The top 10 recipes on this Eastern European food site for 2012, as determined by number of page views over a year's time, are listed below. Traditional, Old-World recipes were the most popular with stuffed cabbage leading the pack again this year, but more mainstream recipes also made a showing. My cake pops recipe was a surprise as second-most-popular recipe on my site. Here are the Top 10 Eastern European Recipes from 2011 and Top 10 Eastern European Recipes from 2010.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are the epitome of comfort food. Pork and beef mixed with rice or barley are nestled in a cabbage leaf and cooked in the oven or on the stove until tender. Poles call them gołąbki (which literally means "little pigeons"). For Czechs and Slovaks, it's holubky, while Serbs and Croatians refer to them as sarma. Usually, the sauce is what sets them apart. Here are more stuffed cabbage recipes. And here are step-by-step instructions for making stuffed cabbage.
Cake pops remain wildly popular. They can be dressed up as elegantly as you like for any occasion like bridal shower and wedding favors, or turned into wacky characters the kids will love. This recipe uses crumbled cake mixed with canned frosting but cake pops also can be made with scoops of cheesecake (minus the graham-cracker crust!). In my opinion, cake pops made with scoops of crumbled cake mixed with a binder like frosting or cheesecake are far superior in taste to the lighter-than-air pops made of cake mix baked in those silicone or metal cake pop molds.
In the United States, Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, is the day to indulge before Lent by eating rich, greasy foods. In Poland, this takes place on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent) or Tłusty Czwartek, which begins zapusty or the last six days of Carnival, which began on Twelfth Night or Jan. 6. Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday but Poles eat herring then and do their pączki eating on Fat Thursday. Pączki are fried rounds of yeast dough with rosehip, prune, apricot, strawberry, raspberry or sweet cheese filling.
This recipe for basic Polish pierogi dough is a simple combination of flour, eggs, water and salt. You may need to add a little more water or a little more flour based on the humidity of the day, the weight of the flour, etc. The dough should not be crumbly, nor should it be sticky. Get the kids involved in this project. Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make pierogi.
This recipe for Hungarian goulash soup or gulyas leves is hearty enough to be eaten as a main course with rye bread. This soup benefits from a long, slow cook and is actually a goulash, which is a stew, to which more liquid has been added. Traditional gulyas leves is made with beef or veal.
Eastern European cooks are frugal, not wasting one ounce of the animals they slaughter. Heads, feet, tails, innards and more all find a place in the culinary repertoire. Pork belly, once considered scrap meat and relegated to the soup or cabbage pot, is now treated like royalty in trendy restaurants around the world. It's a fatty piece of meat, but when handled properly, wow!
There is some debate as to who invented kołaczki (plural for kolaczek). Poles claim it but so do Croatians, Czechs and others. Kołaczki can be round, square or diamond-shaped, and the dough can be flaky or yeast-risen, and the spelling varies widely.
Bigos is considered the national dish of Poland. It's a hearty, long-simmered meat-and-sauerkraut stew that goes back centuries. It was traditionally served at the start of the hunting season, from fall through Mardi Gras, or until the family's supply of barrel-cured sauerkraut ran out! Today, it's enjoyed year-round. Here are step-by-step instructions for making hunter's stew.
Royal icing is the glue or mortar that holds a gingerbead house together, among other uses. It got its name from being used on fruitcake -- the traditional wedding cake of English royalty -- to keep it moist. I prefer using pasteurized egg whites (now available at grocery stores in cartons) instead of meringue powder because the result is smoother and it has better "stickability." Be careful not to overwhip your royal icing, or it will crack as it dries and your house will collapse, but be sure to add enough confectioners' sugar so the icing holds peaks and doesn't drip.
This quick-and-easy recipe for Polish Plum Cake makes good use of an abundance of fresh fruit (plums, nectarines, peaches, apples) or it can be made with canned fruit. Contrary to some recipes that call for a yeast dough, this cake is risen with baking powder.