Category Archives: mains

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon)

A quick and simple noodle dish with few ingredients, and, if you already have some egg noodles in your pantry, you just have to cook the pasta and assemble the dish.

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon) – serves 1

3-4 strips of crispy bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp of bacon fat, melted
1 serving of cooked egg noodles
1/4 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and combine the hot noodles with the melted bacon fat, then stir in the cottage cheese. (If your noodles have cooled, you can add the cottage cheese and warm them in the microwave just long enough to warm up the cottage cheese. You DON’T want to cook the cottage cheese.) Stir in the chopped bacon leaving some for garnish.

Season with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling the last of the bacon over the top.

I had the day off so I decided to make fresh egg noodles rather than cooking dried ones from my pantry.

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Re-post of Old Standbys

PICSPAM BELOW:

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to research/cook/post new recipes. So I dig out the tried and true recipes of the past. Pork is featured in some form in almost everything below, except for the chili.

Like pork crackling biscuits.

I use bacon fat instead of lard or butter for the lamination.

You don’t need to cross-hatch the top of the dough before cutting out the biscuits, but it does make them pretty.

Ham and bean (pinto) soup flavoured with bay leaves and thyme

Chili topped tostadas

Debrecener (Hungarian style pork) smoked sausages served over sauteed coleslaw flavoured with balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I just fry the sliced sausage rings and serve them with fried eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast.

Pizzas made with Greek flatbread

… or with my regular white bread/pizza dough. Half of the dough was used to make a 12 inch diameter pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza and the rest was shaped into buns for work lunches.

Nice fluffy crumb in the pizza crust

Underside of the buns – baked for 20 minutes at 400 deg F then basted with melted butter

AYCE Sushi at the Restaurant … again

PICSPAM BELOW:

I think it’s been about six months since I last went out for ‘all you can eat sushi’ at a nearby restaurant and I missed it. I enjoyed the dishes that I had on this visit, though, to be honest, I over ordered and ended up stuffed. I finished with a scoop each of mango and green tea ice cream which isn’t pictured below.

Rainbow sushi roll – inside out roll (fake crab leg, julienned cucumber and avocado) topped with alternating strips of avocado, red snapper and salmon

Nigiri … salmon, red snapper, shrimp and eel

and hand rolls (temaki). Fake crab leg and salmon

bbq’d eel and tempura shrimp

Salmon pizza

Chicken and beef skewers

Chicken and beef teriyaki

Pork cutlet (tonkatsu)

Spaghetti Squash … Various

I remember trying spaghetti squash at least five years ago and not being impressed. As I recall, I microwaved the squash and served it very simply with a marinara sauce on top. I thought it was watery and fairly bland. Not really a substitute for pasta, but it was part of my attempt to introduce new vegetables to my diet.

A few days ago, I went grocery shopping and decided to give spaghetti squash another try.

I stabbed the small, whole squash (<800 gm) with a paring knife and then par-cooked it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Then I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds, sprinkled it with some salt, and baked it, cut side down, at 375 deg Fahreheit for 30 minutes, until a fork inserted into the squash met little resistance.

After letting the squash cool, I used a fork to scrape out the flesh.

First impression: The resulting squash strands looked fine but there wasn’t a lot of them. A scant 3 cups, I’d estimate. Of course, I had picked the smallest squash on the pile ($1.49) so you have to take that into account.

Spaghetti Squash topped with jarred spaghetti sauce (sausage and pepper) – Tasty but still a bit watery. Possible solution is to drain the spaghetti squash strands a bit and make sure the spaghetti sauce is thicker. At least now I know it’s not JUST due to the cooking method ie. microwaving.

Spaghetti Squash topped with cheese, sour cream and chili con carne with beans – After hand squeezing the remaining half of the squash, about 1/4 cup of liquid was expelled. The resulting dish was much less watery than the previous serving with meat sauce.

Baked squash seeds for snacking

The seeds were picked free of the surrounding squash flesh, rinsed and simmered for 10 minutes in salted water. I used paper towels to get most of the water off the seeds, placed them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and drizzled them with a bit of canola oil and sprinkled them with fine sea salt and a shake of paprika. Then the seeds were baked at 350 deg Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, turning them over after 5 minutes, to ensure as even baking as possible.

Early October Wrap Up

I haven’t had a lot of inspiration for cooking in the last couple of weeks, and I’m just getting over a bad cold. A woman’s got to eat, however. Luckily, I threw a few things together before it got too bad.

I used the same basic dough recipe that I made those pumpkin and kaiser-shaped rolls with, but I left out the ground oats and threw in an egg and 1/4 cup of sugar. About 1/3 of the dough (300 gm) was rolled out and cut into six strips to wrap around Jumbo hot dogs … for pigs in blankets.

NOTE: Shaping and baking instructions found at link above.

I was going to make caramel rolls with some of the remaining dough but it turned out I didn’t have any caramel sauce in the fridge (just fudge sauce). So I got creative with the leftover cranberry sauce in my fridge and some quince jam from the pantry.

  

I transferred some of the cranberry sauce onto the quince jam portion, cause there was just too much sauce to roll up without it all oozing out. Originally, I was going to make two distinct fillings.

Icing sugar, softened butter and milk glaze

Close-up of crumb inside the rolls

Pantry chili with veggies from the crisper drawer and canned small red kidney beans and diced tomatoes (with herbs and spices). Served over or with those piggy buns.

   

Pasta is always a quick meal like this Shrimp aglio e olio over leftover linguine.  Sometimes finely minced garlic sauteed in olive oil is all you need to dress your pasta. And a sprinkle of pepperoncini (dry hot red pepper flakes). Cooking the pasta takes longer than cooking the shrimp and making the sauce.

Brunch – I love fried eggs over easy and bacon. For breakfast, lunch OR dinner. And some sort of dairy … like cottage cheese, or cream cheese if I can’t get that. Sometimes I pile it on top of toasted home made bread.

  

Red pepper hummus with home made sourdough tortillas for a quick snack or part of brunch

There’s still the weekend left for more cooking, but I think I’ll wrap things up here.

It’s Turkey Time Again … Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving, 2017!

 

And, of course, dessert … cream puffs. I didn’t bother with any icing sugar etc. Just dived in.

PS: I made cranberry sauce but forgot to serve it with the meal. I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the rest of it later.

Turkey is something that I only cook a couple of times a year. Not because I don’t like it but because I buy a frozen 12-14 lb turkey, when it’s on sale, and for a single person, using up leftovers is even more challenging than for small families since I have to cook it all at once.

Turkey thawed and ready for butchering

Spatch-cocking is a good way to cut down on uneven turkey roasting. And removing the legs means when the breast is done, you can take it out of the oven, cover with foil and continue roasting the legs until they’re done.

Turkey Breast – nice and moist, 2 hrs at 350 deg F

Drumsticks

Turkey Thighs – skinned, de-boned, cut into big chunks and ground up in a food processor while still slightly frozen … or at least chilly

Turkey Tacos – Half a diced onion was sauteed in oil and/or schmaltz (chicken fat), then the ground turkey meat (~710 gm) was added and cooked until no longer pink. I added 1 tbsp of taco seasoning for every 454 g of meat and cooked it all for a few more minutes. The cooked meat mixture can be used for taco bowls or lettuce wraps.

Tocană or What’s in a Name?

I remember my mom making a lot of stews when I was growing up because she could use ‘filler’ vegetables, especially potatoes, to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a hungry family of four, with lots of leftovers. Tocană was the word she used instead of stew, however, because, like many immigrants, she interspersed her English with a lot of Romanian words. I was never quite sure what they meant, and, sadly, didn’t always ask, but I managed to figure out the meaning of most of the words, in the context in which they were used.

PS: ‘Zamaă (zeamă)‘ was another tricky Romanian word, which meant ‘soup’, but seemed stew-like to me. Amusingly, in later years, the word ‘soupă’ became part of our family lexicon. And then there were ‘ciorbă’ and ‘bors’ which are types of soups. I may go into that in a future post.

When my brother married a Canadian-born Hungarian girl, she brought other food words into our conversations. Some were very familiar. Like ‘tokány’ which was similar enough to the Romanian word for a stew. But ‘porkolt‘ also refers to a stew. As does ‘paprikash’.

Porkolt, paprikash, and tokany … makes your head spin, doesn’t it? And then there’s ‘goulash’ which can be a soup OR a stew. But I won’t get into that in this post.

Romanian cooking terms almost seem easy in comparison. At least to me, they do.

Romanian pork stew with cornmeal mush and a fried egg

In my recent internet searches, I’ve learned that tocană ‘usually’ refers to a mutton/lamb stew. But my mom has never liked mutton so her tocană was usually made with pork, which seems to be the go-to Romanian meat. Beef was very rarely served at our house as it was not something my mom was that comfortable cooking, to be honest. (You do NOT want to know how she cooked a frozen t-bone steak.)

Anyway, getting back to the tocană, I debated on making a chicken (pui/gaina refering to a chicken/hen) or even a mushroom stew, but I settled for what I felt most comfortable cooking … a pork stew or ‘tocană cu carne de porc’.

One final language aside. Tocană is what you get in a restaurant. Tocăniță (the diminutive form, like saying ‘little tocană’)  is what your mom makes at home … with love.

Romanian pork stew with mashed potatoes

Tocăniță cu carne de porc (Romanian Pork Stew) – serves 3-4

600 gm pork, neck preferred but a boneless pork loin* works as well
2 tbsp finely diced pork fat or vegetable oil
1 large onion, small dice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, small dice**
1/2 medium sweet pepper (red, yellow or orange), small dice**
1/2 cup chicken stock or water, more water as needed
1 tbsp sweet pepper paste or 1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste or harissa or gochujang
1/2 teaspoon dried summer savoury or thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, to start
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Optional: 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

* As my pork loin was pretty lean, I added about 2 tbsp of finely chopped pork fat trimmed from a pork shoulder, after I had seared it for red chile pulled pork

** This dish was often made in the winter when fresh vegetables weren’t available. Frugal housewives would dry and coarsely grind up various vegetables and use them in their soups and stews. If you have access to a dry vegetable soup mix, use 1-2 tsp, I used the carrots and sweet peppers instead.

Cut up the pork meat into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.

In a dutch oven, over medium-high heat, render the fat and use it to fry the pork, for about 10 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the meat to a bowl and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook until it softens, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sweet peppers and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the thyme, sweet pepper paste and the hot pepper paste and stir into the vegetables. Cook for another minute or so to cook the ‘raw’ taste out of the spices and liven up the herbs.

Add the chicken stock and use it to scrape up the fond (browned bits of flavour) on the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the browned pork, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Your meat and vegetables should be just barely covered by liquid. If needed add up to a cup of water, cover with the lid and cook for about 30 minutes at medium heat. Check the meat for tenderness. It should fall apart and the mixture should not be dry but there should be a ‘sauce’ surrounding the meat and vegetables. If needed add some more water and continue cooking the pork with the lid on.

If using potatoes, add the cubed potatoes at this point, another cup of water or as needed to cover the potatoes, and about 1/2 tsp more salt, put the lid back on and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If you like a bit more heat, add more hot pepper paste.

When ready, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over the top of the stew.

Serve with cornmeal mush/polenta or mashed potatoes (mamaligă sau piure de cartofi) if not using potatoes in the stew. Slices of a crusty bread are a tasty accompaniment to sop up any extra juices.

For a one bowl meal, stir diced boiled potatoes into your finished pork stew. This gives you the option of serving the stew itself in various ways and stew without the potatoes freeze better as the thawed potatoes don’t get too mealy.

Sour Cream White Bread and Spaghetti Sauce

I wanted to make a white sandwich bread and picked this sour cream white bread recipe found on “The Spruce” web site for something that was a bit different.

Sour cream replaces the egg, milk and butter found in many enriched bread recipes. The resulting bread was nice and fluffy and tasted great either served as an accompaniment to a bowl of pasta or with jam as a snack.

The bread is meant to be baked in a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan but the amount of dough I had (820 gm) seemed a bit excessive to me, so I made four (54 gm) buns with part of it. I didn’t bother using the egg white glaze suggested to give the loaf a glossy finish, though I did brush melted butter on the buns.

The dough rose beautifully during the bulk proofing in the oven with the light on, taking only one hour, and though my loaf shaping was a bit lacking, the final proofing took only 45 minutes and baked up golden brown. For some reason, I decided to slash the top of the loaf before baking but, obviously, I didn’t put my heart into the matter as the cut turned out pretty anemic.

 

 

The loaf pan was oiled and lined with a small sheet of parchment paper which made removing the finished loaf a breeze.

I didn’t want my buns to round up too much during proofing so I pressed them down after 15 min, as in my earlier hamburger buns, and let them continue proofing for another 30 minutes. I found the oven spring a bit disappointing though the crumb was nice.

While my bread was proofing, I made a quick batch of spaghetti sauce with a couple of 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (with herbs and spices) and 4 hot Italian sausages. I doctored the sauce with some additional dried Italian herbs and hot pepper flakes and served them over ditali pasta. There was enough sauce for 2 two serving containers to be tucked away in the freezer for later. All in all, a very successful cooking day.

Home Made Sushi featuring a Volcano Roll and a Red Dragon (sort of) Roll

I get periodic sushi cravings and try to shop appropriately for making it at home cause I’m trying to be financially responsible when it’s a choice between a tank of gas (or getting my grass cut) and going out for sushi.

I had bought an avocado a week (or more) ago, and I had a package of tempura shrimp in the freezer. I was going to make tempura shrimp onigiri, but … plans change.

I had good quality salmon in my freezer and decided to risk raw salmon rolls. When I cut into my avocado it was bruised and yucky. I couldn’t save any of it so it went into the garbage. Luckily, I bought a mesh bag of little avocados a few day ago so I cut into the ripest looking of the bunch.

After making four pretty boring regular rolls on Saturday: spicy raw salmon, spicy tempura shrimp, tamago (sweet omelet) and avocado, and baked teriyaki salmon and avocado, I challenged myself with two specialty rolls on Sunday.

Volcano Roll  – There are different kinds of volcano rolls depending on where you go. Classically, julienned cucumber sticks and cream cheese fill the rolls. Then, they’re sliced and topped with a mixture of mayonnaise, Sriracha and some sort of seafood. (I’ve had shredded fake crab legs but you can use diced raw shrimp, salmon and scallops, alone or in combination.) The topped rolls are placed in a toaster oven, or put under the broiler in your regular oven, until the topping is hot and bubbly and browned and the raw seafood is cooked. I’ve read that shrimp may take a bit longer to cook so you can partially saute them before adding them to the mixture. Or just use cooked and thawed shrimp.

Since I didn’t have any cream cheese and I don’t care for cucumber, I was going to use sliced avocado in my volcano roll filling. But I got distracted and used the strips of raw salmon that I was going to use in the red dragon roll. You can also use roasted asparagus, sweet potato or yam.

I didn’t have any fresh green onion to garnish with so I topped the roll with frozen sliced green onion before baking. A bit wilted but they gave the volcano rolls a nice look.

Red Dragon Roll – This is a roll within a roll. The red dragon roll I’ve had at my favourite sushi restaurant is an inside out roll filled with tempura shrimp, sliced avocado and julienned cucumber. Thin slices of raw salmon are overlapped over the top. The green dragon roll is covered with overlapping thin slices of avocado. There’s a rainbow roll which has alternating bands of salmon, sea bass (or white tuna) and avocado. The latter is my favourite but I didn’t have a second kind of raw fish so I stuck to the salmon. The filling was just sliced avocado.

 

Cover the roll with a sheet of plastic wrap and use your sushi rolling mat to press down and firm up the salmon covering.

Leave the plastic wrap on the roll and cut through it so you don’t mess up the salmon layer. Then, garnish with black sesame seeds or nigella seeds and volcano sauce (mayonnaise and Sriracha).

Old and New Meals, Again

Nothing too exciting happening in the kitchen. I made an attempt at a type of hand shaped pasta, called strascinati rigati, using a sushi rolling mat, but the results were a bit disappointing. Next time, I’d roll the pasta much thinner and cut smaller pieces for shaping. I’d also cook them fresh rather than drying them. Taste wise … well, it’s pasta with a home made marinara sauce. Tasty but nothing to write home about.

The pasta on the left was made only with all purpose flour while the pasta on the right used half fine ground semolina flour as well.

Once again, the freezer is providing the start of some great meals … leftover pork ribs (remember that blueberry bbq sauce) with purchased hash brown patties.

And pulled pork sandwiches with roasted potato wedges.

I had a sirloin steak in the freezer so I thawed it out, seared it in a cast iron frying pan and served it rare. Simple but delicious with mashed potatoes, carrots and salad. There was enough steak leftover for a steak sandwich too.

I had a bit of a chocolate craving so I whipped up some blender chocolate mousse/pot de creme, flavoured with orange liqueur (Cointreau), to pour into a couple of prebaked pastry shells from the freezer. I had visions of something like a chocolate cream pie but since the shells had shrunk so much, not much of the mousse fit into the shells. So, I poured most of the mousse into a couple of ramekins and topped them with a dollop of whipped cream.

I should have let the pies set a bit longer before cutting into them but I couldn’t wait. (Sorry for the poor lighting in the first picture.)