Cabbage and Kraslice: Two Kitchen Comforts of Traditional Czechoslovakia

Happy April and happy Saturday dear kitcheners. Thank you for your patience this week while I took a couple of extra days to get this post together. As I mentioned on Instagram the other day, Friday has become the new Wednesday around here and then it became Saturday, at least when it came to this post:)

Adjusting to the new normal, this was the first full week that our farmers market has been officially closed, so sourcing two of the ingredients for this week’s recipe turned into a little more of a treasure hunt than anticipated. This was also the first week, we had to wait in line at the grocery. Have you guys experienced this yet? It wasn’t too bad – just about a 20 minute wait each time, but it did feel strange. While I waited I thought about all the people who waited in soup lines during the Great Depression and the bread lines in Russia just two decades ago.

Last year at this time, I was buying homemade bread, local strawberries and spring lettuce at the farmers market.

Since the farmers market is within walking distance and open seven days a week, I hadn’t realized how spoiled I’d become when it came to shopping every few days for food for the Vintage Kitchen posts or for household staples. But now that it is recommended that we all shop a week or two in advance, it has taken a little bit (actually a lot!) of extra organization on my part. So thank you for bearing with me.

Today’s post takes us to Czechoslovakia, a country that as of 1993,  is no longer called that. Two decades ago, the country split into two parts, forming two separate nations and came to be known as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I can imagine that on the official day a country declares a name change there is lots of celebrating going on and a renewed sense of optimism as to better opportunities ahead. In keeping with that notion, this week we are celebrating too. Today is Week 12 of the International Vintage Recipe Tour 2020, which means we hit the three month mark and are officially 1/4 of the way through our year-long global culinary adventure. How exciting!

Clockwise from top left: Armenian Stuffed Meatballs; Picadinho a Brasileira; Fried Fish Wrapped in Paper; Colombian Beef and Vegetable Stew; Rum Punch; Maple Walnut Tart

So far we’ve made meatballs in Armenia, talked about hometown pride with Viktoria in Austria, and danced with Harry Belafonte in Barbados. We have also cooked our way through the wildfires in Australia, the tornado in Nashville and the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

Clockwise from top left: Santiago Pork Roast; Fondue Bruxelloise;Sauerkraut Soup; Queen Mother’s Cake; Ceylon Curry; Viennese Chicken

There have been movie and book recommendations, a vintage playlist to set the cooking mood and a craft project designed to spark good memories. Together we have celebrated lunch time, cocktail time, dinner time and dessert time.

Clockwise from top left: We toured Austria with Viktoria; read The Hundred Year Walk in Armenia; discussed the history of Fondue in Belgium; discovered new old art in Brazil; danced to Calypso music in Barbados and met the Queen who inspired a cake in Australia

We’ve made food for cold weather, for hot weather, for mountaintop vistas and seaside beaches. We’ve fried and flipped, boiled and baked. It’s been action packed these past three months for sure.  The world is definietly not the same place that it was in Week 1, but I hope the Recipe Tour has been as fun and delicious for you as it has been for me.

Clockwise from top left: We saw the Comfort Tree in Canada; watched Liz Taylor light up the big screen in Ceylon, made floating paper lanterns in China, decorated Easter eggs in Czechoslovakia, discovered the effects of color therapy in Colombia; and learned all about tropical fruit from a Cuban farmer.

This week we’ll be exploring another beef based recipe, Czechoslovakian Sauerkraut Soup, a healthy comfort food that is not only great for balancing your digestive system but also adds a healthy dose of color and Springtime flavor to your table.

Czechoslovakian-style Sauerkraut Soup

On the cultural side, we are back in the craft studio, this time decorating Easter eggs in age-old Czechoslovakian fashion. Like the Chinese floating paper lantern project, this heritage craft is also laden with symbolism and positivity to help keep our spirits and our spaces filled with hope.

This time, we’ll start with the soup first, since it is a slow cooker of a recipe.  Requiring about 3 hours of cooking time and 20 minutes of vegetable prep, this so far was the easiest of the dishes to make in the Tour. Basically hands off (with the exception of the initial vegetable prep), the oven and the soup pot do all of the work here, leaving you free to do something fun (like Easter egg decorating!) while it cooks.

Featuring the humble, hearty cabbage (a fridge staple that stores easily for two weeks or longer) and quick roasted beef bones (a freezer staple that stores for months), this recipe is quarantine friendly, feeds a crowd and freezes beautifully. A better, more flavorful version of vegetable soup, thanks to the tangy addition of sauerkraut and earthy bone both, it is both a comfort food and a healthy powerhouse loaded with immune boosting vitamins and minerals.

Czechoslovakian cuisine, like Armenian food, was highly influenced and inspired by its nearby neighbors Germany, Poland, Austria and France, all of whom lent their culinary flair to Czech kitchens throughout history.  Predominately fans of an animal-based diet, the traditional Czechoslovakian home cook strived to master a dynamic range of rich flavors by combining starchy foods with a variety of vegetables and meat. Their cooler climate called for more durable produce and cold weather crops like winter greens, cabbages, carrots, onions, squash and potatoes.  The kinds of food that keep you feeling warm and fed on a cold winter day.

One of the challenges I encountered this week in the ingredient sourcing, was the beef bones and the short-ribs. Normally, I prefer to cook with grass-fed beef, which I usually purchase at the farmers market. Since the market is closed for the time being due to the pandemic,  it turned into a little adventure around town to see which grocery store would offer an equivalent. The first grocery carried no grass-fed beef. The second only offered grass-fed ground beef. The third store, finally was the ticket. In case you are struggling with this same scenario in your town, I am happy to share that Whole Foods carries  a variety of fresh grass-fed beef cuts. There, I was able to find the short ribs and the beef bones all in one spot.

The  most interesting twist on this recipe was the inclusion of both pickled sauerkraut and fresh cabbage. Sauerkraut is a centuries old food, first appearing on menus in the 1600’s, but this recipe makes it taste fresh, vibrant and modern. Hearty without being heavy, this soup is a delicious choice for springtime weather that yields warmer days but cooler nights. Pair it with slices of whole grain bread and butter or toast points and you have simple fare made from fridge, freezer and pantry staples.

Sauerkraut Soup

(Serves 8-10)

2 lbs short ribs of beef

2 lbs. beef bones

1 cup chopped onion

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

2 quarts water

2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (one 20 oz. can)

8 cups shredded cabbage

Salt 7 freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons sugar

1 lb. sauerkraut, squeezed dry

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the short ribs, beef bones, onion, carrots, thyme, garlic and bay leaf in a roasting pan.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the meat is brown.

Transfer the mixture to a large soup pot. Add a little bit of water to the roasting pan to dissolve the caramelized pieces and then pour the pan juices and contents into the pot. Add the remaining water, tomatoes, cabbage, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Skim the fat from the top. Simmer for one and one half hours. Add the lemon juice, sugar, sauerkraut, and more water if necessary. Cook for one hour longer. Serve with sour cream.

With Easter less than two weeks away, I thought it would be fun to pair this post with a craft that Czechoslovakians are famous for… decorative Easter eggs. Also known as symbols of rebirth and new life, eggs are a good way to add a comforting sign of hope to your home.

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, this is a fun seasonal project that you can keep year-round if you blow the eggs out before decorating them. Heavy in symbolism, these delicate eggs contain all sorts of hidden meanings in their design and color arrangements.  According to Czech culture, green symbolizes nature and growth and is believed to offer protection from illness. So I chose that color scheme as a way to visually fight back against the coronavirus.

Traditionally, Czechoslovakian artisans used beeswax pens, etching needles or straw to make designs on their eggs before dipping them in naturally colored dyes. I used a pencil and markers to draw my designs since I didn’t have a beeswax pen.

I also reverse dyed my eggs (taking them from brown to white) using a 1 cup to 1 cup vinegar and boiling water solution. The eggs boils for 20 minutes in this vinegar bath and then, once rinsed under cold water they can be fully wiped clean of their brown color. Here’s what one egg looks like halfway through the 20 minute boil…

Traditionally in Czechoslovakia, red was the most popular color egg, because it was the easiest color dye to make (thanks to berries and beets!) and represented beauty, health love and vitality.

Over time and many experiments, a rainbow of colors added their own special sentiment. Yellow symbolized good fortune since it was the color of grain. Blue represented heaven, white equaled purity and black symbolized ceremony.

Regarded as a highly skilled art form known as Kraslice (meaning embellished egg), Czech-style egg design takes years of practice, patience  and a steady hand to master. Many are still hand-painted today but some are mass produced as well to meet demand in the global marketplace. Designs range from simple sprigs of flowers or branches to highly ornate patterns, detailed animals and interlocking shapes.

Examples of different designs and colors. Photo courtesy of the Association of Painters of the Czech Republic.

Most Czech egg designs feature balanced imagery that is has been laid out in grid fashion beginning with a horizontal line and a vertical line that intersects in the middle of each egg like a cross.

They look complicated but once you start sketching them out, they are actually fairly easy to replicate. Here are some templates designs to follow or to help inspire your creativity…

Last year I painted Easter eggs with gold metallic paint. This year, I am adding to that collection with the new Czechoslovakian designed eggs. It will be fun to see what next year’s designs will bring and to watch this collection grow year after year!

The gold and white eggs were last year’s Easter craft project. Now the Czechoslovakian style eggs will be added to the collection this year.

Cheers to Czechoslovakia for adding two new comforts to our kitchen in the form of soup and eggs! Hope this post keeps your belly full and your creativity fed this week:)

Join me next week for Week 13 of the International Vintage Recipe Tour, as we make our way 2,800 miles south from the Czech Republic to Dahomey, our third country in the Tour that has been renamed due to changing history. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and eat your soup:)

Between Seasons with Jacques: Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

Shhh… don’t tell Julia, Ms. Jeannie’s got another favorite French chef!

Julia & Jacques
Julia & Jacques

Practically equivalent in the incredibly delicious food category, the culinary wonders of Jacques Pepin are a constant source of inspiration when it comes to time spent well in the kitchen. In a lot of ways he’s the opposite of Julia Child. She was an American that moved to France. He was a Frenchman that moved to America. Julia learned the classics of French cooking, Jacques created original recipes. She developed her interest in cooking later in life while Jacques grew up in his family’s restaurant in Lyon. But for all their opposites they shared many things in common – their passion for food and fun being two.

Claudine & Jacques in 1994.
Claudine & Jacques in 1994.

Like Julia, Jacques had his own cooking show on PBS which aired every Sunday afternoon in the late 1990’s. Jacques was not only fabulous in the kitchen but he was funny too! The whole precipice of the show was him trying to teach his adult daughter Claudine how to cook. Claudine was an everyman (everywoman?!) in the kitchen, and although she was the daughter of an FFC (famous French chef) she didn’t know much about cooking.

For her, techniques were troublesome, flavor pairings were confusing and certain preparations were downright intimidating. But In Cooking with Claudine, Jacques was there to teach and Claudine was there to learn, sort of. They were cute together. She’d make her own shortcuts, he’d quibble with her about the proper way to cut an onion or smash some garlic. Often times she’d humor him and then do it her own way. They laughed with each other and in the end they both learned from each other. Dad and daughter cooking up some fun. This camaraderie turned into quite a few television appearances over the years. If you are lucky you can still catch dad and daughter whipping up something delightful at a food festival or special event.

Here they are sharpening knives in Aspen in 2012…

Jacques maybe French by birth but his heart and home are here with us in the States.  He has surrounded himself with American culture and cuisine since he first came to the U.S. in the 1950’s. And guess where one of his first jobs were, dear readers? Before earning his masters degree at Columbia University, Jacques helped develop menus for the restaurant of this famous mid-century travel icon…

Howard Johnson's
Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge and Restaurant circa 1960’s!

Immersed in the everyday palate of the American culture, Jacques’ recipes pull from cultures around the world. They may have French foundations but they are built with a variety of different cuisines which make for unique arrangements in the flavor department.

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Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

One recipe Ms. Jeannie tried recently featured an international concoction of ingredients. Pulling from Mexican, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern staples, this springtime stew is perfect for the hot/cold/hot/cold temperatures of March. When the weather is as indecisive as your appetite and you can’t choose between something warm, light, fresh or substantial –  Jacques’ Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin stew is the way too go.

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It utilizes three springtime ingredients – onions and herbs – yet is packed with the warm, smoky flavor that suits a sweater and a scarf. It also involved this most mysterious ingredient…

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Hominy, thought Ms. Jeannie, was the same thing as as polenta which is the same thing as grits – a Southern staple here in the South. But not so, dear readers! Hominy is actually a corn kernel plumped up to the size of a chickpea and sold in cans not at all like its flour sacked cousins.  A whole  lesson was to be had at the grocery store. Polenta and grits are the same thing. Hominy is an entirely different matter altogether. Same family, different form.

Hominy comes in two varieties – white and yellow. And as you can see from this picture – when compared to a popcorn kernal it is quite plump. The recipe calls for both colors which gives it an attractive color palette.

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Because of its distinct flavor, there is not a lot of variety when it comes to cooking with hominy. Ms. Jeannie was surprised to find just a few different types of recipes online. Jacques loves to cook with these little corn puffs, and now thanks to his delicious recipe, Ms. Jeannie does too!

Hominy, Cilantro and Cumin Stew

(serves 6)

2 tablespoons canola oil (Ms. Jeannie used olive oil)

1 medium onion

6-8 scallions – washed, trimmed and chopped

2 small zucchini – washed, trimmed and diced

5-6 medium mushrooms – washed and chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic – peeled, crushed and finely chopped

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

.25 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 can (15.5 oz) white hominy

1 can (15.5 oz) yellow hominy

1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (because it is not tomato season here yet Ms. Jeannie used 7 oz. of canned diced tomatoes)

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

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Heat the oil in a large pan. When it is hot, saute the onions and scallions for one minute. Then add zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, cumin and pepper flakes: cook for 3-4 minutes.

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Add the hominy (with liquid from can) to the pan and bring mixture to a full boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the consistency after 10 – you don’t want it to be soupy, nor do you want it to be dry. If it is too liquidy – let it simmer until mixture is just moist. If it is too dry add a few tablespoons of water.

Stir in tomatoes and cilantro, and let the mixture come to a boil again. Let it cook for one more minute before ladling into serving bowls.

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Jacques makes this as a side dish but you could also have it it on its own as a vegetarian lunch or dinner, which is what Ms. Jannie did here. Serving it with a few tostadas gives it a nice bit of crunch but also it would be great with poached chicken or a simple white fish. You could even serve it as a chunky dip for your Cinco de Mayo party!

Happy hominy dear readers! If you have any great recipes featuring this flavorful fella please post it in the comments below.

PS. If you are loyal to Julia Child, Ms. Jeannie has one of her vintage cookbooks for sale in her shop. Click the photo for more info!

julia_french

 

Monday in the Kitchen: It’s Sopa de Fuba Season!

Simple ingredients for a simple soup!
Simple ingredients for a simple soup!

As the outside temperatures start leaning towards Autumn, Ms. Jeannie starts dreaming about soup in all its different variations. Undoubtedly one of her most favorite things to make in the cold months, she was practically giddy today in anticipation of inaugurating the season with one of her very favorites…Sopa de Fuba, a native recipe to this gorgeous place…

Can you guess where there is? Photo via pinterest.
Photo via pinterest.

Can you guess where in the world this picture was taken? If you guessed Brazil then you are right! To be more particular it is Minas Gerais – the fourth largest state in Brazil, known for it’s precious gem, diamond and gold mines, its historic colonial charm and a certain something special in the warm and hearty soup department.

Sopa de Fuba combines just a few simple ingredients in an unusual manner which makes it fun to cook and a bit out of the ordinary to serve.

It starts with the browning of cornmeal on the stove…

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And then the sauteing of sausage…

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You can use any variety of sausage from kielbasa to ground from pork to turkey depending on what you prefer. In this case Ms. Jeannie used organic hot Italian chicken sausage. Eventually you will wind up with slices or crumbles…

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The trickiest part of the whole production is when you incorporate one cup full of cornmeal broth to two lightly beaten eggs…

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The slower you whisk the hot broth into the cold eggs the better so as not to curddle the eggs. By drizzling instead of pouring and whisking quickly with a fork  its easier to incorporate the two and makes for a nice, thick, creamy looking mixture instead of thin and runny with floating flaky egg bits.

In the very end you wind up with this dreamy concotion that tastes like it has been cooking for days and feels like you have sweatered your insides in something soft and warm like cashmere.

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Taking about 90 minutes from prep to table, it is a robust rainy day recipe that makes you feel like you have spent some satisfying time in the kitchen yet doesn’t take all day nor the use of every dish. Pair it with  a nice glass of wine and some crusty bread or a warm dressing salad and you’ll be fortified for hours when it comes to the task of raking leaves, shoveling snow, or hiking mountains to find that one perfect Griswold worthy Christmas tree:) It also freezes well so make a big batch if you are so inclined and dinner will be taken care of down the winter road.

Here’s the recipe breakdown from start to finish. Ms. Jeannie adapted this just slightly from the original saveaur.com recipe. Her alterations are in italics.

Sopa de Fuba

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp. canola oil (Ms. Jeannie uses olive oil) 
6 oz. kielbasa sausage, cut diagonally into ¼”-thick slices (you can use any kind of sausage here ina ny style from pork to turkey to chicken from italian sausage style to ground!)
7 cups chicken stock (you can also use beef broth, turkey stock or veal broth)
4 oz. collard greens, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat cornmeal in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat and cook, swirling pan constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3–4 minutes. Transfer cornmeal to a bowl; set aside. Heat oil in skillet and add sausages; cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Whisk in reserved cornmeal, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking often, until cornmeal is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in reserved sausages and collards and cook, stirring occasionally, until collards wilt, 15 minutes. Place eggs in a medium bowl and add 1 cup cornmeal mixture; whisk until smooth. Return mixture to pot and stir until incorporated; cook for 1 minute more and season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into 6 serving bowls and garnish with scallions; serve hot.

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And that dear readers is Sopa de Fuba! Fun to say and delicious to eat;) If you feel the winter blues coming on – make a batch of this, picture yourself here and you’ll feel instantly restored. Like a mini vacation to an ancient city…

photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest

Happy Autumn eating all you hearty ones!