Stuffed squash with lentils, cranberries and wild rice (a Midwestern twist)

I love this savory dish … it has a lot of the quintessential foods that I enjoy eating in the fall. The tasty squash is filled with rice, lentils and fall vegetables and all mixed in the melted cheese. It is wonderfully aromatic and tasty.

Squash is one of the main foods in the fall. We are so lucky to have all these different varieties available in the US. They are sweet and have a neutral flavor that make them ideal to accompany fall dishes.

Squashes are native to the Mexico region and may have been around for 10,000 years. They tend to be high in natural sugars, carbohydrates and vitamin A. In general, they all are mildly sweet, have a luscious nutty flavor and have a creamy texture but each variety comes with a unique characteristics and with different vitamin and mineral contents.

Ancient Chinese Medicine considers them to be highly nourishing and warming for the digestive system, anti-inflammatory and help move the Qi, the life force in our body. If we talk about squash we have to mention its seeds as they are equally valuable for health. They are rich in heart friendly dietary fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, and in addition, protein, minerals, and vitamins. They contain tryptophan that is responsible for increased motor decision speed and blood sugar regulating effect. The seeds are also used for remedying intestinal worm problems. They can be roasted in the oven on low heat at 250 F.

RECIPE

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized squash (Choose squash that has a firm outer shell with a scoop friendly inside like acorn, delicata, carneval, sweet dumpling).
  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice (rice will work too). Wild harvested preferred.
  • 3 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/3 cup of shallots, finally chopped
  • vegetable oil (sunflower)
  • handful of earthy mushrooms (crimini, shitake, portabello)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 slice of bacon (optional)
  • couple of fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked lentils
  • 1/4 dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped pecans
  • 100g or 4 oz of feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of hard cheese like gruyere or parmesan cheese and more for the top
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red hot pepper (I just used a little piece)
  • little freshly ground nutmeg

Preparation

  • Turn oven on to 375 F (190 C). Bake cleaned squash on a baking sheet for 40-60 minutes or until you can easily put the blade of a knife through the flesh of the squash. When done cut in half and scoop out the seeds. The seeds can be saved and roasted.
  • Clean and soak lentils for an hour. Place lentils in a medium pot, add water, thyme spring and bay leaves. Cook for about 45-60 minutes or until they are done, soft but not mushy. When done let it sit in its steam and add more water if needed. Add salt.
  • Heat the oil on medium high heat. Sautee the shallots for 5 minutes. Then add the sliced bacon, sliced celery for 5 more minutes, stir frequently. Add 1 cup of wild rice, 3 cups of stock, sliced mushrooms, thyme and bring to a boil, stir and simmer over low heat with lid partially closed for a 35-55 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and tender.
  • If using regular rice, cook rice seperate, follow the cooking directions for the rice of your choice. Prepare the vegetables as written above. When ready combine.
  • Set oven to 375F (190 C). In a bowl mix the lentils and the rice mixture. Add the feta crumbles and and the hard cheese. Add the salt, pepper, hot red pepper and freshly graded nutmeg to taste. Mix. Also you can sprinkle salt, nutmeg and pepper inside the squash. Put the stuffing in the inside of the squash. Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake them in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  • Serve with other vegetables brussel sprouts, beets, cranberry sauce etc.
  • If you have left over rice, feel free to serve with the meal.

Brussel sprout recipe

  • 1 lb of brussel sprouts
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Heat up some oil in a frying pan. Wash and clean the brussel sprouts, cutting off the ends and yellowish leaves. Cut them into halves. Brown the brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are cooked but not mushy. Actually brussel sprouts need to be more firm so keep an eye on them. Remove and place into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

enjoy!

Sources

Recipe, text and photo by twincitiesherb.com.

Moroccan eggplant stew with garbanzo beans

Enjoy this delicious and easy vegetarian eggplant dish. The eggplants are browned and cooked briskly with some tomatoes, pungent spices, onions and garbanzo beans and then served with rice/couscous and yoghurt sauce. It is not exactly the perfect fall dish but I still had some eggplants and the weather is still more summery this week. I also added sweet mama squash that complemented the dish nicely and made it more suitable for this ‘going from the summer into the fall’ time period. With the warming spices and the baked squash, it will be a great meal for the entire week. Not only that it suits the weather but it is delicious … honestly my family can’t get enough of it. I might have to go back to the farmers’ market tomorrow to get more eggplants.

RECIPE

Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp graded fresh ginger
  • seasoning: 2 tsp paprika, 1 cumin powder, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick,
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large tomatoes or 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans or 1 can (14 oz)
  • 1 dried hot pepper or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • couscous or rice to serve
  • cilantro

Browning the eggplants
Browning the onions.

Directions

  • Garbanzo beans. Soak overnight and cook them for 3 hours. You can use a pressure cooker. They need to be cooked slowly for a long time until they are nice and soft. They can take up liquid after they are cooked so add more water if needed. Add 1 tsp salt when done.
  • Preparing the eggplants. Wash and cut eggplants into cubes. Salt them and put them into a colander for 30 minutes to let the liquid drain. Pat dry.
  • Frying the eggplants. In a wide skillet, on medium low heat, slowly brown the eggplants in some olive oil for about 20- 30 minutes or until soft. They will not cook any more so make sure they are soft and well cooked before you add it to the sauce. Stir frequently. Make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.
  • Caramelize the onions. Brown the sliced onions in a separate dish in oil with care, it takes about 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Set aside.
  • Making the sauce. Crumple the saffron between your thumb and index finger and add hot liquid, stir well (optional). Otherwise you can just put whole saffron strains in the dish. Set aside. On medium high heat warm up 1 Tbsp oil and add the ginger for 5 minutes. Then add the paprika, cumin, garlic and stir for 1 minute to activate the spices. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir well. You can add a little water here too. Cook the tomatoes for about 5 minutes until they have become ‘saucy’. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, freshly graded nutmeg and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Cook for 10 minutes on low medium heat. Add a little water if needed. Add the browned onions, eggplants and garbanzo beans from eariler. Cook for 5 more minutes covered. Let the dish sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can come together. Take out the cinnamon stick and the hot pepper pieces. Add salt and pepper or anything else that needs to be adjusted.
  • Serve with cilantro, rice or couscous and yoghurt sauce. I also added some baked sweet mama squash slivers and they nicely complemented each other.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text 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 like rye 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: One thing 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

  • high quality 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 (optional).

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 cup of hard cheese ( 1/2 cup of greyere, 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 cold water or stock. 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. Add more liquid if needed. Drain before adding to the polenta. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce for the lentils. Chop up 1 large tomato. Warm up some oil, when warm sautee the onion for 5 minutes. Add 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. Cook until tomatoes become ‘saucy’. Add cinamon stick. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat. Cook for 10 more mintes.

Drain the water off the lentils and add the cooked lentils to the tomato sauce. 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, cheese, thyme 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, thyme, salt 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, scallions, parsley.

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.

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.

Hungarian 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 it would make a nice transition into the late summer days as well.

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 flour
  • 1 tsp 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 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 stock.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat and cook covered for 15-30 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

Pesto

Pesto is a unique and delicious sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy, around the 16th century. It is nice to serve on pasta on a hot summer day. We just spent some time in the Mediterranean region where it was very hot. We joined the locals and did not eat our main meal until 8 pm. Pesto was great to eat during the day just to satisfy our quick hunger. I really like how the fragrant basil can transform this meal with all its other ingredients olive oil, cheese, garlic, and pine nuts into a something so unique.

Originally, pesto was made in mortars and according to Genoese cooks pesto can only be made in mortars. In fact its name or its verb version ‘pestare’ means to pound and grind. Today, we have food processors that would be a fine replacement, just keep in mind that pesto is meant to be pounded and not so much chopped so in other words don’t over process it in the food processor and mix the cheese in at the end by hand.

Receipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup of fresh, cold pressed olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped up pine nuts (walnuts are fine too)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • 1 cup of freshly graded parmi-giano-reggiano cheese
  • 4 Tbsp of graded romano cheese (optional)
  • 1 pound of pasta (spaghetti or any pasta with a large surface area)

Directions

  • Take the leaves off of the stems and wash them well in cold water. Clip off the flowering tips and any brownish leaves if there are any. Put them in a colander and let the water drain off. By the time you have everything else ready the basil should be ready too.
  • Start boiling water for the pasta. Continue according to the package. Save a little cooking water for the pesto.
  • Measure out all the ingredients.
  • Chop up the garlic with the blade of a sharp knife.
  • I do not have a mortar but I have a small food processor. The following directions are for a food processor. Put the basil in the food processor and process until fully chopped. (You are chopping at this stage). Add olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, salt and chop quickly, gently just until they are nicely blended.
  • Transfer this mixture into a clean bowl. You will continue mixing in the cheese with a spoon by hand. (Please see explanation above).
  • When adding the pesto to the pasta, add 2-4 Tbsp of the reserved pasta water.
  • Serve at room temperature with vegetables.

enjoy!

Sources

Marcella Hazan: Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking

Hungarian sour cherry soup (meggyleves)

When I was a little girl I used to go to the farmers’ market with my grandmother to sell her goods. I was in charge of the fruits. Whatever I was able to pick the day before, I could sell. I loved climbing up the tree and picking the fruits. We took the train to the nearest town where the market was. So of course I sold the cherries and the sour cherries too. I remember I used to wonder though why the heck people got so excited about sour cherries, why not just buy the delicious sweet cherries. Well, try this soup and you will understand too :).

Honestly, nothing tastes as good as a bowl of cold sour cherry soup on a hot day. Sour cherry soup originated in Hungary and is popular in many Central European countries. I added a small amount of ginger, cloves and cinnamon to offset the sweetness and sourness of the cherries and orange peel and salt to balance it out nicely. At the end, I thickened the soup with egg yolks. Oh and I added in a bit of alcohol, more exactly white wine and brandy (pálinka). The alcohol content will boil away so no worries, kids can have it too. 

The main ingredient is the sour cheeries. If you have a tree growing in your back yard, it is the best source for picking for sure. I have seen it in health food stores, farmers’ markets and some specilty shops too but otherwise it will be most likely hard to get fresh. You can get frozen sour cherries, they will work well as long as they are tasty, of course. Also, you can use soft cherries too but the harder kind, the bing cherries will not work. I leave the pit in but take the stems off. In addition to the cherries, I like to add some goose berries to the soup, too.

Enjoy some Hungarian folk music while you are having the soup … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiv06rzysaU

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of sour cherries or soft cherries (Please see note above).
  • 1 cup of goose berries, optional
  • water
  • 1/2-1 cup of sugar (depending on your taste)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp orange peel
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger (chopped)
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick (avoid powdered cinnamon)
  • 3-5 pieces of cloves
  • 1-2 cup of white wine (Vermouth is fine) (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp of brandy (cherry would be ideal but others are fine too)
  • 1/8 tsp of salt
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • whipped cream for serving

Directions

  • Wash the cherries.
  • Put them into a medium sized pot along with the sugar, orange peel and lemon slices.
  • Cover with water. Water should be about about 1-2 inches above the cherries.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat without the lid. Bring to a boil and continue cooking as you add the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, wine, brandy and and cook for 5 more minutes on medium low heat with the lid on. We add the ginger, cinnamon and cloves in later because they only need 5 minutes of cooking.
  • Turn off the heat. Remember to wait for 5 minutes before adding the egg yolk mixture.
  • Mix the yolk with a little liquid from the soup. As I mentioned earlier, after 5 minutes, add the egg yolk mixture. Stir gently so it is mixed nicely in the soup.
  • Let the pot cool on the counter leaving the cinnamon and the cloves in.
  • Chill in the refrigerator overnight but atleast for a couple of hours.
  • Take out the large spice pieces.
  • Serve cold with whipped cream.

enjoy!

Text, photos, recipe by twincitiesgerbs.com.

Kohlrabi soup (karalábé leves)

Yes Kohlrabi soup! … a simple and tasty soup! I am vacationing at my parents’ house and rediscovering this interesting vegetable. My mom apparently used to make it when we were kids but looks like it didn’t get my attention back then. I do throw it into soups in the summer but have never thought of using it as a main ingredient. What an amazing soup with an interesting flavor. Honestly, when I heard she made kohlrabi soup, I can’t belive but I actually told her that the kids will not eat it. Well to my biggest surprise, my kids loved it and asked for seconds! So I think I can add, it is a kid friendly soup as well.

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea) is in the Brassica family as its Latin name also suggests and is related to cabbages, broccoli etc. Yes, they do look different but they are in the same family. Kohlrabi is popular in the Northern European countries. The word has a German origin and the Germans have brought it over to the US back in the 1800’s. It is a cross between wild cabbages (kohl) and turnips (rabi). There are several varieties and can be purplish and white greenish in color. I personally like the purple one for its beautiful vibrant color but there is no difference in flavor. They tend to be ready late spring and early summer. If they are left on the vine too long, they get too big and woody. Try to pick them on time to avoid this as it can effect the flavor and also buy the smaller or medium sized ones avoiding the larger ones. The meaty part above the ground is used in general but the leaves are edible, too. In fact, the leaves have even more vitamins and minerals than the meaty part. Kohlrabi has a distinct earthy, nutty flavor and is mildly sweet and pairs well with the sweet carrots.

The recipe

Ingredients

  • oil (I used sunflower seed)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 medium sized kohlrabi or 4 smaller ones, shaved with a cheese grader
  • 1 medium sized carrot cut into long or circular pieces
  • 1 tsp curry powder or 1 tsp carraway seed and 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup of millet or rice
  • croutons or twice baked bread pieces
  • parsley or lovage
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • †Make the stock
  • Peel the kohlrabi and shave it on a grader, – this is my mom’s secret. She claims that the shaved pieces make this soup pleasant instead of cutting them into chunks. You can keep the leaves from the top and put them in the soup as well.
  • Peel the carrots and cut them into small pieces.
  • Satué the kohlrabi in a little oil for 5-10 minutes. Add the curry and the paprika in for about 20 seconds, stir and add a little cold water, stir. If you don’t use curry, you can add caraway seeds and marjoram here.
  • Add the carrots and the millet and cover well with the stock. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. The millet needs 20 minutes to cook.
  • Serve hot with the croutons, parsley and hot pepper.

Enjoy!

Source:

https://www.hazipatika.com/taplalkozas/zoldseg_gyumolcs/cikkek/karalabe_az_eltekozolt_levelek/20080110163701?autorefreshed=1