Dec 01 2010 December 1, 2010

Warszawa

Cheese & Asparagus Dumplings

1414 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica

Warszawa_intro_photo

We visited Warszawa Saturday @ 7:30 pm
Dish we will try to cook – Cheese & Asparagus Dumplings $16

Restaurant Visit

Warszawa is the type restaurant you can drive past for years and not know what you’re missing. In fact, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Located near the corner of Lincoln Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd., in an old house, the only sign on the street is a neon, red “Warszawa”. And through word of mouth, we knew it was Polish food, but sadly we had never walked the few short blocks for dinner. Which is why we decided to put Warszawa on the blog for W. Thanks to our readers, we now have a new place that we can walk to, next to El Cholo and Rustic Canyon.

We say walk, but we will go ahead and admit that we ended up driving. But to our credit, it was raining. And it was cold, or what we Los Angelenos like to complain as being cold. Once inside, we were surprised by the artsy, bistro-feel. The interior still looks like a house, with many small to medium sized rooms of hard wood floors and white walls. Framed Polish opera posters hang around the restaurant. The tables are adorned with white fabric cloths and napkins, and circled by sturdy dark wooden chairs. Classical music plays lightly in the background creating a relaxed environment inducive to conversation.

At 7:30pm on a Saturday the place wasn’t overly crowded but there were a good amount of people dining. We will point out that most of the tables were filled with the grandparent type – white haired people. Not all, but just about everyone. We didn’t mind one bit, it kind of made the experience that much more authentic. Both of us commented that we felt like we were actually in a little eatery in Poland.

We were surprised when looking at the menu by how eclectic the food seemed to be. Probably one reason we’d never eaten at Warzawa was that Polish food sounded, well, like it would be Polish food. We discovered, however, that while there are the traditional Polish dishes (mostly lots of agriculture and forests – wild berries, mushrooms, honey and game), throughout Poland’s history their cuisine was influenced by many different cultures, namely Italian and Asian. The menu was divided into these categories: appetizers, soups, salads “Pierogi” Polish ravioli, dumplings fish and poultry and meat.

To save room for dessert, we skipped the appetizers and went straight to the main course. We wanted to try the dumplings so we went with the ricotta, goat cheese and asparagus dumplings (served with fresh tomato and dill sauce) $16, and then we simply had to try the “Warszawa” beef stroganoff (with wild mushrooms served over egg-drop dumplings) $18, when we saw it on the menu. Two glasses of Syrah were also ordered. Later, we noticed that they declare themselves the best at martinis. Next time.

Both meals came out super fast, which made us love the service. Immediately what caught our eye were the side items on both plates. We were intrigued to see items on the plate that weren’t mentioned on the menu. After careful research, we discovered one to be pureed spinach and the other was a scoop of apple and carrot puree. The spinach was nice and salty while the apple and carrots were sweet, similar to applesauce. To all the parents who read our blog – what a great way to get your child to eat carrots. Had the item not been bright orange, we would have sworn we were simply eating applesauce with brown sugar.

Both main dishes were complex and satisfying. The ricotta dumplings simply melted in our mouths. Both the texture of the shell and the filling inside were pure velvet. If you love dill, you will love this dish. The tomato sauce was smooth and delicate but it was the presence of dill that truly gave the dish its flavor. Dill likes to make itself known and on this dish, it certainly did. The stroganoff was exactly what you want placed in front of you when you order a stroganoff. The meat was so tender we sliced it with our forks and the gravy enhanced the flavor of the meat with a earthy, cream flavor. Egg-drop dumplings were something new to us, but we welcomed the twist to the more expected egg noodle.

We had a hard time deciding which dish to make because the two were very different. The deciding factor came down to doing either a beef or a vegetarian dish. Since we cooked pork last time for our Versailles post, we thought for this round we would stick do going a vegetarian pasta entrée. We foresee replicating the smooth, velvety texture as being our biggest challenge.

It’s also worth a mention that Warszawa has a huge heated patio in the back that hosts live music and and an outdoor bar. Check their site for information on hours it is open, the night we were there, it was locked but that might have been due to the rain.

Shopping

(prices reflect the cost of the package, not the portion we used.) The rest of the ingredients we already had in the kitchen.

Whole Foods
Organic Goast Cheese $6.99
Ricotta Cheese $6.99
Asparagus $2.95
Baby Spinach $5.99
Carrots $1.99
Celery $1.99
Dill $1.99
Red Delicious Apples $2.70
Organic Roma Tomatoes $6.04

Recipe

Below is our take on ricotta and goat cheese dumplings. While we have no idea exactly how they prepare theirs, we looked pasta recipes online and at recipes for tomato sauce. We then combined that knowledge with the flavors we tasted in the original dish and went from there.

Makes 4 servings.

Dumping Filling
Warszawa-filling-dough1

1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup goat cheese
5 spears asparagus
Salt and pepper to taste

Dumpling Dough
Warszawa-filling-dough2

Warszawa-filling-dough3

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
2 tsp oil
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt

Hardware: 1 1/2” cutting ring

Have a bowl of ice water waiting on the side. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Immediately transfer asparagus to ice water to stoop cooking process. Once cool, finely mince asparagus. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl to make filling.

In a food processor, pulse flour, egg and salt together. Turn food processor on and slowly stream in water followed by the oil. The dough should start forming into a ball and be very smooth, yet lightly sticky. Cover dough ball in plastic wrap over a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour before using. Once ready to use, take either all, or a portion of the dough over a lightly floured surface, and roll it out until it is 1/16″ thick. Using the 1 1/2” cutting ring, cut rounds into the dough. Place 1/2 tsp of the filling on the center of a dough round. Place another round on top, and pinch and shape both pieces of dough together until cheese is completely sealed in. Repeat until the filling or remaining dough is used.

Tomato Sauce
Warszawa-tomatosauce

Warszawa-tomatosauce2

2 lbs fresh ripe Italian-style tomatoes (such as roma)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
Fresh parley, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

First, bring a large pot of water to a boil. On the side, have a large bowl of ice water waiting. Rinse your tomatoes. Using a knife, core out the stem of the tomatoes. Next, cut an “X” on the bottom of the tomatoes. When the water is boiling, lower the tomatoes in to the boiling water with tongs or a slotted spoon. Allow the tomatoes to cook for 15-30 seconds, or until the skin starts to wrinkle, then remove.

Immediately transfer the tomatoes into the ice water to shock them (stop them from cooking). Leave the tomatoes in for around 15-30 seconds. Remove from ice water and the skins of the tomatoes should slip off easily. Discard the skins. Next, seed the tomatoes by cutting them apart and pushing out the seeds. Strain the juice from the seeds and reserve the juice. Discard the seeds.

Heat a wide rimmed pot on medium. Add olive oil and coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and cook slowly until sweated out. Add the garlic, celery, carrots and parsley and add some salt a pepper. Mix and cook together for 5 minutes. Add the water and cook for a few more minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes with their juices and stir to mix together. Simmer together on low heat for about 1 hour. When finished, blend sauce in a blender. Strain in a chinois to make a very fine sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach Puree
Warszawa-spinach

1 lb spinach, washed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a pot, cook spinach leaves over medium high heat (do not add water, leaves steam in own liquid). Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until leaves soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked spinach to a bath of ice water to stop cooking process. Add spinach, salt and pepper to a blender and puree until smooth and creamy. If spinach is too thick, add additional water.

Apple Carrot Puree
Warszawa-applesuace

3 red delicious apples, skinned, cored, and cut into 1” cubes
3 carrots cut into coins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP brown sugar
Juice from 1/2 lemon

In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add apple and carrots and boil for about 5-7 minutes, or until ingredients are tender. Drain ingredients. Add cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon juice, water, and cooked apples and carrots to a blender. Blend until pureed. Consistency should be firm enough to scoop.

Plating

Place a serving of the spinach puree on one half of the plate, along with a scoop of the apple and carrot puree. On the other side of the plate, place a portion of the dumplings and top them with tomato sauce. Sprinkle pasta generously with fresh, chopped dill.

Warszawa_theirs-ours

Rating- We give our dish 1.5 out of 5 stars.

During dinner at Warszawa we discussed how texture was going to be our biggest challenge. After doing so many posts, we’ve learned that getting the flavor profiles correct is the easy part, if there is an easy part. What is difficult is refining the textures of the different components. This time, we were pretty off on several parts of the dish.

We feel we came close to replicating the spinach puree and the apple and carrot puree. The flavors were very similar. What was off was the texture. Our spinach wasn’t quite liquid enough and our apples and carrots weren’t solid enough. Too much liquid in one, not enough in the other.

The pasta however was a huge weak spot for us. In making the dumplings, everything seemed to be going well. We tasted the filling several times and refined our ricotta to goat cheese balance. The act of cutting, stuffing, and sealing each dumping was time consuming but seemed easy enough – same for the tomato sauce. We’d made sauce several times for the blog, Osteria Mozza and Ketchup, so we weren’t too worried about it. Then we tasted the finished product. Warzawa’s dumplings were light and creamy, almost velvet in texture. Our’s were thick and heavy, mainly tasting of the flour and not the creamy cheese filling. By sampling both dishes side by side, we decided that they must use potato in their pasta and not just flour – their secret to making light pasta. The sauce was also a sour note for us. Well, sour as in disappointing, not in flavor. Our sauce was actually much more sweet than Warzawa’s. When we ate their dish, we first tasted dill, then noticed the light dumpling and the smooth cheese filling. From our dish, we first noticed the sweet tomato sauce and then the flour pasta. We barely even noticed the cheese filling and it was hard to pick up the flavor of dill at all. This leads us to believe that while the eye only sees dill sprinkled on top of their dish, they must have pureed into the sauce itself as well.

So sadly, our version did not live up to the original. We still enjoyed our dumplings and sauce but we would love to know how to master the light, smooth dumpling and the dill rich tomato sauce.

How would you rate our recipe? We look forward to hearing feedback from you guys. Have you visited Warszawa before and have a favorite dish? Feel free to email us if you have any questions on the recipe and don’t forget to vote for next week’s restaurant!

1 comment

  1. strela

    mmmm…this dish looks yummy, especially the way you describe it’s velvety texture. i can’t believe you’re almost done with the alphabet.

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