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Barbara Rolek

Eastern European Food

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Try Easy Croatian Mussels for Good Friday Dinner

Thursday April 17, 2014
Are you looking for something a little upscale for Good Friday dinner? Something that's easy but will knock your family's and / or guests' socks off? Try this Easy Croatian Mussels Recipe.
Easy Croatian Mussels
Easy Croatian Mussels
© Barbara Rolek


This easy dish is popular along the Dalmatian coast where there is a wealth of seafood and a strong Italian influence. It's known as dagnje na buzaru, or školjke na buzaru. "Buzara" in Croatian literally means "stew," but buzara-style cooking simply means that some type of shellfish or crustacean is cooked with olive oil, wine, garlic, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. If mussels aren't your thing, try Croatian Shrimp Buzara.

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Recipes for Passover from 'A Taste of Pesach'

Wednesday April 16, 2014
"A Taste of Pesach" (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, 2014) features more than 150 recipes that are perfect for Passover or anytime of year, especially for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
Flanken Potato Kugel
Flanken Potato Kugel
© "A Taste of Pesach" (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, 2014), used with permission.

The beautifully photographed book was born out of a pamphlet fundraiser for a Jewish high school. There's something for everyone here and there's even a gebrokts section with recipes containing gluten for those who have no religious or dietary issues. Here are three recipes from the book reprinted with permission. Sign up for the Eastern European Food newsletter
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Poles Celebrate the Drowning of Judas on Holy Wednesday

Wednesday April 16, 2014
In days gone by (and to some extent today), on Holy Wednesday, village youngsters would throw a straw effigy of Judas from the church steeple (or as high up as they could get). It was then dragged through the village, pounded with sticks and stones and what was left of it was drowned in a nearby pond or river. This rather savage ritual is known as Topienie Judasza or the Drowning of Judas.
Polish Custom of Drowning of Judas on Holy Wednesday
Polish Custom of Drowning of Judas on Holy Wednesday
© Pol-Am Journal


Compare this with the Drowning of Marzanna or the Winter Witch also known as the Frost Maiden on the first day of spring. In Polish, this is known as Topienie Marzanny.

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The Art of Palm Weaving

Monday April 14, 2014
Palm Sunday has come and gone, and we are one step closer to Easter Sunday.
Palms
Palms
© Fanfare on Flickr


Scott P. Richert, About.com's Guide to Catholicism, says, "The faithful have traditionally decorated their houses with the palms from Palm Sunday, and, in many countries, a custom developed of weaving the palms into crosses that were placed on home altars or other places of prayer."

In my own home, the blessed palms were simply placed behind pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that hung in the living room of my Polish home. My mother and grandmothers never braided or wove their palms and I never learned this lovely art.

I plan to try some designs with the palms I brought home from Mass yesterday. Here's a palm-weaving tutorial I'm going to use. And here is a video showing how to make a square braid. Remember, since the palms have been blessed, any extras you have after attempting weaving (or any dried palms from last year) should not simply be discarded. Instead they should be returned to the church in the weeks before Lent, to be burned and used as the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

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Smoke Your Own Sausage

Saturday April 12, 2014
Hot-Smoked Homemade Sausages
Hot-Smoked Homemade Sausages
© 2010 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
I've been making homemade white Polish sausage or biala kielbasa domowa, Polish stick sausage or kabanosy, and Serbian cevapcici in preparation for Easter. I am usually involved in so much baking and cooking for Easter, I make the sausage ahead and freeze it. At least that's one thing off my to-do list. I start to thaw it in the refrigerator on Good Friday and boil it up on Easter Sunday.

Before packing it away in the freezer, I decided to hot smoke some in my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Cevapcici are typically grilled and not smoked, but I threw some on with the other sausages and they turned out great. I used hickory chips and lump charcoal and smoked them for two hours until an instant-read thermometer registered 165 degrees.

Here's more about hot smoking and cold smoking sausage from Derrick Riches, About.com's Guide to BBQ.

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Passover 2014 Begins at Sundown April 14

Saturday April 12, 2014
Passover or Pesach is the eight-day commemoration of the Jews' exodus from Egypt after 400 years of slavery. In 2014 it is celebrated from sunset April 14 to sunset April 22. These Askenazi or Eastern European Jewish recipes are suitable for Passover because they are made with kosher products like pareve margarine, soup nuts, potato flour, cake meal and matzoh meal, none of which contains wheat flour or leavening agents, which are forbidden.
Jewish Beef Brisket for Passover
Jewish Beef Brisket for Passover
© bakedbree on Flickr.


Often matzoh meal and potato starch take the place of flour to give structure to these recipes, and to thicken puddings and dessert fillings. Read more about which foods are not kosher for Passover and why.

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Palm Sunday in a Country With No Palms

Saturday April 12, 2014
For Christians, Palm Sunday marks the last week of Lent before Easter and commemorates Jesus' triumphal procession into Jerusalem. In most countries, the faithful take palms to church to be blessed (or previously blessed palms are distributed to them).

Children with Palms on Easter Sunday in Poland
Children with Palms on Easter Sunday in Poland
Courtesy of Poland.pl
In Poland, a country with no palms, things take a creative and colorful turn. Palmowa Wielkanocna or Palemka Wielkanocna or palemki (little palms), are made of branches of arborvitae, spruce, boxwood, or yew. Since flowers are not yet in bloom, artificial ones made from tissue and crepe paper are fastened to the branch. Sometimes, flowers that have been dried from the previous summer are attached and colorful ribbons festoon the "palms" that can reach the length of your elbow or as high as a 12-story building!

Competitions for the longest palm take place throughout Poland. Two notable ones are held in Łyse in the northeastern section of the Kurpie region, and in the village of Lipnica Murowana, southwest of Krakòw.

The Łyse Easter Palms and Craft Fair draws up to 15,000 visitors yearly. Palm-making workshops are offered, performances by regional ensembles are held and the doors of the little wooden Church of St. Leonard listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List are thrown open.

Watch this video of palm-making in Łyse.

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Two Russian Dessert Recipes Perfect for Easter

Saturday April 12, 2014
After the long Great Lent, Easter is a time of religious rejoicing and feasting on all the foods that were forbidden to Orthodox Christians in preparation for the Resurrection of Christ.

Russian-Apricot-Nut-Meringue-Torte
Russian-Apricot-Nut-Meringue-Torte
© Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
Here are two Russian sweets recipes that are sure to wow your guests. The Napoleon Cake takes a while but it is a national dessert and one worth considering preparing for the special occasion of Easter.

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2014 Kitchen Gadgets That Really Work

Friday April 11, 2014
Here is my roundup of Kitchen Gadgets That Really Work featured at the 2014 International Home & Housewares Show recently held in Chicago.

Nordic Ware Piñata Cake Pan
Nordic Ware Piñata Cake Pan
© Wilton Industries, used with permission.
Products there ran from the sublime to the "Why didn't I think of that?" I've brought you what I consider to be some pretty nifty items that are practical, usable and, for the most part, won't break the bank.

You might enjoy looking at my picks from previous years. Sign up for the Eastern European Food newsletter
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What Is Palm Sunday?

Friday April 11, 2014
Scott Richert, About.com's Guide to Catholicism, explains what Palm Sunday is all about and Mary Fairchild, About.com's Guide to Christianity, describes what Christians celebrate on Palm Sunday.

Palm Weavings
Palm Weavings
Flickr by Elmer I. Nocheseda
Christian people in all cultures who observe Palm Sunday sometimes weave the blessed palms into crosses and other shapes to tuck behind holy pictures or place before icons in the home. They are taken to the church before Ash Wednesday the next year to be burned to create the ashes people receive on their foreheads.

The Polish National Museum in Chicago offers a palm weaving workshop every year and there are many good books on the subject.

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