So, my husband is half Hungarian….

My husband, Tim is half Hungarian.  And although I have yet to visit there, I try to cook Hungarian food as much as I can for him because he loves it!  There are many, many recipes that include wonderful things like real Hungarian paprika, and also lots and lots and LOTS of sour cream.  So, when I am watching the calories, I don’t make that stuff.  In the future, I will post the wonderful recipe I found in Julia Child’s baking book for Hungarian Shortbread.  It’s lovely, and more cakey than you would think for being a shortbread, but it uses a wonderful homemade rhubarb filling that is typically Hungarian and just wonderful!

For now I am posting something that I suspect came from Hungary, but isn’t classically Hungarian that I can tell.  Tim’s mom, Pauline was a great cook and although she was gone, sadly, long before met Tim, I hear she was a great feeder of people.  When she passed away, Tim and his cousins paid tribute to her by publishing a cook book of her many recipes, titled Pudge’s Kitchen.  The majority of the recipe’s are not vegetarian, so most of them I can’t cook for Tim.  But I will tell she has the BEST bar cheese recipe I have ever had.  If you don’t know what bar cheese is, you are clearly, like me, not from the Midwest, and you are also missing something that just so darn tasty!  Now, I admit to make this you have to buy the plastic log that is Velveeta, so don’t bother ragging on me about that, just don’t make it!  I haven’t found an alternative that works, but rest assured, if I do, I’ll change this recipe.  OH, and if you are in Ireland, Galtee cheese works wonderfully for this, probably 4 or 5 boxes.

Pudge’s Bar-Cheez

One 2 lb box of Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 6oz jar of horseradish
dash of Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
1 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)

Melt the Velveeta in the top of a double boiler.  Remove from the head and add in the mayonnaise, hot sauce and horseradish and stir well.  Pour into the serving dishes you will be using and let stand at room temperature.  Once it is completely cooled and set, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Spread on toasts or crackers, or dip crudite’s into it.  It is delicious and packs a mild punch with the horseradish and hot sauce!  This will last for up to a week well covered in the fridge.

Enjoy, and let me know how it comes out.

The best Portobello burgers

Well, Tim is a vegetarian.  I was intrigued at first, then I tried everything I could do to make meals taste like meat without meat.  Then, after about 2 years of being successful, but running out of steam, I decided to do a better job at looking at the vegetarian dishes I was going to cook next.

So I have recipe’s for vegetarian stroganoff, and all kinds of nifty tofu burgers made from scratch.  But my best, favorite, and easiest one is Portobello burgers.  And they are so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it before.  You will find they are a meaty textured alternative that is high in zinc, and very low in calories.

First, let me tell you, you can make these in a simple cast iron pan, a non-stick saute pan or even a grill pan.  I know how people feel about non-stick, but it’s easier and you can use no oil (if you are cutting calories)!  It’s up to you how you want to cook them.

So – here it is, the basics of it, and you can riff on it however you like!

Portobello Burgers
(serves 2)

2 large Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped with a damp paper towel and as dry as possible
salt to taste
pepper to taste
fresh herbs chopped finely (about 1 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil or neutral vegetable oil (optional)

Garnishes: (of course all the below are optional)
2 Burger buns or 4 slices of the bread of your choice
Cheese of your choice (I live goat cheese, and blue cheese is particularly good)
Lettuce or greens of your choice
Sliced tomato
sliced pickles
relish of any kind
Ketchup, mustard, mayo… anything you would use to dress a burger.

Make sure the mushrooms are as clean and dry as possible.  I come from the “never wash mushrooms under water EVER school” but of course, it’s up to you how to wash them.  The important point here is that they are very dry when you are ready to cook them.

Place 1 tbsp. of the oil in a skillet or rub your grill pan with the oil and heat it until hot.  If you are grilling the mushrooms, rub the oil on the mushrooms and let them sit for a few minutes.  Oil and season both sides of the mushrooms with salt and pepper and the herbs you have chosen, I find that thyme is great with mushrooms.  If you only have dry herbs, use them sparingly, they tend to be much stronger than fresh.  Place the mushrooms gills side down on the pan or grill.  If you used oil, they will flare a but, don’t worry.  If using the grill put them on the cooler side of it.  A high grill/pan temperature will only burn them, not cook them through.  If you are using a skillet, do the same, gills side down first.  As they cook, you will see them render juice out, that is fine, and should happen.  After about 7 minutes, turn them over, lower your heat to medium and cook them an additional 5 – 8 minutes.  When you turn them gills side up, you can/should put the cheese in the cup that is formed, they will continue to cook and the cheese will melt.  When you turn over the mushrooms, avoid the temptation to press on them.  They will flatten naturally, but pressing them down will force the juice and flavor out and they will shrivel up and dry out.  This is not what you want, you want a juicy, well flavored mushroom.

After another 5 – 8 minutes, you will notice they flatten out a bit and become thinner.  At this point they are cooked.  Remove them and place them immediately on the bread you are using.  Let them rest for a minute or two.  Then, have fun dressing them!!

I have made these many times, and I recommend the grill cooking, because it adds a great charred flavor to the taste.

Enjoy, and let me know how these turn out and what twists you use!

Late nights and what I want to do in them

Well, I am unemployed, newly married (almost a year to Tim) and looking for ways to get a job and get back into my cooking as a regular thing. Anyone else out there in the same boat? I have heard of people that are taking their awake at night times and cooking in them. Coming from a mother that would redecorate the house as we slept, I am thinking that might be a great idea!

Tim and I won’t be having kids, but we have lots of nieces and nephews in NY and MI who we rarely see. I want to pass along the family cooking traditions, as well as my personal food obsession, on to them. My husbands mother was a really big cook, and we have her old recipes in books and card files waiting to be explored. My tastes run more towards fine food, Tim’s mom’s cooking ran more towards Americana cooking. I’d like this blog to come down somewhere in between. I don’t expect it to be well read, but it would be great to have people come up and comment, and perhaps share their food memories, and their special techniques or recipes.

SO! Lets start with something simple, but so delicious, and redolent with childhood memories!

When I was a small child, and was sick, my mom, who was born and raised in Ireland, used to make me what we called “egg in a cup”. I was the only one of her 4 children that would eat eggs, or anything out of the ordinary for that matter, so I loved the little tea mug full of soft cooked egg and buttered toast. Actually, some of my fondest memories were my Mom and I watching Upstairs Downstairs on “Masterpiece Theater” and eating pickled beets out of a jar. I was a foodie even as a kid! So – here we go with my childhood cup of love!

1 soft cooked egg (not poached, but that might work as well as long as the yolk is runny)
1 slice of white toast, buttered well and cut into batons
salt and pepper to taste

Place the buttered toast in a large tea or coffee mug that you have warmed with some hot water and dried thoroughly. Scoop the soft cooked egg into the mug and mash it together with the toast batons. Do this fairly quickly, since you want to retain the heat, but also to capture the runny yolks before they congeal and cool.

Add salt (essential for eggs) and pepper to your taste.

Serve to your sickly loved one, along with another mug of hot sugary tea!

More in a day or two… when I have the time. Perhaps next time, cooking with something other than white flour!