Okay, maybe not everyone, but lots and lots of people. It’s one of the reasons to get excited about cabbage, and who isn’t looking for a reason to get excited about cabbage?
This weekend the local Salt Cafe has a special Eastern European menu and my parents told me to inform them immediately should that happen (they saw one of these menus years ago and they still remember it). Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to make it to the restaurant, but it does have me thinking about how many people I know who are over the moon if they see both pierogis and cabbage rolls referenced in the same place. The fact that my family is Slovak might have something to do with this.
When I hosted my own Eastern European dinner, I realized that while I knew what my family called various dishes, I had no idea how to spell them and therefore look for recipe options (I don’t necessarily believe my family has The Best locked away in our memories, I realize this is anathema to our collective food nostalgia). Luckily, slovakcooking.com gave me all sorts of dishes and appropriate spellings and the assurance that in Slovakia, it’s perfectly fine to serve dessert as a main component of dinner, not some post-dinner add on. I love my people.
Eastern European Dinner Menu: It’s heavy, filling, and predominantly beige – and it’s delicious.
Pirohy – Or, if you will, pierogi. I use the King Arthur Flour recipe.
Cabbage Rolls – I *did* use my grandmother’s recipe. This blog post gives a few recipes and the meat one is basically what we make – but fennel and fish (option #2)? That could be really tasty. It’s on my to-try list. Also, I think I need to start figuring out some super creative cabbage rolls. Even if my grandmother turns over in her grave.
Bryndzove Halusky – Potato dumplings
Boiled Potatoes (because potatoes boiled in dumplings and boiled in pirohy filling isn’t enough) and Sausage
Sauerkraut – I’m very picky about sauerkraut, only homemade. . . which means usually only when my mother brings some over. Sandor Katz (Art of Fermentation) is The Guy when it comes to fermented foods. Here is an online post of his basic sauerkraut recipe.
Boiled Bread Dumplings – Make a simple dough (this makes plenty: 1 cup warm water with 1 Tb yeast and 1 Tb sugar dissolved in it, stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, knead until smooth), then pull off golf ball sized hunks and drop them into boiling water. Once they have expanded a lot (if in doubt, cut one in half and see that it’s cooked all the way through) drain and serve with butter, honey, and (if you want) raisins.
Zemlovka – A cake that combines bread pudding, apples, and meringue.
Another set of dessert options: a Vermont Public Radio story on Czech Cookies.
A final note: I did not make the true Labun family dish, which is extensive. It involves piles of homemade thin egg noodles, broth with veal dumplings (and the egg noodles dropped in), and boiled beef, chicken, potatoes, carrots and celery. All of the above are served with ketchup, although I think I heard my mother say once that this was my father’s misguided addition to the classic.