A view of the U.S., from overseas

It’s been a harrowing week in U.S. politics. My Facebook news feed is full of worried posts from my Muslim friends, angry posts from U.S. voters, and confused posts from my friends in Europe. And I know that by the time I write this, it’ll be out of date, a new Tweet or executive order or protest happening somewhere.

Food blogs usually aren’t political— we write about recipes and restaurants, not about farm subsidies, food stamps or breakfast programs in public schools. But I’m an immigrant here in Poland, and I’m all too aware of political issues, far-right politicians and racism. Heck, Poland’s current political party, Law and Justice, is conservative, nationalistic, and hostile to immigrants.

Of course, I don’t deal with the worst of racism in Poland. I can “pass.” I have vaguely European-ish features, and more to the point, I’m a short woman. My Indian friends have not been as lucky, and I’ve seen a number of drunks harassing Indian men. Also, I’ve had Syrian students, who talk, in hushed tones, about navigating in an often hostile society. And Poland has its own hate crimes— a molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of a pizza shop owned by an Egyptian recently. That pizza place is on the same block as my apartment.

Between Brexit and a number of other EU countries dealing with the rise of far-right parties— in France, in Austria, even in the Netherlands— I’m getting worried. With the far-right comes racism. Since I’ve worked in a few different countries, I can’t easily ignore how the United State’s policies affect the world. While I wasn’t a huge fan of either Obama or Clinton, I do consider myself liberal.

Which is part of the reason I organized a Women’s March in Krakow on January 21. As I couldn’t protest in Washington, this seemed like the next best thing.

From Steven Hoffman from the Krakow Post.
From Steven Hoffman from the Krakow Post.

The turnout was great— about 100 people, half Americans. And I was happy to give both Americans traveling and living in Poland a chance to make their voices heard.

From Anna Ziomkiewicz.
From Anna Ziomkiewicz.
From Anna Ziomkiewicz.
From Anna Ziomkiewicz.

While I still have mixed feelings on the impact of the march itself, it was really energizing to see so many people come together. It gave me hope to get through the next four years. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ignore the parallels to Trump’s policies on Muslim immigrants and Europe’s own history with anti-semitism.

Next week, I promise, I’ll just talk about food, sans politics!

Year in review: mushroom hunting, beet soup, and a trip to Ukraine

 

Often, my attitude toward New Year's resolutions...
Often, my attitude toward New Year’s resolutions…

I get torn about New Year’s Resolutions. On one hand, it’s a convenient spot to stop and reflect on things, but on the other, there’s a lot of pressure to suddenly reform and change yourself for the better. While giving up bad habits is a positive thing, there’s no particular reason why you gotta do it in January. Our Gregorian calendar is an easy but arbitrary way to keep track of time. Why not have a fresh start in July, or in the middle of March? Which is why I feel more like reflecting on the past year— like that Tori Amos song, it’s been a pretty good year.

Despite 2016 being terrible for celebrity deaths, I feel like this past year was a great one for me, personally. I feel a lot more settled, both in terms of my job and to living in Poland. And my blog reflects this: Most of my blog posts are about Polish recipes, and a little bit of traveling (back to my home in Michigan, and to Ukraine.)

Without further adieu, these are my favorite posts from the past year:

Mushroom hunting in Poland

An annual autumn tradition, I was lucky to have a friend who showed me which mushrooms are delicious— and which ones to avoid. While I can always buy a bag of my favorite wild mushrooms in the market Hala Targowa in town, there’s nothing quite like spending a fall morning traipsing around in the woods.

Sauteed prawdziwek.
Sauteed prawdziwek.
Ukraine’s Lviv

An unexpectedly pretty city, this was my birthday present to myself. In addition to lovely museums and a famous cemetery, there was also a great vegetarian restaurant, Green, with an attentive staff and delicious food.

These things are really tasty.
These things are really tasty.
Self-catering, and buying something based on pictures (like this buckwheat and mushroom salad.)
Self-catering, and buying something based on pictures (like this buckwheat and mushroom salad.)
Baking: pumpkin pie

This was also the year I rediscovering American dishes. It started when my flatmate asked me if I could bake a pumpkin pie. I hadn’t before, but it turned out to be very easy. The tricky bit is cutting a pumpkin in half, particularly if it’s a burly one. Pumpkin spice may have spread to Europe, thanks to Starbucks, but few people here had tried real pumpkin pie before— and I was happy to be the one to introduce it to them!

First, assemble your ingredients.
First, assemble your ingredients.
Discovering the joys of beets

I’d never cooked with beets before, and I don’t know why I waited so long. Beets are delicious, nutritious, and a very pretty vegetable. Warning: you do have to be careful, as beet juice will dye everything: your hands, your cat, your kitchen rugs. Chłodnik and barszcz Ukrainski are great soups for summer and winter, respectively.

Chilled beet soup.
Chilled beet soup.

Here’s to a great New Year! Do you have any resolutions, or are you awesome enough already? 😉

Gluten-free pumpkin pie, from scratch

A variety of pumpkins.
A variety of pumpkins.

I didn’t start out to make from-scratch pumpkin pie— it was an accident of being unable to find canned pumpkin in Poland. However, as circumstances go, it’s one I’m happy to deal with. Interestingly, Polish doesn’t have a separate word for pumpkin (which is a type of squash.) When you buy pumpkins and squash, they’re all the price. Not surprising that Polish wouldn’t have a specific word for this orange veggie, as all gourds come from the Americas, and not Europe. There also isn’t a word for pumpkin pie, as pie doesn’t really have an exact equivalent. Cake is too full of flour; tort is too fancy. The best I could come up with is “ciasto dyniowe” which translates to “pumpkin cake.”

First, assemble your ingredients.
First, assemble your ingredients. Sugar pumpkins, like the one pictures, are quite sweet and make for great pie.

The most difficult part of making pumpkin pie from scratch is cutting the pumpkin in half. And by “cutting,” I mean “hacking slowly and carefully while muttering swear words under your breath.” Pumpkins aren’t known for being small, dainty vegetables. Your best best: use a small but sharp knife, and be careful. Carefully, stab the knife into the side of the pumpkin, and slowly work the knife around the circumference of the pumpkin. Think more of sawing and less of slicing.

Step one: hack the pumpkin in half. Step two: scoop out seeds.
Step one: hack the pumpkin in half. Step two: scoop out seeds.

Once you’ve cut the pumpkin in half, use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds (save ’em if you want to roast them later.) Roast the pumpkin for about 45 minutes at 350 F/ 157 C. Exact roasting time will depend on how thick the pumpkin is.

Next, roast the pumpkin.
Next, roast the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is completely roasted and a fork goes in easily, let the pumpkin cool. The next step will be adding eggs, a splash of cream and, of course, your spices.

Blended pumpkin.
Blended pumpkin. A hand blender works best.

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to explain how to make the filling, then the crust. Generally, I make the crust dough first, refrigerate it; then as the dough is in the fridge, I get the pumpkin filling ready.

Gluten-free pie crust.
Gluten-free pie crust.

One note about baking gluten-free:  you can use a store-bought blend, or the one I have listed. But you want to be sure to use cold butter when making the dough, and not to mix the butter too much— you want little bits of butter in the flour. When the crust is baking, the water in those small pieces of butter will evaporate, leaving behind tiny air pockets and giving you flaky pie crust. This step is extra important when working with gluten-free flour, which can be difficult to bake with.

 

Ingredients

 

For the crust:

1/2 cup tapioca flour

3/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup amaranth OR sorgrum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon of xanthum gum

110 grams / 1 stick of butter, cold

2 eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

 

  1. Measure all the flours out and add to a mixing bowl. Add the xanthum gum and salt as well.
  2. Sift all the different flours together so they are completely mixed (you may need to use two mixing bowls and a funnel to do this properly.)
  3. Add the eggs and blend thoroughly.
  4. Now for the fun part: add the cold butter. I use a heavy wooden spoon to help mix things. Be careful not to blend the butter and flour too much— you still want to be able to see small bits of butter in your dough.
  5. Once the butter and flour have been combined, form into a ball and refrigerate for two hours.
  6. When you have the pie filling ready, slowly and carefully roll out the dough into a round, flat shape. To keep everything from sticking, I use a combination of sprinkles of rice flour and parchment paper. (The parchment paper makes it especially easy to transfer the rolled crust dough into the glass dish.)
  7. Once you’ve rolled out the dough to about 3/4 a centimeter thick, transfer it to the round baking dish. Pour in the pie filling, smooth out, and bake at 250 F / 120 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat and bake at 150 F / 70 C for 45 minutes or until done.

 

For the filling:

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups of pureed pumpkin

2 eggs

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 white sugar

tablespoon of cream

  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Bake the pumpkin for 45 minutes at 350 F/ 157 C.
  3. Let the pumpkin cool, then scoop out of the shell.
  4. Add the pumpkin, spices, sugar, eggs and cream and blend with hand blender until completely smooth and free from lumps or stringiness. (You may need to adjust the amount of cream you add.)
  5. When the pumpkin filling is ready, add to the crust and follow the directions above for baking.

 

Gluten-free pumpkin pie, from scratch

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients

Ingredients

For the crust:

1/2 cup tapioca flour

3/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup amaranth OR sorgrum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon of xanthum gum

110 grams / 1 stick of butter, cold

2 eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

  1. Directions

    Measure all the flours out and add to a mixing bowl. Add the xanthum gum and salt as well.
  2. Sift all the different flours together so they are completely mixed (you may need to use two mixing bowls and a funnel to do this properly.)
  3. Add the eggs and blend thoroughly.
  4. Now for the fun part: add the cold butter. I use a heavy wooden spoon to help mix things. Be careful not to blend the butter and flour too much— you still want to be able to see small bits of butter in your dough.
  5. Once the butter and flour have been combined, form into a ball and refrigerate for two hours.
  6. When you have the pie filling ready, slowly and carefully roll out the dough into a round, flat shape. To keep everything from sticking, I use a combination of sprinkles of rice flour and parchment paper. (The parchment paper makes it especially easy to transfer the rolled crust dough into the glass dish.)
  7. Once you’ve rolled out the dough to about 3/4 a centimeter thick, transfer it to the round baking dish. Pour in the pie filling, smooth out, and bake at 250 F / 120 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat and bake at 150 F / 70 C for 45 minutes or until done.

Ingredients

For the filling:

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups of pureed pumpkin

2 eggs

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 white sugar

tablespoon of cream

Directions

  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Bake the pumpkin for 45 minutes at 350 F/ 157 C.
  3. Let the pumpkin cool, then scoop out of the shell.
  4. Add the pumpkin, spices, sugar, eggs and cream and blend with hand blender until completely smooth and free from lumps or stringiness. (You may need to adjust the amount of cream you add.)
  5. When the pumpkin filling is ready, add to the crust and follow the directions above for baking.