We were browsing through Polish Classic Recipes, by Laura and Peter Zeranski, the other day when we were looking for new ideas for dinner, and this recipe stood out. We occasionally make our version of pasta and poppy seeds, but ours is just that: pasta, a bit of butter, and poppy seeds. This one promised more. It included raisins and honey. Interesting, right? We had to scratch up a batch to try.
Since we’ve made this dish, we modified the recipe from the original into what we think will be a better dish, and we’d really suggest our version. But, if you want to try the original, just increase the amount of raisins to a full cup, and the honey to 2 tablespoons.
Serves 2 as a main 4 as sides.
If you’re using vanilla extract, it should always be pure. Imitation flavoring lacks the nuances that real extract has. For the poppy seeds: we buy poppy seeds at Penzey’s Spices; they’re a better deal than the little jars at the grocery store. Fresh pasta isn’t so hard to make, and, if you haven’t tried it, you should. It’s the one thing we really recommend for improving your pasta dishes. Finally, the raisins: we use organic because grapes are a heavy user of pesticides, and organic raisins only cost about fifty cents more per pound than ordinary raisins.
Procedure in detail:
Soak poppy seeds. We used a small measuring cup to hold the poppy seeds while they soaked, but any heatproof container will do. Place the seeds in your container and cover with boiling water. We suggest 3/4 of a cup, but the amount isn’t critical, just so the seeds are covered. Let the seeds stand 3 hours.
Drain poppy seeds. We set a coffee filter in a funnel to drain the seeds, but a clean, lightweight piece of cloth will do, also. Once drained, set aside.
Soak raisins. Place the raisins in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water, about 3/4 of a cup. Let stand for about 30 minutes to plump a bit.
Drain raisins. Since raisins are larger than poppy seeds, you can use a colander to drain them. We just left the raisins in the colander while we cooked the pasta, knowing that we could drain the pasta over the raisins and the boiling water would reheat them a bit before adding to the main dish.
Boil pasta. If you’re using fresh pasta, this will take just a minute or two, whereas dried pasta will probably take over 10 minutes. Keep the timing in mind as you do the next step while the pasta is boiling.
Heat poppy seeds. In a large skillet over medium heat, stir together the poppy seeds, honey, and vanilla extract. Keep stirring while the mixture comes to a simmer, about 3 minutes. If your pasta is not quite done at this stage, lower the heat to keep the poppy seeds warm.
Finish dish. Drain the pasta (over the raisins, if desired), and add pasta, raisins, and butter to the poppy seed mixture. Stir to coat, and continue stirring until the butter melts and everything is heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.
We were disappointed in the original incarnation of this dish. Far, far too many raisins for the amount of pasta. We think that, if you use raisins in a savory dish (we think they’re under- utilized) they should play a supporting role, not be the star as they were in this dish. Same with the honey; using the original amount of honey called for made this dish too sweet, in our opinion, ruining a good dish. Our ingredients list represents what we think are better amounts. Also, soaking the poppy seeds seems like overkill. We’ve had poppy seeds over pasta without soaking, and we think that anyone would be hard-pressed to know the difference, so, if you’re pressed for time, just use them without soaking. We’ll give this dish three stars as is, but think that our changes should make it better.