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Couple Combines Tradition, Heritage in New Cookbook

May 9, 2012
By LINDA COMINS - Life Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Drawing upon family heritage and his late mother's seminal work, Peter Zeranski and his wife, Laura, have written a new cookbook that updates traditional Polish recipes and introduces the ethnic fare to a modern audience.

The Zeranskis, who reside in Alexandria, Va., will appear at Lunch With Books in the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St., Wheeling, at noon today, May 8, for a talk on their new book, "Polish Classic Recipes," released by Pelican Publishing.

They will have copies of "Polish Classic Recipes" available for purchase and signing. In addition, free samples of Hunter's Stew, spicy kielbasa, marinated beet salad and chocolate Mazurka (along with free beverages) will be available at the Lunch With Books program, which is free and open to the public.

Peter Zeranski was born in Europe to Polish parents. His late mother, Alina Zeranska, wrote a critically acclaimed cookbook, "The Art of Polish Cooking," in 1968. It has been a best-seller for more than 40 years.

Originally, he planned to update her cookbook, but a completely new project evolved and he and his wife created their own book, "Polish Classic Recipes," illustrated with 100 color photographs.

In the volume's introduction, the Zeranskis stated, "The dishes in this book are but a small cross-section of foods that have been lovingly handed down from mothers to daughters over many generations. These are many of the classic foods enjoyed at holidays and other festive occasions.

"These are foods many of us remember from our childhoods, and these are the foods that must be preserved for future generations, wherever they may settle around the world, beyond the borders of Poland," they added.

The authors remarked, "In today's world when many people think of Polish food, often what first comes to mind are pierogi, kielbasa or cabbage rolls. But Polish cuisine actually goes far beyond these popular dishes."

In a recipe for Cucumber Salad ("Mizeria"), the couple noted that this simple dish takes only minutes to prepare. As to its Polish name, they explained, "Legend has it that 'Mizeria' (which means 'misery' in Polish) was a favorite of Queen Bona Sforza (1494-1557), queen of Poland and grand duchess of Lithuania. The story goes that this dish was so named because she recalled the flavors from her childhood in Italy and was 'in misery' yearning to taste those flavors again."

Among the entrees, the Zeranskis included a recipe for Sausage and Cabbage ("Kielbasa z Kapustq"). They observed, "The dish brings together two mainstays of Polish cuisine on one plate. The marriage of soft, buttery cabbage with crunchy sausage creates flavors and texture that go extremely well together. The caraway adds a tang which is definitely Polish."

For a recipe for Apple Squares ("Szarlotka"), the authors pointed out that while there are many variations, Polish bakers "pretty much agree that the flavors are more true to their roots when tart cooking apples are used." They added, "Another difference from American apple pie is that the crust may be a little sweeter because it relies on butter."

In the notes accompanying a recipe for Chocolate Mazurka ("Mazurek Czekoladowy"), the Zeranskis explained that it is a special type of cake baked traditionally for Easter, with a base that resembles shortbread.

"It is usually decorated with nuts or marzipan in artistic designs, such as a pussy willow branch signifying a celebration of spring, or inscribed with 'Wesolego Alleluja,' a traditional Polish greeting for 'Happy Easter,'" they stated.

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