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July 19, 2005

Chłodnik

Wankowicz_-_Mickiewicz_small.jpgHave not blogged in a while. Too hot to bake sourdough bread. Besides Max is in New Zealand and his team is not here for lunches. No way I could consume all 7 lbs of my mammoth loaf myself. More important, I have been ensconsed in my cave, with only a ceiling fan to mitigate the heat, with an unwavering focus on completing They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust. Sent it off yesterday and celebrated with a long nap. It's been a diet of blueberries and yogurt, with the odd plum, peach, or nectarine, an occasional package of wakame instant soup, a salad a few weeks ago, crackers and peanut butter (until the peanut butter ran out), and the occasional take-out order of vegetable dumplings from my favorite hole in the wall on Eldridge Street.

Dinner with Mark and Greta last week and their friend Klaude. Delicious pickled lox, scrumptious red caviar, with thinly sliced French country bread and sweet butter, grilled tuna, salads, apple strudel and Mark's favorite, blood orange sorbet. Highlight was the borsht, well, not the borsht we ate, which was excellent (courtesy of Zabar's), but the borsht conversation. First, there was the essence of borsht (30 lbs of beets, plus much else), which takes days to make and results in a clear liquid of extraordinary flavor and intensity. Klaude ate this borsht in Zakopane and extracted the recipe from the chef. Second, after I described my chłodnik, which I make with raw beet juice, or, if I am ambitious, with my own rosl, the liquid from fermented beets, there followed a wonderful conversation about chłodnik in Pan Tadeusz by the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz. I vowed then and there to finally read this book and to convene my Polish colleagues for a Pan Tadeusz chłodnik accompanied by a chłodnik reading in Polish and English from the book. And, as I was writing these words, Mark emailed to say he bought a copy of Pan Tadeusz for me and that it was in the mail!

Mężczyznom dano wódkę; za czym wszyscy siedli
I chłodnik zabielany milcząc żwawo jedli.

Po chłodniku szły raki, kurczęta, szparagi,
W towarzystwie kielichów węgrzyna, malagi;
Jedzą, piją, a milczą wszyscy. Nigdy pono
Od czasu jako mury zamku podźwigniono,
Który uraczał hojnie tylu szlachty bratów,
Tyle wesołych słyszał i odbił wiwatów,
Nie pamiętano takiej posępnej wieczerzy;
Tylko pukanie korków i brzęki talerzy
Odbijała zamkowa sień wielka i pusta:
Rzekłbyś, iż zły duch gościom zasznurował usta.

This quintessential summer soup is made from beets, beet greens, sour milk (in the absence of which, use buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt--some use sour cream), radish, cucumber, pickles, lemon, hard boiled egg, dill, chives, and, for a fancy version (not for me) veal or shrimp. I sometimes serve mine with a hot boiled potato on the side.

Chłodnik #1
Chłodnik #2
Chłodnik #3

Chłodnik #4: Alice B. Toklas (I will leave out the veal and shrimp, will cut the eggs in half, and use buttermilk rather than sour cream. Nice with a big boiled potato.)

2 ounces lean veal cut in small pieces cooked in water to cover.
2 ounces beets cooked until tender and crushed through a sieve. Keep the water in which they were cooked.
1 teaspoon chives cut in very small lengths.
1 teaspoon powdered dill.
10 prawns, can be replaced by 16 large shrimps.
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper
1 cucumber peeled, seeds removed and very thinly sliced.
2 cups sour heavy cream.
6 hard-boiled eggs sliced.

Add the cucumber to the beets and the water in which they were cooked, then the veal and its juice. Stir in the sour cream gradually, add the dill, salt and pepper, the chives, the prawns or the shrimps,. Add the eggs carefully. Serve ice-cold.

Chłodnik #5

1 kg. uncooked beetroots
1 lemon
1 leaf of bayleaf
About 1 lt. of thick smooth yogurt
250 ml. of sourcream
2-3 cucumbers(small variety with no seeds) or 1 large one
Chives or 1 small bunch of spring onion
Handfull of dill
1 egg /person
A little bit of ham....or tiny crabs or prawns for special occasions
If you like you can add some radish (if it's in season)
Pepper & salt

First you peel and coarsely grate the beetroots and bring them to the boil with a cup of water. Simmer and add the bayleaf, P&S coarsely ground and the juice of 1 lemon to keep that beautiful red colour. Take this juice off the heat when the beetroot is cooked but just still slightly crunchy. You can make this juice earlier (a day in advance) and keep it in the fridge for the best effect. You can also add the cucumbers, coarsely grated, to this base before you put it in the fridge. but take out the bayleaf.

When you want to serve add the yoghurt, sour cream, finely chopped spring onion and dill, the ham and eventually the radish. The result should be a very pink, quiet unappetising but delicious substance.
Season to flavour and garnish with hardboiled eggs and dill.

Posted by BKG at July 19, 2005 12:51 PM

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