Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

chickenpaprikashIt's well known that paprika is the famous spice of Hungary. What I think most people don't realize is that the red powder is made from ripened peppers also called paprika. The word paprika means pepper in Hungarian, and I don't mean peppercorns, but rather the fruit or vegetable, depending on how you look at it. Hungarian sweet peppers are typically pale yellow to pale green in color when they are fresh. They can be eaten raw or cooked into many recipes. But when they ripen to bright red, they are dried and ground into the fine red powder known as paprika or what I like to call Hungarian gold.

Hungarian paprika (pronounced puh-pri-ka) is available in sweet, hot, and everything in between, with eight varieties altogether. Sweet paprika has a deeper red color whereas hot paprika is more rusty in color. The signature dish most famous for using paprika is chicken paprikash, a stew of chicken with an onion sauce richly colored and flavored with paprika. I grew up on paprikás csirke, as it is known in Hungarian. It is my comfort food, and that's exactly what it is for so many Hungarians and Hungarian-Americans. I consider it my favorite home-cooked dish. And, of course, no recipe rivals my mother's.

Read more ...

flapjacks.jpgWhen I was growing up in England in the fifties and sixties, there was a snack called a flapjack that could be occasionally bought at bakeries but was more often found in homes, served up by diligent housewives. It was never found at my home: the only time my mother turned on the stove was to light a cigarette. But some of my friends’ mothers did make them, and the sweet, buttery smell of freshly baked flapjacks is one of those childhood aromas that still haunt me today.

Now, for the American reader a point of clarification is required. British flapjacks bear absolutely no resemblance to American ‘flapjacks’, which seems to be just another word for pancakes. The British flapjack is a unique item unto itself, but if a comparison is required, I suppose a granola bar would come closest in look and texture. But it is simpler, more elemental, only requiring four ingredients (long before Michael Pollan came up with his five ingredient mantra): oats, sugar, butter and golden syrup.

Read more ...

bund.pumpkin.whole November 15th is National Bundt Day. Duty calls. I need to make a bundt. I am trying to stay seasonal, so what would make the most sense? You guessed it, pumpkin! When I want to make a bundt, my first stop on the internet is always Mary’s blog. She could be considered the queen of bundts and boy does she love pretty much all things bundt related.

She recently posted this recipe for Sour Cream Pumpkin Bundt which she got off of the Libby’s website. I would never in a million years think to pull something off of a branded website.

Since reading Mary’s post, I have actually perused a few of the sites, just to see what their ideas are for the holidays. Some interesting, some not so interesting. Yet, none the less, good info and always inspires new ideas.

Regardless, this cake is a winner. And as I have mentioned in the past, bundts are easy and they are always a crowd pleaser. This one certainly pleased a crowd. I made three minor alterations to the recipe. I added dried cranberries to the streusel, cut back a little on the streusel ingredients, and replaced sucanat with white sugar.

We are having friends for brunch Thanksgiving weekend. I may just have to make this again!

Read more ...

pastanicoise.jpgHere's a great dish that does double duty: it can be dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. It's delicious served slightly warm or chilled. And it's especially great for a Friday night Lenten dinner. Using readily available ingredients including my favorite cans of tuna, this dish is light on the wallet too. For the best taste and texture use white albacore tuna packed in oil. It's much better than the chunk light in water.

My version of the French salad Niçoise is crossed with the American macaroni salad. Instead of boiled potatoes, I use pasta as a delicious alternative. Cavatappi, a corkscrew-shaped pasta, makes a playful addition, but elbow macaroni works well too. Green beans are quickly blanched and pasta is then cooked in the same pot before being combined with all the ingredients. A finish of briny olives and capers and a fresh vinaigrette make it feel like springtime on the Mediterranean coast.

Read more ...

7upcake.jpgYears ago, when I was living on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay, I was invited to a rooftop barbecue by my neighbor. Everyone was bringing something, so I thought a pound cake with fresh strawberries would be nice. It was a great party, and the host, who was raised in North Carolina, prepared an elaborate feast of primarily Southern Cuisine – ribs, chicken, baked beans, succotash, corn bread, etc.

When it came time for dessert, everyone seemed to enjoy the pound cake and berries and I asked our host if he liked the cake. He said it was good and asked if I made it with 7UP. When I said that I had NOT, he replied, “then this is pound cake’s cousin – a real pound cake has 7UP in it!” When I saw this recipe in the Summer Entertaining issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I decided to try it. It’s a great buttery cake with a delicious lemon-lime flavor. I guess my neighbor knew what he was talking about!

Read more ...