Hungarian summer bean soup with dill

I love summer. It looks like there are so many vegetables finally ready to eat. I enjoy rhubarb too but there was not much else here in the Midwest for quite a while and now all of the sudden we have so many more to choose from. So ended up picking yellow beans for this week.

I’m presenting a simple Hungarian yellow bean soup recipe that many Hungarians know how to make but I added my litte twist to it. I like reading about foods and experiementing with them. So I was reading that Hungarian cuisine was a little bit different when Hungarians lived in their oiginal place in Asia. Over the years they lost some of the ingredients and picked up new ones. So I had the idea why not add chickpeas and curry to this bean soup. Who knows maybe our ancestors made the soup like this back wherever they came from ?!? …

The sweet yellow bean is nutritious and is high in fiber but really is not the most exciting vegetable. The real flavor IMO comes from the seasoning especially from the dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. Also, adding the sour cream or yoghurt is a must at the end … and then you get a pleasant sweet and sour soup. As I have said I added chickpeas to the dish. If you look at a chickpea, you can see it resembles the heart and is considered to be beneficial for the heart. It is a good source of iron and unsaturated fats.

I often make this soup into more of an entree by adding an egg or other protein, it is very filling this way for sure. I just put the soup in a jar and take it with me in the summer. It is an instant lunch on the go for me. Oh yes and I get the stares from Hungarians … what is that dish?!? … lol.

RECIPE

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of yellow beans
  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas or canned (18oz)
  • oil (vegetable, lard)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 chopped large tomato
  • vegetable or meat stock (I used pea shells)
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, optional
  • 1-3 bay leaves
  • 1 yellow pepper or its left-over’seed house’, optional
  • handfull of dill, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp of white vinigar
  • 1 cup of dried or 1 can of chickpeas
  • salt and black pepper
  • red pepper to taste
  • sour cream or yoghurt to garnish

Directions

  • Clean and soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours. Remove the soaking liquid and cook in fresh cold water for 3 hours. A pressure cooker would greatly reduce the cooking time. (Omit if using canned chickpeas).
  • Making the soup base: Saute the onion in some oil until translucent. Add garlic, paprika and curry powder, mix and after 1 minute add the chopped tomato. Mix and cook for about 5-10 mintes or until tomato has cooked into a sauce.
  • Wash the yellow beans. Cut the ends off on both sides and discard. Cut them up into 1 inch pieces. Clean and cut the carrots. Oh and I almost forgot I like to put in zucchini too. So wash and cut zucchini into about 1 inch pieces.
  • Add the cut up yellow beans, carrot slices, bay leaves, zucchini and the stock. I like to add a yellow pepper for flavoring or at least its ‘left-over’seed house. Cook for about 30-45 minutes or until the beans are soft. Remove the pepper/pepper sedds and bay leaves.
  • Add the cooked or canned chickpeas with its liquid and the white vinigar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Add the red chili pepper if desired.
  • Serve hot with chopped dill and sour cream/yoghurt.

enjoy!

Recipe, text and photos by twincitiesherbs.com

Butternut squash soup with a Midwestern flare

Warm up to the fall with this delicious squash soup. My recipe is made with a little Midwestern twist. I added wild rice, a Midwestern staple but it can be served with some hearty bread instead. I enjoy squashes in all shapes and forms. Many of us think of squash when we hear the word fall cooking so I will start off my fall recipe collection with a squash dish.

As the fall season is arriving, I feel like a little squirrel trying to get ready for the colder months: eating the great variety of fruits and vegetables, storing up foods, making last minute repairs and just mentally getting ready. By now we are aware that summer is gone and a new season is coming with all its beauty and challenges. It was the Autumnal Equinox a couple of days ago, when the days and nights are equal and from now on the days are going to get shorter and colder as well.

The warming sweet butternut squash is simmered with the white onion, garlic, potatoes and is balanced with the bitter celery root and the lovely pungent spices. At the end, it is topped with cream and the sweet almond slivers for a bit of crunchiness.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized butternut squash- about 3 lbs
  • 1 medium sized Russet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 finally chopped large onion, white is the best
  • vegetable oil (sunflower)
  • 2 slices of smoked bacon (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, about 1 inch long
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 smaller celery root, peeled and chopped up into 4 pieces
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 thyme spring
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • red hot pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of almond slivers
  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice or rye bread to serve

Directions

Preparing the squash. Peel and cut squash lengthwise, take out the seeds. Cut them into cubes. Warm up some oil on medium high heat and brown the cubes for a good 10-15 minutes.

Make the soup base. Have 1/2 cup of cold water ready. Warm up the oil. Sauté the onion, and the bacon(optional). When translucent and you can smell the aroma of the the onions and the bacon, add the chopped ginger for a few minutes, stir. Add the crushed garlic and 1 tsp paprika, stir for 30 seconds to activate. Add the little cold water that you had set aside earlier, stir.

Put the browned squash, potatoes, thyme spring, the freshly ground nutmeg and the celery root in the pot. Add the stock, enough to cover by about 1 inch above everything and cook for 30 minutes.

Cooking the wild rice (optional). Cook 1 cup of wild rice with 3 cups of water, partially covered for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and crunchy.

Roast the almond slivers. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and spread the almond pieces evenly on the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Serve on top of the soup.

When ready, let the soup cool for about 10-20 minutes. Add the cream and black pepper. Stir.

If you want the soup to be a little chunky, set aside about 20% of the cooked squash pieces. Use a hand held blender and puree the rest of the soup. Make sure you blend the celery chunks. Transfer the whole pieces back to the rest of the pureed soup. (If you prefer a smooth soup, just puree everything).

Check to see if more salt, black pepper, red hot pepper are needed.

Serve with wild rice/bread and the almond slivers.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Vegetarian moussaka with polenta and lentils

I am excited to present my new recipe the Vegetarian moussaka. It is a vegetarian dish but is not only for vegetarians! I have to admit I was a bit nervous before I started experimenting but it was a fun challenge at the same time. I really like how nicely the soft polenta works with all the other ingredients.

We are going to venture into Europe again on our virtual journey. We think of Greece when we hear the word Moussaka but most likely it originated somewhere in the Middle East. It is a popular dish across all the Balkan countries and can be easily made in the Midwest of the United States. Well, I have to admit I have never been to Greece or the Middle East for that matter but have eaten traditional Moussaka before in Croatia… and it is mouth watering.

When we were in Croatia we happened upon this fabulous dish in Pula at the restaurant Konoba Bocaporta. It sounded really interesting so my husband and I both had to try it, while the kids ate something with seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. We don’t have the recipe but I tried to recreate it here at home. I still feel the flavors in my mouth, I hope you will like it as much as I did.

It is a complete vegetarian dish and all the ingredients seem to work well together. Often when meat is taken out of a dish, the substance and the flavors are removed as well, so when I created the recipe, I tried to make sure that the substance and the flavors were both kept. The meat is replaced with the lentils, mushrooms and the cheese. I replaced the potatoes with the polenta because they work well with the other ingredients. Mushrooms are traditionally used with polenta and they complement each other nicely … and everything is pulled together with the fragrant spices of the region.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use the yoghurt sauce. This is a pretty authentic replacement as Croatians use a yoghurt sauce for the top. Béchamel sauce is not Greek but is in fact French. The Béchamel sauce was added to Moussaka by the Greek chef Akis Petretzikis in the 1920’s when he was trying to Europeanize Greek cuisine. I actually use this yogurt sauce quite regularly to make simple lentil dishes but the Béchamel sauce is a nice treat for sure.

FUN FACT: There is one thing for sure that all the countries in the Balkan region agree on is that Moussaka is a fabulous dish.

I developed this recipe so if you would like to post it you will have to contact the author at twincitiesherbs.com.

RECIPE

Author: twincitiesherbs.com

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • fresh olive oil
  • 1 medium size eggplant
  • lots of garlic
  • 1 tomato- canned is fine
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 4-8 oz of mushrooms – Portobello mushrooms or any heavier, earthier tasting mushrooms but regular white button or crimini mushrooms would work nicely too
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups of hard cheeses: I used 1 cup gruyere and 1 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of polenta grits
  • 1.5 cup of stock or you can use water with bullion of your choice. ( The chicken stock will give a nice flavor but if you don’t want to use meat, add some bullion).
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of butter ( 1 stick)
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 3 fresh springs of thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • yoghurt (important part of the dish)
  • scallions
  • parsley

Quick overview of the ingredients as a group

Lentils: 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils, oil, 1 large tomato, 1 Tbsp of tomato paste, 1.5 cups of chicken stock or water, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika, bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp all spice, smaller stick of cinnamon (about 1 inch), 1 fresh thyme spring, 1 tsp salt and red pepper flakes.

Polenta: 1/2 cup of polenta (corn grits), 1.5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock or water+bullion, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 thyme spring, 1/2 cup of gruyere cheese, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms or equivalent, oil, crushed garlic and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.

Eggplants: 1 medium sized eggplants, 1/4 cup of tomatoes sauce, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp oregano, salt and black pepper.

Béchamel sauce: 1/4 cup of butter, 1 /2 cup of flour, 2 cups of warm milk, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and ground pepper, 1 thyme spring.

Yoghurt sauce in place of Béchamel sauce: 1.5 cups of yoghurt, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 garlic clove, cucumber slices.

Directions

Wash the polenta removing any foreign particles. Soak in water for a few hours.

Wash 1/2 cup of lentils and soak for a few hours hours.

Cooking the lentils. Remove soaking liquid and add 1.5 cups water. Cook for 1 hour or until lentils are soft. Take off heat and let lentils stay in covered pot for about 20-30 minutes so they can soak up more liquid. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce for the lentils. Chop up 1 large tomato. Warm up some oil, when warm put in 2 tsp oregano, fresh thyme, springs 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp all spice and the crushed garlic. Stir well and quickly add the 1 chopped tomato and 1 Tbsp tomato paste. Add cinamon stick. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat. Stir and cook until the tomato makes a nice sauce -for about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked lentils. Take out all the larger spice pieces. Set aside.

Preparing the eggplant. Slice the eggplants and pan fry them. Please, check my previous recipe Eggplant Parmesan for directions. (You can also bake the eggplants in the oven if you prefer). Set aside.

Preparing the polenta. Pour water off the corn grits and strain. Bring 1.5 cups of liquid to a boil. Add the presoaked polenta slowly while stirring constantly. Add 1 thyme spring and cook for about 20 minutes or until the polenta is creamy. Stir frequently because it can burn easily. When done add 1 Tbsp butter, 1tsp salt and stir. Set aside.

Preparing the mushrooms. Slice up mushrooms. Warm up some oil and sauté the mushrooms until soft. At the end, add a little crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Stir and turn off heat. Set aside.

Preparing the béchamel sauce. It is not too hard just follow the steps. I used a whisk. Warm up 1 stick of butter on low heat, when melted increase the heat to medium high and add the flour slowly, stirring continuously. Then start adding the milk very slowly, stirring after each addition and wait for a minute to let the flour mixture soak up the milk. When you start seeing bubbles, it is done. Take off heat. Grade some nutmeg. Add 1/4 cup of Gruyere cheese and 2 egg yolks. Mix well. Set aside.

Yoghurt sauce in place of the Bechamel sauce. This recipe can easily be made gluten free if you you prefer. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use 3 cups of yogurt, 3 lightly beaten eggs, garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2-1 cup cheese.

Mix the polenta and the lentils. I believe they will taste better together.

See if you need to add salt, red hot pepper and black pepper to any of the dishes.

From here, everything is easy! Preheat oven to 350 F. I used a 2QT size baking dish (8×11.5×2 in). Coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Start layering: polenta with the lentils, mushrooms, eggplants, the béchamel sauce or the gluten free yoghurt sauce and parmesan/Gruyere cheese on the top. Put the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Wait for a half hour to let the flavors melt into each other if you have time.

Serve hot with yogurt sauce.

enjoy!

COOKING TIPS

  • Seasonings, seasoning and seasoning!!!! This dish needs a lot of seasoning and salt added. Don’t be alarmed when you see the amounts.
  • The smaller portobello mushrooms are nicer … they are easier to cook and will be tastier in the meal. The crimini mushrooms are very nice too.
  • Also I find the smaller/medium sized eggplants are easier to cut and are tastier in the dish as well.
  • This is not a quick dish, it takes a long time to make like any casserole dish but it is not difficult. It is usually made for occasions because of the complexity of the dish but you can treat yourself/family/friends to it anytime.

This is my version but please feel free to experiment and let me know what you did. If you post it, please reference this blog.

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

eggplant parmesan

Eggplants are still thriving here in the Midwest! So I’d like to take the opportunity to post more recipes of this amazing plant. Before I post my vegetarian moussaka recipe, I would like to have a little preview of what is coming. Eggplant is the main ingredient in moussaka so I can get a head start with this recipe. Also, this makes an easy side dish if you don’t want to make something more elaborate.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 purple Italian eggplant
  • 2 tsp salt
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • hint of cinnamon
  • Parmesan cheese for the top
  • yogurt
  • scallions

Directions

  • Wash and slice the eggplant. I use a serrated bread knife to make the slices thin but not paper thin. They should be about 1 cm thick.
  • Soak in cold water with 2 tsp salt for 15 minutes. Putting them in salty water takes away the bitterness and I belive I can work with the eggplants easier.
  • Take the slices out of the water. Place them into a colander and wait until the water drips down. You can also dry them with a towel but honestly I never do and they come out fine.
  • Heat up a large frying pan on low medium heat. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Be careful, olive oil burns easily as it has a low boiling point. Add the slices. You will most likely have to add more olive oil as eggplant loves to soak it up. Cook for about 10-20 minutes on each side or until they are slightly brown and soft. I keep turning them to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic in a little oil on the side, mix for 10 seconds and add the tomato sauces and mix in spices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, oregano and ground cinnamon on the top.
  • Serve warm with yogurt and scallions.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Plum gnocchi (szilvás gomboc)

Plum gnocchis or plum dumplings bring back some very sweet childhood memories … delicious plums wrapped in soft, pillowy dough with a hint of bread crumbs spiced with a little sugary cinnamon. In Hungary, it is often served as a second dish after a heavier soup but can be a dessert as well. Late summer is the time when plums are ready so I’m so excited to have them again.

Plum dumplings can be found in many countries of central/southern part of Europe: in Italy (Gnocchi de susine), Hungary (szilvás gombóc), Croatia (Knedle sa sljivama), Austria (Zwetschkenknödel), Romania (Galuste cu prune), Slovenia (Slivovi cmoki), etc. Supposedly, it originated in the region of Trieste, Italy that has a colorful history being part of different counties. Gnocchi (pronounced nyow kee) is an Italian word that means knuckle or knots. Gnocchi is a mixture of flour and water and possibly many other ingredients including potatoes as well. So what nationality is Plum gnocchi? Today, people in any of those above mentioned countries would argue that it is theirs but please read on … If you know European history and how countries have changed, this recipe might reflect the ever changing times. Also, remember potatoes came from the new World …

It doesn’t matter who invented it, indeed it is a fabulous dish with its main ingredient the plum. Plums are slightly cooling with a sweet and sour flavor, so it will need the pungent cinnamon! Try to get the Italian or the Hungarian purple plums but other sweet, great tasting plums will work too. In addition to its vitamin and mineral content, plums are also a great source of fiber. So take a bite of this intriguing history …

Enjoy Palotás music while you’re eating this dish…

RECIPE

Makes about 9 balls plus the little gnocchi pieces

Ingredients

  • about 1 lb russet potatoes (4-5 potatoes)
  • 3/4 -1 cup flour or more depending on the dough
  • 1 Tbsp semolina flour (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 salt
  • 5-10 sweet plums – depending on the size of your plums
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp clove, 1/8 nutmeg, 1/8 tsp mace (I used 1 tsp Penzey’s apple pie seasoning- cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves)
  • Do add a little nutmeg … if you only add 1 thing to the cinnamon, nutmeg makes such a big difference. I would say 1/8 tsp but try get a feel for it. I don’t know how Bill, the owner at penzeys.com mix his apple pie seasoning but I can assure you he is right. These spices do wonders with the sour fruits.

coating

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts (finally chopped)
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzey’s apple pie seasoning)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
dough
9 squares
add the plum and the cinnamon sugar

The little Gnocchi pieces (nudli)

Directions

Place the potatoes with the skin on in a large pot. I like to put them onto a metal steamer with ‘feet’ so the vitamins and minerals don’t boil into the water and so they don’t soak up too much water. If the potatoes are too wet, they will need more flour and will be harder. (Please see picture above). Add cold water to the pot with a little salt and bring it to a boil, cook them with lid on for about 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Peel them while they are still hot but you can handle.

Puree the potatoes while they are still warm, I was able to do it as soon as the peels were taken off. I used a potato ricer. I put the potatoes through the larger holes of the ricer, then the smaller ones. It is worth investing in a potato ricer if you want a nice and soft dough. I also read that smaller holes on a cheese grader could work- if you don’t have a ricer.

Let the dough cool completely. Mix in the flour, salt, egg, 1 Tbsp of butter, potatoes and start kneading the dough to make a ball. Do not over do it. Make sure your potatoes are at room temperature. If they are warm they will take up too much flour. You can use the fridge for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Wash them, cut them in half and take out the pits.

Melt the butter on low heat and add the crumbs stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the crumbs soak up the butter and become golden brown. Use lower heat so the butter doesn’t burn. Add the cinnamon, sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix. This will be used to coat the balls.

Also, mix the 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of salt for the stuffing.

Fill a 5 qt pot with about 3 qt water. Bring to a boil with a little a little salt.

You can even do the dishes while you are waiting for the dough, the one hour will go by really fast.

After 1 hour, place the dough on a flat, floured surface and start stretching it to 1 cm thickness until it is a squarish shape. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Cut out 9 squares. Don’t worry about getting the shape perfect because we will use the left overs for the mini gnocchis, in Hungarian nudlis.

Assemble the dumplings. Place one of the dough squares into your palm. Put a plum piece along with the cinnamon sugar in the dough. Fold corner by corner gently tucking the stuffing inside and then roll it to make a ball. Do this with each square. Coat them in flour.

You can take half of the left over dough and start rolling long strips with them. Cut short little pieces off, coat in flour. Do this with the other half as well. You will cook them with the balls. If you don’t want to make these, use this left over dough to make more balls. You can most likely get 2 or maybe 3 more balls.

When the water starts boiling, you can drop the dumplings in the water one by one with a slotted spoon. Also, add the little gnocchi strips in this water. Try to gently stir them to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the dumplings come to the surface, cook them for about another 5 minutes and remove them with a slotted spoon.

Put the dumplings into the coating mixture that you prepared earlier and roll them around until they are well coated.

Oh and you might want to double up the recipe or triple …

Serve warm with a little vanilla sugar or honey.

enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Turkish stuffed eggplants (vegetarian)

This is the vegetarian version of my previous recipe, the Turkish stuffed eggplants (karni yarik). I tried to keep the recipe’s Turkish authenticity but otherwise it is my creation. I replaced the meat with lentils, eggs and cheese and used oregano in the place of mint. I also used more tomatoes to keep the mixture moist. All these ingredients are used in Turkey and hope you will like it as much as I did.

I can’t help but notice the abundance of goods at the farmers’ market. The tables are filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is the time of the year when they have the most varieties available. For today’s post I picked eggplant.  

We associate eggplants with the Middle East but it actually originated from India and has also been popular in other Asian countries for a long time. Today, it is used all over the world.  In Europe, it was a staple until potatoes arrived from the New World. The Turkish have certainly created many recipes with it and believe that they have the best eggplant dishes. The Spanards had brought it over to the Americas in the 1600′. Eggplants have been used in the United States; however, earlier, people didn’t really know what to do with them. Many just used them for decorations only.

Eggplants come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Shapes can be round or more elongated and the colors can vary from white, green to purple.  In the United States, the rounder, purple, more oblong eggplant is usually available in stores. For this recipe, try to buy these medium sized, fat, purple eggplants that I have pictures of. Also, make sure they are about the same size because different sizes will vary their cooking times. Also they should be nice and firm.

Eggplants belong to the night shade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. It is a cooling bitter plant that is highly nutritious with vitamins A, B, C, K1, E and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. An interesting fact is that we often believe that it is a vegetable but in fact it is a fruit. Also, it is thought to be aphrodisiac.

In addition to its nutritional values, people have been using eggplants for other health benefits too. Asians like to use them for their cooling property. It is good for digestion, particularly for stagnation and heat. It is beneficial in clearing heat that accumulates during the warmer months but it is still a valuable plant now, during the Indian summer as it can take out heat that may have been trapped in during the summer. In addition, its antioxidants can protect the liver from toxins.

It is also associated with fertility from its ability to unblock stagnation in the liver and the womb. In China, brides were supposed to posses 12 eggplant recipes before they got married. By the same token, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of eggplants because of the possibility of miscarriage. 

List of my other eggplant dishes

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cooked rice (about half a cup raw)
  • about 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 medium, equal sized purple eggplants. Try not to get different sizes because they need different cooking times.
  • 1 cup of cooked lentils (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 4 oz mushrooms, I used crimini
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 finally chopped yellow onion
  • 1 finally chopped peppers (green, red, yellow-your choice)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste
  • 6 fresh plum tomatoes or other tomatoes (canned is fine too)
  • 1 cup of hard cheese + more for the top
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley

Direction

  • Soak the lentils for a few hours if you have time.
  • Cook lentils.
  • Prepare rice with bay leaves. Use 1/2 cup of rice with 1 cup of water.
  • Bake eggplants. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Wash eggplants and put them on an oiled baking sheet. Prick them with a fork in 6-8 places, half inch deep to prevent them from exploding in your oven. Coat them with some olive oil with a brush. Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they are nice and soft, so you can put the blade of a knife through easily. You don’t want them to be hard but they shouldn’t collapse either. Once they start becoming soft, keep an eye on them. If you’re using larger eggplants, you will have to cut them in half lengthwise. Oil the top and proceed like you do with the smaller ones.
  • When ready take them out and let them cool..
  • Prepare the stuffing. Sauté the onion in the oil. When onions are soft but not brown, add the green pepper pieces and continue sautéing the for about 10-15 minutes. Add spices (oregano, cumin, paprika), crushed garlic and stir. Then add tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and there is a nice sauce. Take off the heat.
  • Put mixture into a bowl. Add rice, lentils, eggs, salt, ground black pepper, hot pepper flakes and graded cheese (I used 1 cup). Mix.
  • Sautee mushrooms and add to the prvious mixture. Mix.
  • Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Gently cut a slit in the middle down from the top of a whole eggplant making sure you don’t cut through the skin on the bottom. Take out the seeds. You can use the seeds to make babaganoush or just simply discard them.
  • Just like its Turkish name, karni yarik, splitting belly suggests, stuff the inside of the eggplants, their bellies with the stuffing. You can put a little graded cheese and a thin slice of tomato on the top. Put eggplants in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish about 1 inch deep. Place dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Take them out when top is brown. Let them cool.
  • Cut off the ends before serving them.
  • Serve warm with cucumber yoghurt sauce.

Yoghurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt
  • 1 longer English, slicing cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of dried mint
  • fresh mint

Preparations

  • Peel and slice the cucmber. Place the slices in a bowl, salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Salting is optional. Strain, squeeze out and discard the liquid.
  • In a separate bowl mix together all the other ingredients, stir well. Put in the cucumbers and gently stir mix them in.
  • Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with the eggplants.

enjoy!

Sources

  • Paul pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Sally Fallon: Nourished Traditions
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Mediterranean Diet cook book.  

Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Turkish stuffed eggplants with lamb (Karni Yarik)

I can’t help but notice the abundance of goods at the farmers’ market. The tables are filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is the time of the year when they have the most varieties available. For today’s post I picked eggplant.  

We associate eggplants with the Middle East but it actually originated from India and has also been popular in other Asian countries for a long time. Today, it is used all over the world.  In Europe, it was a staple until potatoes arrived from the New World. The Turkish have certainly created many recipes with it and believe that they have the best eggplant dishes.  The Spanards had brought it over to the Americas in the 1600′. Eggplants have been used in the United States; however, earlier, people didn’t really know what to do with them. Many just used them for decorations only.

Eggplants come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Shapes can be round or more elongated. The colors can vary from white, green to purple.  In the United States, the rounder, purple eggplant is usually available in stores. For this recipe, try to buy these smaller, medium sized, fat, purple eggplants that I have pictures of. Also, make sure they are about the same size because different sizes will vary their cooking times. Also they should be nice and firm.

Eggplants belong to the night shade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplant is a cooling bitter plant that is highly nutritious with vitamins A, B, C, K1, E and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. An interesting fact is that we often believe that it is a vegetable but in fact it is a fruit. Also, it is thought to be aphrodisiac.

In addition to its nutritional values, people have been using eggplants for other health benefits too. Asians like to use them for their cooling property. It is good for digestion, particularly for stagnation and heat. It is beneficial in clearing heat that accumulates during the warmer months but it is still a valuable plant now, during the Indian summer as it can take out heat that may have been trapped in during the summer. In addition, its antioxidants can protect the liver from toxins.

Eggplants are also associated with fertility from their ability to unblock stagnation in the liver and the womb. In China, brides were supposed to have 12 eggplant recipes before they got married. By the same token, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of eggplants because of the possibility of miscarriage. 

My recipe is the Turkish Karni Yarik that means ‘splitting belly’. If you look at the picture, this will make more sense. You basically stuff the inside, the belly of the eggplant. The warming lamb meat pairs nicely with the cooling eggplant with a hint of mint.  When I was in Turkey, I remember this dish was always on the menu and I really liked it. Please see my next post for its vegetarian version if it interests you.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice (about half a cup raw)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 medium, equal sized purple eggplants. Please see description above.
  • 1 lb of ground lamb
  • 1 finally chopped yellow onion
  • 1 finally chopped peppers (green, red, yellow-your choice)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried peppermint (You might not have mint in your pantry. People usually use mint in teas and don’t cook with it. It can be found at the spice section of a grocery store or at herb stores).
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste
  • 3 fresh ripe plum tomatoes or canned
  • hand-full of hard cheese (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh mint to garnish
  • 1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley

Preparation

  • Cook 1/2 cup of rice in 1 cup of water. You can add bay leaves if you wish.
  • Bake eggplants. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Wash eggplants and put them on an oiled baking sheet. Prick them with a fork in about 6-8 places, half inch deep to prevent them from exploding in your oven. Coat them with some olive oil with a brush. Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they are nice and soft, so you can put the blade of a knife through easily. You don’t want them to be hard but they shouldn’t collapse either. Once they start becoming soft, keep an eye on them. If you’re using larger eggplants, you will have to cut them in half lengthwise. Oil the top and proceed like you do with the smaller ones.
  • When ready take them out and let them cool. Set aside.
  • Prepare the stuffing. Sauté the onion in the oil. When onions are soft but not brown, add peppers and continue sautéing for about 10-15 minutes. Add spices (mint, cumin, paprika), crushed garlic and then the tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and there is a nice sauce.
  • In a separate pot, warm up some oil and sauté the lamb quickly for about 7-10 minutes. If lamb is not fatty enough, you might have to add more olive oil.
  • Take off heat. Put the stuffing mixture into a bowl. Add rice, lamb, meat, salt, pepper, parsley and hot pepper flakes. It is optional but I also added graded cheese (I used 1/2 cup). Mix. (The stuffing can be made a day ahead).
  • Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Gently cut a slit in the middle down from the top of a whole eggplant making sure you don’t cut through the skin. Take out the seeds. You can use the seeds to make babaganoush or just simply discard them. Just like its name suggests, stuff the inside of the eggplants, their bellies with the stuffing. You can put a little graded cheese and a thin slice of tomato on the top. Put eggplants in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish about 1 inch deep. Place dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Take them out of the oven when top is brown. Let them cool.
  • Cut off the ends before serving them.
  • Serve warm with cucumber yoghurt sauce.

Yoghurt sauce (cacik)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt
  • 1 longer English, slicing cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of dried mint
  • fresh mint

Preparation

  • Peel and slice the cucmber. Place the slices in a bowl, salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Strain, squeeze out and discard the liquid.
  • In a separate bowl mix together all the other ingredients, stir well. Put in the cucumbers and gently stir mix them in.
  • Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with the eggplants.

enjoy!

Sources

  • Paul pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Sally Fallon: Nourished Traditions
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Mediterranean Diet cook book.  

Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Spaghetti squash stew (tökfözelék)

Some like it white, some like it red … others use flour, some others don’t … and could be served hot or cold …  Well, I like it red with flour and served hot. This is one of my favorite recipes and I believe this dish would make a nice transition into the late summer days as well.

We are coming to the end of the hot summer season and entering the cooler fall season. This transition is considered to be a short season and has been recognized by many different cultures. In the United States, it is called Indian summer, in China, the Earth season and in Hungary, old women’s summer (vénasszonyok nyara). Seasonal transitions are important to be aware of as they can be challenging on our body. It is worth to pay attention to, especially if you are prone to problems now like having excessive mucus, digestive problems, feeling of heaviness/edema, tiredness, metabolic problems, low self esteem or craving sweets.

This dish is based on the Hungarian tökfözelék recipe. The sweet spaghetti squash definitely is the main ingredient. It is growing right now and I believe is perfect for the end of the summer. The other important ingredient that everybody uses regardless of other preferences is dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. I like to balance the sweet flavor with pungent flavors, in this case, the onions and the garlic will do that. Of course we also have the sour, acidic flavor from the vinegar and the Hungarian staple, sour cream. At the end, we add the salt to create this pleasant sweet and sour dish.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • vegetable oil (sunflower)
  • 1 larger onion, chopped, or graded
  • 1 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 tsp of sweet Hungarian paprika powder
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cold water
  • 1 smaller spaghetti squash (about 1 lb) (Not exactly what we use in Hungary but it is a perfect substitute).
  • water or meat stock
  • 4 dill springs, (about a hand-full)
  • sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 red pepper flalkes

Preparation

chopped dill

Using the large hole grater
grated squash

  • Prepare the spaghetti squash. Peel, and grate through the larger holes of your cheese grater.
  • Optional: Soak in 2 tsp salt for 20 minutes. Squeeze water out. This step will make the squash less watery.
  • Chop the onion fine or you can grate too.
  • Have a 1/2 cup of cold water ready.
  • Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil until soft but not brown. When you can smell the aroma of the onion, add paprika powder and garlic, stir and after 30 second add the cold water quickly that you set aside earlier. Stir.
  • Cook the onion for 15 minutes.
  • Add the squash meat, stir in and cover with water or meat stock.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat and cook covered for 10-15 minutes.
  • Chop dill, only the leaves though, discard the stem. Add the dill to the pot.
  • Also mix 1 Tbsp of flour with cold little water and add a little hot liquid from the dish. Whisk well and add it to the dish.
  • Bring the dish to a quick boil, cook for a few minutes and turn heat off.
  • Add vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir. Take off heat.
  • Let the dish cool and but at least for 6 hours so the flavors can settle.
  • Serve with a dab of sour cream and some protein (egg or beef dishes would go well). I also serve mashed potatoes.
  • I served it with my Eggplant Parmesan dish. The bitter eggplants complemented this sweet and sour dish nicely.

Enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Text, photos, recipe by twincitiesherbs.com

Lacto-fermented pickles (kovászos uborka)

Pickles are so easy to make and are so good for you. It is just a win-win situation so why not give it a try? Fermenting fruits and vegetables has a long history and today it is more popular than ever. I remember my relatives had their pantries filled with jars of pickled vegetables. One vegetable that they made regularly was cucumbers or more exactly pickling cucumbers.

Our ancestors used fermentation to preserve fruits and vegetables so they could eat them all year along. It is hard to imagine today but they had no freezers or canning machines. To supply food for their families they had to rely on the process of lacto-fermentation. So let’s look at what this process is. Lactic acid producing bacteria that is abundant on roots and leaves of plants converts starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits into lactic acid. Lactic acid acts as a natural preservative preventing the formation of putrefying bacteria.

The salt also aids this process creating an alkaline environment that helps destroy the bad bacteria and the good, probiotic ones to thrive. This environment will help keep the bad bacteria out. Using whey can also aid this process.

In addition to its preserving ability, lacto-fermentation also has health benefits for people. Today, these benefits are well known as it is living its renaissance … but for the records, here it goes. Eating smaller amount of fermented foods helps our digestion as it particularly helps revive the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal flora by improving the growth of healthy Lactobacillus acidophilus. So the same substance that was responsible for the preservation of the foods is also beneficial for our digestion. They create enzymes and are antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic as well. In fact, historians believe that pickled vegetables were one of Cleopatra’s beauty secrets for a good reason.

It is easy to make but you will need to get fresh pickling cucumbers. I find farmers’ markets to be the best place or even better if you can grow them yourself. It is crucial that the cukes are fresh and firm as they spoil within a week after they had been picked. Ideally, they should be made within a day of picking. If you can’t make them within a day, you need to keep them in the refrigerator. Also, if your cukes became soft, I found a trick – hehe obviously I have done it many times before. Soak the cukes in cold water and they will become nice and firm again. You need to do this step anyway because soaking will remove the dirt.

Another consideration is size. Any size works great, there are smaller ones and bigger ones. I personally prefer the tiny cucumbers (gerkins) because they are crunchier and have a stronger skin. Some people like the bigger ones. They tend to have larger seeds and are softer. Size also makes a difference in how you process them. If you get bigger ones, you will need to cut them up into four parts or make four slits inside. You do not have to cut the small ones.

So what else will you need besides the pickling cucumbers? You need sterilized large mouthed bottles, salt, water, and spices. This is fairly easy process and should not be skipped. Just boil the bottles in water for 5-10 minutes and that is it. Or you can sterilize them in your dishwasher if it has the ability to sterilize.

I personally prepare my pickles the European way. My favorite combination is dill, mustard seeds, cayenne peppers, horseradish roots and garlic. Of course this list is endless and you can use whatever your heart desires. My great-grandmother also put in grape wine and leaves to enhance the health benefits but you can put other leaves in as well like cucumber, white oak, raspberry, mugwort leaves etc. Oh speaking of health benefits, I always add a slice of sourdough bread. Sourdough is highly nutritious and added to the pickles will further enhance its intestinal flora promoting property.

Once ready, taste the unique tangy flavor that is produced with the lacto-fermentation process. It will not be over-powering like the pickles that are made with vinegar but it will have a refreshing, mild flavor. If the pickles are still raw, just leave them in the jar and try them the next day.

Also, as we eat the pickles, I always try to drink the liquid, the brine that pickles were processed in. It is also beneficial for digestion, so don’t throw it away… and I believe it makes a fabulous summer drink. Once you make it yourself, you will never want to buy pickles at the store again.

Pickling cucumbers

Recipe is for a quart of water

  • Sterilized wide- mouthed mason bottles (3 pint or 1.5L)
  • about 15-20 pickling cucumbers
  • 1 Tbsp salt for every pint of boiling water used or use 4 tsp of whey instead of the salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 3 flowers of fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill. I prefer the larger pickling dill but the dried one works too.
  • Small piece of Cayanne pepper
  • Small piece of horseradish root
  • 1 grape leaf and its top or other leaves like cucumber, oak, raspberry or mugwort would work great too.
  • sour dough bread (To prevent the bread from getting mushy, I use the dried out crust or rolls).

Directions

  • Sterilize the bottles. Put the bottles in a big pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and keep boiling for 5 more minutes.
  • Meanwhile soak cukes in cold water for at least 1/2 hour.
  • Boil water. When done turn off heat. I let it cool a bit for about 5 minutes before I pour it on the pickles so it can heat to the right temperature on its own.
  • Meanwhile, I put all the seasoning on the bottom of the jar except the sour dough bread that I put on the top.
  • Rinse the cucumbers well. Cut the bigger ones like I mentioned above. Cut off the blossom end of the cucumbers. Tightly place them in the jar in a vertical position. It is important that you put them tightly into the jar because you will be able to fit more in and also you want to make sure that they don’t move around and are covered with water.
  • Pour in the water. You want to make sure the water covers everything including the bread on the top as well. Put a plate on top and let it sit for 3-7 days in a warm place. (In Hungary, you can see pickle jars ‘brewing’ in window seals all over the place. It is quite impressive how creative people can get who live in small places). The time will depend on the amount of heat it is exposed to. It will take 3 days on hot days but can take up to 7 days if it is cooler. You will see bubbles while the brine is ‘cooking’. Avoid direct hot, direct sun.
  • Check the bottles everyday and add more boiling water if needed.
  • Do a taste check after 3 days or when you think they are ready. They are ready when they don’t taste raw but are not mushy either.
  • When they are done put them in the refrigerator. This stops the process of lacto-fermentation that would make the cucumbers too soft if continued too long.
  • Now it is ready, enjoy!

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Sources