20.2.18

CANDIED NUTS

This is a simple and fast way to candy a small batch of nuts. Most nuts will take only 5 minutes in the fry pan, larger nuts such as hazelnuts up to 8 minutes. For larger amounts check out my Candied Almonds.

Nut Facts:

Walnuts selected for in-shell sale are fumigated or heat treated to kill insects in storage. The in-shell nuts are then bleached using a dilute solution of bleach.

Shelled walnuts are not bleached. However they may be treated with an anti-oxidant to preserve them in storage.

Recommendation: buy organic, in-shell or organic, shelled.

Besides buying organic there is one more requirement: freshness. Stores sell nuts way past their prime. Buying nuts in the shell does not ensure freshness. Beware especially of prepackaged shelled nuts, they are expensive and can contain taste altering preservatives. Purchase shelled nuts from stores that have high turnover of stock. Otherwise stick to the gourmet specialty store and pay the inflated price. Or plant a tree. We did. While I cook, Jim oftentimes sits at the table shelling walnuts. He packs them in sturdy plastic containers, labels and dates them and takes them down to the freezer.

About a week before Christmas, after the stores have rid themselves of the old stock, that is when the fresh nuts appear. Besides tasting, there are visual signs to look for; discoloration and worn edges that suggest rancidity. It is especially easy to see it in walnuts and sliced almonds. Rancid nuts are toxic and roasting or baking with them may mask the rancidity somewhat, but will not rid them of the toxicity or carcinogenic properties. Rancid nuts smell bad and look discolored. Rancidity is fat gone stale. If I end up with less than perfect quality nuts, I take them back to the store right of way. Shelled nuts from bulk bins should not be kept in the cupboard. Pack them first in freezer bags, and put them in the freezer. The thin plastic bag they came in is no protection from freezer burn. 


Candied Nuts

2 cups of shelled nuts
1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
salt to taste

  • Line a large tray with parchment paper.
  • Place a heavy fry pan on medium heat. [Don’t use your non stick skillet for this]
  • Add all the ingredients to the fry pan.
  • Set the timer for 5 minutes, [8 minutes for hazelnuts].
  • As the butter and the sugar melts, start stirring with a wooden spoon.
  • Continue stirring until the timer goes off.
  • Immediately transfer nuts to the prepared tray. Don’t worry if they stick together.
  • Once the nuts cool down to room temperature it will be easy to break them apart.
  • Pack the candied nuts into a lidded container and store them in the fridge. 

18.2.18

RICOTTA FILLED PASTA – RICOTTA DERELYE

It is not Italian ravioli, not Hungarian derelye or Ukrainian perogy, only all of the above. Ricotta is a pretty flavourless cheese product, also grainy, so even the good quality 10% version needs a flavour boost. As for Italian pasta, I find it just a bit tough for my Hungarian sensibilities, so yes the pasta is Hungarian. The ricotta and the parmesan is Italian, but the filling is more like Ukrainian perogy. This might be Canadian way of thinking, but I find serious advantage in diversifying.

Ricotta Filled Pasta

Pasta:
1-1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 egg white
2+2 Tbsp butter

Filling:
1 cup ricotta 10% fat content [anything less is too wet]
2 egg yolks
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated onion
1 cup mashed potato
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/8 cup melted butter
salt to taste [actually taste it how much to add]
fresh basil or parsley leaves

• Combine the flour, eggs and salt and 2 Tbsp melted butter and kneed it into a smooth and fairly firm dough.
• Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes. This will make the dough soft and easy to roll out.
• Meanwhile combine the ingredients for the filling, reserving the fresh herb.
• Roll the dough out very thinly, and cover the other half with a clean kitchen towel.
• Dot one half with a teaspoon of filling 1-1/2 inches apart at regular intervals. 
• Place a leaf of fresh herb on the top of each mound.
• Whisk together 1 teaspoon of water with the egg white. Reserve the yolk for the filling.
• Brush the dough between the heaps of filling with the egg white mixture.
• Remove the cloth and fold the other half of the dough over the filling.
• Press down firmly in between the heaps of filling.
• Using a pasta cutter, cut into separate squares, each containing one heap of filling,.
• Cook in boiling water in a covered saucepan for 8-10 minutes.
• When the pasta squares are cooked transfer them to a sieve to drain.
• Place in a serving bowl and pour 2 Tbsp melted butter on the top.

17.2.18

PAPRIKA WAX BEAN STEW - PAPRKÁS ZÖLDBABFŐZELÉK


This is the way my other grandmother prepared wax bean stew; I always loved wax bean stew no matter which of my grandmothers made it. My favourite bean was the flat, wide Juliska Bab. Maybe one day wax bean will be as widely available here as the green. I never actually saw green beans until I came to Canada

Paprika Wax Bean Stew

2 cups of yellow wax beans
1 cup green beans
3 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 garlic, minced
salt to taste
1 yellow Hungarian pepper, quartered, optional
water
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup cold stock or water
2/3 cup 14% sour cream*
few sprigs of chopped parsley
additional sour cream for serving

*Cooking low fat sour cream into the stew tends to break apart into floating white bits. So if you insist on using low fat sour cream, add it at the table. 

  • Remove the bean ends and pull off the tough stringy bit from the sides. 
  • Rinse beans under cold running water.
  • Chop into 1-1/2 inch lengths. 
  • In a wide bottomed pot sauté the onions on oil until transparent.
  • Remove pot from heat and stir in the paprika.
  • Add the chopped beans, minced garlic and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the yellow Hungarian pepper pieces.
  • Finally add enough water to the level of the beans.
  • Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat for simmer and put a lid on the pot.
  • Cook the beans tender. 
  • Meanwhile make up the slurry. Add the flour to a small bowl and gradually stir in 1 cup of cold water or cold stock.
  • Stir it smooth.
  • To thicken with the slurry, whisk the cold slurry into the simmering pot.
  • Bring everything back to a simmer and continue in to simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the starchy taste is cooked away. Don't cook it longer, because the starch will break down and the liquid will turn thin again..
  • Remove pot from heat and stir in the sour cream and the chopped parsley. 
  • Serve the stew with extra sour cream on the side.


16.2.18

RIBS

Although he wouldn’t enjoy the annual rib fest down at Riverside Park, something about the crowds… but Jim loves ribs! He doesn’t get it nearly enough and it seems every time I make it for him and let’s be honest because he bought home some, I throw things together from the pantry. Tomatoes and onions are the big thing for the sauce and the ribs are roasted in the oven. We never barbecued save on a stick over the campfire. Barbecue die-hards will hate me for this, but eating charred food is not the healthiest thing in the world.

Ribs take a long time to make tender and anyone will tell you the best rib is the one that the meat falls away from the bone and yet still moist with some fatty bits. Once I tried pressure cooking the ribs for 20 minutes before placing them in the oven. It made great stock. After that I came to the conclusion you cannot hurry ribs. Ribs must be covered and slow roasted in the oven to sublime tenderness before sauce is applied.

Ah the sauce. I have two previous rib recipes. In the first one the sauce forms while it bakes with the meat and stays chunky. The next one is a more refined version, but essentially the same. This time the sauce just kind of came together as I assembled the ingredients by feel. It is too bad I can't put them side by side for comparison. None of my barbecue sauces are hot. Even the kids and the elderly can eat it. But if you prefer fiery, nothing can stop you from putting in a few chilies. 

And speaking of spices… I tend to omit black pepper from my recipes. That’s because black pepper is most enjoyable freshly grated over the prepared food and not cooked with it. If chili powder is not one of your staples, I seldom use it myself, it is best keeping it in the freezer. Once the seal is broken on the package both the colour and the aroma is subject to rapid deterioration. People sometimes keep spices for decades, but everything has an expiry date, even rocks.







Ribs

1 pork rib
salt to taste
olive oil

Barbeque Sauce:

3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped bell pepper [any color just not green]
1 onion, sliced
4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley
salt to taste
1 tsp chilli powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp honey
3 garlic cloves, smashed


  • If frozen fully defrost the ribs.
  • Sprinkle with salt on both sides and let it sit on the counter from 2 to 4 hours.
  • Take a baking pot with a well fitting lid.
  • Oil the bottom and place in the ribs.
  • Drizzle the top with olive oil, and pour a cup of water beside the ribs.
  • Cover the pot and place in the oven.
  • Turn the oven on to between 325 to 350F.
  • Check on the ribs every hour.
  • Roast it until the meat is ready to come off the bones.
  • In the meantime prepare the barbeque sauce.
  • Puree the tomatoes and the peppers in the food processor.
  • I used chopped frozen tomatoes and peppers. Set these out to slightly thaw.  Pureeing frozen vegetables is very taxing on the food processor.
  • Place a large non stick skillet on medium heat.
  • Sauté the onion slices for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the pureed vegetables and the remaining ingredients, except the garlic.
  • Bring it to a simmer and slow simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • When the sauce comes together, add the smashed garlic.
  • Set the sauce aside until the ribs are very, very tender. 
  • Pour the sauce over the ribs.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 375F and bake the ribs uncovered for an hour.


14.2.18

CHOCOLATY CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

Ahhh the love of chocolate heaven! These cookies are insanely chocolaty. The secret is in the large chunks of good quality chocolate, forming the cookies with a light hand and not over baking… Not an economical cookie mind you. Have I not had the ingredients already, the chocolates alone would have been a 30 dollar investment.  You only use a portion of each bar, collectively 2 cups of chopped white, milk and dark chocolates. Since I have no cupboard raiders anymore I always have Calebout. I stopped baking with chocolate chips a while ago; the brand names that continue to make claims of “pure” are anything but. For now it’s either Callebaut or Lindt… or Ghirardelli. 



Chocolaty Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp soda [no more]
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of the best quality of white, milk and dark baking chocolate [about 2/3 cup each]

  • Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Cut off chunks from each bar. Aim for about 2 cups of larger chunks of chocolate. There will be chunks and some finer shavings. But don’t worry, it’s all good.
  • In a large bowl beat the butter, sugars, vanilla and the egg until fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, soda and the salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and using a wooden spoon stir to combine.
  • Scrape in the chocolate chunks including the shaved bits.
  • Give it a stir to combine.
  • Loosely gather up a chunk of dough with your fingers, about a size of a small egg, and plunk it down on the prepared cookie sheet at 2 -3 inch intervals. It is crucial not to squeeze the dough at any time. Don’t shape it at all. It will settle into a round shape as long as you leave sufficient space between the cookies to grow.
  • Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes. Do not over bake. They should be soft to the touch but will solidify as they cool.
  • You can sample, but let the cookies solidify before moving them. 
  • Makes 15 

11.2.18

KRISTEN CAKE

I have a new cake, lovely and uncomplicated. I made it for Kristen, our lovely granddaughter. It’s a basic piskóta with Nutella buttercream. A great combination and I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before. Maybe I needed the inspiration of Kristen’s visit. Our grandchildren are coming into their own one after the other. Jimre how did we get so lucky?

I used two 9-inch spring form cake pans and made two piskóta layers from 8 eggs. I set out the unsalted butter a couple of days earlier so it was super soft. When making buttercream, beat the sweet butter with the icing sugar for at least 6 minutes, and add the rest of the ingredients, in this case the nutella, afterwards. In Canada and the U.S. powdered sugar contains cornstarch to counter humidity. Sifting it through a fine sieve and extra beating helps to diffuse the harshness of the icing sugar. Believe it or not, not all icing sugars are of the same quality; some are more refined than others. I make it a standard practice to add 1/8 cup of whipping cream towards the end. The small amount of heavy cream tames and softens the buttercream. But alas Kristen is lacto sensitive and I had to leave off the cream. Alternatively, whipping the butter and the icing sugar for what seemed like an unreasonably long time accomplished the same result and the buttercream was as it should be, smooth, fluffy and delicate.


Kristen Cake

8 eggs separated
8 Tbsp sugar
8 Tbsp cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder

Nutella Buttercream
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
3/4 cup Nutella
1/8 cup whipping cream [optional]

  • Preheat the oven 350F.
  • Line two 9 inch spring form cake pans with parchment paper.
  • Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  • Add 2 Tbsp sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Transfer meringue to a large mixing bowl.
  • In the same bowl beat the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until very fluffy.
  • Add the baking powder and mix to combine.
  • Gradually add the sifted cake flour and beat to combine.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
  • Bake until the cake tester comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature.
  • In the meantime prepare the Nutella buttercream.
  • On low medium speed, beat the soft butter, gradually adding the icing sugar until combined.
  • Switch to high speed and beat the buttercream for 6 minutes.
  • Add the Nutella and if using add the whipping cream.
  • Beat for 2 minutes longer until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  • Transfer the cakes to the fridge and fully chill before assembly. 
  • Cut the cakes in half horizontally and make sure to keep the knife flat for even layers.
  • The two bottoms are the flattest. Those will go on the bottom and on the top. The rest of the layers will be sandwiched in between.
  • Spread each layer with buttercream and apply a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake, this is called the crumbcoat.
  • Chill the cake for 30 minutes before applying the final coat of buttercream.
  • The cake will slice best when chilled; however it is most enjoyable at room temperature.



7.2.18

CHEESY HAM POTATO BAKE

Following the various layered potato dishes, in particular, the inclusion of cheese, this being my own concoction, but in fact is a fusion of French and Hungarian sentiments. I mention this because to a Hungarian, there are two cuisines that matter, Hungarian and French. Both of my Hungarian cookbooks contain French dishes, and in the somewhat more recent publication, each chapter is divided into two sections, one for Hungarian and one for French dishes. England, the New World or the rest had no impact on Hungarian cuisine before the Internet, even though many of the ingredients, corn, tomato and potato came from the Americas.  

Cheesy Ham Potato Bake

3 large waxy potatoes*
salt to taste
1 cup of small broccoli florets
small wedge of onion
1 red pepper
3 Tbsp flour
1-1/4 cup cold milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1-1/2 cup grated Havarti, or any other hard white cheese
1 cups diced ham

*Waxy potatoes have low starch content and hold their shape after cooking. You may of course use starchy potatoes. In that case omit precooking because they would simply fall apart. However, raw potatoes require longer baking time and it could take up to 2-1/2 hours in the oven, by which time the the broccoli and the red pepper will become limp and unappetizing. I would omit those and just double the ham.

  • Wash all the vegetables.
  • Peal and slice the potatoes thinly.
  • Place in a large skillet and pour enough water on top to cover all the potato slices.
  • Bring it to a steady simmer.
  • Maintaining the simmer, cook uncovered until almost all the water is reduced.
  • Set the skillet aside to cool and bring a small pot of water to the boil.
  • Meanwhile prep the other vegetables.
  • Plunge the broccoli florets into the boiling water for 1 minute.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and set them aside.
  • Slice the onion, and dice the red pepper.
  • Make the sauce next.
  • First make slurry from the flour and the cold milk.
  • Melt the butter in a clean skillet.
  • Add the dry mustard and the slurry and bring it to a simmer stirring it continuously until the sauce thickens.
  • If there are lumps, force the sauce through a fine sieve.
  • Add the grated cheese. It will be fine if not all the cheese melts at this point.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Next assemble the casserole.
  • Butter a standard casserole dish and arrange half the potato slices on the bottom.
  • Salt the potato slices.
  • Scatter the diced ham on top.
  • Arrange the onion slices, the broccoli florets and the diced red pepper on top.
  • Cover with half of the sauce.
  • Place the remaining potato slices on top, salt it to taste and cover with the remaining sauce.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until lightly browns on top.
  • Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.



6.2.18

SOFTEN BROWN SUGAR

Jim looks for sales. That's how I ended up with two pounds of rock hard brown sugar. Which reminded me of the beloved character on the old Anne of Green Gables television series. Matthew goes to Carmody to buy Anne a dress. But before he says what he really came in the store for he asks for 20 pounds of brown sugar: “... now--if it isn't too much trouble--I might as well--that is--I'd like to look at--at--some sugar." ... "I'll--I'll take twenty pounds of it," says Matthew, with beads of perspiration. Poor Marilla, she didn’t have a microwave! 





Soften Brown Sugar

  • Place the brown sugar block in a microwavable bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with two sheets of moist paper towel and cover it with a plate.
  • Microwave it for 20 seconds.
  • If you have a large block, turn it over and repeat it.
  • Repeat at 20 second increments until the brown sugar begins to melt in spots.
  • Remove and start chopping at it with a heavy knife.  Don’t use your expensive chef’s knife. By then the sugar should be malleable enough.
  • You can also soften brown sugar with a slice of bread, but it takes several days and I found it hardens up again. 

5.2.18

COOKING WITH SAUERKRAUT

Sauerkraut and cabbage - can you tell which is which? 

Not every tradition is worth hanging onto. One of my pet peeves is how Hungarian recipes handle sauerkraut dishes. With the passage of time, sauerkraut gets increasingly sour. That is why recipes containing sauerkraut will instruct rinsing the sauerkraut before cooking. But that's just removing the health benefits fermented foods can provide! Like moving things along. Why not mellow the sauerkraut with fresh cabbage instead? If you still rinse sauerkraut, you are discarding the good stuff. You may be thinking that brining the green cabbage and discarding the cabbage juice is the same thing. Well not quite. Fresh cabbage juice cannot produce the same probiotic and enzymatic benefits  of sauerkraut juice.
  



Cooking With Sauerkraut

1 cup sauerkraut
2 cups thinly sliced fresh green cabbage  
Salt to taste

  • Brine the fresh cabbage first.
  • To brine it, rinse the thinly sliced green cabbage under running water. 
  • Next, sprinkle it with salt. The amount of salt used is a matter of taste. 
  • Let the cabbage brine in salt for at least an hour, it will let some of its juices.
  • Squeeze it out really well.
  • Place the sauerkraut in a bowl.
  • Add the brined cabbage and stir to combine.
  • If you have time let the mixture sit for an hour or longer.
  • The mixture should taste pleasantly sour.
  • Use this when the recipe calls for sauerkraut.
  • Always taste sauerkraut dishes before salting. There is a good chance the dish will not need any additional salt.


3.2.18

PURÉED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

If ever I was unsure the Internet is saturated with misinformation and rubbish I am sure of it now. I was researching butternut squash; the Hungarian translation is not sütőtök. The correct translation is pézsmatök. Well it’s neither here nor there for the majority of my readers, but there it is. And then there are the dream interpretations of squash, yes squash, hold me down while I haha for awhile. Dreaming with squash  is apparently associated with feelings of something that’s boring, unappealing or unattractive. Well which is it? Never mind. This I know, butternut squash is delicious. Don't pass it by, it's a great winter vegetable. While lots of vegetables are waterlogged in February, the squash just sits in its bin waiting. A gift of the New World, archaeological evidence suggests that butternut squash has been cultivated in the Americas for 10,000 years. I was going to make mashed butternut squash to serve with leftover Italian Meatballs yesterday, meatballs being all the more delicious the following day. At first the texture wasn’t to my liking so I put it through the food processor and reheated it. The combination was perfectly satisfying and comfortingly delicious. 


Untitled 16 Dreaming of Squash?

Puréed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp brown sugar
salt to taste
freshly grated nutmeg

  • Must use a good chef’s knife to cut butternut squash:
  • Cut off and discard the ends.
  • Cut in half crosswise. Now you have a solid base to peel the squash.
  • Place both end pieces on the thicker end and with the chef’s knife slice downward to cut off the peel.
  • Next scoop out pulp and seeds from the bottom end pieces. Spoon is a clumsy tool for this, but a melon-baller works with ease. Every dollarstore will have melon-ballers.
  • Next chop the squash into uniform cubes. Smaller cubes will cook faster.
  • Steaming the squash will take anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes.
  • [Steaming is the fastest way to cook butternut squash, even faster than in the microwave. Cutting it in half lengthwise they may be roasted, that will of course take about an hour.]
  • Mash as you would for potatoes or purée in the food processor.
  • Add the butter, heavy cream, brown sugar and salt to taste and give it a good stir.
  • Reheat and serve hot and top with freshly grated nutmeg.
  • One butternut squash makes 2 to 4 servings.

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!