Cook of the Week from Lakemoor takes cooking from one's roots literally
Dorothy Markowski, our Cook of the Week from Lakemoor, loves to eat and loves to cook, but she admits her first attempt to cook a meal for her mom and dad, did not go over so well.
"I wanted to surprise my parents, so I made them nice traditional chicken soup, but I decided to garnish it with fresh mint rather than the usual parsley. The talent in cooking it didn't come so fast." she laughs.
That was years ago, and Markowski still likes to add a twist to her recipes -- usually with more successful results these days. She cooks for her husband and their three dogs.
"I like being creative when I cook. I like to tweak my recipes. Sometimes they're better, sometimes not," she said.
Markowski learned to cook in her mother's traditional Polish kitchen. Her parents were both born in Poland, and though Markowski was born here, she grew up speaking Polish and eating the traditional Polish foods. Her dad was the one who taught her to put a twist on classic dishes.
"Dad and I like the lard and the butter, the artery-clogging food. My Bopka was the one who did the baking. Polish desserts are tough to make, and Grandma was the best baker. She worked in a hotel bakery, and I remember summers sneaking into the bakery on my hands and knees to grab treats. She always had something fresh-baked in her kitchen. And we would get so excited when she had visitors because then we could have a treat too, while they sat in the kitchen eating and reading horoscopes to each other."
Markowski is not a baker, but she does like recreating traditional Polish dishes, like strawberry soup, a refreshing, summertime treat that can be served cold or hot. She shares the recipe with us today. You may also want to try making her potato pancakes, garnished with applesauce, sour cream, bacon or sugar. The third recipe is Markowski's Mizeria--a crisp cucumber salad punctuated with onions and feta cheese, calmed with sour cream and garnished with cilantro.
"Cilantro is in no dish from Poland, but it is in mine!" she smiles.
Chances are, much of her inspiration comes from the fact that she has a garden.
"Food is really important. In Europe, you can still really taste tomatoes; here, when you get a tomato at a grocery store, it doesn't taste like a tomato. I have my own garden, and my tomatoes were so juicy and so good," she said. "The cucumbers and zucchini were huge this year. Maybe it's a mind thing, but I feel better having the food out of my garden. When my parents lived in communist Poland and then post-communist Poland, they had to make something out of nothing. They would not waste anything --they would use the whole pig -- intestines and all."
Though Markowski doesn't go that far (she will never forget the smell of the intestines wafting in her house when she got home from school) she does revel in the traditional foods. For example, she uses bone broth in some of her dishes.
"I don't want to sound cliché, but sometimes it's good to go back to the roots when cooking." And then, give them a good tweek.
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