I love sharing my Baba's favorite recipes. She was such a special person in my life, and by offering these delicious ethnic foods, I feel like I'm giving Baba herself to you. Every thing she did was mixed with authenticity and love. There was nothing pretentious about her. What you saw was what she was! NO-FRILLS, HONEST, CARING, TRUE. When I look through Baba's recipes, all of these qualities are reflected. I hope you see what I see!
Baba belonged to a women’s quilting group. When it was her turn to host, she’d have Zedo set up the quilting frame in the dining room days before they were to meet. She always chose a Thursday since it was the day of the week she had little to do. After Mass, Baba hurried home to put on a pot of coffee. By nine o’clock, six or seven ladies walked through the back door, needles and threads in hand, ready to enjoy a morning of productivity and communal bonding.
It was customary for one of the women to bring some type of pastry to the session. About mid-morning, the group would retire to Baba’s kitchen for a cup of strong coffee and a cruller or a piece of pie. They’d share stories about family and things of interest to them.
Oftentimes the women talked about holding fundraisers for those in need. Back then church people were a tight-knit community who looked out for their own without having to be asked. Many of the quilts the group made were raffled off to support a particular church project or a family who’d fallen on hard times.
Their handmade quilts were beautifully made.
In Polish, we say ‘Kruschiki’ and in Slovak, it is ‘Ceregi.’ No matter which word you use, this simple pastry was a favorite snack anytime of the year. Since a recipe can yield approx.100 bows, dozens were left for Baba to treat her family with that night for dinner.
My mom loved to let the ceregi stand for two or three days. They would get really hard, but when dipping them in her cup of coffee, they tasted like they'd just been made. Try it and see if you agree.
When the quilting group met in the summer months, pie was their usual morning snack. Cherries, peaches, and berries from backyard trees and bushes were plentiful. Whoever was in charge of bringing the dessert always had a pie in each hand when she walked through the door. Our family was the recipient of that generosity. The key to a perfect crust was the buttermilk.
LIVER AND ONIONS
Because Thursdays were spent doing good works and enjoying the company of her friends, Baba always chose something for dinner that was quick and easy to make. Liver and Onions was a meal that could be made after the quilting group left, and Baba had cleaned up the dishes and dining room.
There were two factors that made Baba’s Liver and Onions so delicious. The type of liver she chose was extremely important. My grandmother always selected baby calves liver, never beef. She insisted that the pieces be thin, not thick.
The second rule of thumb for her was to soak the liver in milk overnight. Baba said that her technique took the ‘wildness’ out of the meat.
Baba began by slicing five or six large onions and sautéing them in butter. She never let the onions get mushy, but rather liked them translucent and firm.
Next she’d dredge the pieces of liver in flour and fry them in lard for a very short time. Afterwards Baba combined the meat and onions, placed the mixture into a casserole dish and popped it into the oven until dinnertime.
I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Thursday recipes. As a family we looked forward to every meal because we knew how much love and caring went into the preparation. We were never served anything that came out of a box or can. With Zedo seated at the head, we respectfully gathered around Baba’s kitchen table to share blessings, food, and conversation. We cherished this time together and were excused only when our plates were emptied and our stomachs, full.