Apologies in advance if you notice my literacy taking a nosedive this week. It is not enough to have cold-induced thickheadedness; there are LuthorCorp adventures to be had as well. For all of my kvetching about LuthorCorp, I must admit that the people for whom I work directly are some of the best people in the world. If I could afford to hire them to sell my bread, I would do it in a heartbeat. Because I like them so well, I feel compelled to help them as best as I can. This week, that “help” manifests itself as taking care of my boss’s accounts while he is at home with his wife, his two-year-old son and his new baby son, who is about 8 hours old as of this writing. I certainly have no problem doing this—after all, it is what I’m paid to do, and I am thrilled for my boss and his lovely and excellent wife—but I do have to laugh ruefully at how whimsical the world’s sense of timing is, for as soon as my boss called to say his wife had gone into labor, I found myself besieged by emergencies and urgent requests and odd circumstances, the kind that sound trivial to anyone not in the industry, but positively teeth-grinding to those who are. In short, it’s going to be a tough week.
I had big plans for tonight, dear friends, plans to share the sweet potato pierogi recipe and the paradise jelly recipe and maybe even a chutney recipe or two, but tonight, it is not in the bond. I do plan to share them all, but it will have to be incrementally, in baby steps, or angstrom units. Since I promised, and since there seem to be a lot of fans of sweet potatoes and/or spinach and/or dough-wrapped foodstuffs, here is the sweet potato and spinach pierogi recipe, inspired by the pierogi I had at the Kiev restaurant on St. Marks Place and East 7th Street. The dough recipe is a variation on a recipe created by Faina Merzylak, a Russian nurse living in Brooklyn whose recipe was printed in New York Cookbook (Workman, 1992) by Molly O’Neill. The pierogi themselves are homely but compelling, in the way that all pierogi are, but the filling is, frankly, beautiful, bright orange and bright green, each component highlighting the beauty and goodness of the other. Lloyd loves these.
Sweet potato and spinach pierogi
Yield: 32 large pierogi
2 cups Greek yogurt or plain whole-milk “regular” yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 - 2 pounds spinach
salt and pepper to taste
For the dough: Combine the the yogurt, eggs and salt by hand or in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. Add the flour, a cup at a time, and mix in. Switch to the dough hook (or turn it out onto a floured surface and knead by hand) until the dough is firm and smooth. Wrap dough in a kitchen towel and let rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine).
For the filling: Peel the sweet potato and cut into large chunks. Put in a saucepan, cover with salted water, bring to the boil and cook until potato is very tender. Drain the water, add 3 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper to the pan and mash the potato until it is smooth. Taste for seasoning; add more of anything that it needs. Set aside. Wash spinach and rest in a colander to dry (there should still be some moisture clinging to the leaves). Heat a skillet, toss in spinach and stir until spinach wilts. If your skillet is too small to take all the spinach, wilt it in bunches. When all of the spinach has been cooked, press all the water out of it (a potato ricer is great for this, but you can also use your hands—you may want to run the spinach under cool water first to keep from burning your hands!) When the spinach has been squeezed dry, chop it finely. Return the skillet to the heat (make sure any water from the spinach has been discarded!), melt the butter, add the spinach and heat through. Add salt and pepper, and/or some nutmeg if you prefer.
To assemble the pierogi: Divide the dough into 32 pieces and roll into balls. On a well-floured board, pat a ball of dough into a round approximately 3 inches wide. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of spinach and 2 teaspoons of sweet potato onto the round. Fold the edges of the dough together and pinch closed, until you have a half-moon shape. Repeat with as many pierogies as you wish to serve. (Any leftovers will keep in the fridge nicely, but you can also assemble the whole batch and freeze whatever you do not plan to cook right away.)
To finish: Bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt it, add pierogi and gently stir to ensure that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. When they rise to the top, they are almost done. When they are just bobbing gently on the surface of the water, they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with your favorite pierogi condiments (fried onions, applesauce or sour cream). Eat. Smile.