Disclaimer: Today’s blog post is long… so if you’re just here for the food… you can skip to the end. This recipe is really good and shouldn’t be missed because you’re not into my history nerdery.
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I wish I could tell you Dan and I volunteered to go clean up a littered beach like we used to when we lived in Virginia or tabled some concert or really did much of anything but we didn’t. We took a day off. A day we needed. A day to unplug from the internet and not think about all the bad things in the world. A day without him worrying about campaigns he’s working on. A day without me answering the massive backlog of emails I have. A day without hearing about how a little boy was sent a bill £15 in the UK for skipping a birthday party. We did the opposite of what you’re suppose to do on MLK Jr Day and honestly I’m feeling not great about it.
See, like most activists, I have a lot of memories and emotions tied up around Dr. King and how he changed the world. Heck we live with one of his quotes* in the very center on our fridge door to remind us why it’s important to be a force for good in this world and how even a little action (like being vegan) can make you an activist. But yesterday when I thought of Dr. King I didn’t think about any of that. I thought about pillow fights.
See there is an anecdote in Sarah Vowell’s book Assassination Vacation about her visit to Memphis and the site of Dr. King’s murder** about the last afternoon Dr. King had with his two good friends in their hotel room. His friend Andrew Young had to spend the morning in court dealing with legal issues that surround being an activist… especially an African American civil rights activist in the 1960s. He came back to the hotel room he shared with Dr. King and another reverend – a little run down and beat up from the experience and was pounced on by his friends and a playful attack of pillows. Yes. The great man my generation has only really come to know because of his inspirational speeches and his bravery in the face of a centuries old system built to exploit him and countless others… grabbed a pillow like an 8 year old at a slumber party and whacked his buddy a good one. I remember it being described at an epic battle of pillows and mayhem that ended with them exhausted and in great moods… optimistic for the next day. Then they left for dinner and a terrible moment in history happened as soon as they walked out that door.
You may wonder what the frakk any of this has to do with polish dumplings… well, yesterday I thought about those pillows playfully flying through the air and that last good laugh amongst friends and I felt a need to made something joyful. Something really truly happy. I thought about how we only remember the man with a dream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and we forget that he was an actual man… who laughed and had friends and family who loved him. That’s what I thought about yesterday when I was playing with our baby and making these dumplings. These things are important too.
If you’ve read this blog or our book – you know I am prone to tangents from time to time and am guilty of just making recipes that I feel like making instead of what is coming up in the book we’re veganizing, contest we have lined up or whatever. This is a real blog not a marketing site and in real life things can get random and off schedule. It’s part of the charm of this blog being real though I know some of you wish I was a robot who wouldn’t get distracted with pretty produce in the grocery store or a jones-ing for potato dumplings.
Yesterday I wanted to make the Polish pierogis that are going to be in our next book because honestly they’re happy food… but with a twist so you guys wouldn’t be bored of potato dumplings by May when our book finally comes out. So I tinkered. Adding some green and changing the flavor profile a little… searing them up in a pan with some vegan chorizo sausage to give them even more spiciness. I made something that looks fancy but is actually fun and easy. Something that fills up and makes you fell happy and warm. And if I’m being honest… I thought about what I would have made if I was making food for my friend that would be the food equivalent to that pillow fight.
I know I know… you’re like “DUDE why are you being such a bummer today? GAH! This is the most depressing blog post ever to hit my inbox on a Tuesday. I just want to eat Eastern European potato dumplings and spicy mock meat and watch my favorite TV show and not think about the deaths of great men or the hole they leave behind.”
And I get that. So let’s make some!
Potato, Spinach & Green Onion Pierogis with Vegan Chorizo & Onions
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting surfaces)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 Yukon gold potatoes, baked (2 cups mashed), we use organic vegetables to give you some idea of the size of potatoes
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped small
3 green onions, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, diced
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons margarine
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 package vegan Chorizo sausage, we recommend using Upton’s Naturals Chorizo Seitan or Tofurky’s Chorizo Style Grounds
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Dash of liquid smoke
Bake the potatoes at 400 until they’re tender. Put them on a rack to cool. Once they’re cool enough to be handled with bare hands, use a large spoon to scrape out the soft center of each baked potato into a large mixing bowl. Mash your soft potato chunks and then using a large spoon mix in your remaining Pierogi Filling ingredients.
You’re going to make your Pierogi Dough in another large mixing bowl. Start by mixing together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and water using an electric hand-held mixer with bread hooks, or you can knead it with your hands. For the best results, add water ¼ of a cup at a time and stop once the dough is firm.
Move the dough to a floured surface to knead for about 2 minutes. Then, using a floured rolling pin roll your dough out. Use a biscuit cutter or the top of a pint glass to cut at least a dozen circles or “wrappers” from the dough. Take any remaining dough and knead it into another ball of dough. Roll out again and cut out as many extra wrappers as you can.
Using a large spoon, drop a small amount of potato filling into the center of each wrapper. Gently fold the wrapper over and seal the dough completely using your wet fingers, a fork, or a dumpling press if you’re fancy and have one of those.
Once all your peirogis are filled and sealed, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in your largest cast iron skillet or fry pan. Once the oil is hot, toss in all the Toppings ingredients except the fresh parsley and your prepared pierogis a few at a time to cook. Flip your vegan chorizo, onions and pierogis a few times to make sure it all browns evenly and your pierogis get a light coating in the spicy “sauce” I guess you’d call it. Once your pierogi is lightly brown on both sides and is firm to touch, pull them out and put them on a warm plate. Add another batch of uncooked pierogis and brown those too. Just keep repeating this process till all your pierogis are lightly fried, your onions are tender and your vegan chorizo is browned. Then toss in your fresh parsley and cooked pierogis before removing your skillet from heat and serve them all mixed together.
And don’t forget to share with your friends…
* It’s a real one not some made up internet meme paraphrasing what someone thinks he would have said.
**At least I’m like 99.9% sure that’s where I read this but after writing this post I’m now worried it may have been somewhere else.