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May 23, 2024

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Homemade Polish Soups – Hot & Cold

The Polish Chef
by Robert Strybel

FRESH TOMATO SOUP (zupa ze świeżych pomidorów):
If you have been raised on m-m-yuck canned tomato soup (m-m-yuck), you probably don’t realize how good the made-from-scratch variety can be. And it’s super easy too! Simply wash and cut into quarters 2-1/4 lbs fresh, vine-ripened, in-season local tomatoes  and simmer in 3 T butter in saucepan or skillet until tender (only a few minutes), stirring with wooden spoon frequently. Force mixture with wooden pestle or spoon through sieve into 8 c meat stock, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In mixing cup fork-blend or whisk 1/2 – 3/4c sour cream with 1 heaped T flour until smooth and add 1/2 c hot soup 1 T at a time, whisking constantly. Stir sour cream mixture into soup pot and return pot to flame. Simmer but do not boil around 10 min so flour loses its raw taste. Season to taste with salt & pepper and a bit of lemon juice and serve over cooked egg noodles or rice.

CREAM OF PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM SOUP (krem z brunatnych pieczarek):
Wash and dice 16 oz fresh Portobello mushrooms and cook in 6 c meat or vegetable stock 30 min. Strain stock, process mushrooms and return to stock, add 2 T butter and 1 heaped T flour dissolved in 1/2  c half & half or 1 c milk. Simmer gently below boiling point for 5 min. Salt & pepper, sprinkle with lemon juice to taste, garnish with chopped dill and/or parsley and serve with butter-fried croutons.

SPRING VEGETABLE SOUP (zupa wiosenna):
This soup makes use of the season’s first baby vegetables. To  5-6 c hot meat stock add a total of 3 c diced vegetables in any proportion, including chopped green onions, baby carrots, small kohlrabi, several radishes, cauliflower flowerlets, celery and peeled new potatoes. Cook until vegetables are tender but not overcooked (15-20 min.) Thicken with 2 heaping T flour dissolved in 1/2  – 3/4 c half & half or 1-1/2 c milk and simmer several min longer. Salt & pepper to taste and garnish with finely chopped fresh dill, and a little chopped parsley (optional). You can make a similar soup any time of year using mature fresh or frozen vegetables.

CAULIFLOWER SOUP (zupa kalafiorowa):
This is a typical summer soup. Break up 1 cauliflower (about 1 to 1-1/4 lb) into small flowerlets, Scald, drain and add to 6-7 c hot vegetable stock. Cook uncovered 10-15 min or until tender. Dissolve 1 heaping T flour in 1 c milk, add to pot and bring to boil. Add 1 T butter, salt & pepper to taste and garnish with fresh chopped dill. Serve plain or over egg noodles or croutons (see below). CROUTONS (grzanki): Allow roughly 1 slice white bread (preferably Italian, Vienna, Kaiser rolls or anything else firmer than that cottony-mushy American white bread!)  Allow 1 t butter per serving. Cut bread into 1/2” squares and brown in melted butter in skillet to a nice crunchy golden-brown at least on 2 sides, taking care not to burn croutons. Variation: Rye-bread croutons have extra zest and don’t go soggy as quickly as those made with white bread.

CREAM OF SORREL SOUP (zupa szczawiowa):
Wash a handful of fresh sorrel (about 1/3 lb) very well in plenty of cold running water to remove all sand. Trim off and discard stems. Chop and simmer in 32 T butter in sauce pan about 5 min. Dissolve 2 T flour in 1 c meat stock or bouillon, add to sorrel and simmer several min longer. Add sorrel mixture to 5 c meat or vegetable stock  and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Fork-blend 3/4 c sour cream, gradually adding 1 c soup 1 T at a time. Gradually stir into soup pot and simmer several min. Serve over halved hard-cooked eggs, allowing 1 egg per serving. Note: In southern Poland, this soup is usually served with rice. Hint: Bottled sorrel is available at Polish markets and delis.

COLD BEET-GREEN SOUP (chłodnik na botwince):
Trim, wash well, drain and chop fine 1 bunch baby beets (including greens), place in pot, cover with water, add 1 T lemon juice, 1/2 salt, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook about 10 min. Set aside to cool. Peel and slice or dice 1 cucumber, chop 4  green onions (tops and bottoms) and  slice very thin or grate coarsely 6 – 10 radishes. Combine with cold, cooked beets and 5 c cold soured milk (buttermilk or kefir). Add 2-3 T finely chopped fresh dill and refrigerate covered until well chilled. Serve over  sliced hard-cooked eggs, allowing 1 egg per serving.

CHILLED LITHUANIAN BORSCHT (chłodnik litewski):
Peel 1 cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, then slice thin into bowl or tureen. (Optional: Seed portion may be scooped out and discarded if desired.) Add 1 bunch green onions chopped, 6-8 coarsely grated radishes, 2 peeled, coarsely grated brined dill pickles (ogórki kiszone) and 1 c of the pickle brine plus 2 – 3 T finely chopped fresh dill. Drench with 6 – 8 c cold buttermilk or  smooth-whisked sour milk (see following recipe). Mix well, add several T beet concentrate. Salt & pepper, add 1 heaped t sugar and a bit of lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate until well chilled.  Serve cold over sliced hard-cooked eggs (1 egg per serving). Variation: A c of cold roast meat (esp. veal) or ham may be added for a refreshing and nutritious meal in a bowl.

SOUR MILK (zsiadłe mleko):
Cold soured milk or buttermilk (eaten in a bowl) with a plate of buttered, dilled boiled new potatoes is a great hot-weather treat. Zsiadłe mleko (clabbered milk) is now commercially available at Polish delis in America. They also sell a drinkable liquid yogurt known as kefir which is likewise good for this purpose. To make your own soured milk, use pasteurized milk (if you can get it). Pour 2 qts into a glass or crockery bowl and set aside in very warm (80°is good) or room temp place to clabber overnight. With homogenized milk, which has been chemically treated to prevent curdling, stir in 1 c fork-blended dairy sour cream and set aside to clabber.

COLD CUCUMBER SOUP (chłodnik ogórkowy):
Peel 2 cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then slice thin into bowl or tureen. (Optional: Seed portion may be scooped out and discarded if desired.) Add 2 peeled, coarsely grated brined dill pickles and 1 c of the pickle brine plus 3 T finely chopped fresh dill. Drench with 6 – 8 c cold buttermilk or  smooth-whisked sour milk or kefir (see preceding entry above). Salt & pepper to taste. Cover and let stand in fridge for flavors to blend several hrs. Serve over sliced hard-cooked eggs in bowls.

COLD FRUIT SOUP (zupa owocowa/chłodnik owocowy):
Start with about 3 c of any of the following single fruits or any combination thereof:  small strawberries; blueberries; pitted sour cherries; peeled and sliced apples and/or pears; or halved, pitted plums. Place fruit in pot, add 5-6 c water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 8 – 10 min or until fruit is fully cooked. Dissolve 1 – 2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) in ½ c water or milk and stir into hot soup. Sweeten to taste (with sugar or honey) and (optional) season with a pinch of cinnamon, ground cloves or ground nutmeg. Simmer 2 – 3 min. Serve over cooked egg noodles or fried croutons. A dollop of sour cream (or low-fat yogurt) may be added to each bowl. Note: This and other fruit soups may be served hot, warm, at room temp or chilled.

COLD RHUBARB SOUP (chłodnik rabarbarowy):
Wash, trim and dice 1 lb young rhubarb and place in pot. Add 5 – 6 c water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer several min or until rhubarb is tender. Remove pot from flame. Dissolve 1 – 2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) in ½ c water and stir into hot soup.  Add a heaping T strawberry or  cherry jam or jelly to improve the soup’s color, then sweeten to taste (with sugar or honey). Simmer 2-3 min. Serve over cooked egg noodles or croutons. A dollop of sour cream (or low-fat yogurt) may be added to each bowl.