Friday, March 24, 2006

Auntie Stella -- Schav, Love and Potato Salad

My Auntie Stella was really named Stefania Apolonia, and she wasn't really my aunt. She was my mother's second or third cousin. As adults, Mom and Stella were cohorts, comrades in arms, adventurers.

Stella was dear. She worked in a factory all of her life. Her husband died in his late 40's. So Stella was largely on her own to raise her daughters. Her life had been very hard for all kinds of reasons, but she was,nonetheless, a deeply joyous woman.

She was one of those women of my Mom's generation who just put her shoulder to the wheel and kept moving. She was a round woman, with a ready laugh and blue eyes that always twinkled with some kind of mischief. Even in her 50's and 60's she always had the ability to give you a look that transformed her into a happily sly little girl who was definitely up to something.

Auntie Stella had one amazing and extraordinary talent. When she was with you, you knew 100% that she loved you.

She just plain radiated love.

She has been on my mind lately, and I have been missing her with the sweetest missing. Who is to say why those we love crowd our memories at certain times? So,I am giving her this public remembering.

Stella could cook. Oh mercy me, she could cook. She was among the best every-day cooks in the family. In the years before we knew to worry about fat and carbs, her kitchen was Mecca. She grew her own sorrel to make what we called "Schav" or "sourgrass soup", just like our families in Poland had made it for centuries. I put a picture of sorrel above, as most of you probably have never seen it -- let alone had it in soup!

Her stuffed turkey was magnificent, and we all gobbled down the stuffing (which was made with bread and sausage and ground sirloin and I have no idea what else) before we ate anything else. Her pineapple cheesecake, made the old-fashioned Polish way (with a shortbread crust) would make your taste buds sing in seven languages. And her stuffed cabbage? My mouth waters just to remember.

But my most favorite of her recipes was one I actually asked her for - her famous potato salad. In memory of this wonderfully loving woman (you should all have an Auntie like this) I pass along the recipe for Potato Salad ala Auntie Stella. It's a cook's recipe - so don't expect exact measurements.

1.Peel and boil cut-up potatoes. When done, drain and let them cool in fridge. Don't overcook them.

Follow the next steps and place items in a bowl..a big one.
2. Dice up about 1 onion for every 3 medium potatoes.

3. Hard boil and cut up in chunks about 1 hard boiled egg for every 3 potatoes.

4. Dice up a cucumber for every 3-4 potatoes.

5. Add at least a handful of finely chopped fresh dill, probably more.

6. Equal amounts of mayo and sour cream.(yeah yeah I know -- just do it)

7. Salt and pepper to taste. (you can throw in some celery salt if you'd like, but sparingly)

Mix the above and add the potatoes. The 3 things here you may need to adjust and balance are the dill, the salt and the cucumbers. The cucumbers taste fabulous in this, but they swallow up a lot of seasoning, so you may end up using way more dill than you ever used before, or a touch more salt. Do not be afraid to add cukes. Seed them if you like before adding, but that is optional.

And when you enjoy this, please thank my Auntie Stella. Should you pass it on to anyone, just do us the kindness of listing it as Potato Salad ala Auntie Stella.

She would have liked that.


Blogger Maggie Rose said...

*got it* I have eaten this very potato salad during my youth and have longed to know the parts of it. thank you, mata!! now I've got it. so cool. Maggie

p.s. I would love to have had an auntie like Stella

4:15 AM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

I have never seen or used sorrel. Thank you for that. I thought it was what we call silver beet and others call chard. Does the sorrel grow very tall or large or is it a small plant? The silver beet can grow rather large - something like eighteen inches or so. Cucumber in the potato salad! That's a new and fascinating addition.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Miss Eagle -- Sorrel is definitely not chard. Its leaves are about the thickness/texture of arugula, or of a young spinach. I looked up silver beet on the net as I was not familiar with it -- and the silverbeet has leaves that are much more crinkly and a whitish stem. Sorrel tastes somewhat lemony, but not at all bitter. It does grow to about a foot high, but should be harvested as young leaves.

9:51 AM  

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