Category Archives: Currently Craving

Currently Craving: Pimientos de Padrón

Photo by DesignConundrum via Instagram

Spanish people don’t like spicy things. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be told at a restaurant in Spain that something was REALLY spicy, that I really needed to prepare myself, only to be underwhelmed. I myself have a low tolerance for spice, but I was always shocked by how easily Spanish people would literally break a sweat over a choice piece of chorizo (which in all fairness can pack a bit of a punch) that didn’t faze my tastebuds a bit.

One exception is the padrón pepper from Galicia. Or should I say, one in every five or so padrón peppers. They are not all spicy; the milder ones are the best, delicious, grassy-tasting little pods that have been vigorously sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. But eating these things is a bit like playing Russian roulette…somewhere in the mountainous little pepper pile you just ordered there are a few evil ones just bursting with capsaicin. But it’s worth the risk, especially when even the evil ones are delicious.

Padrón peppers are delightfully available in the States (or at least in California) in summer and early fall, and are even more delightfully easy to cook. Heat some olive oil in a pan until shimmering, then add whole peppers and cook until the skin is blistering and browned. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with sea salt. And voilà! A quick, authentic tapas dish you can easily recreate in your own home. Just watch out for those hot ones.

If you don’t trust my instructions and need a slightly more complete recipe, see here, or take it up a notch with some jamón and ajo here.  And if they don’t have any peppers in your area, you can always drop some serious cash on a pound or so from La Tienda.

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Currently Craving: Pierogi, Please!

I have a mild obsession with pierogi. I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t  the only one of the major contributing factors in my decision to visit Poland when I lived in Spain. And I am proud to say that even though Marshal and I only spent 2 days in Krakow, we managed to eat at least four different meals of pierogi (in addition to our meals of barszcz bigos, zurek, gołąbki….I could go on and on but I will spare you the gory details).

A plate of pierogi ruskie in Krakow.

My grandmother has a fabulous recipe for pierogi that she has passed down to my mother, and every year at Christmas, my family (just the five of us), makes an absolutely insane number of these delicious little dumplings. I think we made 125 last year. You can do the math, that is a lot of pierogi per person. And we always eat them all within a few days. It’s a ton of work since you have to make the dough from scratch, make the filling, roll everything out by hand, cut each and every little circle, and crimp each dumpling closed before they get boiled. The dough is finicky and dries out fast, so everything has to move very quickly or else your pierogi won’t be elastic enough to stretch around their filling and hold together in the boiling water. But oh, is it worth it.

Pierogi waiting to be boiled. The damp cloth keeps them from drying out. The lighter colored pierogi are ruskie, filled with potato, onion, and farmer’s cheese. The darker variety are filled with chipped roast beef and raw egg.

My grandmother’s recipe is for the very traditional pierogi ruskie, which are filled with a wonderful mixture of smoothly mashed potatoes, onions, and farmer’s cheese, and we usually eat them topped with tons of onions that have been cooked in loads of butter until they are tender and sweet. There is another variety that is even tastier, and that one gets filled with a mixture of chipped roast beef from the deli and raw egg, which cooks when the pierogi are boiled….that’s it, simple as that. I have no idea if this is a traditional filling, but according to the internet there are other people out there that do this, and according to a bunch of menus I looked at in Krakow people will put just about anything into pierogi! It’s also delicious, so traditional or not, we are going to keep on keeping on with this recipe. One of our favorites from Krakow was a lamb and thyme filled variety from a Van Gogh-themed pierogi place (seriously) called Pierozki U Vincenta.

Lamb and thyme filled pierogi from Pierozki U Vincenta in Krakow. Covered in buttery onions, of course.

So the Christmas after my pierogi-tasting tour of Krakow, we got inspired. We made all kinds of weird pierogi, some with ham and swiss on the inside, some with chocolate and peanut butter….we basically stuffed the extra dough with whatever we could find around the house. I have to say, you probably shouldn’t try the chocolate peanut butter variety anytime soon, but the ham and cheese were pretty tasty, and the varieties I had tried in Krakow told me that there were more options out there!

So today, I was browsing the internet, as I am want to do, I magically stumbled upon this blog: The Perogy Project. Now, the author and I may spell pierogi differently, but that has no effect on the massive amount of delight that overtook me when I realized that there was a blog out there about making pierogi with all kinds of crazy fillings!! I am even more delighted that it has been updated fairly recently and that it might provide me with some additional inspiration before the holidays hit. Until then, I’ll just have to rely on the frozen pelmeni from this place. They are like little Russian baby pierogi!

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