Czech Plum Dumplings

I’ve never been a big fan of fresh plums.  I have always wanted to like them, little orbs of summer that they are, and occasionally would try one or two from the fruit drawer in the fridge where my mom stored them.  Like the peaches we got, they always disappointed, but we also knew that the produce that made its way to our local grocery stores was also the most lackluster.  But even now, when I’m able to grab a few from a farmer’s market (so, as tree-ripened and as sweet as one could hope for), I never have any desire to eat them raw.  Cooked, roasted, baked, simmered, or jammed, however, they’re, at least for me, perfectly irresistible.

Czech Plum Dumplings (2 of 11)

Over ten years ago now (ugh) when I lived in the Czech Republic, I soon learned that plums were such an important fruit there that different words existed for the different varieties–to a Czech’s mind, then, an Italian prune plum and a sugar plum are perhaps as different as a peach and a nectarine.  And that late-summer-to-early-fall Italian prune plum is the key component to a whole range of delicious things:  from slivovice (plum brandy) to povidla (plum butter) to plum dumplings.  I’ve made the first two from that list, and have long been meaning to make the final entry.

Czech Plum Dumplings (11 of 11)

I’ve made them before, in fact, but not on my own.  The village I lived in for one year as an English teacher had previously housed a Czech language school for foreigners.  During the old communist days, students came from the so-called “nonaligned” countries to study at Czech universities–usually technical subjects like engineering–but needed an intensive crash course in Czech before they started.  Hence they lived in language school’s dorms for a year before they were off to Prague, Brno, or other Czech university towns.  Today the institute runs preparatory courses (for Czech students) to prepare them for their college entrance exams.  If I remember correctly, you sit for an exam in the program of your choice–medical, legal, general studies.  If you don’t get in, you can come to this program and spend another year preparing to retake the exams.  (Yeah, no pressure). Anyway, “Cestina pro cizince” (Czech for foreigners) is no more, but one of the program’s teachers, Alena, still live in the town–and lucky for me, she took me on for lessons.  Not bad to have “CSL” (“Czech as a second langauge?) teacher with twenty years of experience introducing you to the insanity that is Czech grammar. Since I was there in the evenings, Alena also took it upon herself to make sure I had a good grounding in Czech food.  She was one of those people who can whip up any number of things from scratch (of course she was!) and while I sadly must admit I haven’t retained all that much, I do remember making these dumplings with her.  A big bowl of blue-purple oval fruits, tvaroh (Czech “farmer’s cheese”, also known as quark), milk, flour, and butter.

Czech Plum Dumplings (1 of 11)

Czech Plum Dumplings (3 of 11)

First we mixed and kneaded the soft pillowy dough–me and Alena by hand, today me and little H with the stand mixer–

Czech Plum Dumplings (4 of 11)

An assembly line was set up, and we wrapped each fruit in its own little package–

Czech Plum Dumplings (6 of 11)

moistened the edges to create a seal–

Czech Plum Dumplings (7 of 11)

and set them aside while we waited for the water to boil.

Czech Plum Dumplings (8 of 11)

We slipped them into  boiling water to poach, and a few minutes later, carefully fished them out, hot and slippery.

Czech Plum Dumplings (10 of 11)

Drizzled with butter, powdered sugar, and poppy seeds.  My favorite type of lesson about culture–via the stomach.

Czech Plum Dumplings (11 of 11)

Note:  you’ll notice that it took me a while to get this post up as these plums, even if early fall fruits, are no longer in season. However, you can use other fruits so you don’t have to wait until next September.

Czech Plum Dumplings
Recipe Type: breakfast, dessert
Cuisine: Czech
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2T butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup “pot cheese” (farmer’s cheese, quark, tvaroh, tvarog).
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups cake flour or a combination of cake and regular flour. (I used 240g cake and 30g regular flour).
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds fruit (prunes, apricots, cherries, apples or other firm fruit; I used 16 plums)
  • melted butter, poppy seeds, additional quark, and powdered sugar for serving
Instructions
  1. Cream butter, egg and cheese together. It’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy. Add the salt, flour, and milk to make a medium firm dough. Depending on the firmness of your cheese, you may have to add more milk. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil while you make the dumplings.
  3. Break off pieces and form into balls–you’ll want 16 or so. Let rest 15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. On a floured surface, roll dough out into rounds and place a pierced fruit in the center. Dab the edges of the dough to create an adhesive edge, wrap around the fruit, and pinch together, sealing the edges well. Set aside on a floured surface, sealed side down, while you make the other dumplings.
  4. Gently slip into boiling water one at a time but as quickly as possible. Cook for 5-8 minutes turning once. Remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon.
  5. To serve, tear open a dumpling with two forks, and drizzle with melted butter, more cheese, poppy seeds, and powdered sugar
Advertisements

Summer raspberries

Every summer when we went to Seattle, the first thing we always did upon arriving at our grandparents’ house was to run to the backyard and eat the raspberries off the bushes growing in the backyard.  To this day the smell of fresh raspberries brings back that memory, and I don’t know if I love raspberries so much simply for what they are or because of the connection in my mind.

I’m happy to see my sons building the same associations, both picking berries at their own grandparents’ house, and at their great-grandmother’s.

My parents planted these raspberries just last year.   Last year they were tiny clumps of leaves, this year they are dripping with berries.

IMG_3767

Like mother like son, I suppose.  They don’t even make it in the house.

IMG_3779

IMG_3780

IMG_3781

IMG_3788

IMG_3799

IMG_3803

My grandmother is still growing raspberries.  But this year the star crop was the marionberries, similar to a blackberry.  My grandmother always reminds me she planted them at my request.  I’ve nearly only ever had them from her backyard.

IMG_3911

IMG_3913

IMG_3916

IMG_3920

 

Seattle Eats: The Original Bakery in West Seattle

The main attraction of the West Seattle Fauntleroy district may be Lincoln Park along the shore of Puget Sound, but it’s also a busy hub for commuters whose cars line up during the day to board the eponymous ferry out to Vashon Island.  Otherwise, it’s a quiet area, with small businesses nestled in among residential areas.  One such corner just a short walk up from the park is shared by Endolyne Joe’s (“Endolyne” referring to the fact that this was once the “end of the line” for the now defunct tram system) and The Original Bakery.

IMG_3925

One of those “neighborhood businesses”–and in this case just as friendly and neighborly as you’d imagine such a shop should be–is The Original Bakery, open since 1936 and run by a father-daughter team, Bernie and Anna Alonzo.  Light and open, charmingly decorated with Delftware-inspired tiles, and drawing in plenty of foot traffic and lots of folks who are clearly “regulars.”

IMG_3933

Now admittedly my father has a fondness for bear claws (by which I mean, he is most certainly a regular) but I was still a bit surprised when we visited and we were greeted by Alex, the guy behind the counter, with a  “Hi Jim!  These must be your daughter and grandsons from Boston!”  My dad then told me that Alex was studying economics, which led to what would have been a discussion about law school excepting that my sons, looking in the display case and getting more and more excited, couldn’t wait any longer before placing their order.

IMG_3940

Frosted donuts with sprinkles (including patriotic red white and blue, as this was just before the 4th of July) were their order of the day (as anything with frosting is always a hit with my boys who then get to lick it off their fingers), but there’s plenty of other flaky pastries, cookies, muffins, and of course bear claws.  And plenty of varieties of bread, from sourdough to rye to french to challah.

IMG_3942

At little bakeries like this, I am usually prepared to pay a bit of a premium for something that is not mass-produced or shipped from some far-off industrial oven.  But I was surprised at the reasonableness of the prices–on our way out we took home a loaf of glazed cinnamon swirl bread for $2.99 (pre-sliced at our request!)–something the fancier bakeries in Boston (and just as likely Seattle!) might be charging $6 dollars for.

Per the owner, “We like to try to keep our prices low where we can.”

IMG_3939

The Original Bakery

9253 45th Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98136
(206) 938-5088

http://www.theoriginalbakery.com/

The Original Bakery and Endolyne Joe's

Other “Seattle Eats” posts on Three Clever Sisters

Bakery Nouveau

Marination Ma Kai

Salumi

Original Bakery on Urbanspoon

Seattle Eats: Marination ma kai

One of the fun parts of planning our annual trip to Seattle is that my uncle always knows the newest places in the Seattle food scene.  Last year he took me to Salumi, this year we all went down on a remarkably sunny Seattle Saturday to Marination ma kai–originally a food truck, now a bricks and mortar restaurant.

IMG_3696

Marination ma kai has an enviable location on Seattle’s Alki beach in West Seattle–“ma kai” means “by the sea.”

IMG_3701

And you couldn’t pick a more appropriate spot for a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant to be located.

IMG_3703

Hawaiian is only part of it though:  This is actually a Hawaiian-Korean place, as the generous application of kimchi will make immediately apparent.  But there’s plenty of surprising items on the menu as well:  an unapologetic use of SPAM, so-called “sexy tofu,” sliders and tacos, and Marination’s signature secret recipe Nunya sauce (what Food and Wine calls “the next Sriracha”).  If you aren’t going to be in Seattle, you can still get a taste of Marination by having Nunya shipped to you.

Between all of us, we sampled a good portion of the menu–I had kimchi rice bowl with a fried egg, Karen got the sexy tofu, and there were orders of pork sliders, fried fish, and lots of crispy fries with Nunya sauce.

IMG_3718

While parking is not always easy at Alki, there’s no better place to enjoy the meal.  We claimed some picnic tables near the restaurant (funnily enough, next to the showering-off station for scuba divers, whose bulky amphibious get-ups were quite entertaining for my sons) and looked across Elliott Bay to downtown Seattle.  There’s plenty of indoor seating for those more than common overcast days as well.

But on a sunny day, no nicer way to finish off a meal than by dipping your toes in Puget Sound.

IMG_3766

(Aunt Karen and Little H, with the Space Needle in the background).

Marination ma kai

Alki Beach – Seacrest Park – West Seattle Water Taxi Loading Dock
1660 Harbor Ave SW, West Seattle

http://marinationmobile.com/locations

Marination Ma Kai on Urbanspoon

Updated to add:  I haven’t tried this recipe, but it’s what Flourishing Foodie reports to be a successful go at recreating the Korean Tofu Tacos at home.  I’ll be giving it a try myself!

Cobies in Cape Cod

As mentioned by my sisters, we took a family trip to Cape Cod a few weeks back.  Between our trips to the beach, outings to Hyannis or just lounging around we also made a couple walks down to Cobies.  Cobies was just a nice little ‘walk thru’ restaurant with outside seating. Instead of a drive thru, you walk up to the window and order fried clams, grilled cheese, baked potatoes–you get the picture. It’s your standard comfort food, but I think my husband voted it his favorite fried clam restaurant on the Cape. My father in law would agree as he never turned down an offer to go–and often went down to Cobies while we were choosing to cook in!

IMG_9384

I will also add that it’s not only accessible by car or on foot.  I had a second trip to the Cape last week with my husband’s family, and we rode along the same bike path my sisters, father and nephews had biked a few weeks earlier,  even though we started out at a separate town.  After biking nine miles, I was ecstatic to see the Cobies sign off the bike path. I turned right around and biked on down. The grilled cheese and baked potato was the energy I needed to bike the nine miles back home.

IMG_9385

IMG_9387

While we went to the restaurant a lot,  there was one more memorable experience with my nephews. Now these two little boys are fans of the chocolate ice cream. At Cobies, you can get food, but you can also get a variety of ice cream and milkshakes. For my father, and my two nephews there was really no choice. “What type of ice cream do you want?” we asked. Their reply, “chocolate.” End of discussion.  Elliot and Henry make my sisters and I laugh constantly at their crazy antics (making smoothies, knowing Maroon 5 and Katy Perry by name on the radio just to name a few), but watching the two boys attack the ice cream is a whole other ball game. The hour it took to get everyone out of the house in clean clothes was totally ruined with one lick or attempt to lick the cone.

Scroll below for the joy of Cobies…

 

IMG_9424

IMG_9430

IMG_9414

You can imagine the clean up after this trip. The person that was most shocked was our father. I think he forgot how messy children can be. My sisters and our mother weren’t surprised. After all, the boys love food. They are half Clevering. We sometimes lack control when it comes to our love of sweets.

If you are in the Cape later on this summer or maybe next year and want fried clams or just your own big scoop of chocolate ice cream, here is the information below.

Cobies Restaurant
3260 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631
(508) 896-7021

Web:  http://www.cobies.com

Cobie's on Urbanspoon

Mushberry Smoothie

While on our first (annual?) week-long getaway to the coast, we noticed little E was a bit preoccupied with the berries.  Like his mama and his aunts, he loves the sweet fruits of summer – berries of all kinds, cherries, and almost anything that will dye your fingers scarlet red.

We had just completed a little jaunt on Cape Cod’s “Rails to Trails” bike path, a beautiful 22 mile bike path that traces a former railroad right of way through the mid-Cape region.    Not to worry, this biking trip went better than my last.  And it was quite a threecleversister endeavor, by the way.  Sara and Marie donned helmets and rode bikes for the first time in a decade or two (see – you never forget!).  Paul pulled along E who pedaled as he chose, and I carted little H in a carrier.    Dad, brought up the rear, fairly amused that we were all on bikes.

E on the Tag-Along.Learning to bike

H probably had the best part of the deal.King H

Pull-along

Afterwards, E was talking a lot about mushberries.  He had been bringing up mushberries throughout the week.  I thought it was because he liked to “mush” them up, but Paul, who had smoothies on the brain, thought he wanted to make a smoothie.  Only later did I learn the reference was to the beloved Max and Ruby–where the ever troublesome little brother Max mashes up all of his sister Ruby’s berries in his cement truck! Regardless, one thing led to another…

Morning smoothie making

Mushberry Smoothie

1 cup of milk

1 banana

1 (adult-size) handful of blueberries

½ cup of ice

¼ cup to ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt

Splash of orange juice

Blend it up!  Depending on your preferences, add more or less liquid.

Adult portion

Kid’s portion