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Sweet potato pierogi: Project Food Blog

This twist on the classic Polish favorite, with earthy rosemary and sweet potatoes, is the perfect hearty meal to keep warm as the fall days become cooler.

Growing up Polish American means growing up eating pierogi, the delicious dumplings, usually filled with potato or sauerkraut, that are fried in butter. Most often, this also means eating frozen pierogi, a staple in many Polish homes in the US. My mother often made pierogi for dinner, usually serving them with kielbasa, Polish sausage, but we never made them from scratch.  However it makes all the difference when you can stuff the dumplings with a variety of fillings, and the recipe is not difficult, it just involves planning. Use your time wisely, you can be eating a bowl for dinner tonight, transporting your table to Poland!

Although dishes similar to pierogi can be found all over Eastern Europe, the Polish variety are made with a pasta-like dough and are filled most often with sauerkraut, potato, cheese and fried onions in North America and cabbage or ground meat in Poland.  A dessert version is often filled with strawberries or blueberries and served with a sweetened sour cream. Traditionally, pierogi were a peasant food, but the dish eventually grew in popularity throughout all of the social classes.

In cities such as Philadelphia or Chicago with large Polish immigrant populations, you can find delicatessens that make homemade pierogi everyday. While these shops sell the traditional flavors, unique combination’s sprout up, with everything from meat and spinach to bacon and cheddar to a cheesesteak filled pierogi. This recipe adds a slight twist to the original classic, using a filling with a combination of sweet potatoes and yams for color. Topped with fried onions and a rosemary brown butter, this Polish classic is sure to become a new favorite in your kitchen. And as they say in Poland, Smaczengo or Bon Appetite!

*This recipe is my submission for the second round of the Project Food Blog challenge, “The Classics.” Please continue supporting me and vote tomorrow, Monday September 27,  so I can advance to round number three!

Sweet potato pierogi with rosemary brown butter(makes about 3 dozen)

Pierogi Dough (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, April 2010)
1 egg
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup milk
1 cup water
3 cups all -purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

* Start with step one for the filling, then proceed with the dough. (1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a sheet tray with parchment or a silpat. Place the sweet potatoes and yam on the tray and roast for one hour, or until soft.

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg lightly. Add in the sour cream and combine until smooth. Whisk into this mixture the milk and water. Add the flour, one cup at a time, transferring to a wooden spoon when batter starts to get thick. Combine the salt with the last cup of flour, and add it to the dough (this will make sure that the salt is evenly distributed to the dough).

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (the dough will be sticky). Knead gently, adding flour if needed, for five to 10 minutes. The dough will come together as you knead, so make sure not to add too much flour, as this will make the dough tough. Roll into a ball and cover with a clean, inverted bowl. Let sit for one hour.

3. While the dough is sitting, proceed with the filling, at step 2.

4. After one hour, line a baking sheet with a silpat or a clean towel, and generously dust with cornmeal. Divide the dough evenly into four pieces. Re-cover three pieces and place the fourth on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 1/8-inch round.

5. Using a 3-inch cutter or glass, cut circles out of the dough very close together so as to not waste any dough. Place a small spoonful of filling near the top of each circle, and fold the dough over in half to cover the filling. Gently pick up the crescent and pinch the edges closed. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

6. While you are shaping the pierogi, bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to a boil. When water is boiling, place five to eight pierogi in the water. The dumplings will sink to the bottom, so stir gently to avoid sticking. When the pierogi rise to the top of the water, cook for two more minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean tray lined with a silpat or parchment.

7. After all pierogi are boiled, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium high heat. Place one tablespoon of butter in the pan and allow to melt and get hot. Cook the pieorgi in batches, frying lightly for one to two minutes, on each side. Add more butter when necessary. Serve with fried onions and drizzle with rosemary butter. *If you do not want to cook all pierogi at once, place extra on a lined sheet tray that is dusted with cornmeal. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze. When you cook, boil pierogi straight from the freezer, do not thaw.

Sweet potato filling
2 sweet potatoes
1 large yam
3 tablespoons butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a sheet tray with parchment or a silpat. Place the sweet potatoes and yam on the tray and roast for one hour, or until soft.

2. When potatoes are cooked through, remove from the oven and take off skins. You should be able to just peel off the skins, but use a paring knife to help if necessary. Place the potatoes in a medium sized bowl. Using a potato masher or hand held blender, mash the potatoes until fairly smooth. Add the cream cheese, butter, salt and combine.

Rosemary butter
Heat one stick of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Skim the white foam that rises to the top of the melted butter off, discarding. This is the process for clarifying butter. When all foam (the milk fats) have been skimmed, add one or two sprigs of rosemary. Cook over medium low heat until the solids at the bottom of the pot begin to brown slightly.

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Project Food Blog

As I wrote about yesterday, I am competing in an interactive blogging competition sponsored by Foodbuzz for the prize of $10,000 and a special feature on for one year. Along with almost 2,000 other featured Foodbuzz publishers, my challenges will be judged by Food and Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin, founder of La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Mozza Nancy Silverton and author of and The Foodie Handbook Pim Techamuanvivit. Along with these prestigious judges, my fellow Foodbuzz features publishers and you, my dear readers, will vote on who advances in each round of the competition. I hoped you enjoyed my first entry, the article on grilled pesto pizzas, and will continue to read about this journey. The voting has now started at Project Food Blog, so please show your support by viewing my profile on Project Food Blog and voting for me by clicking on the box on the right side of this page! Thank you for reading and your continued support!

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Grilled Pesto Pizza: Project Food Blog

Simple yet elegant, this grilled pizza is a wonderful way to capture the last of summer’s tomatoes and turn your garden’s basil into a pantry staple.

Pesto Pizza Recipe

For the past few months, I’ve tried my hand at gardening. A true newbie, I wasn’t even sure where to put my seeds when I began my plot just a few months ago. Through tomato blight (a fungus that stunts growth), blistering hot days and a few vacations that threatened my watering routine, I’ve managed to turn my black thumb into a pale shade of green. My basil plants blossomed, with fragrant lemon and opal basil sprouting in between the traditional variety, and even through the blight, a few tomatoes have bloomed. In late September, these round orbs are still mostly green, but with a few sunny days left in Chicago’s fall, green may turn red yet. With a gardening bag full of my basil and one beautiful yellow and green tomato, I turned to this grilled pesto pizza to spotlight my garden’s bounty.

September may be nearing an end, but juicy, bright heirloom tomatoes are still shining at the farmer’s markets. A grilled pizza is the perfect way to savor the last of summer’s tastes, taking the bright flavors and textures of tomatoes, basil and ricotta and pairing them with the earthiness of pizza dough cooked right on the grill. Choose from a variety of tomatoes at the market or pick your fruits straight off the vine if you’ve tended a garden all summer as well.

While you can buy pre-made pizza dough from many grocery stores, the dough is so simple you don’t need to. Instead, mix the ingredients in a stainless steel bowl, clean it and use the same bowl to proof the dough. While you wait, make the pesto sauce, another easy recipe that combines basil, nuts, cheese, oil and garlic. Pine nuts are traditional, but almonds or walnuts, more common in the average household, work just as well. You go from dough to pesto to pizzas in just a few hours.

Pizza dough recipeWith this delicious grilled pizza, I begin the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog, an interactive blogging competition between almost 2,000 of Foodbuzz’s featured publishers. Over the course of the next few weeks, as I hopefully progress, I will post a series of specific challenges as part of the competition. The first, “Ready, Set, Blog,” asks bloggers to create a post that defines themselves as a blogger and consider what sets them apart from the competition, staying true to their voice.

The basil pesto pizza, with its ease and focus on fresh produce and make-it-from-scratch sauce and dough, really showcases the essence of my philosophy about food: La Vita Cucinare- living life to cook. With a passion for simple yet refined classic recipes and techniques, a focus on farmer’s markets and seasonality, and an eye for the beauty of food, this blog has been all about living life for food and cooking, whether through the adventure of making goat cheese in France or reading the newest culinary tome, since its inception in 2007. The recipe spotlight’s those ideals perfectly, showcasing the earthy basil and sweet, tangy tomatoes with a pizza dough you can make ahead of time for an easy dinner or spend a lovely afternoon in the kitchen with. It may be the end of September, but with a slice of this pizza, fresh off the grill, you can still bask in the last few sunny days of the season. As always, enjoy!

And please take a look at my Project Food Blog profile and vote for me tomorrow, on September 20. Thank you for reading and your continued support!

Basil pesto pizzas with ricotta and tomatoes (makes four 7-inch pizzas)
1 recipe pizza dough (below)
1 recipe basil pesto (below)
2-3 tomatoes, cut in thin 1/8-inch slices
2 cups fresh ricotta
1 cup olive oil (to brush the pizza dough with)

For the dough
2/3 cup lukewarm water (105 degree Fahrenheit)
1 (1/4 -oz) package active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for coating the bowl
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl and let sit 10 minutes, until foamy (If mixture does not foam, start over). Add flour, cornmeal, oil and salt and stir to combine into a dough. Knead on a floured surface, 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and shiny.

2. Clean the bowl and coat with a thin layer of oil. Place ball of dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic, and let dough rise in a warm area, such as the top of the refrigerator or a warm but turned off oven, until doubled in bulk, for about one hour.

3. Punch the dough down, deflating the air by pressing down in the center, and divide into four balls. Roll out one ball, on a lightly floured surface, into a 7-inch circle that is about 1/8 of an inch thick. Brush off any excess flour and place on a sheet tray lined with a silpat or plastic wrap, and cover the top with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for two hours. While the dough is chilling make the pesto sauce.

For the pesto
3 cups basil
3 to 4 garlic cloves
1/2 Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup almonds
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Mince the almonds and garlic cloves in a small food processor. Add 1/3 of the basil and 1/3 of the oil and pulse to mix. Add an additional 1/3 of the basil and oil, and mix. Add the remaining basil and oil, mix and add the cheese. Salt and pepper and add additional oil until pesto reaches desired consistency.

Katherine SacksTo assemble pizzas
1. Heat the grill to a medium high setting.

2. Remove plastic wrap from top pizza round and lightly brush with oil. Carefully place it, oil side down, on the heated grill. Cook until the underside is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly brush the top side with oil and using an offset spatula, move the dough off the grill and onto a plate, oil side down. Spread a heaping spoonful of pesto onto the cooked side of the pizza, top with tomato slices and dollop with ricotta.  Place the oil side back on the grill and cook for 5 minutes more, covered. Repeat with the remaining pizza dough.