I grew up eating dumplings, the kind you drop into chicken soup, but I'd never had a pierogi until I moved to Austin, Texas and found them in the freezer section of the grocery store.
We'd boil them and then simmer them in a little butter and serve with kielbasa sausage, mustard and sour cream. It was a quick, cozy meal that everyone in the family liked; the only problem was, it became harder and harder to find those blue boxes of Mrs. T's Pierogies.
I'd never considered making them myself until I came across this new book from Micha Korkosz called "Fresh From Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country" (The Experiment, $19.95). In it, he shares an easy, egg-free pierogi dough recipe that you could fill with whatever you like, from the traditional mashed potatoes to variations like the mixture of spinach and goat cheese. Korkosz adds salted almonds and lemon zest to sneak even more flavor into these Eastern European classics.
I've been on a dumpling-making kick lately, stocking my freezer with each batch. That means I can freeze my own pierogi, just minus the box, to boil for quick meals.
Pierogi with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Salted Almonds
Spinach often brings back traumatic memories from childhood - in my case, I can't shake the thought of the green mass with a strange consistency that was served every Thursday at school. But spinach takes on a new, amazing flavor in these pierogi. The filling is enriched with goat cheese that melts in the mouth, as well as crunchy, salted almonds and a little lemon zest for freshness. To serve, I sprinkle Parmesan over them for an Italian twist.
- Micha Korkosz
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 medium red onion (about 5 ounces), chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 7 ounces fresh spinach
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 cup chopped salted almonds
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/2 cup soft goat cheese
• 1/2 recipe basic pierogi dough
• Cold-pressed canola oil
• Grated Parmesan cheese
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the filling, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until it starts to wilt. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Transfer the spinach mixture to a cutting board and roughly chop it. Transfer it to a medium bowl. Add the parsley, almonds, lemon zest and cheese and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, make the pierogi dough. Following the instructions, fill, cook and drain the pierogi.
To serve, divide the pierogi among plates. Top with cold-pressed canola oil and Parmesan cheese. Makes about 25 to 30 pierogi.
Basic Pierogi Dough
Everyone thinks that their recipe for dumpling dough is the best. I do, too. Many pierogi recipes contain yolks or whole eggs. But I don't use them, because I think they make the dough harder. My key to success is a large amount of cold-pressed canola oil, which makes the dough perfectly soft and gives it an amazing nutty scent. The consistency is the most important part - sometimes you have to sprinkle the dough with more flour or add a little water to achieve a nice ball. Practice makes perfect: Keep trying, and soon you will be just like a real Polish grandmother. A note: Uncooked pierogi can be stored for up to 2 months. Freeze on baking sheets for about 1 hour, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Boil them straight from the freezer, adding 2 minutes to the overall cooking time.
- Micha Korkosz
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and holding
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup cold-pressed canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the canola oil and 1 cup warm water. Slowly add the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is well combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Invert a bowl over the dough and let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Place one piece on a lightly floured surface. (Cover the remaining dough with a clean kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.) Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of just less than 1/8 inch, lifting up the dough to dust the surface with flour to prevent sticking, if needed.
Using a pastry cutter or inverted glass tumbler, cut out 2 1/2-inch diameter circles of dough. Roll out the circles even thinner, to 3 inches. Gather the dough scraps into a ball and set aside. Continue with the other two pieces of dough, and the combined scraps, until all dough is used, making 30 to 50 circles.
Put 1 to 2 tablespoons filling in the center of each round, leaving a 3/4-inch border. Grasp the dough from opposite ends and pull it up and over the filling, pressing down to seal the edges together and creating a semicircle. Pinch the edges together to seal completely. If the edges don't adhere, brush them lightly with water, then seal. Do not leave any gaps or the pierogi may open during cooking.
Transfer the pierogi to a lightly floured kitchen towel and cover with another towel to prevent drying. Continue until all the dough is used.
Boil a large pot of salted water and add the sunflower oil. Working in batches, use a slotted spoon to gently lower 10 to 15 pierogi at a time into the pot. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to cook them for 1 to 2 minutes more, then transfer with the spoon to a colander to drain immediately. Serve with butter and sour cream. Makes enough dough for about 50 pierogi.
- From "Fresh From Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country" by Micha Korkosz (The Experiment, $19.95)