Growing up with a Ukrainian grandmother had some distinct advantages. When she wasn’t at the Orthodox Church, or crocheting scarves, mittens, hats, and sweater vests for me , she was at home cooking up a storm. Admittedly a discriminating child, I didn’t always appreciate the menu, but I can attest now that she was a most excellent cook.
Ah yes, those were the days…a home cooked meal and everything made by hand. Every meal was a symphony of tastes and textures, and, all were equally filling and nutritious. Following are some of the traditional entrees and sides that were usually found on my Gram’s kitchen table for the Easter meal.
Perhaps better known as pigs in the blanket and stuffed cabbage rolls, halupkis are a main staple of any Eastern European household. I ate these things every holiday and special occasion. Basically, halupkis are boiled cabbage stuffed with either ground beef or ground pork and rice. Tomato sauce and potatoes can be added to give it more oomph.
Bleenies are essentially deep fried potato pancakes. Some may know them better as Latkes, but no matter what name you call them, they are an excellent side, especially when eaten en masse at church sponsored summer block parties. Don’t forget to pile on the sour cream and wash it down with a brannigan of a cold Yuengling or six.
Pyrohis are nationally marketed by a well known pyrohi maker called Mrs. T’s Pierogies. In San Diego, they are sold as pasta pockets and filled with jalapeno flavored mashed potatoes, but the traditional pyrohi is a dough pocket filled with plain mashed potatoes that is either deep fried or boiled. Pyrohis are at their best when accompanied by grilled onions.
Haluski is another favorite eaten en masse at Eastern European church sponsored block parties. The basic dish consists of a corraded mass of chunks of dough and boiled cabbage, but it can be complemented with ham, kielbasa, potatoes and just about anything else you want to toss into the pot.
Kielbasa -the real kielbasa- is pork sausage that is made by old skool kielbasa making experts such as Kowalenok’s. It is usually found in entrees, or can be eaten on its own with a heaping helping of white or red beet horseradish. Mmmmmm…one sniff of the horseradish opens the sinuses right up.
Red Beet Pickled Eggs
While red beet eggs are a Pennsylvania Dutch thing, they are my personal favorite for just about any occasion. Purple eggs are not only a nice alternative to colored easter eggs but they are a lot tastier too. Boiled eggs pickled in vinegar with red beets and onions for 24 to 48 hours are a welcome addition to any table.
A bialy is like a bagel, only it doesn’t have a hole. Instead, there is a deliciate pocket of onion and garlic goodliness.
Hrudka is an egg-based cheese. The eggs are cooked then poured into a cheesecloth and hung usually over a clothesline outside to drip off. The result is an orb of eggy goodliness that should be complemented with a side of kielbasa and a bialy.