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MY COOKBOOK

MY COOKBOOK
Click on the Cookbook for the Recipes

30.4.14

CHEF’S SALT


One of the perks of writing a food blog is the virtual contact you make with nice people. László lives hours away and we never met, but from time to time we exchange e mails about food, politics and religion; yes you can do that with likeminded people. László recently sent me three of his treasures, written by famous Hungarian chef Louis Szathmáry. Szathmáry has a handful of Hungarian recipes in the three volumes. As the chef owner of The Bakery, a Chicago restaurant that used to be of international standing, Szathmáry’s books are a goldmine of experience. Szathmáry earned a degree in psychology in Budapest, but then he spent his life cooking for diplomats, aristocrats and famous people in Europe and in North America.


A couple of years ago László sent me photocopies of Szathmáry’s newspaper column, so imagine my delight when he offered me three of his books! From cover to cover these books are jam packed with advice; these are not just recipes. Thank you László! 

What recipe to pick first, and then I thought what would be more unique than the Chef’s Salt? It is to be used instead of salt and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to a generous chef as well as to my foodie friend László. Here it goes, it’s quite simple really and I am eager to try it myself. I am packing it away in a wide mouth mason jar and will use a pinch from it occasionally. No doubt, Chef’s Salt will show up in future recipes. 

1 cup salt 
1 Tbsp Hungarian or Spanish paprika 
1 tsp ground black pepper 
1/4 tsp ground white pepper 
1/4 tsp celery salt 
1/4 tsp garlic salt 

Szathmáry warns: Be careful to use garlic salt and not garlic powder. If you use garlic powder a small pinch will be enough. 

 • Combine ingredients and use instead of salt.

Read more in the Chicago Culinary Museum's Chef's Hall of Fame: Tribute to Louis Szathmáry



29.4.14

DEVILED SPARERIBS


Day’s gone by I would do wicked things, such as order the free volume of a book series and then cancel the rest. That is how I ended up with the Meat Cook Book from Better Homes and Gardens. I was not the only one, check out the cookbook section of any second hand store and you will find stacks and stacks of Meat books. It had a Deviled Beef Bones recipe I used to make all the time. That’s when we ate a lot of beef, particularly standing beef roasts. It would be a quick meal after the roast was all gone. I haven’t made it in years and then I thought of it the other day. It brought back a flood of memories.

Zsuzsa, Susie and Jim's Mom somewhere in Jasper 1973

My dear mother in law dared the long trip from Tatabánya to Prince George in 1972 and spent six weeks with us that summer. From time to time we had visitors from Hungary and every one of them tried to reorganize my life during their stay. Not my mother in law. She offered no advice and she ate everything I put in front of her. She never complained that the food tasted different or said I’m sorry I cannot eat that. The food does taste different from what they have in Hungary. The milk, the eggs, the fruit, the vegetables, the meat, the bread, even the water is different. But Jim’s mom liked everything. She especially liked my Deviled Beef Bones!


Being short of standing rib roasts these days, I turned to pork spareribs instead. Spareribs are basically bones with a bit of meat on them; the only difference I have to roast them before giving them over to the devilling process. But it's worth the trouble, it’s delicious! 


The following recipe and sauce is the perfect amount for two large spareribs. It will feed four people. I cut the ingredients in half and only roasted one strip. It was the perfect amount for two people. 

2 large strips of spareribs [1.5 kg total] 
salt 2 garlic cloves, smashed 
drizzle of olive oil 

Sauce:
3/4 cup catsup 
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
1 Tbsp vinegar 
1-1/2 tsp celery seed 
1 tsp mustard 

• Wash and dry the rib with paper towels. 
• Place in an ovenproof dish and salt the rib on both sides. 
• Let the rib rest on the counter for two hours. 
• Discard the juices if any. 
• Add smashed garlic and wrap the dish with aluminum foil. 
• Place in the oven and roast the rib covered at 325F for 2 to 3 hours or until very tender. 
• When the meaty parts are tender, remove the pan from the oven. 
• Transfer the rib to the aluminum foil and pour the juices into a non stick skillet.


27.4.14

CAULIFLOWER RICE


After the discovery of using spaghetti squash in lieu of spaghetti, cauliflower rice was the most monumental discovery for me. The idea, I think, comes from Chef Jamie Oliver. You grate the cauliflower and then microwave it. I feel almost embarrassed to write it into a recipe. 

Do you remember the urban legend regarding microwaves? There are still people who believe it to be true, and like all legends there are scores of personal testimonies insisting on it. The current legend that is raging is more insidious; in fact it’s deadly and affects all of us. But as far as the microwave legend is concerned, there is no harm, if people want to give up convenience for a belief rather than follow science based evidence that is their problem. Microwave ovens don’t make foods radioactive. When we talk about microwave “radiation” we are simply talking about the production of thermal energy, aka, heat. Radiation and radioactive is NOT the same thing. Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D. from the Harvard Health Review explains: “Microwaves do not cause cancer. They’re a form of non-ionizing radiation and thus cannot ionize tissue. Microwave ovens use low-frequency waves of electrical and magnetic energy to produce heat to cook food. They don’t make food radioactive, nor do they trigger cancer-causing genetic mutations.” 

The human body absorbs radiation from a wide variety of sources and most of it comes from the Sun. The most spectacular evidence of solar radiation storm is the Aurora Borealis.

 

cauliflower 
seasoning of choice 

• Wash a cauliflower really well and let it drip dry. That’s because you don’t want the cauliflower wet, because it will turn into mush. 
• Put 2-3 pieces in a food processor and whizz it until it looks like rice. Or grate the cauliflower on the coarse side of a grater. 
 • Transfer the cauliflower into a heat proof bowl and place a microwavable dome over it. 
• Microwave it for 4-6 minutes. 
• Take it out, season and fluff it up with a fork. And that’s all is there to it.




BLIND BAKING PIE PASTRY


Blind baking is baking an unfilled pie shell. Sometimes recipes call for partially baking the pie crust. For custard filled pies however you will need a fully baked crust. The only difference between partially baked and fully baked pie crust is a few extra steps. Prepare the pie pastry. Traditional pie pastries work differently, but I always found them doughy. Mine is a simple recipe, healthier than shortening based pastries and guaranteed to produce a flaky pastry each and every time. I never had a better pie pastry than my own.

• Preheat the oven to 425F. 
• Make half a batch of pie pastry
• Roll out the dough on a floured surface. 
• Place the dough into the pie pan. 
• Avoid stretching the dough. 
• Make a flouted edge or press with a fork. 
• Trim the overhanging edge with a pair of kitchen shears. 
• Using a fork, prick a few holes into the bottom. 
• Some people chill the pie crust before baking. This is to stop the pastry from shrinking. Actually I like it if the edge shrinks back a little; the pie is then less doughy and the edge is less likely to fall off when sliced. 
• Next line the pie crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill it with pie weights or with dry beans. I keep a bag of dry beans for this. 
• Place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. 
• Remove from the oven and let the pie cool down with the weights. This is the partially baked pie crust. 
• For a fully baked pie crust, lift out the weights and gently cover the fluted edge with aluminum foil. 
• Put the crust back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bottom is golden. 
• Keep an eye on it, if the bottom inflates, don’t poke it with a fork; you could poke a hole into it. Instead take it out and gently place the weights inside for a few seconds. This will lower the inflated parts. 
• Take out the weights and put the crust back into the oven to finish browning.



26.4.14

LEMON MERINGUE PIE


Lemon meringue is not an easy pie to make. I recall a friend of a friend once telling the tale of her celebrated lemon meringue pies at a baby shower. Her husband was a doctor and he insisted that she cook from fresh ingredients only. This was more than forty years ago so the man was ahead of his time. He was also a lover of lemon meringue pies and what the dear lady came up with was she put a few lemon seeds into the packaged pie filling to keep the appearance that she made the pie from fresh lemons. We all applauded her ingenuity and thought how silly it was to make a lemon meringue pie from actual lemons! 

I have a few pointers for making REAL lemon meringue pies though. 

Cornstarch is your thickener, not flour. Of course cornstarch is tricky, because when cooked too long cornstarch looses its ability to thicken or to stay thick. If the filling is not thickened in the pot, it will not thicken sufficiently when chilled. It will thicken some, but your pie will end up a runny mess nevertheless. So there is no point to pour a thin filling into the pie shell. Cut your losses and serve the filling as a pudding and top it with whipped cream or use it as a topping for ice cream. For perfect pie filling follow the instructions with precision. 

Now for making the perfect meringue! 


Bring the meringue up on the pastry, because it will shrink back as it cools. Don’t skimp on the sugar, don’t add it too soon and don’t add it all at once. Gradually added sugar strengthens the egg white molecules. So does a pinch of acid such as cream of tartar. But don’t over beat the egg whites, if the molecules stretch too much, when heated, they will pop and drain liquid. One way to tell the difference, well beaten egg whites are glossy, over beaten egg whites are dull. Always bake the meringue in a slow oven. High temperatures destroy the molecular structure of egg whites. Do not under bake the meringue however. A fully baked meringue has the same consistency throughout. If syrup pools from the meringue, it means that the meringue was not fully baked. 

Meringue pies are short lived. They will last three days in the fridge, but will not survive freezing. Contrary to recipes I read, the meringue will not adhere to chilled filling. For the meringue to stick to the filling, either let the hot filling cool down to room temperature first or if chilled, let it come up to room temperature before making the meringue. Once finished, keep the pie refrigerated. For each cut, use a clean, sharp, well buttered knife. [Not a knife dipped into hot water] 

This one is for Tony. 

1/2 batch of Pie Pastry 

 Filling 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup cornstarch 
1/2 tsp salt 
4 eggs yolks 
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 
1-3/4 cups cold water 
finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
1/4 cup butter 

Meringue 
5 egg whites, at room temperature 
3/4 cup sugar 
1 pinch of cream of tartar 

• Make the pastry and blind bake the crust at 420F for 15 minutes. 
• Remove the beans or the weights and bake the crust for 15 minutes longer. 
• Remove the pie from the oven and set it aside. 
• In a larger saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and lemon juice. 
• Add the cold water and whisk until blended. 
• Cook over moderate heat, whisking until it comes to a boil. 
• Boil stirring until the mixture thickens, [1 minute]. 
• Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and butter. 
• Stir until the butter is completely melted. 
• Pour into baked pie shell. 
• Immediately cover with a round of parchment paper pressed onto the surface. 
• Let the pie cool down to room temperature. 
• Preheat oven to 325F. 
• In a large bowl combine the 5 egg whites and beat until soft peaks form then gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. 
• Remove parchment paper from top of filling and pile on the meringue. 
• Spread to slightly overlap and seal the fluted edges of the crust. 
• Bake for 15 minutes or until top is pale golden. 
• Cool to room temperature on a rack then refrigerate for 2 hours. 
• Slice with a well buttered sharp knife.



25.4.14

STIR FRYING WITH BABY BOK CHOY


I don’t always plan well; on most days I survey the fridge and get an idea. Sometimes I have no idea and just start taking stuff out, start peeling and chopping and somehow a meal grows out of it. The most creative ideas I get when the fridge is close to empty. Pre-planned meals take me longer to prepare and are much more expensive. I have been trying to serve two, sometimes three vegetable sides for dinner with minimal amounts of meat. Sometimes all we have are tastily prepared, colorful vegetables. The darling does the shopping of late, I order vegetables and I never know what he will bring. A couple of weeks ago he brought me a huge bag of baby bok choy, but I wasn't in mood for several days of Chinese.

Well the first time I made a plain chicken stir fry with the bok choy. I have no photo of it, but the only difference between the chicken stir fry and the all vegetable stir fry is you add some chicken strips with the garlic. The following day I made a plain vegetable stir fry. The flavoring I used was the same, olive oil, lots of garlic and pan toasted chopped almonds. The last of the bok choy I simply wilted and combined it with a cup of rice from the day before that was cooked in homemade chicken stock. Once again it was an almost meatless dish and yet very tasty. You do not need to add liquid if you use a non stick skillet. On medium heat the vegetables will sweat off sufficient moisture and combined with the residual heat from the pan and cooking is complete. All the bok choy needs is wilting. Stir fry vegetables should remain crispy and colorful.

I hate the soggy, greasy, stringy vegetables Chinese restaurants serve in Kamloops. The grease makes them sweet, which is an affront to fresh vegetables. The pieces are cut so large; you can’t put them into your mouth with a chopstick. You have to cut them with fork and knife first. Feel free to sprinkle your dish with soya sauce. But I don’t feel the obligation to cook a Chinese vegetable with soya sauce. Its fusion cooking all right: a Chinese vegetable cooked in Chinese style, but with European flavoring. It works for me. Here are two of my recipes.

BABY BOK CHOY STIR FRY

1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds 
4 cloves of garlic 
1 large carrot 2 baby bok choys 
1 red pepper chopped, fresh or frozen 
1 cup sliced red onion salt and pepper to taste  

• Wash, slice and chop all the vegetables. 
• Heat up a non stick skillet on medium. Be patient, if you begin on high heat your pan will be too hot and scorch the almonds. Add the olive oil and the almonds. 
• Sprinkle salt on the top. 
• Lightly toast it, stirring and when almonds start getting a golden hue, remove skillet from the heat.
 • With a large slotted spoon transfer the almonds to a small bowl and set it aside. 
• Put the skillet back on the heat and add the sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt. 
• Sauté the garlic, stirring, for one minute. 
• Add the sliced carrots and sprinkle with salt. 
 • Cook the carrots for 2-3 minutes. 
• Add the chopped baby bok choy and sauté for a couple of minutes. 
• Add the chopped red pepper and the sliced red onion and sauté for a minute. 
• Add the reserved almonds, and give it a stir.
 • Adjust the salt if needed, sprinkle with ground pepper and serve.

BABY BOK CHOY RICE:


1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds 
4 cloves of garlic 
2 baby bok choys 
1 cup sliced red onion 
1-1/2 cups chicken stock cooked rice 
1/2 Tbsp Greek seasoning salt and pepper to taste 

• Wash, slice and chop all the vegetables. 
• Heat up a non stick skillet on medium. Be patient, if you begin on high heat your pan will be too hot and scorch the almonds. Add the olive oil and the almonds. 
• Sprinkle salt on the top. 
• Lightly toast it, stirring and when almonds start getting a golden hue, remove skillet from the heat. 
• With a large slotted spoon transfer the almonds to a small bowl and set it aside. 
• Put the skillet back on the heat and add the sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt. 
• Sauté the garlic, stirring, for one minute. 
• Add the chopped baby bok choy and sauté for a couple of minutes.
• Add the sliced red onion and sauté for a minute. 
• Add the cooked rice and sprinkle it with Greek seasoning.
• Gently stir to combine rice with the vegetables and heat through. 
• Add the reserved almonds, and give it a final stir.
• Adjust the salt if needed, sprinkle with ground pepper and serve.


23.4.14

SWEET AND SPICY PORK ROAST


This wonderful recipe was adapted from “Canadian Living Cooks Step By Step” by Daphna Rabinovitch. I omitted the hot sauce, but for those who can handle it, sweet and spicy is a lovely combination. I simplified the recipe and raised the oven temperature to 375F. I also raised the internal temperature of the roast to 175F. Rabinovitch suggested 160F, but at that temperature you only get medium rare beef, and never mind the tenting, you can’t be too careful with pork. With 175F internal temperature the pork was succulent and tender and most of all fully cooked. I had a much smaller roast as the one suggested, but I did not reduce the sauce and I am glad I didn’t, because the extra sauce will come handy with the leftovers. 

This is a great way to prepare a roast; my taste buds must have adjusted to Canadian standards, because at first all Europeans find the food overly sweet and I was no different. Even to this day, I strive to bake with less sugar, not because I am hung up on using sugar, I simply don’t care for the overly sweet stuff. Oh but this roast was lovely! It is an ideal dish for a dinner party.

1.5 kg boneless single loin pork roast 
salt to taste 
2 tsp olive oil 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/4 cup cider vinegar 
1/4 cup molasses 
1/4 cup liquid honey 
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
2 tsp soy sauce 
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce 
1-1/2 Tbsp cornstarch 

• Trim any excess fat from the roast and place it in a dish. 
• Lightly sprinkle salt on all sides and let the roast sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. 
• Preheat the oven to 375F. 
• In a non stick skillet heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onion and the garlic until it wilts. 
• Reduce the heat to low and add the vinegar, molasses, honey, mustard, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce and bring to the boil. 
• Dissolve cornstarch in 1 Tbsp of cold water and add to the sauce. 
• Cook sauce for 3-4 minutes then set aside. 
• Place a wire rack inside a roasting pan and pour in 1/2 cup of water. 
• Transfer the roast to the wire rack. Discard the juices. 
• Brush the roast with the sauce you have prepared and place it in the preheated oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes. 
• After 30 minutes, brush the roast with the sauce again. If the water evaporated replenish. The water vapour will make it sure that the roast remains succulent and the sauce will not burn. Set the timer for 30 more minutes. 
• Baste again and replenish with water if needed. Place a meat thermometer in the middle of the roast and place the roast back in the oven. Again set the timer for 30 minutes. When the internal temperature reaches 175F take out the roast. At the end you would have cooked the roast for 1.5 hours and basted it with sauce twice. 
• Immediately tent the roast with aluminum foil. Do not let the aluminum touch the roast; the caramelized sauce will stick to it. 
• Let the roast relax for 10 minutes. 
• Transfer the roast to a cutting board and pour the contents of the roasting pan into the skillet with the sauce. 
• Stir to combine and bring to the boil. 
• Meanwhile slice the roast and arrange it on a platter. 
• Pour some of the sauce over the sliced roast and serve.

22.4.14

HONEY WAFERS


Honey Grahams and Honey Graham Crumbs are staple items in the well stocked pantry. But I have not been happy with their quality of late. Something is different about them. It must be the whole wheat and the soy content. I looked for recipes on line, but they all called for graham flour and wouldn’t you know I was unable to find graham flour. The addition of whole wheat flour was a definite taste killer. I experimented with substitutes and the one thing all the recipes had in common is they puffed up and all of them were ghastly soft. I came to the conclusion that honey wafers should not contain leavening agents. I tried making them with butter, but the wafers were still too soft. I don’t often use margarine, but using margarine instead of butter made a huge difference. Until I find graham flour, I am afraid this is as close to honey grahams as I will get. 


I used full sized rimless baking sheets. One baking sheet is the perfect size for one batch of wafers. For variety, I did a batch with white sugar too. They all crisped up, had a pleasant flavour and were easy to make. I will continue to experiment. I aim to reduce the fat content, but only to the point, that it will not alter the flavour.



1 cup block margarine at room temperature 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/8 cup liquid honey 
2-1/4 cup flour 
1/4 tsp salt 

• Preheat the oven to 375F. 
• Beat the margarine, sugar and the liquid honey until very fluffy. 
• Lower the speed to mixing. 
• Add the salt. 
• Gradually add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat to combine. 
• Cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit a full size baking sheet. 
• Press the dough onto one of the sheets. 
• Lay the second sheet of parchment paper on the top and evenly roll the dough fully covering the parchment. 
• The dough will spill out here and there. Trim them off and patch it in places the dough didn’t quite make it to the edge. You want as even of a rectangle as you can manage. 
• Cut the dough with a pizza cutter to the desired shapes. Do not use a ruler; it will stick to the dough. You don’t want to sprinkle more flour onto the dough either; it will alter both the texture and the taste of the wafers. If you cannot cut evenly, it does not matter, these are only wafers. 
• Bake it in a preheated oven for 9-10 minutes or until the edges start to get a little color. 
• Remove from the oven and immediately re-cut the crackers along the pre-existing lines, because they will fuse together during baking.

21.4.14

POTATO FLATBREAD


Quickly thrown together from fresh dough and leftover garlic potatoes, this was a lunch extender to accompany a bowl of cream soup today. There are endless variations of potato filled flatbreads in the various cuisines. Which one was this? This was just Zsuzsa. Well Imre had a nice lunch. It is best eaten hot off the pan. The reason I didn’t put salt right into the dough, I wasn’t sure how much dough I will need for one meal and raw salted dough doesn’t keep; it turns grey in the fridge quite fast. If you are certain you will use all the dough, add the salt along with the flour. Otherwise season the flatbreads on the plate. Recipe makes 3 potato filled flatbreads.


I hope everyone had lovely Bunny Times yesterday! We did, although last night’s Cosmos leaded us down. [No kidding the episode was about lead!] Earlier I had an unexpected visit from our next door neighbour to which the Jim, [Jimre, Imre] replied “Why? We are not dead yet.” He takes Monty Pythonism seriously, unfortunately not everyone gets his jokes. As for me, the unexpected act of kindness from an old neighbour pretty much choked me up. Thank you Pat and Al, it was good to have you next door for the past 36 years!


2 eggs 
flour 
1-1/2 cups leftover seasoned mashed potato [mine was with garlic] 
2 Tbsp olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste 

• Place 2 eggs into a mixing bowl. 
• Add sufficient flour to make soft pliable dough. 
• Divide into six parts and form them into balls. 
• Roll two balls into thin 8 inch rounds. If the dough sticks to the roller, you need to knead more flour into the dough. 
• Spread 1/2 cup of seasoned mashed potato on the round, leaving 1 inch around the perimeter free. 
• Lightly wet the edge with water and lay the second round on top. 
• Press down on the perimeter sealing the potato filling inside. 
• Repeat with the remaining dough. 
• Heat a non stick skillet on medium heat and drizzle it with olive oil. 
• Add the potato filled flatbread and lightly fry it on both sides. 
• Season and place on a platter and serve immediately.

19.4.14

LARDED POTATOES - ZSÍROS KRUMPLI


We fetishise food. We are told that this ingredient or that ingredient is currently fashionable and good for us and that we should eat it. Quinoa is like that at the moment. I was never a joiner and most importantly I was never a snob. I don’t believe that’s how cuisine works. Food is not fashion. Food is basic, food is unaffected. Food is primal. 

Take the humble larded potatoes. Hungary lived on it for years. It was the first hot dish young people were thought to make, in case they got hungry. Now nobody is willing to admit that they ever tasted it. Just look for zsíros krumpli on the Internet and you will get anything but. 

Zsíros krumpli can be basic, or made with chicken or pork drippings. Add some caraway seeds or freshly chopped parsley and you get caraway seed or parsley potatoes. If you don’t have homemade lard, use drippings or replace the lard with butter. We used to LIKE this. In fact we liked it so much that it was part of our Christmas feast. I don’t want szardellás palacsinta for Christmas, I want zsíros krumpli. “But lard is so fattening!” So is all that red meat you guzzle up with your salad. 

I would like to have a serving of zsíros krumpli. See how easy it is? 

2 potatoes per person* [any type] 
1 Tbsp homemade lard or meat drippings 
salt and pepper to taste 

• Place a wide bottomed pot on the stove and fill it halfway up with hot water. 
• Bring the water to the boil. 
• Meanwhile peel and chop the potatoes into even sized cubes. 
• Drop the potatoes into the boiling water. Make sure the potatoes are not crowded and are covered with water. 
• Bring to full boil. 
• Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not so soft they fall apart. Keep an eye on them, don’t overcook. 
• Immediately drain off all the water. 
• Add the needed lard or meat dripping to the potatoes and cover with a lid. 
• In a few minutes the lard will melt, gently shake the pot to evenly grease the potatoes. 
• Serve immediately.

* As a side, one potato for every person

16.4.14

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIE BARS


Ah the love of peanut butter! I never got into it myself, but everyone else in this family LOVES peanut butter. Did you know there is a National Peanut Butter Lover's Day in the United States? Canadians are not as weird as that or are they? The Canada Food Guide of yesteryears had a daily peanut butter intake, for some days even twice, which I never followed anyway. Even back then I knew it was hogwash. I wish now I kept an old issue for a laugh. But the love of peanut butter has been curbed, because more and more people are allergic to it. Olivia can’t take nuts [any nuts] to school anymore. Could it be that we overdosed on peanut butter? Hard to say, but the one thing is certain I would never miss the stuff if it disappeared for good. But since I cook to please even I will do the occasional peanut butter recipe.

Teeth? What about the roof of your mouth?

Peanuts was a syndicated comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz.

  
10 Sticky Facts About Peanut Butter

This yummy peanut butter recipe was adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker. I had a couple of bars myself, and I surprisingly enjoyed them when they first came out of the oven. This had to have been in no small part due to the quality of Adam’s, which is the brand of  peanut butter I use. It has no additives, no fillers and it actually tastes like roasted peanuts, which essentially what Adam’s is. All that Adam's contain is: peanuts. What does your peanut butter contain? The same with the chopped block chocolate I used. No brand of chocolate chip can come close to Callebaut. I can’t stress enough the importance of quality, use quality ingredients and they will always make the foods you make taste good. 

1-1/2 cups flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp salt 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 egg 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1 cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped 

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
• Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. 
• In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set it aside. 
• In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy and light. 
• Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. 
• Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour is just incorporated. 
• Add the chopped chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. 
• Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan and lightly press into an even layer. 
• Place in the preheated oven and bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until the center is set. 
• Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. 
• Cut into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container.





14.4.14

BREADED CAULIFLOWER - RÁNTOTT KARFIOL


We ate meat once a week while growing up and the rest of the time we had pasta or vegetable stews called “főzelék”. To replace the meat we put all sorts of things on top of the stew. A poached egg, a couple of slices of unsweetened French toast, fried bread cubes, fried potatoes, a tiny bit of leftover meat with sauce, a drizzle of paprika grease or some breaded deep fried vegetables. We called them “feltét”, which means “to put on top”.

   
 Making FŐZELÉK [Vegetable Stew] -- A Parody

Breaded cauliflower makes a tasty meat replacement, but it can be a nice appetizer too. Serve it with a sauce or sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. We happen to like them golden fried with just pepper and salt. Breading vegetables is easy. It will never cease to amaze me the trouble people go into making up a batter just the right consistency, which invariably ends up too little at first and in the end way too much. Dipping the vegetables into the batter is pretty useless too, because most of the coating will slide off during frying. The Hungarian way is much easier plus you will never end up with naked veggies on your plate. 

1/2 head cauliflower 
1-2 eggs, beaten slightly 
3/4 cup flour 
salt and pepper 
oil for frying 

• Cut apart the florets, but leave them fairly large. 
• Rinse and dry with a paper towel. 
• Sprinkle the florets with salt. 
• Place flour in a medium sized bowl. 
• In a different bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork, making sure the yolks and the whites are truly mixed. 
• One by one dip each floret into the flour, then into the beaten egg and into the flour one more time. 
• Place the florets on a tray. 
• Slowly heat up 1 to 2 inches of oil in a fry-pan. Make sure the oil is not too hot, because the batter burns easily. 
• Turn the florets to lightly brown on all sides. 
• Drain on paper towels. 
• Serve hot or cold.

13.4.14

SOUR CREAM BLUEBERRY TEA CAKE


We have Olivia here throughout the week. I love the darling, but we needed a brake from chocolate. The weekend is the perfect time for us to bring out the adult flavours. It was time for sour cream, lemon, and blueberries. Let me tell you, no yogurt will compare to full fat sour cream. I used salted butter both in the cake and the frosting and it perfectly balanced the flavours. The fresh lemon juice did the same; it enhanced the blueberries and balanced the sweetness of the icing sugar. What a delicious slab cake this is, I thought I have died and gone to heaven. 

We have a row of young blueberry bushes in our garden and they serve us well with berries year around. These ones were picked by my darling in the hot sun last year and I froze them on trays and later we packed them into freezer bags. I asked for two cupfuls and he brought up two bags, one had ice crystals and the other was almost perfect. 

It is best if you use frozen berries unthawed, but I didn’t want ice crystals in my cake. I put the frozen blueberries in a fine sieve and rinsed them with a burst of cold water. This got rid of the ice crystals, but slightly thawed the berries. I drained them and transferred them into a bowl. Fresh berries are not as fragile, but frozen berries require a bit of careful handling. Still it is important to coat the berries with flour if you want them well dispersed throughout the cake. Warning, this scrumptious cake is too good and too large for two people. It begs to be shared. Ann! Come and get cake!

CAKE 

3/4 cup 14% sour cream 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
3 cups flour 
1-1/2 tsp baking powder 
3/4 cup salted butter 
1-1/2 cups sugar 
finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
 3 large eggs 
 2 cups blueberries fresh or frozen 
1-2 Tbsp flour to coat the blueberries 

FROSTING 

1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature 
2 cups sifted icing sugar 
3/8 cup 14% sour cream 
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 

• Preheat the oven to 350F. 
• Fully line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. 
• In a bowl combine the sour cream, baking soda and the fresh lemon juice. 
• In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and the baking powder. 
• Place the blueberries in a separate bowl. 
• Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. 
• Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until very fluffy. 
• One by one add the eggs, beating well. 
• Add the sour cream mixture and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. 
• Sprinkle the flour over the berries one tablespoon at a time. 
• You don’t want excess flour on the berries. Damp flour will make floury pockets inside the cake. Just move the bowl side to side gently and the berries will coat with flour. If flour is left in the bottom of the bowl: discard it. 
• Gently fold the flour coated blueberries into the cake batter. 
• Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. 
• Smooth out the top with an offset cake spatula. 
• Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed. 
• Let the cake cool in the pan. 
• While the cake cools make the frosting. 
• Combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy. 
 • Put the frosting in the fridge while the cake cools. 
• Re-beat the frosting and spread on top of the cake. 
 • Slice and serve.





12.4.14

PUFF PASTRY WITH CHOCOLATE


Puff pastry is the only commercially made pastry product I am willing to use. It has a little less substance and is a bit leafier, but it still bakes up into a darn good pastry. I used half a package of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets and made eight good sized pastries. The chocolate is dark Callebaut. Chop the chocolate and simply follow the baking instructions on the box. As soon as the pastry begins to get a golden hue, take them out, because these burn easily. I would have liked to put a few raspberries next to the chocolate pieces myself, but then not everyone likes raspberries. It’s was a nice treat nevertheless.

There used to be a miniature candy bar, actually it was nougat, and it was called “BUM SZELET”. Bum means bang in Hungarian. It was a tiny, cheap revolting confection and it cost 1 forint back in the sixties. I don’t think it had chocolate in it, but this old couple of the family used to bring each of us kids a “BUM Csoki” on Thursdays. Even with our limited experience with good chocolate we thanked them and then left our BUMs on the table. We never ate them. After gifting us with the BUMs, Erzsi néni and Bendi bácsi made a b line to the table and stuffed themselves with grandmother’s pastries. Between mouthfuls we got to hear the latest news on Erzsi néni’s knee pains. Aren't children cruel and observant? I have to admit they were not alone picking Thursdays to drop by; Thursdays were baking days at the Vári house. Here I am sitting with my newly operated knee and thoughts of Erzsi néni’s knees and BUM Csoki float by. I don’t know if it’s my knee or the memory of BUM Csoki that pains me more.


1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry, thawed 
1cup of good quality chopped dark chocolate 
1 egg 
1 Tbsp water 

• For best result thaw the puff pastry in the fridge overnight. 
• Heat the oven to 400F. 
• Roll half of the pastry into a 12-inch square. Always roll from the center outward and avoid stretching the dough by hand. 
• Cut the dough into 9 squares. 
• Arrange the chopped chocolate in the middle of the squares. 
• Orient the square so a corner is pointed away from you. Fold this corner down just past the filling and press firmly to seal. 
• Then fold over to one side, forming an open-ended envelope. 
• Brush the filled pastries with the egg mixture. 
• Place the pastries onto 2 parchment lined baking sheets. 
• Bake the pastries for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful this burns easily. 
• Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

2.4.14

HAZELNUT SHORTBREAD


Up until the late fifties my maternal grandmother lived in the outskirts of Budapest, called Rákoskert. It was a truly rural setting back then with fields and fields of corn, small pockets of locals and urban dwellers coming in for the weekend.

Rákoskert in 1957 

I spent my most memorable holidays with Nagymama. The yard was huge with all kinds of fruit trees. She had a dog, two goats, chickens, a rooster and some ducks. Grandma had two kitchens. She cooked the milk inside and some stuff in the summer kitchen. Just outside the fence there was a deep well. The water was always cold and unbelievably tasty. I liked everything about Rákoskert except the outhouse.

I found this picture on the Rákoskert website. This was the store where we went for supplies. All these years I had a mental image climbing up those stairs. I see now the risers were indeed too high for little legs. 

During the summer months, my grandmother’s place was a popular gathering place for my extended family. It was fun to meet up with aunts and uncles and my older cousin. Across the street there was a big house with a huge lot. The lot was filled with mature hazelnut bushes. I would look at those hazelnuts with longing. I always loved hazelnuts. I played war with a boy from that house; he was also staying with his grandmother. I fought well, but he died better. He kept coming over to play. One day my mother was there and she was still combing my long red hair when he arrived. He stroked my hair and asked my mom if my hair was as beautiful as he thought. My mother said indeed it was beautiful. When finally I convinced him to play at his house I wasn’t offered any hazelnuts. It is when I discovered that romance and food are intertwined. 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1 cup flour 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/2 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts 
4 squares of quality dark chocolate [112g or 4oz] 
1/3 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts 

• To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F. 
• Place the raw hazelnuts on the baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes. 
• Remove from the oven and let it cool down a bit. 
• When the hazelnuts are comfortable to touch by hand, transfer them into a clean kitchen towel and rub them. The skins will come off easily. 
• Next finely ground the hazelnuts, using a nut grinder or a food processor. 
• In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy. 
• In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. 
• Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
• Next add 1/2 cup of the finely ground hazelnuts and stir to combine. 
• Shape the dough into 4 logs 
• Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place the wrapped cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
• Preheat the oven to 325F. 
• Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
• Unwrap one of the logs and slice. 
• Place the cookie slices on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. 
• Bake for about 20 minutes. Don’t let the cookies get brown. 
• Transfer cookies to a rack to cool. 
• To decorate cookies, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over steam. Make sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the boiling water. 
• Dip half of the cookies on one side only, scraping the bottom against the pot to remove the chocolate. 
• Next dip the chocolate side into the remaining ground hazelnuts and place it on clean parchment paper to dry. 
• Repeat with remaining cookies.

Recipe is adapted from Hazelnut shortbread cookies recipe by Julia's Album

1.4.14

GNOCCHI


This is a not really gnocchi kind of gnocchi. Sometimes you just want something a bit different and easy. Take this un-Italian gnocchi I made. This gnocchi is very much like Hungarian nudli, except not rolled and without the toasted breadcrumb coating. Italian gnocchi is a naked nudli and you can’t get any more naked than that. This version is simple, I don’t mess around with rolling the dough; I just chop chop chop. But it tastes the same. When I gave it to him the man said “What no breadcrumbs?” I liked this naked nudli, gnocchi, potato pasta or whatdoyoucall this thing that it was. 

Today is April Fool’s Day. I love to laugh, but I hate practical jokes. There is nothing practical about practical jokes. The humor comes from getting people to trust you and then you punish them for it. I am no fun when it comes to practical jokes. You get no “April Fool's Day!” from me. Take the following video. It slowly builds up with cultural observations and presents them in funny, imaginative ways. This IS funny. Stepping into a slipper filled with catchup is NOT funny. That’s as far as I am willing to mark this crazy day. Have a nice one!

   
Potatoes or Pasta? 

3 large red potatoes 
2-1/4 cups flour 
1 egg, extra large 
1 pinch salt 
1/8 cup slightly melted butter 
1/4 cup melted butter for serving
freshly grated parmesan [optional] 

• Boil the whole potatoes until they are soft 
• Let them cool down and mash them. 
• Add the egg, flour and the salt and the slightly melted 1/8 cup butter. [butter should not be hot] 
• Mix to form dough. 
• Place the dough on a well floured cutting board. 
• Knead the dough gently until a smooth ball is formed. 
• Put a large pot of water to the boil. 
• Roll the dough into 3/4-inch diameter dowels and cut the dowels into 1-inch long pieces. 
• Drop the pieces into the boiling water and cook until they float to the top. 
• Drain the gnocchi and toss with 1/4 cup of melted butter and serve.


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