April 28, 2014

Eastern European cooking class — pierogi, stuffed cabbage rolls, beet tart


Last night we hosted a cooking class at our house taught by Renee and Nick of Fire and Earth Kitchen. All we had to do was clean the house and clear the kitchen counter of a few appliances, then sit back and enjoy the teaching and the food. While we were out and about earlier in the afternoon before the class started, we picked up some flowers so the table would be more welcoming and not look quite so bare. Flowers make any occasion a little more special, though I'm not sure how having two people come to your house and prepare pierogi, a beet tart and stuffed cabbage rolls — and then clean everything up — could be any more special.


The class was very informative as Renee shared so many tips and tricks for cooking more efficiently — not just concerning food, but about tools and equipment, as well. For example, she demonstrated how to keep a knife in good working order, and talked about what to look for when purchasing a food processor. She also interjected nutritional information for the ingredients she used.


Of the three dishes prepared in the class, the easiest and quickest was the beet tart. Renee made a gluten-free crust flavored with rosemary that went together perfectly, and looked just like a traditional wheat-flour pie dough. She pressed it into the pie plate, layered it with thinly sliced beets, and beet greens, and baked it in the oven. While it baked, filling the house with fragrant, hunger-inducing smells, she prepared a sunflower seed cream to serve on top. None of my photos of the gorgeous, uncut tart turned out — too dark — but I think you can get an idea from the slice, how pretty it was. I'm not a big beet fan, but I loved the tart and would definitely make it again. The crust was light and flakey, and the filling sweet and earthy.

The pierogi filling, mashed and cooling.

There were multiple steps to creating the peirogi, and they were all going on simultaniously! Potatoes were set to boiling, and as they boiled, onions were caramelized in a pan. Once the filling ingredients were mashed together, they were set aside to cool while more onions were sliced and placed in the pan to caramelize.

Pierogi, shaped and waiting to be boiled.

A dough was made, and I really enjoyed seeing how Renee rolled, cut out circles, then rolled the circles again to create the dumpling wrappers. She made it look so easy, though I suspect it takes a lot of practice to become so skillful that you can whip up vegan, gluten-free pierogi without a lot of cursing. Once the wrappers were filled and closed, they were boiled in a large pot of water, a few at a time, until they rose to the surface, and were removed to drain. Can you imagine how hard it was to concentrate on the class when the whole house smelled like caramelized onions?


After the pierogi were boiled and drained, they were pan fried to get them a little crisp, then served with a generous heap of caramelized onions, and we ate them all up. I want more.


The final dish of the night was lentil-and rice-stuffed cabbage rolls. The rice and lentils had been cooking all through the class so they were ready to get stuffed into cabbage leaves as we were finishing up our pierogi. Renee demonstrated how to prepare a cabbage for making cabbage rolls, then cooked the cabbage, made tomato sauce, and assembled a bunch of rolls. But in reality, it would have taken too long to cook them in the class, so she had prepared some in her slow cooker and brought them with her. The cabbage rolls were delicious, though different from the ones I learned to make from my mother. I've always made sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls, which is what my great grandmother from Russia, made. Either way, although the dish is time consuming, it's one that can be assembled ahead of time, and cooked in a slow cooker, or baked for three hours in the oven.

Renee and Nick are putting together a cookbook, and the recipes from the class are some that will be included, so I can't share them. But, on the Fire and Earth Kitchen blog (link here) there are lots of mouthwatering recipes available. Also, you can sign up to receive a new recipe each week. Most of the recipes are fast and easy to prepare, and I think you'll like what you find. You can read about my experience with some of the recipes, here.


If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in hosting a class, contact Renee (through her blog) about the possibilities.

14 comments:

  1. This sounds like so much fun! it's like going out to eat without having to actually leave the house, haha. I would have attended the class in pajamas.
    All of this is something I would loooove to eat. I've never had cabbage rolls but I love pierogies (I'm happy to hear they worked well gluten free - i've not seen that before) and the beet tart looks so beautiful. I wonder if I could figure out how to do something similar.
    Lucky you! (And the flowers are beautiful.)

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    1. Ha! Going out without leaving the house is a good way to put it. The only difference was having to clean the house before not leaving it! I was pretty amazed by the pierogi dough — a lot of starch gave it the consistency it needed. I think you could figure out the tart, and flavor it the way you want. Just be sure to use a deep dish to hold the layers of beets and greens, and end with greens,

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  2. Wow! Dining out brought in, much better than ordering food. I love beets and my partner really loves them in tart with a tangy vinaigrette. You have a nice kitchen too! Mine is just a small closed galley-style kitchen but it is enough for two hungry people though. :)

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    1. My kitchen is pretty small, but well-organized so it's easy to cook in. And we recently added a small portable island that gives us a bit of extra counter space, and that helps a lot.

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  3. Amazing - you had me at 'do the washing up'! And then pierogis. I could live on those. Did you have any leftovers?!

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    1. There were three leftover pierogies on a plate that we found on the counter after everyone had left. And we also were gifted with some leftover sunflower seed cream, which in addition to its use on beet tarts, makes an excellent dip for chips!

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  4. Wow; that all looks so good. And that stuffed cabbage at the end? Especially! It doesn't hurt that it's cold and rainy in the northeast this week.

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    1. It was good. Stuffed cabbage is comfort food of the best kind, but it takes so long to make. Maybe cold and rainy is the right inspiration for a day of cooking.

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  5. woza, that is a lot of food in one class! i'd love to know more about the pierogi wrappers. :) i am trying to imagine what a mess it would be if i planned to have hubbs help me do a cooking class. :) nick and renee do it so well

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    1. I think Renee is keeping her dumpling recipes under wraps for the cookbook, but she is looking for recipe testers — just what you need, right? Nick was the perfect helper. Renee taught the class and did the cooking and he washed the dishes and did prep work.

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  6. My favorite dish that I crave frequently of my grandmother's is her halupki (stuffed cabbage rolls). One dish I have yet to veganize. The ones you made look delicious!

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    1. Stuffed cabbage rolls are great, but I always put off making them because of the time involved. Renee made it seem more doable — and I like the idea of cooking the rolls in my slow cooker.

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  7. How sweet of you guys for hosting Fire and Earth Kitchen, I would love to do that sometimes since we have almost all the good knives (we love the Japanese ones) and equipments except for a fancy blender, ice cream maker and pasta machine. My, my, that pierogi filling looks so yummy, it’s becoming one of my favorite snacks this year after trying Polska Foods’ vegan pierogi (they had sauerkraut and mushrooms in it). Few of their meals are Polish-based, are they Polish?

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    1. Renee and Nick brought all their own equipment, so I didn't really hve to provide anything but the kitchen. They even brought a blender and food processor. The pierogi were gluten-free which was really a treat for me. They do classes with different themes (Middle Eastern, etc.) and I picked the Eastern European one because of the pierogies.

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