Hungarian Lesco

19 09 2011

How was your weekend? Mine was filled with cooking, eating and visiting. It was nice to spend time with friends and family and have few things to achieve. What I love about this blog is sharing traditional recipes with you, ones that are passed down through the generations. Today Tony and I made Lesco (Lecho in English, pronounced lech-oh). Lecso is a Hungarian pepper stew. I am lucky to have a husband that finds this to be a comfort food like I do. He was on and on about making some for winter, so we headed out to the farmers markets Saturday in search of sweet yellow Hungarian peppers, paprika and onions. Now when I say we made lesco, we made A LOT of lesco.

A sink of peppers and tomatoes

While at yoga T washed and prepped the peppers, 25 pounds of Hungarian peppers and a pound or two of hot banana peppers. I got home and it was straight to work. In two hours we chopped, sautéed and stewed. We kept some aside for dinner and packed the rest up in freezer bags for winter.

T prepping hot peppers (gloves a must for contact wearers 🙂

My mom taught me how to make lesco a couple of years ago, she learned from grandma and developed our family recipe I grew up eating. This was my first attempt on my own, easy peesy, and it tastes just like moms :).

Sauteing Peppers

Here is my family recipe for Lesco (I’ve given you a smaller portion size here):

  • 2 bags sweet Hungarian Peppers (the produce bags you get from the grocery/market), seeded and chopped
  • 5 hot Banana Peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium or 3 small sweet White Onions, chopped
  • 5 medium Tomatoes or 8 Roma or 1 can Whole Tomatoes
  • 4-5 tbsp Hungarian or Spanish Paprika (sweet, red and full of flavour)
  • 3/4 – 1 c Sour Creme
  • Olive Oil for sautĂ©ing
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt

BIG pot of Lesco

Blanche the tomatoes, remove skin, chop. Saute the onion in olive oil until transparent. Add 1-2 tbsp of paprika and 1 tsp salt, mix. Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture, warm through. Set aside. In the meantime or after the onions are done, saute the chopped hot peppers in one pan and the sweet peppers in another large pot in olive oil. That way you can add the hot peppers to the mixture a bit at a time. Saute peppers until al dente. Add tomato-onion mixture to the sweet peppers, mix over low-medium heat. Add small portions of the hot peppers and taste until you have a heat level you like. If you don’t like hot, do add at least one hot pepper, it gives it flavour. Add 2-3 more tbsp of paprika, 1 tsp or more of salt to taste. Stew low-medium heat for 15-20 min. Add the sour creme, stir well.

Lesco Packed up for Winter

Eat fresh with fresh sour dough bread, mmmm. We had ours for dinner and packed the rest up for the freezer.
If you are in Calgary and want Hungarian paprika, I found gorgeous paprika it at the Crossroads Market, at the Hungarian Deli.
What traditional foods bring you comfort?
Eat well, Be well,
Nat
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KFM: Southwest Coleslaw

24 04 2011

Well spring is finally starting to bloom in Calgary, although we have about 2 feet of snow piled up in our back yard that still has to melt. Not sure how the gardening is gonna go this year, although I have my sights on a greenhouse this year, hope to share that with ya’ll.

What to make for dinner this week? How about coleslaw. It sits well in the fridge for a day or two and is a bright and healthy addition to any meal. We love cabbage and have been buying some great red and green cabbage from the KF Market lately. I found a few recipes on-line, the best one was from Vegetarian Times, but I thought it was a bit bland so I spiced it up (do I ever follow a recipe?).

I used Piri Piri sauce in this recipe. Piri Piri is a Portuguese chili. They are very flavourful and some hotter than others. I have been cooking with piri piri a long time with our family travels to Portugal. I bought whole peppers this last time and put them into some Portuguese olive oil to flavour the oil. I saw this a lot over there. Piri Piri is becoming more popular here, I have bumped into once in a while, if you see it, try it out. If you don’t, use Tabasco or Franks Hot or any other tangy chili sauce you like. You could use fresh grated horseradish in this recipe instead of the piri piri, would be delicious. That’s an idea from my bro, who was over for dinner last night.

  • 4 cups Shredded Green Cabbage (I used half red and half green)
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Red Pepper, sliced thin

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp Mayonnaise (use what you prefer, I buy Organic Spectrum brands, use a vegan version if you like)
  • 1 tbsp Light Sour Creme or Plain Yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tbsp Whole Grain Mustard
  • 1 tsp Piri Piri Sauce, Tabasco, Horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp Dill (dry is fine)
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Shred the cabbage and carrots using a food processor if you have it, so easy. If not a mandoline works. Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add to the salad and mix well. Chill in the fridge at least an hour before serving (or not, and dig in). The chilling will allow the flavours to set, and a bit of the cabbage to soften a little as it releases water, adding to the dressing. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed the long weekend…did you know it was Earth Day on April 22? Might have been overshadowed by all those Easter Bunnies running around (remember last year, click here).
Eat well, Be well,
Nat




KFM: Broccoli Soup

18 03 2011

Happy Friday! A quick post on another great soup idea. The responses to the Coconut Lentil Soup I posted were wonderful. I am so happy to hear how many of you are trying the recipes here and working them into your meal plans.

We {heart} broccoli, but organic broccoli. The idea of pesticides and stuff getting in and all over the little flowers of the broccoli sorta grosses me out. At our favourite Kingsland Farmers Market, we buy the best broccoli from King’s Orchard Organic Produce. It is sweet and bright green. We bought a couple of heads last weekend and I made a delicious and easy broccoli soup for my lunch this week. I didn’t want a heavy cream soup, but something full of flavour that let the broccoli stand out. Let me know what you think.

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 head of Broccoli, break and cut up into small florets
1 small Onion (I use a very small onion for flavour)
3 stalks of Celery, diced
3 Carrots, diced
1 clove Garlic (optional, I didn’t use it)
2 tbsp freshly chopped Parsley (if you don’t have it, don’t worry about it)
4 tbsp Whole Wheat or AP Flour (for gluten free omit this and use rice or another thickener you are comfortable with, experiment, I am sure Kuzu would work as well)
4 cups low sodium Chicken or Vegetable broth (use two cubes to 4 cups of filtered water)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Thyme
1/2 cup – 1 cup Creme or dairy alternative (I used 1/2 cup)

Saute the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in the olive oil, about 5 minutes, so they start to soften. Add the broccoli and parsley, cover and saute another 5 minutes or so until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the water/stock and stir. Add the flour. Stop, read this tip: ladle out a cup of liquid into a smaller bowl. Add a tablespoon of flour to the smaller bowl, stirring to blend, add more flour and more liquid until blended. Then add this mixture to the pot. If you dump flour into a pot of liquid it will clump. Kuzu not so much, but it is better to mix it in a small amount of liquid first. Add salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 30 min, stirring occasionally. Lift the lid, taste, adjust salt and pepper, add the thyme and creme, heat through. Take off the heat to serve or do what I did, use your immersion blender to blend about half of the soup. I liked the creamier consistency. You can add more creme as well if you want to up the creaminess that way. Top with fresh grated parmesan or Gruyère cheese.

At the Bread Project this week Dusica, a lady from Croatia, taught us how to make a cornmeal muffin with cheese. These I have to share with you, but another day. I am going to experiment with them at home. I think they would be the perfect accompaniment to a thermos of soup…

I have exciting HealthFoodJunky plans coming up….can’t wait to share them with you!

Eat well, Be well, Adeus 🙂

Nat





Walnut Kifli

22 12 2010

‘Kifli’ is a very common Hungarian yeast dough pastry, cut into triangles and rolled up into a crescent shape. There are savoury ones and sweet ones. I grew up with a sweet one made with a walnut filling. Kifli are a staple during the holidays and I recently made kifli with my grandma Ann. When I first got the recipe for kifli from her she explained the dough needed to rest in the fridge overnight. I thought, great, i’ll make the dough and come by the next day and learn how to roll the cookies. Before the plans were solidified she says to me ‘I think you should come here and make the dough, I don’t trust you’ll know how to do it right’. She was right (head hung). When it comes to cookies, these are a bit labour intensive, but once you get the hang of it, and are well supervised :), time flies. I’ll do my best to explain, but I agree that it takes practice, a trained eye and taste experience to know what is a ‘good’ dough, filling and end product.

***Warning, these are not my typical no sugar, whole grain treat. The experience of learning tradition and spending time with a grandparent is the treat. And besides, these are simple ingredients, low in sugar and considering the recipe will make 85-95 cookies…well, do the math, you’ll live if you eat a few of them.***

Dough:

  • 2 cups Regular Flour
  • 1 cup Pastry Flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cup regular Butter
  • I tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 package of Dry Yeast, dissolved in 1-2 tbsp of warm milk
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Sour Creme (buy a small 250 ml container)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling

  • 1 lb Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Rinds of 2 Lemons, grated

Sift the flour and salt together (that sifter of grandmas is older than ME!). With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix the sour creme, yeast mixture, lemon juice and eggs together. Add the wet to the dry, mix with a spoon, folding over until it is blended. Then with your hands form it into a ball. On a floured surface, kneed a few times to incorporate all the ingredients, not too much or it toughens. Cut into two pieces, put in fridge over night.

For the filling, grind the walnuts, check out that old grinder. A food processor will work, but be careful not to pulverize them into powder, they need to be a course grind. Mix in grated lemon rind and sugar. The cookies call for the evil white sugar – now i’ll experiment with alternatives one day, but 1/2 cup of sugar for 85+ cookies, i’ll live. My grandma makes them low in sugar because her mother watched her sugar intake. Nice.

After the dough has sat in the fridge overnight, no longer than 12 hours, take out and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours so you can roll it out. Roll out on a dusting of flour, turning and flipping over until dough is about 2mm in thickness? Cut into triangles 3.5″ across and about 45 degrees. Again, this isn’t going to be easy to explain here. Fill the base of the triangle with a spoon of filling, tuck the corners in a bit, roll, stuffing the filling as you go, brushing extra aside. Tip of triangle needs to be on the bottom of the roll so it doesn’t unravel while baking. Brush with egg white and bake for about 20 min in 375 degrees until golden brown. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That doesn’t do it justice but I don’t expect a pastry beginner to give this a shot. If you do, let me know how you do. By the way, and although she might not admit it in public, grandma said (sipping her tea and watching me) that my kifli were perfect, like i’d been doing it my whole life. Perfect. That’s right, must be in the genes.

Eat well and Be well over the holidays,

Nat





Comfort Food

14 11 2010

When life hands you lemons you can react a couple of different ways. Leave your head on the pillow or get up and put one foot in front of the other. After leaving my head on the pillow for a few days, I got up, put one foot in front of the other until I was in the kitchen doing what makes me feel better, cooking. Unfortunately for Tony and I, the past few weeks have dealt us some blows, but we are surrounded by amazing family and friends. Thank-you to those that read this and have been by our side.

I have made Borshch with my mom many times (assuming ‘made’ means drinking wine and watching). Last year and at the start of this blog, I chronicled our Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, which includes Borshch. My mom measured out the recipes as she cooked from memory. This way I could write them down and make it all on my own one day. I’m workin’ on it.

Well I grew great beets this year, although small, and they’ve been in the fridge since October. I paired them up with some organic beets from Planet Organic to make a big pot of Borshch. I followed the recipe, consulted mom and found solace in a quiet kitchen and the comforting smell of soup simmering on the stove like the generations before me. Here is our family Borshch recipe, I hope it brings you as much comfort as it did me last night.

  • 6 large Beets, I ended up using about 12 small beets
  • 1/2 c dried Brown Mushrooms, broken and chopped up (if not dried, then saute them in a bit of olive oil before using)
  • 2-3 Chicken Bouillon cubes (I use the veggie variety)
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pepper Corns
  • 1 1/2 c diced Celery
  • 1 1/2 c diced Carrots
  • 1 1/2 c diced Green Beans
  • 1 1/2 c Peas (frozen okay)
  • 1 medium White Onion, diced and sautĂ©ed until golden brown
  • 3-4 c of Beet Tops, chopped small, separate the stems from the leaves
  • 1 tsp Dill (dried okay)
  • 1/2 c Italian Parsley, chopped well
  • 2 tbsp Flour
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil (choose a natural oil, stay away from processed oils, aka Canola)

Clean off the beats, no need to peel, cut the roots and tough parts off. Grate the beets using a food processor, rough chop them first, the grating attachment makes this very easy and less messy. If you don’t have a food processor, grate whatever way works for you. Makes about 12 cups.

 

In a soup pot, place the beets, diced beet stems, mushrooms, bay leaves, pepper corns and bouillon cubes and cover with water. Bring to boil, cover, simmer covered for 15 min. Add celery, parsley, simmer covered for 15 min. Add beans, carrots, simmer covered for 15 min. Add peas, chopped beet greens, sautéed onions and 1/4 to 1/2 c of water if you think it needs it. Simmer covered for 15 min, the veggies will be al-dante.

Once the soup is done, in small sauce pot, cook the flour over medium-high heat, stirring continuously for 60-90 seconds. Take the flour off the heat and add the butter and oil, continue stirring, the butter should melt and maybe froth up a bit. You’ve just made a roux and probably didn’t ruin it over the heat, good job. Add three cups of the borsch to the roux, one cup at a time, mixing well, and then add it all back into the main soup pot. The cooked flour and roux brings the flavours together and makes the soup glisten. Look at it, isn’t it pretty.

Serve with a dollop of sour creme or plain yogurt and fresh cracked pepper. It’s like a hug in a bowl.

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Soska Soup

7 08 2010

Say what? Soska? What’s that? It’s the Hungarian word for Sorrel. Pronounced ‘shoshka’. This leafy green is also called szczaw in Polish, pronounced ‘shrtav’. It’s also called Spinach Dock and Sour Dock. I grew up calling it soska. It is a perennial so it comes back each spring and like rhubarb, it is a staple in a European garden. Another favourite soup of mine, Soska Soup, reminds me of summer, even late spring.

It’s Saturday, my plans changed and I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen since starting my new contract. What to do? Make soup from the fresh ingredients in our garden. I called mom, at the same time as doing paper work she rattles off the recipe and decides to make her own pot of soup.

Soska Soup

1/2 small onion, diced (No onion? I used chives from our garden for a mild onion flavour)

1 tbsp butter

2-2 1/2 c Diced Potato

4 c Filtered Water + 1 c for thinning soup

1 Bay Leaf

1-2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes (there are veggie ones available)

1 tsp Chopped Fresh Dill

5-6 c chopped soska

2/3 – 1 c Sour Creme

Flour or Kuzu for thickening soup

Saute the onion in butter until browned (or lightly saute the chives). Add potatoes, 4 cups of water, bay leaf, bouillon, dill and simmer until potatoes until they are soft. Taste for flavour? Add the soska, 1/2 cup of water and the additional bouillon if you’d

like. Cook it down, about 15 min. Add sour creme and warm it through. The soska releases water so if it is too thin, dissolve a tablespoon of flour or kuzu in a small amount of warm water and then add it to the soup. If the soup is too thick you can thin it by adding the other 1/2 cup of water and then some creme or more water. I ended up using 1 cup extra of water (total 5 cups) and it was perfect. I added it with the soska all at once because the water was quite low after cooking the potatoes. When I added the sour creme it was the perfect consistency.

Serve with fresh cracked pepper and whole grain toast or a sour dough bun.

How is your first Saturday of August?

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Bean Soup

17 06 2010

I {heart} legumes. This week I made my grandma’s recipe for a bean soup I remembered as a kid. In my visit last week we talked about soup, my grandpa loved soup and so do I. She makes this bean soup with a ham hock (a real thing, I just googled it, thought it was slang). So if you are a lover of ham, go ahead. I used organic chicken bouillon powder instead – or you can use the low sodium veggie ham or chicken bouillon. To serve, for some reason we seasoned this soup with a splash of white vinegar, not sure why, maybe someone out there does. That’s just the way it is and it tastes like 1979.

1 cup Speckled Beans (might be a speckled kidney, I saw some at Planet, my grandma just gave me a cup)

3 Bay Leaves (I have some dried from grandma’s plant)

8 cups of Filtered Water (estimate)

2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes (or your equivalent, to taste though, can be too salty)

1 tbsp Flour (had to get this off grandma too, she might as well made the soup for me. you can use other thickeners like kuzu or cornstarch)

1/2 cup Sour Creme

1-2 cups Milk (or your equivalent, I am doing this old school the best I can)

White Table Vinegar for ‘garnish’

Soak the beans overnight, I did for two days because I ran out of time to make the soup the next day. I just rinsed them and replaced the water. They will turn into 2 cups of soaked beans. Put the beans into a soup pot, add enough water to cover the beans plus one inch of water above the beans. Add the bay leaves and bouillon (if you choose to go ham hock, I think you add it here), bring to low boil, cook, stirring once in a while. Get comfortable, don’t plan to leave the house, you are kitchen bound for a few hours. As the water absorbs add more, so it is one inch above the beans. After a couple of hours, start to test the beans for softness, you want them to be real soft. Keep cooking. I left the lid off, but not totally, like an inch or two open for the steam to mostly escape. Be careful adding water near the end of the cooking time (up to 5 hours depending on the beans and pre-soak success) because you don’t want to much water. You want the beans to be almost even with the water, like 1 cm of water over the beans.

When the beans are done mix together 1/2 cup sour creme and 1 tbsp flour. (You could use a bit less sour creme, I used organic thick sour creme and it might have been a bit too much. I left the soup covered and off the heat and the flavours are coming through as time goes by, like all soups, they are so much better with time.) Add the sour creme + flour mixture to the soup. Add 1-2 cups of milk (I ended up using 1/2 cup of Tony’s creme for his coffee, sorry Tony, and 1/2 cup home-made almond milk, forgot to pick up milk). Mix in one cup of milk at a time, I think 2 cups is too much, but you decide based on what you think. I heated this up and then turned the heat off, covered it and let sit. I’ll dig into it for dinner later. Remember to add a splash of vinegar. Mmmm…memories.

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat