Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

About 7 years ago, I had the most wonderful nanny, her name is Adrienn.  She hails from Hungary, and my daughter and I were lucky enough to be taught a few wonderful dishes that she prepares.  This salad is something fantastic.  Simple, easy, healthy.  It is a perfect side dish to many dishes, not necessarily Hungarian.

I remember her making this the way I assume her family taught her.  She didn’t use measuring spoons or cups, all she did to make the dressing was grab a glass and fill it with the desired quantities of what she needed.  I studied her closely, me being the perfectionist in the kitchen, and this was a challenge.  I am quite accustomed to making dishes that people have taught me this way, but still get a little nervous when they do.

I am going to share this recipe with you the best I know how, feel free to tweak it as you need, because to some it may lack salt, and to some it may be too sweet.  The one thing I do stipulate, as she said to me, please try to use Hungarian Sweet Paprika.  I am told it is the best!

Hungarian Paprika

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandoline (or as thin as you can get it with your knife)

3/4 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

3/4 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Water

Distilled White Vinegar

Place the cucumber slices in a deep bowl.

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To the cucumber, add the 1/2 tsp of salt, and mix well with your hands, coating all the slices.  In a large drinking glass, fill half of it with water, and add the sugar and paprika.  Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.  You should have a very red liquid.  Add the vinegar a little at a time, until you reach your desired acidity, I think it should be at least a tbsp.  Add your dressing to the cucumber slices, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

Your cucumber slices should be quite soft.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

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Cassia’s Favorite Stuffed Green Peppers

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I have to admit, I was very, very surprised the first time I served this to my daughter.  I figured she would look at me, thinking I had gone mad for serving her a green pepper, with what looked like cheese on top.    But, she just cut a bite, put it in her mouth and said she loved it.  Mind you, she was about 7 at the time.

Ever since, she asks me to prepare these stuffed peppers for her.  Honestly, as a kid, I hated them, but, as tastes change and your palate becomes more forgiving and sophisticated, I learned to love them.  These truly remind me of home, not any country in particular, just home.  Throughout the years, we started to adapt our cooking from just Colombian flavors to a more Caribbean style, incorporating ingredients that we had on our lovely island of Nassau, and also some suggestions from a certain “auntie” who is Jamaican.  My Auntie Sharon introduced to us so many Jamaican products, since we were new to these sorts of things.  Ackee, bread fruit, how to eat Guava ( in the dark, if you’re asking, so you won’t see the worms! ) and also, Pickapeppa Sauce.

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Pickapeppa Sauce is akin to Britain’s HP sauce, but with a bite, more tangy and less sweet.  We started incorporating this in many, many recipes.  And this is a staple in my house that I bring back from Miami whenever I can.  I can assure you, that adding this to your beef stew, hamburgers, even dips will give it an extra-special kick!  And apparently it’s really awesome with cream cheese.

So, why not try these stuffed peppers today?

Here’s what you’re going to need:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1/2 leek, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

50 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp cumin powder

Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp jalapeno powder (or chili powder if you can’t find)

400g Ground Beef or Pork (or a mix of the two)

2 tbsp raisins

2 tbsp Pickapeppa Sauce ( HP Sauce if you can’t find Pickapeppa)

3-4 long green peppers, sliced open, seeds and ribs removed

1/2 cup cheddar cheese (more to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  In a large sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onion, carrots, leeks, garlic and cherry tomatoes.  Sautee for about 10-15 minutes, until softened.  Add the tomato paste, cumin, salt and black pepper, garlic powder, and jalapeno powder.  Sautee for another 8 minutes, until nicely softened.

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Raise the heat to medium high, and add the ground beef or pork and cook until browned.   Add the raisins and the Pickapeppa Sauce and cook, stirring until mixed.  Take off heat.

Carefully stuff the peppers until full but not overflowing.

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Place in a baking dish, and top with grated cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes*, until the peppers are softened and the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Serve immediately.

*  If you prefer the peppers to be softer, you can parboil them for 2 minutes.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Minestrone

Minestronne

 

Nothing screams homey, comfort and belly-warming to me more than Minestrone.  Growing up, it was my mother’s preferred way to get me to eat veggies, mine too now, of course; I also remember watching my uncle carefully chop all the vegetables, and explain to me in which order they should be sautéed, for how long, and of course, his secret ingredient.

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The hard rind of the parmesan cheese.  He rarely threw out any food out, there was always some use for it.  I remember as a kid, watching that incredibly hard and inedible rind being plopped into the soup mid way, and upon its extraction, it was a soft, gooey, gloop of a mess.  For me it was alchemy, magic.  And the taste of the soup…..incredible!

I still make my minestrone exactly the way my uncle taught me, digging out as many veggies from the fridge as I can, but always respecting their taste profiles.  I remember him saying never to put eggplant in, as it would give the soup a more acid taste.  So I don’t use it.  Also, he used broccoli, but this time I found this beauty:

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I think this is purple cauliflower, but the taste seems to be a cross between the two.  It gave the overall dish another beautiful color profile, which I love…..I love eating the rainbow, it just makes me feel so healthy!

The recipe I am going to give to you is by no means written down anywhere, I always make it from my memory.  So, the amounts are not perfect, so hang in there.

So, here’s what you’re going to need

Serves 8-10

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk of celery, sliced

1/2 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced

6-7 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of green beans, chopped into 2 inch sticks

1/2 zucchini, diced

6-7 broccoli or purple cauliflower florets, chopped

1/2 cup white beans, from can or jar

1 tsp dried oregano

3 cups vegetable stock

1 large can (800 g) crushed tomatoes

1 parmesan cheese rind (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks.

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Sprinkle in some salt and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium high, and add the rest of the veggies, except for the beans.

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Saute until the mushrooms are just starting to soften, about 6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, parmesan rind and oregano.  Let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Five minutes before you take it off the heat, add the beans.  Taste and add more salt if needed, and some pepper.

Serve with the grated parmesan.

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From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Parmigiana di Melanzane – Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

 

I adore eggplant.  I love it’s versatility, it’s meatiness, the way it soaks up the surrounding flavors.  I love that you can even make desserts with eggplant! (Just ask the Sicilians).  Parmigiana has been a staple in my household for years.  When I was vegetarian, I used to prepare this all the time.  And, lucky for me, my sweetie Paolo, makes an amazing parmigiana.  Unfortunately, he is in Madrid, so I had to make this myself.

My daughter, also, absolutely adored this.  I didn’t tell her what was inside.  When she asked what was for dinner and I said Melanzane alla Parmigiana, she just nodded and life was ok for her.  Italian food is her passion.  I should probably start translating all of my dishes in Italian so she’ll eat them.  The best bit was when she tried the first bite and told me it was delicious.  Score!  Another veggie consumed happily by the picky teen!

Parmigiana can be served as a main meal, or as an appetizer.  But I like to eat it as a main, since every bite is amazing.  Oh, and this recipe I changed up a bit, to make it a little more heart and calorie friendly.  Instead of frying the eggplant, I baked them in the oven.   Let me tell you, I think I am going to make it like this all the time.  The flavors of the tomato sauce and the eggplant really came out, instead of the heaviness of the oil.  But hey, if you ain’t watchin’ your weight, go ahead and fry!

It is a very simple dish to prepare.  It has a few steps, but once that is done, you can just sit back and wait until it comes out of the oven.  And it’s even better the day after!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4 (as a meal) or 8 (appetizer)

2 medium eggplants, sliced and sprinkled with salt, and place in a colander for about 1 hour, then rinsed.

1 tbsp olive oil, more for tray and eggplants.

1/2 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2 small cans diced tomatoes, if you can, use italian tomatoes.  You WILL notice the difference.

2 fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).   On a large baking tray, place a layer of aluminum, and paint with a layer of olive oil.  Place all the eggplant slices on the tray, and then paint them with another layer of oil.

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Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until starting to brown.  Take out of the oven and lower the heat to 400F (200C).

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, add the tbsp of olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until translucent and softened, about 6-8 minutes.   Add the two cans of tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes.

In a small baking dish, add a scant layer of tomato sauce.  Top with the slices of eggplant, then mozzarella, and finally the parmesan cheese.

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Repeat, adding, in order, tomato sauce, eggplant, mozzarella and parmesan until you have no more.  The last layer should be the mozzarella and parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes.   Uncover and continue to bake until the cheese is golden brown and most of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated.    Take out of the oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

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From my kitchen to yours,

Carla