Polish Dill Pickle Soup (Zupa Ogorkowa)

A lot of people have never heard of this soup, and many others seem to make funny faces just at the mention of its name.  I have to give credit to my mom for teaching me how to make this soup. However, never being able to leave well enough alone I’ve made some changes through the years. Like all soups, you can be flexible with the ingredients in this recipe to suit your tastes. The following recipe is the one that I have created. I will include the brand names of the items that I use but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. Once you have this soup you will find yourself making it regularly and sharing the love of this Polish soup with friends and family. Legend has it that this soup was created for pregnant women in Poland who were having cravings for dill pickles. Now I have mentioned being flexible, however the one area I am never flexible on is on the pickles I use. I strictly use Krakus Polish Dill Pickles as I think they have the perfect balance of flavors for this soup. Ok, maybe I have strayed a few times with other brands but I have always come back to the Krakus. Whatever you do at least use Polish Dill Pickles and not some of the large name brands from the grocery stores. Trust me on this, the flavor of the brine is different. Here is what you will need to dazzle your friends and family with a unique soup that deserves a place in your repertoire.

INGREDIENTS

2 quarts of chicken stock (see cooks note at the bottom for my variation)

2 medium carrots shredded (I use a standard hand grater)

1 medium potato peeled and diced (I like Yukon Gold)

3 medium celery stalks finely sliced

5 to 8 shredded Polish Dill Pickles depending on the size (Polish pickles are smaller than other brands in the large chain stores)

Pickle Brine to taste (depending on personal preference)

1/4 cup of long cooking pearl barley

1/2 cup of whole milk

2 tablespoons of flour

5 tablespoons of sour cream

1 egg

salt and pepper to taste

COOKS NOTE: I have used several broth variations for this recipe through the years including homemade. What I have found to be the best and many have agreed is the following: 2 cups of Swanson beef broth (yes beef). 2 cups of Swanson chicken broth. 1 quart of water mixed with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Better Than Bullion chicken base.

DIRECTIONS: Simmer the barley in a separate pan for about 30 minutes on low, drain and rinse, set aside. Combine the broth, carrots, potato, celery, and the cooked barley and simmer until the potato is tender but not falling apart (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add the shredded pickles and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add brine at this time if desired. Whisk the milk with the flour in one bowl until smooth. Beat the egg with the sour cream in another bowl until smooth. You need to temper both the milk and flour mixture as well as the sour cream and egg mixture. Here is how to do it. Take a ladle of the hot soup and put it in the flour/milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add to the soup and simmer until slightly thickened. Do the same with the sour cream/egg mixture as well. Remove the soup from the heat and add the sour cream mixture making sure there are no clumps and stirring well. Do not boil after this point or the soup can curdle. I have found that if you cover the soup with a lid and leave on the hot (but turned off) burner this helps dissolve  any clumps until you get better at creaming this soup. I love to serve this with thick sliced European sour dough bread. Grunt, grown, enjoy and wonder how you ever lived without this wonderful soup.

Corn Bread with Cheese and Jalapeños.

So its been a pretty busy weekend in the kitchen and it’s time to kick back with a cold beer and share a few recipes. This is a great cornbread recipe that I like to serve alongside some low and slow smoked ribs or pork butt. If you don’t have either one of those, no worries, it’s even good by itself or alongside the food of your choice. Now when it comes to corn breads there are two schools of thought that continue to cause arguments. Sweet cake like cornbread like this one vs dry crumbly terrible corn breads. I think you can see which side of the argument I’m on. There may be a time and a place for the dry crumbly ones, just not in my kitchen. I recently took this cornbread to a BBQ and figured I’d get a picture of it once it was sliced on a plate. By the time I made it over to the table it was already wiped out and there were several requests for the recipe. This recipe can be cut in half and baked in a preheated cast iron skillet with melted butter for a crispy exterior or in a deep dish lasagna style pan like I used. Here is what you’ll need to make yourself happy. Inspired by Fine Cooking Magazine

Ingredients

10 ounces of yellow corn meal about a cup

9 ounces of unbleached flour

1 1/2  teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

2 Tablespoons of baking powder

2 eggs

4 Tablespoons of sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 Tablespoons of butter

2 cups fresh grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese

corn kernels cut from four fresh ears of corn

1 jalapeño pepper very fine dice (or more to your liking)

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl mix cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl whisk the egg, sugar, oil, and buttermilk.  Rub 2 tablespoons of butter on the bottom and sides of the deep dish 9 x 13 lasagna style pan (this may overflow a shallow pan when it expands as it cooks). Mix the ingredients from the two bowls together. Gently fold in the corn kernels, cheese, and chiles. Pour into the well buttered baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes or until the edges are brown and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread pulls clean.

Rigatoni with Summer Squash, Sausage, and Goat Cheese.

Ok, this post will be short and sweet. If you want to hear me babble on about summer squash, go to my summer squash gratin recipe. This is a very simple pasta dish that not only comes together quickly, it is great on a hot summer day since it doesn’t require a long simmering sauce. OK, so here is what you will need.

Ingredients

1 pound of rigatoni pasta

olive oil

1 pound of Italian sausage (I used hot but I think next time I’ll do a 50/50 mix of sweet and hot)

1/3 cup of chopped shallots

2 cups of chopped yellow summer squash

3 ounces of Chèvre goat cheese

2 tablespoons of chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Fresh cracked black pepper

Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup of reserved pasta water

Directions

Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, sauté the Italian sausage in olive oil removing the casing and breaking up into small pieces. When cooked remove and set aside. Remove the leftover oil from the pan but leave all the browned goodness behind. Add more oil and sauté the yellow squash and the shallots until soft but still a bit crisp. When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain reserving a 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss all the other ingredients back into the hot pan except for the Parmesan Reggiano and mix well. Serve topped with the Parmesan cheese and garnish with additional parsley.

Summer Squash Gratin

I was going through my vegetable drawers today and found that I had an overabundance of yellow summer squash. Between my CSA membership and gardeners at work sharing their bounty, I realized it was time to take action. This recipe came from an internet search which led to a blog called 101 cookbooks. You can view the original recipe at 101cookbooks.com or just stay here since I pretty much only made a few minor changes. This was the first gratin I ever made that didn’t have some sort of cream base for the sauce. Don’t get excited thinking it is low-fat as you will see it is loaded with buttery goodness. While shopping for the few items that we didn’t have on hand we made a great discovery. The recipe called for Gruyère cheese and up to this point I thought all Gruyères were created equal. Boy was I wrong. We came across Antique Gruyère cheese at Busch’s market and decided to give it a shot. I can’t tell you how happy that decision made me. The only way I can explain it is that it is a bit drier and saltier leaning towards a mild Parmesan Reggiano but not quite. Anyway if you can find it give it a shot and you won’t be disappointed. OK, so here is what you will need.

Ingredients

Zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 1/2 lbs of yellow summer squash

1/4 cup of fresh oregano

1/4 cup of Italian flat leaf parsley

1 large garlic clove pressed

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

Decent pinch or crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of unsalted butter

2 cups of course homemade bread crumbs

1/2 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes

3/4 cup of Gruyère cheese (antique if you can find it)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice zucchini very thin making all of the slices as even as possible (I used a mandolin) to about 1/16 of an inch. Place zucchini slices in a colander and toss with the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let drain in sink for 15 minutes. Rub olive oil in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Slice the Yukon gold potatoes the same thickness so they cook evenly and set aside.

Make the sauce by pureeing the olive oil, garlic, 1/4tsp of salt, oregano, parsley and the red pepper flakes together and set aside.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and lightly brown the bread crumbs and set aside.

Transfer the squash and potatoes to a large bowl and toss with 2/3 of the sauce, the cheese, lemon zest and half of the breadcrumbs. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Transfer the mixture to the oiled pan laying flat and top with the rest of the breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until the potatoes are soft covering loosely with foil if the breadcrumbs begin to brown too quickly.

When done remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining sauce, let rest for a few minutes and serve.

Succotash

Every year we receive garlic scapes from our CSA farm. If you have never tried garlic scapes they are the young of the year shoots from the top of the garlic. Garlic scapes are becoming more and more popular. Look for them at your local farm markets. If you find them unavailable I would use one small garlic clove pressed or fresh chives for this recipe. The following recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart.

Ingredients

1/2 of a 15oz can of beans rinsed and drained. (I had Pintos on hand but I think Cannellini would have been better)

8 ounces of fresh green beans cut in half or two-inch lengths

8 ounces of sugar snap peas cut in half

3 garlic scapes cut into small pieces (or listed options)

2 ears of corn husked

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar

1/4 cup of fresh tarragon chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

6 ounces of grape tomatoes cut in half

1 avocado cut into pieces

Directions

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the green beans, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes, and corn for two minutes. Remove immediately and place into the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Cut the corn off of the cob and mix in a large bowl with the rest of the vegetables after draining well. Make the vinaigrette in a separate bowl by mixing the tarragon, oil, and champagne vinegar whisking well until emulsified. Add the vinaigrette, beans, tomatoes, and avocado and gently stir. Serve right away.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

I served this salad as a side dish tonight with a combination of vegetables that I received from friends and our CSA farm membership. As usual the picture just doesn’t tell the story. This dish was simple and delicious. The multiple colors of the vegetables along with the grill marks really made this salad visually appealing. The fresh flavors were that of only what a local farm or home garden can give. Make the feta cheese optional and you have a vegan dish that is still guaranteed to satisfy.

Ingredients 

One small fennel bulb cut into quarters plus 1/4 cup of the fronds

One orange bell pepper seeded, stemmed and cut into four pieces

Three thick slices of red onion from a large onion or to taste

One medium zucchini cut lengthwise into four pieces

One medium yellow summer squash cut lengthwise into four pieces

Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

Kosher salt

Three tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes cut in half

Three tablespoons of fresh basil cut into chiffonade

Feta cheese optional.

Directions 

Lay out all of the vegetables on a cookie sheet or cutting board. Lightly brush will olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Grill on all sides leaving long enough to get pronounced grill marks. Set aside to cool. When cool cut into pieces and place into a medium bowl. Add the two tablespoons of the olive oil and the three tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Add the basil, the fennel fronds, and the grape tomatoes and toss well. Let marinate for 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to blend. Add the feta cheese at the table and enjoy. Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

I’m back

Hey everyone, I let this site fall to the wayside when the weather broke in the Spring to pursue my favorite hobbies of fishing and travel. I just checked my stats for the first time in months and was pleasantly surprised. I appreciate the continued support of my blog in my absence. I had 50 hits today alone and have decided to get back in the groove. Cooking with Ken is officially open for business. I’d also like to thank my two new subscribers who signed up over the past few weeks. I begin receiving my CSA farm boxes this Tuesday and will be posting some of my all time favorite recipes with the fresh produce. See you after the Holiday, Ken.

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