Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cucumber salad

A traditional Hungarian summer salad, which we often eat with just potato paprikas and a side of bread. Amazingly, one doesn't miss the meat from such a meal.

Ingredients
2-3 seedless long cucumbers
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
2 cloves of garlic
1 Hungarian pepper
0.5-0.75 cup sour cream
salt

Preparation
Wash and peel the cucumbers. Slice thin using the large slit on your grater. Salt amply, mix and set aside for 30 minutes.

Peel and mince the garlic. Wash and core the pepper, cut into half and then to thin strips.

Once the cucumbers sat salted for 30 minutes, squeeze them out hard from all the excess liquid. Dispose of the liquid.

Add the garlic, sour cream, pepper and paprika to the cucumbers.

Mix well, and serve chilled. Believe it or not, you may need to salt it...so give it a taste before you set it aside. Best served a few hours after it's preparation.

Potato salad

I love this dish as a side with breaded, deep fried fish, chicken, or pattypan squash.

My mum makes a healthier version, using 80% sour cream and 20% mayo for the sauce. It's equally tasty.

Ingredients
4-5 large potatoes
1-2 onions
2 eggs
mayo
salt
curry
black pepper

Preparation
Peel and dice the potatoes to half-inch cubes. Wash twice, then toss into salted boiling water. Cook until done. Do not overcook! I know some people prefer to bake the potatoes, I've tried, I don't.

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, remove the shell.

Peel the onion(s) and cut into strips. Mix the mayo with the egg yolks and the onions, and set aside until the potatoes cool down completely.

When the potatoes are cool, chop up the egg whites and add to the potatoes. Season with salt, black pepper and curry powder to taste. I only use the slightest hint of curry, it should not be the dominant taste.
Mix with the dressing and onions.

Serve room temperature with whatever suits. I had it with breaded chicken and asparagus.

Eating kohlrabi

This veggie is related to cabbage, and the young, small ones are as juicy as an apple, albeit not as sweet. It tastes kind of like the young center of the cabbage, and perhaps mildly like broccoli stems, but it's much sweeter than those.

In Hungary we have spicy versions as well. One serving (3.5 oz-100g) has more vitamin C than the daily requirement according to the FDA, and it's also high in dietary fiber.

The interesting thing is that while I love eating this raw, cooking it brings out a particular favor that I strongly dislike. So, if you are planning on giving this a shot, try it both ways...maybe you will also prefer the fresh fruit...oh, sorry, technically it's a vegetable :-)

Mushroom and onion omlette

I had this for dinner today, and not only was it delicious, it also reminded me of the years when my grandma used to make it.

Ingredients
4 eggs
8oz mushrooms
1 yellow onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt to taste

Preparation
Clean the mushrooms.

Slice them into quarter inch thick pieces. Brown them in a hot pan, or by tossing them onto a 450F preheated baking sheet.

Cut the onion in half from root to top and slice the halves. Saute in vegetable oil and brown lightly.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-high.

Meanwhile, break and beat 4 eggs, salt it, and whip in the salt as well.

Pour onto the onions and mushrooms. Do not disturb the pan for a few minutes, then cut the omelet in pieces and turn them. Finish cooking the other side as well. Do not overcook!

Serve with slices of toast, spicy sauce and cucumber wedges. Darn...now I want a second helping!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spinach strudel

Inspired by spinach zelnik or spanakopita.

Ingredients
1 puff pastry sheet
2 eggs
1 tbsp water
0.5 lb frozen spinach
0.5 cup chopped feta cheese
0.25 cup semolina
0.25 tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste

Preparation
Thaw the spinach and and squeeze out the excess liquid. Mix with one egg, feta, semolina and the spices. Set aside.

Prepare puff pastry according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll pastry into a 12x17 inch rectangle. Load the filling on the bottom two third, facing the shorter edge, leaving an inch of clean pastry on the edges.

Roll up the pastry with the filling, starting from the short edge. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet seam-side down.

Brush with egg wash prepared by beating together the other egg and the water. Score and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

This dish freezes well.

Almond cookies

These were a little too buttery for my taste, I would increase the flour and eggs in my next try, reduce the sugar and add a little bit of baking powder.

Ingredients
4 oz almond paste
1 stick of butter (123 g)
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
0.5 tsp almond extract
sliced almonds
granulated sugar to top

Preparation
Mix everything together, with the exception of the sliced almonds.

Press into a greased baking shape (9x11inch) and top with granulated sugar and almonds.

Bake in a 350F oven for 20-30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and begin to separate from the baking shape.

Drizzle with melted chocolate.

American apple strudel

This is by no means the 'real thing', but tasty enough, and very easy to make.

Ingredients
1 Pepperidge farm puff pastry sheet
1 egg
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp corn starch
0.5 tsp cinnamon
2 large, sour apples
2 tbsp ground walnuts

Preparation
Thaw the puff pastry sheet according to instructions. Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prepare an egg wash using the egg and water.

Mix the starch, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon. Use more corn starch if the apples are nice and have high water content.

Peel, core and cut the apples into thin slices. Mix with the cinnamon, sugar mix.

Roll the pastry sheet into a 35x24cm rectangle. Spread the filling to the lower two third of the pastry, facing the shorter side. Leave 1-2cm clean on the edges.

Roll up and lift onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, putting it seam-side down. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush with egg-wash and cut slits into it.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with whipped cream (of course)!

Baguette I.

Not the best baguette I tried, but worth a mention. The taste was fantastic, thanks to the preferment. The crust was deliciously crunchy, the shape was nice and round. However, I wasn't satisfied with the crumb structure. Reducing the kneading time can help fix that, as well as using a no-knead system. I will present at least two more baguette recipes here, so you can take your pick.

Ingredients
pre-ferment:
1.5 cup bread flour
0.75 cup warm water
0.25 tsp dry yeast

dough:
1/3 cup warm water
2 tsp honey
0.25 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt
0.75 cups bread flour
cornmeal
oil

Preparation
Mix the pre-ferment, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight.

The next day add the water, honey and yeast to the sponge. Mix and allow to rest for 10 minutes uncovered. Add the salt and the rest of the flour, mix until it comes together. Knead minimally, until a dough forms.

Coat with oil and allow to rest for 1.5 hour covered with plastic foil. Cut in half and shape into two breads without deflating by folding in half and pinching the edges closed. Repeat this three times, waiting 15 minutes in between as you elongate the bread.

Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and set the loafs on it seam-side down. Brush with oil, cover and allow to rest for one hour.

Score, and bake in a steamed, preheated, 425F oven until golden brown.

Cool on a rack.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hungarian stuffed peppers

I prefer this a million times over any other stuffed pepper.

Ingredients
filling:
1.5 pound ground turkey
1 cup rice
1.5 cup water
3 eggs
2 cloves of garlic
one small yellow onion
0.5 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground black pepper
salt to taste

sauce:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp flour
0.5 tbsp paprika
0.5 liter cold water
1 liter tomato sauce
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh parsley
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
0.5 tbsp Piros Arany (Hungarian crushed pepper sauce)

5-6 Hungarian peppers
boiled or baked potatoes for serving

Preparation
Precook the rice in the water. Allow to cool and add the other filling ingredients. Mix well.

Prepare a roux in a large pot, using the flour and oil for the sauce. Add the paprika and fry for 30 seconds more. Add the cold water and stir quickly to avoid lumping. Stir in the other sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low.

Remove the tops of the peppers and stuff them with the filling. Lower into the sauce. Form the remaining meat into balls and add to the sauce.

Bring back to a simmer and cook on low heat for one hour.

Serve with baked or boiled potatoes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lecso

It's the ultimate Hungarian summer meal. Again, many different versions exist...and I can't even get the right ingredients here in the northern part of the US. But try this with real Hungarian peppers once...

Ingredients
8-10 Hungarian peppers (here Cubanelle peppers plus a habanero serve as decent substitutes)
1 large, ripe tomato
1 large yellow onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil

optional:
eggs, rice, hot-dogs

must have:
good, tasty, rustic bread

Preparation
Clean the vegetables. Slice the onions and cut into medium length strips. Add the oil to a large sauce pan, and distribute the onions on the bottom. Then cut the peppers into half inch by half inch squares and place them on top of the onions. Finally, peel the tomato (you heard me, yes, remove the skin), and chop it on top of the peppers.

Salt the entire surface to taste (amply, it's the only spice we use, and it brings out the flavor of the veggies).

Heat covered on medium-high for 3 minutes before stirring. Fry the veggies until the peppers and onions are soft, and the tomatoes formed a tasty sauce around them.

Now you can stir in cooked rice, hot dog slices or eggs into the mix. You can also just serve it as is, though it's usually way to spicy for mere mortals :-)

People also use this as a sauce on roast meats. In my opinion, it makes the meat tastier, but it really takes away from the pleasure of eating the veggies. It's best served simply with a good, thick slice of bread.

Honey creamy

My father's favorite cake, a traditional dessert at Christmas. Not an easy one to prepare...

Ingredients
dough:
2 tbsp honey
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp baking soda
50g shortening
180g sugar
500g flour

cream:
1 liter milk
10 tbsp semolina
100g butter
180g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar

plus a jar of home-made apricot marmalade

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400F.

Mix and bring to a boil the dough ingredients, with the exception of the flour. Cook for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Cut into four equal pieces and quickly roll them into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle. Bake on the back of a large baking sheet.

You need to work really quickly here, as this dough becomes stiff.

Allow the layers to cool on a cookie rack. They will become very hard.

For the cream: cook the milk and the semolina until a thick paste forms. Cool thoroughly. Once cold, mix in the sugar, vanilla and butter using a hand mixer until the cream is smooth and fluffy.

Take your most beautiful cake layer and set aside to be the top one.

Spread half of the cream on the bottom layer, then jam on the next layer, finally the remaining butter cream goes between the top two layers as well. Some people like to top this with a chocolate ganache. I think it really takes away from the cake.

You have to let this cake sit overnight for the layers to soften. Then it's cut into small 1.5 inch by 1 inch pieces before serving.

Try this, and let me know how it went. This is one of those challenging cakes we only make for Christmas in Hungary, but it's absolutely worth it.

Good luck!

Stuffed cabbage

Many versions of this dish exist withing Hungary, and many more in the Mediterranean region. This is how my mum makes it.

Ingredients
1 green cabbage
4-5 slices of smoked bacon
1.5 pound ground turkey
3 garlic cloves
1 small yellow onion
0.25 tsp ground black pepper
0.5 tsp paprika
1 cup rice
2 tbsp Piros Arany (Hungarian paprika paste)
200mL tomato sauce
2 tbsp sugar
salt
sour cream for serving

Preparation
Precook the 1 cup of rice in 1.5 cup of water.

Remove the stem from the cabbage, without cutting into the leaves. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Immerse the cabbage and cook until the leaves can be peeled apart.

Remove the cabbage from the water and peel the leaves off. Take a pot and cut the small inside leaves into the pot, spreading them evenly around on the bottom. Lay the bacon slices on top.Take the ground meat and mix it with the pre-cooked rice, 2 cloves of minced garlic, the very finely minced, or even grated onion, the black pepper, paprika and some salt to taste.

Now take your cabbage leaves and cut off the thick vein of each leaf, making them more flexible. Add handfuls of ground meat-rice filling to each, rolling them up tightly and layering them seam-side down onto the shredded cabbage and bacon.Add water to the pot, not quite covering the cabbage rolls. Add the remaining clove of garlic, the Piros Arany and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 35-40 minutes covered.Add the tomato sauce and sugar to the sauce and simmer for a few more minutes. At this point you can adjust the sauce for salt and other spices.

Serve with sour cream and a nice crusty white bread.

Red cabbage side dish

Another nod to Hungarian cooking, though I think versions of this exist in Germany, Austria and many northern European countries.

When I first prepared this, I tried to test-taste it right after adding the spices, and it was awful. It's one of those dishes that you have to cook before tasting it, and the flavors will meld into unified perfection.

Ingredients
1 red cabbage
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
0.5 tbsp ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
0.5 tsp ground caraway seeds
salt to taste

optional:
0.5 tbsp Vegeta (Eastern European dehydrated vegetable based taste enhancer)

Preparation
Slice the cabbage so it forms long thin strips. Salt it with 2 tbsp salt, mix well and set aside for one hour.

In a saucepan saute the diced onion. Squeeze out the salty water from the cabbage and add the cabbage to the pot. Add the spices.

Stir and cook covered on medium-high heat, stirring often until the cabbage softens. You don't want a mush, but the cabbage should be cooked. By the time it's done the onions and all of the cabbage should be a uniform, intense purple color. The dish as pictured above still requires plenty of cooking time.

Serve with potatoes and baked blood-sausage or liver-sausage ;-)

Potato paprikas

A traditional Hungarian dish usually served with a slice of bread and pickles or in the Eastern part of the country with rummy sour-cherry compote. It's an excellent side dish to serve with roasted chicken.

Ingredients
1 pound of potatoes
1 tbsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 large yellow onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp Piros Arany (Hungarian paprika paste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
salt
water

Preparation
Dice the onion and saute in the oil until translucent. It's best to do this in a flat saucepan. Meanwhile peel and dice the potatoes evenly to half inch cubes. Wash twice with cold water.

Mince the garlic. When the onions are soft, add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Pull the dish off the heat and add the other spices. Stir and return to the heat to cook for 30 seconds.

Add the potatoes and enough water to barely cover them. Salt to taste and bring to a boil. Stir and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer on low for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The potatoes will break up a little bit, but don't overcook and try to stir them carefully to avoid mashing them.

Remove the bay leaves and serve as described above.