Monday, June 21, 2010

Life is just a bowl of cherries, but stuck door oven is the pits

Spotting sour cherries in New England is like spotting a unicorn. They are so rare, I buy them every time I see them. My knee jerk reaction to these sparkling little beauties is cherry pie or tart. But then I remembered my oven door...

It's stuck. Completely stuck. No one in my family can open it. Wasn't it replaced just 4 months ago? Yes -- it's the new door. This one failed even faster than the old one. I let the manufacturer know that the door was sticking again on Jun 11. They replied on June 15 saying that they will send me a new one (as always there are no definite dates). Last one took a month and a half to be replaced. On June 17, my door got completely stuck. I let them know and am waiting to hear from them.

But back to the cherries. No oven door was going to stop me from enjoying them and instead of a pie, I made vareniki (Ukrainian version of pierogi). Sammy, my almost 3 year old daughter, was overjoyed. Not only did she get to play with dough and count the cherries, but she got her two favorite foods (pasta and berries) all in one package.

I won't post the detailed recipe here because I doubt many people will make them. They are labor intensive and require excellent pasta making skills. In case you are proficient with the pasta technique, I'll give you a quick explanation on how they are made.

You make a pasta dough using all-purpose flour (9 oz), 2 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (1 tsp table), 1 large egg, and 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water. Let it rest at least 1.5 hours, roll out to thickness of "5" on a pasta machine, cut into circles about 3 inches in diameter and fill each circle with pitted cherries (2-3) and sugar (about 1/4 tsp). I suggest you pit your cherries right before shaping so that they don't release too much juice. Seal the edges together and shape the rest of vareniki. Boil them in salted water as soon as you are done shaping or they'll leak. I usually start the water when I start shaping. Toss them gently with butter. Then sprinkle with sugar, top with sour cream (or thick Greek full fat yogurt). Toss gently and let them cool about 5 minutes. They also work with blueberries (the more sour the better), and apricots.

Is this a dessert? Kind of. They are not as sweet as most desserts, but not savory either. We usually serve a very light savory meal before fruit vareniki to leave plenty of room for them.

8 comments:

Laura T. said...

Vareniki are tasty. I got the chance to make them with a Ukranian friend of mine--it was really fun, but the insane amount of work makes me doubt I'd ever do it again.

Helen said...

Once you are good at it, it's actually a great way to entertain your toddler and make dinner at the same time. If you have a pasta roller, it makes the job a lot easier. One of my first kitchen memories was rolling out the circles for my Mom. It was a lot of work, but we loved to do it together and now I love doing it with my own daughter :)

But as all pasta projects, this one has to be done just right. If your dough is too wet, too dry, not kneaded enough, not rested enough, etc, it can be a disaster, and that's very discouraging after spending a few hours on it.

Tom said...

I am incredibly jealous of your fresh sour cherries! I have never even seen them frozen, let alone fresh.

Anna said...

Hi,
Where did you get sour cherries? My grandmother was an incredible cook, by my standards, and used to make these every summer. Unfortunately she passed away before I was old enough to be interested in the recipe. Every summer I think about making these but do not have a clear idea how. I will totally try your 'undetailed' recipe probably with the jar sour cherries from Trader Joe's since I have no idea where to get sour cherries. I have not seen them for many years. I really think about these every summer and every fall I think about pumkin kasha which I also found on your website.. Thanks:-)
Anna

Helen said...

Hi Anna,

I found sour cherries at the Natick, MA farmer's market. I don't suggest you try this with canned cherries. They are wet and will make the dough soggy. Cherries and berries in general are one of the most difficult fillings to work with, requiring perfect dough, very fast shaping, and immediate cooking (or freezing). Since sour cherries are so hard to find, I suggest you first practice on potato vareniki -- the most forgiving filling. Here is my post on pasta dough making to get you started. The ingredient proportions for vareniki dough are slightly different, but the technique is the same.

Cheers,
-Helen

Irina said...

I love vareniki! I made the cherry-filled ones for the first time last summer. I didn't have sour cherries so I used sweet ones. They were OK but not quite the same. Will definitely try to find sour cherries this summer and make these again. Cherries are definitely one of the harder fillings to work with because of the irregular shape and because the juice that they release makes the dough tough. But, when it does work out, the result is heavenly!

Anna said...

If you post the recipe I'd be happy to make it. I mean if you have anything to add to what you already wrote. I don't think this requires pasta making skills, just dough skills:) I used to make this as a kid but do not know the recipe.

Anna said...

I just realized I already posted on this topic a year ago. I think I get a renewed interest in this every summer and have yet to make this. I've only seen sour cherries once this year at Russo's. Anyway until next summer, or can try the compote cherries from Trader Joe's against recommendations.