers, chopped

10 oz. mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter

2 onions, chopped and sautéed in oil

Salt, pepper, Vegeta* to season

Wash meat, cut into small pieces and place in a non-reactive bowl. Pour the beer and soy sauce over meat. Then add minced garlic, thyme and paprika. Mix everything well with meat and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Later, heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot and add meat. When browned, add water and stew for about 1 hour. Add chopped peppers, mushrooms, onion and more beer if desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Vegeta seasoning.

Serve with buckwheat groats, barley, mashed potatoes or potato pancakes and pickles.

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