“Eat, drink and loosen your belt.” Polish saying
Smacznego! Good Appetite! Enjoy the taste of East European foods at Ela’s European Market & Deli on Forest Drive. In true Polish style, Elizabeth M. and James Cooper will greet you with warm hospitality. Ela, whose background is in banking, says, “breaking bread, celebrating special occasions over delicious homemade food and raising a toast or two with family or friends are old Polish traditions.”
I wrote about this market a few years ago when it first opened. The market is still a family affair; the two industrious Cooper children help out after school and on weekends. Ela’s mother, Chef Eugenia Zarebski from Wroclaw, Poland, reigns over the kitchen. She was once the pastry chef at the Polish-American Club in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Everyone calls her ‘Mom,’ even the customers. Mom creates all the European baked goods. When the market opened, her sister, in her 80’s, traveled from Poland to help out. For the elder siblings, the market is a labor of love.
Mom bakes Polish paczki (‘pounchki’), which are tender yeast doughnuts filled with fragrant rose conserve or plum filling, Polish apple cake, Swiss-rolls, decorated cakes and Hungarian Dobosch-Tortes – thin, filled sponge layers covered with rich, dark chocolate. Mom also makes Kremowka, the custard-filled pastry loved by Pope John Paul II. If you are dreaming of something special, just ask for it.
The cozy market features endless delights: boneless tied lamb, roast pork, Polish smoked ham and a variety of handsome Polish sausages. Don’t miss Mom’s stuffed cabbage rolls or the homemade pierogies, Poland’s ultimate comfort food.
Recently the Coopers increased the market’s seating space, now ample enough for serving lunch and Sunday brunch.
James prepares many dishes that reflect his Spanish heritage, such as Grilled Pollo Sandwich (with Polish bacon Morski cheese and Ela’s BBQ sauce), Murray’s Churrascos Baby Beef Signature (beef loin marinated in chimmichuri sauce), Cooper’s Grilled Pork Loin Parillada (thin sliced pork with chimmichuri sauce), and fresh grilled salmon with pico de gallo.
There is a list of awsome sandwiches; many almost large enough for two: Crown Frankfort (Parowki), Pastrami Sandwich, Pork Melts, Polska Ruben Sandwich and Wroclaw Midnight Sandwich. James makes the corn beef from scratch and it simply flies out the door! The Rubens are a signature sandwich and the best in town!
For dinner, you might find Ropa Vieja on the menu (shredded flank steak), succulent Roast Pork or Bigos – the traditional Polish Hunter’s Stew.
Try Ela’s Churrasco – tender flavorful grilled beef tenderloin or the Caribbean-style boneless catfish filet fried in spicy cornmeal with sides of black beans, rice, red cabbage salad, fried plantains and lemon wedges. There is also a fried seafood platter and grilled fresh red snapper. Many of the dishes are a harmonious blend of Spanish and Polish cuisines.
At Sunday brunch (from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM) there is rarely an empty seat. The menu offers tempting specialties like Churrasco Steak and Eggs, Carne Asada and Eggs, Huevos Rancheros and Eggs, Ela’s French Toast, Farmhouse Breakfast (with eggs, steak, hash browns), Eggs Benedict, Corn Beef & Hash with Eggs, Spanish Huevos, Wroclaw 3 Egg Omelet (with cheese veggies, Kielbasa) and a Farmer’s 3 Egg Omelet (with ham, bacon, sausage, garden veggies and cheese. Spiced apples are served on the side).
The Coopers also make wonderful grits that are seasoned just right. Try them with ham and eggs and have a Mimosa (champagne with orange juice) or cup of Kona Coffee on the side.
Special Polish beers and other cold beverages are also available.
Ela’s European Market & Deli
5301 Suite D, Forest Drive
Columbia, SC 29206
Here are a few Polish recipes you will want to try!
Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries. It is a diverse blend of Russian, German, Italian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Jewish culinary traditions. Sauerkraut, beets, cucumbers, sour cream, mushrooms, sausages, dumplings, plums and pork are a few popular foods. Herbs like dill and marjoram are often used.
Genia’s Stuffed Cabbage (Golabki)
1 head cabbage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons margarine
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork or veal (optional)
2 cups cooked rice
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh or dried herbs, as desired
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomatoes, drained
Remove core from the cabbage. Put cabbage in boiling water and remove the leaves as they soften. SautÃ© onions in the margarine until soft. Into a large bowl, thoroughly combine onions, meat, rice, eggs, salt and pepper. To form cabbage rolls, put about 2 tablespoons meat mixture into the center of each cabbage leaf then roll up. Put meat rolls into a large pot; cover with the tomato sauce. Arrange tomatoes on top of the rolls. Simmer over low heat for 2 hours.
Note: Herbs like dill or marjoram can be mixed into the meat mixture.
(Cwikla – Difficult to pronounce but easy to eat!)
1 pound cooked beets
2 tablespoons horseradish or to taste
Juice from one lemon, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Rinse whole beets but don’t peel. Drop into boiling water and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool then peel. Grate beets or shred finely. If you wish, when handling beets wear thin disposable plastic gloves to prevent staining. In a large bowl, mix beets and the remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover and let stand in refrigerator at least one day for flavors to blend.
Plum Soup (Zupa)
1 quart water
1 pound fresh plums
1 tablespoon potato flour or cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar or 1/2 cup plum jam (or more, to taste)
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup sour cream
Buttered crouton, if desired
Bring water with plums to boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Remove fruit (reserve liquid) and cool. Remove and discard fruit pits; puree pulp in a seive.
Stir potato starch into the reserved liquid. Whisk to dissolve then bring to a boil. Stir until thickened. Stir in fruit puree, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Cook on medium low heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 mimutes. Serve warm. Top each portion with a dollop of sour cream on top. Soup can be garnished with buttered, toasted croutons. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Read Allison Askins’ article in the State Newspaper on September 12th.