Saturday, August 14, 2010


The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

We loved the idea of putting our own regional twist on pierogies, and came up with lots of ideas: unfortunately, this month we both found ourselves insanely busy with work and only managed a few renditions. They were, however, very tasty and we will definitely make them again.

Neither of us had actually ever had pierogis before, so in a shocking break for Monkeyshines in the Kitchen, we stuck pretty close to the Russian recipe that Anula shared.

Pierogies with potato, cabbage and bacon stuffing and mushroom cream sauce

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This was a variation on one of our favorite cabbage dishes: cabbage with garlic and juniper. In our experience, this treatment transforms the humble cabbage into a star of the dinner table, guaranteed to win over the most ardent skeptic. In keeping with Anula’s original family recipe, we paired the cabbage with potato. And – of course – bacon, in our case some home-cured pepper bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon.

2 russet potatoes
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
1/4 large cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 juniper berries, crushed
3 strips bacon. finely diced
1 tbsp oil (included because our bacon was very lean; I would probably omit this if the bacon were more fatty)
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb sliced field mushrooms
1/4 c sour cream
1/4c milk
Pinch thyme, salt and pepper

Gently fry the bacon in the oil until it starts to get crisp; add the garlic and juniper berries, then the shredded cabbage. Cook over medium heat until the cabbage is sort. Meanwhile, peel and boil the potatoes until soft; drain, add the sour cream and ricotta, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix/mash the potatoes using a hand mixer, then blend in the cabbage mixture.

Make the mushroom sauce: Sauté the mushrooms in a little oil until soft; add the milk and cream together with the seasonings and heat through. Easy as can be!

Make the Russian-style pierogi dough according to the instructions; cut into circles and add a spoonful of filling, then fold over into a half moon shape and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.

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Boil them in a large pot of salted water, then drain and serve with the mushroom cream sauce.

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For our second round, we took the ‘local’ part of the challenge literally, and made a dessert pierogi featuring blueberries and lemons from our garden. For this version, we used the challenge Wareneki recipe for the dough, then filled the dumplings with a mixture of fresh ricotta, basil and lemon zest. In truth, we only made a third of the dough recipe and still had more than enough to serve 4 (of course a dessert portion is smaller than what you’d serve for dinner).

Pierogies filled with ricotta, lemon and basil and topped with blueberry sauce and basil granita



6 oz Ricotta
zest of one lemon
1 large basil leaf, minced
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Make the dough as per the recipe. We let it rest about 30 minutes even though the recipe didn’t ask for that.

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

Fill and crimp the pierogies as above.

Heat a cup or two of oil in a heavy pan and fry the pierogies until they brown. We did them in small batches of 2-3 to try to keep them from sticking to each other.

We liked the way that frying created a textural contrast to the smooth filling. We’re faintly embarrassed, though, as we’ve fried more for the Daring Cooks than we ever have – we feel compelled to declare that this is not part of our normal repertoire! The cool granita was also a nice contrast to the hot pierogi. However, it seemed that the filling tended to disappear during the cooking process – perhaps someone little lax in the sealing process? possibly, but we point no fingers. Nevertheless, you could still taste the filling and it was delicious.


Thanks to Liz and Anula for presenting the opportunity to try something new!

The challenge recipes:

Russian style pierogi

(makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
(Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula's family recipe)

2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried.  Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Cottage Cheese Wareneki (pierogi)

½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
3 large egg whites
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour

1. Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough. (I kneaded this dough quite a bit, and it yielded a nice, pliable dough).
2. On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp (5ml) cottage cheese filling (see below).

1 lb (455 g) dry cottage cheese (this is usually found beside the “wet” cottage cheese in the supermarket’s dairy aisle. If you can’t find it, please see below for how to proceed with the “wet” cottage cheese.)
3 large egg yolks
Salt to taste

1. Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.
2. Put 1 rounded teaspoon (5 ml) of the filling in each square, fold corners to form a triangle, seal edges well using your fingers or a fork
3. Cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.

Boiled pierogi can also be fried after boiling for a nice crunchy dumpling.

If you can’t find dry cottage cheese, simply drain normal cottage cheese by nesting the cottage  in a few layers of cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a bowl.

Adapted from The Mennonite Cookbook

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Herb-spiced baby back ribs with chimichurri mop sauce

This is what happened when set out to make some ribs with a difference. Not that there’s anything wrong with the many excellent variations on barbecued ribs that already exist. In fact, various forms of these tasty morsels are a regular feature of the Monkeyshines Menu when we break out the charcoal grill; usually inspired by recipes in the excellent Barbecue Bible and/or Barbecue USA, both by Steven Raichlen. However, this time we wanted to take things in a bit more of a herbal direction.


1 rack of baby back ribs

For the rub:
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tsp salt

For the mop sauce:
4 tbsp minced parsley
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

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First, make the rub: grind the spices in a mortar and pestle. Peel the papery skin off the back of the rack of ribs, and coat the ribs liberally with the rub (You can see that we just used a half rack of ribs; I’ve scaled the recipe up for a full rack.) Wrap or cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight.


The ribs are cooked using a two step process. First, they are wrapped well in aluminum foil and cooked in a low temperature (200 F) oven for 5 hours. This seems like a long time, but it guarantees that the ribs will be literally falling-off-the-bone tender. At some stage towards the end of these 5 hours, make the mop sauce: first, mix all ingredients apart from the olive oil, then gradually whisk in the oil (as if making a vinaigrette):

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Remove the ribs from the oven, take them out of the foil packet and cook on a hot charcoal grill for about 10 minutes per side, basting with the mop sauce. This should be enough to give them a nice char; careful as you turn them though; they will probably be very tender and you don’t want to lose them!

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As shown above, we served the ribs with some grilled corn and trumpet mushrooms. Enjoy!