Sunday, August 30, 2015

Töltött káposzta - Hungarian cabbage rolls

This is a GEM. IMHO the best Hungarian food after the meat soup.
If you can bare the smell of cooking sour cabbage (cabbage in general) in your house, at the end you'll have a gorgeous meal.

It is the kids' and hubby's favorite, so the quantities below are according to their appetite, if you wanna save some time cut the portions in half.

Ingredients (it yields about 80 pieces)
1 portion of the three Costco organic ground beef, approx. 1.2 pounds, or 50-50 pork-beef
round small grain rice, same amount as the meat, eg. for 1 pound meet 1 pound rice
salt, black pepper
1 large onion (medium US size is enough, large here is about the size of my head :D)
2-3 tbsp oil (if you use only beef, you need a bit more oil because the meat is dry)
2 generous pinch of savory (summer savory) / pound of meat, csomord or borsikafu in Hungarian.
4 branches of dill / pound of meat
powder paprika
1 tbsp minced red pepper
(whole, linked my favorite I found here in North Park Produce)
1 tbsp minced red pepper, store bought or prepare your own. If you use store bought don't forget that it is salted!

1 bottle of sour cabbage leaves / 0.5 pound of meat, so I needed 2 bottles 
You will need a 4-5 quart pot for the HALF portion, for the full portion I'd recommend a 7-8 quart pot.

Optionally you can add smoked and air dried pork ribs at the bottom of the pot.

Here comes the first, not so funny part. Remove all the leaves from the bottles, carefully flatten them out in your palm and remove the thick vein from the middle. Tear the leaves in two or four, depending in their size, by pulling them from the top

Chop the onions in small pieces, saute them in the oil. When light brown remove from the heat, and mix in 1 tsp red paprika powder.
Rinse the rice until the water is clear, drain completely. Add the meat, sauteed onion, salt, black pepper, minced red pepper, sprinkle a small pinch of savory. Mix until the ingredients are homogeneously mixed.
Fill small, about walnut size pieces of filling into each cabbage leave pre-shaped into cone, close the thicker end with the overhanging leave piece.
While filling the leaves, throw the ripped ones to the bottom of the pot, to cover the whole area. Add the smoked ribs for extra flavor and calories :).
Place the cabbage rolls tight in circle in the pot and cover the top with some leftover leaves..
Place the dill branches on top of the rolls. 
Place a smaller lid to keep the cabbages sank all the time under water. That's how I learned from my grandma, and that's how I'll do it for ever :).

Fill with water until the lit is covered with water, throw some extra savory and pinch of salt or any of the spices added to the filling.
Cook at low heat, with the water barely bubbling, for about 2 hours.
Serve with sour cream and fresh bread.. Preferably home made! Yuheee!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tomato-basil salmon

The not so good side of the Costco fish is the LAAAAARGE amount, but only when you can't eat it at once.
Which was the case of the creamy salmon prepped Finnish style..
It is a food that you can eat once, maybe have some of the leftovers next if you have a lazy wife like myself to cook something new again, but honestly, no matter how good it tastes it's kinda enough once, and half a package of the Costco salmon is more than enough.
Soo, I had another 1.5 pound of salmon piece left in my fridge, and was looking for some new way to prep it. A way that was VERY different in taste to avoid complaints..
My little gray cells were heavily working and suddenly I remembered eating tomato/basil topped salmon at a friend's house..

Ingredients (serving 4)
1.5 pounds salmon
2-4 garlic cloves
3-5 tbsp oil
salt, black pepper
10-15 basil leaves, chopped (hae some extra to garnish)
1 package of Italian penne, from Costco, obviously (I swear they don't pay me :D)
1 can of organic tomato paste or crushed tomatoes (from Costco, yeeah :) ). Better if you prepare the tomato sauce from scratch, but... honestly... for a school lunch do I want to prepare the tomato sauce myself????

Start boiling the pasta according to the directions from the package.
Meanwhile hop the garlic very finely.
In a deeper frying pen add the oil and fry the garlic, until light golden brown. Add the salmon and fry each side for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish, sprinkling some salt on each side . When it whitened on the outside, you can brake it into smaller pieces to speed up the frying. Don't over-fry, it will be too dry.
Now get that pasta off the stove and drain it! :) By now it is probably ready.

Sprinkle some pepper on the salmon, add the tomato sauce and boil it together for 3 minutes. Add the basil leaves, chopped into smaller pieces (the kids won't try to fish them out).

When the pasta is ready discard the water, and pour the salmon-tomato sauce on top, mixing lightly.
Serve while hot, garnish with extra basil leaves if preferred.
The good part is that due to the sourness of the tomato paste, this dish can be served cold as well..

I wasn't sure if the salmon or the view was better at my friend's place, nor how the salmon would taste without the view from my friend's place :), plus, she baked the salmon and topped it with the tomato-basil sauce, everything being made from scratch, but well, you cook with what you've got.. One thing for sure, I haven't got that view..
Yeah, you bet that picture is NOT of my salmon/tomato penne, it is the view I was staring at while eating..
My current view is more like piles of dirt and more piles of dirt, and some more piles of dirt.. *Sigh*
Luckily there are some chicken coops and poops to brake the monotony :D.

Nah, anyway, I hope I kept you entertained while your partner prepared this easy dish..
Bonn appetite!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kirjolohipasta - Salmon pasta

Om nom nom.. would one of my Finnish friends say :), but she is not here..
The boys however were, including my husband, and for some reason I am considered the sole provider of cooked food in the house in 90% of the cases..
Tell me about teaching own and future husbands how a modern household functions.. the right way.. *Sigh*...

I had some salmon in the fridge for sushi, but last thing I felt like doing was sushi, especially that the boys like the nigiri sushi, hubby wants the sushi rolls (California roll being one of the favorites), one and I'm not very effective in making any of them, so just didn't feel like making any.

Sooo... What else to make?
The fact that I bought two 3 pound (1.35 kg khhmm) sour creams kinda pushed me to cook a version of the salmon cream pasta I ate loooong time ago while visiting Muumimaailma, or Moomin world. Nice times :). 2004, just turned 30, broken knee, visiting parents, Finnish summer in Naantaali with the bright see and islands. Yayy..

Ingredients (besides the Finnish summer)
penne pasta for 4
1.5 pound fresh salmon (from Costco, again), grilled
0.5 pound ~250 gr cream
80 ml milk, 1/3 cup
1 tsp mustard
pinch salt
pinch black pepper
1-2 tbsp oil 

It has surely nothing to do with the original version as it was 11 years ago and I was lazy to look for a recipe, nor was it so thrilling as the one in Naantaali. But.. California is not a bad place to be as a compensation :), and the taste wasn't any worse than the original.
When I think if salmon three spices pop in my mind: black pepper, mustard and dill.
Not sure why I didn't want to try dill, but I immediately reached for the stone ground mustard that replaced the Dijon mustard's place in my heart. And fridge, for that matter :).

The best pasta to go with would be Costco's penne, however, this time I had a special one in my pantry: German tagliatelle egg pasta. what was so special? There wasn't anything else :D.

I used a table grill, sprinkled the salmon with little salt, wrapped it in foil, and grilled until cooked. The time will depend on how thick your fish is, but mine took about 15 minutes, turning half way.

So I went ahead and cooked 3/4 of the tagliatelle pasta bag (probably the whole bag if your family has a better appetite for pasta), al dente. I always add a tsp of oil when ready, to prevent them from sticking together.

Meanwhile mixed the sour cream with a pinch of salt, the tsp of mustard and lightened it up with the milk.

When the salmon was grilled, I sprinkled it lightly with the pinch pf coarsely ground black pepper.
Serve while the pasta is hot, and let the kids experiment with the proportions of pasta, salmon and dressing.
My older son LOVED the dressing, the youngest skipped the salmon altogether because he claimed he found some fishbone in it :(.
Pity, but he ate his pasta with spoonfuls of sour cream :), so he worked his way around.

Bone appetite!
Apologies for the boring pics but today I was kinda uninspired and tired in mids of planting my new veggie garden. Much more excited tho about my plants! Yay!!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wild mushroom terrine

Where should I start? I stumbled upon another favorite!!
Maybe I shell start with the fact that Costco sells very nice and fresh mushrooms.. :D
I can't wait for the Chanterelle mushroom season and the big trays sold by Costco, but meanwhile I had to settle with something easier to find.
Hubby got home a tray of Portobello mushrooms and they had to be used.
I usually make either mushroom paprikas (stew Hungarian style) or just saute them filled with feta, but I felt I want something different.

A friend bought me a cookbook for last Xmas and I remembered that it had some pretty easy and as such tempting looking French recipes. So, I opened The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachle Khoo and found in no time the recipe above.
It is baking in the oven, so very curious what the end result will be..

1 pound, 0.5 kg preferably mixed, wild mushroom
4 eggs
1 cream fresh (sour cream) 200 g, 1 cup
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots finely chopped   
1/2 tsp or less salt
1 pinch nutmeg ( I used smoked paprika powder as I didn't have nutmeg)
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
5-6 tbsp butter or oil for frying

Prepare two small 8 ounce (05. liter)  loaf pans lined with parchment paper.
Slice the mushroom if needed to have equal sized pieces. I cut the Portobello mushrooms in 4.
Heat a pan with the butter, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and shallots, and when the shallots start to brown, add and saute the mushrooms. I had to saute them in two batches.
Fry each side for about 5 minutes, all together ~10 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan, place them on a plate covered whit kitchen paper to get rid of the excess oil.

Beat the eggs, add the sour cream (cream fresh), pinch salt, nutmeg, and the chopped parsley.

Place the mushrooms in the pans and pour the egg-sour cream mixture in equal quantities to cover the mushrooms..
Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let it cool down slightly. Best serves till warm, about at room temperature.

You can remove the loafs from the pan or slice them in the pan.
Bonn appetite!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Burn treatment

NOTE!! Only light and small burnt surfaces should be treated with home remedies!!! If you have a larger area than 1-2 square inch, or a burn worse than 1st or 2nd grade, immediately see a doctor!!!

When I took the bacon out of the oven, slid it nicely to a plate, and then picked the pan to place it in the kitchen sink, I felt like screaming.
Not because of the pain, though I would've had every reason, but because I felt soo dumb.. I mean, how can you pick up a pan by the handle with BARE hands if it was just removed from a 450 F (250C) oven??

Right? Arrrgggg...
Now add to that the sad fact that there was no burn treating ointment at home except the spray, and I didn't have either the money, nor the willingness to go and get some gel from the pharmacy without knowing what the gel really has..

So, I did what every sensible person would do: cursed one loud and tawdry (trust me, the Hungarian language has some of the most sophisticated curse words :D ), dropped the pan to the wood floor (ouch, now we are both scarred) and rushed for a kitchen towel to get the pan safely in the sink.

Now when all the first seconds were over, it was time to think what to do with the burn. It was my second one for the day, but the other was small, on top of my hand, and I haven't considered it a threat to my everyday tasks, even though that was a 2nd grade burn, too.

Now this one, in my palm, about a 2 square inches, 2nd grade burn, was a threat.
I felt my skin shrinking and in pain, and imagined the blisters that would follow. Yuk!

I had a plan in my mind:
1) Stop the cells from burning by locally cooling them down.
2) Stop/prevent the forming of blisters, because that's gonna look ugly! to say the least.
3) Hydrate an nourish the skin locally to accelerate recovery.

And these were the result of my plans. On the right is my palm in the evening after being treated, with couple of burn zones and prevented blisters.

Untreated burn that I managed to collect earlier with an ugly blister ..
My friend insisted to get the burn spray, but having a degree in nursing tells you that the only thing you get by using it will be making the pain go away, as the spray contains lidocaine, which is an anesthetic. Now, I'm not the statue of bravery, but anesthetic is the last thing I needed. I wanted to cool my "boiling" cells down.

1) I ran over to the sink and let the water pour in my palm. Thanks to living in Poway, and having the pipes in out attic, the water was hot/warm, and didn't ease the burn.
So I ran to the fridge, and filled my palm with ice cubes and squeezed them. Though they say you shouldn't use too cold things, eg. ice, on the burnt surface, I had no choice as the water from the tap would've been too hot for the next couple of minutes..
The ice actually eased both the burning and pain simultaneously. Bingo!!
If you have proper COLD water running from your tap or fridge keep the burnt surface under running cold water.

2) One problem with cooling the burn with ice/water is, that it actually helps forming the blisters, so second step was to get some salt on it.
Yep, you heard right. Salt. It has both a antiseptic and dehydrating effect.. So I poured some salt on a kitchen paper and pressed down my palm..
Well, it was OK, but the burning feeling came back, I wanted both the salt and the coldness.
I picked a soft ice pack from the freezer, place the kitchen paper with the salt on top and pressed my palm against it..
Huhhh... That felt sooo good.... I kept it there for maybe 5 minutes...

3) Nourishing.. Pour some honey on the burnt surface, spread it evenly.
It will feel really good, I felt how the shrinking in the skin eases and feels much more comfortable.
But it wasn't cold, or moist enough. So I picked my natural yogurt from the fridge, spoon out a teaspoonful of yogurt and mixing it with the honey, lightly spread it in my palm.
When it warmed up too much, I wiped it off and spread another layer of honey-yogurt mix.

I probably repeated it 4 times at 30 minute intervals..
By the evening the skin looked a nice light pink, and almost no sign of burning.
Next days I was busy and had no time to further treat my burns, but this is how they looked in 5 days.

On the right the blister. Business as usual: burst, scar formed and I'm going to have a nice mark for the next year or two.

And on the left this is my palm, with barely visible burn Signs. The blisters never formed, and expept some dry feeling, it wasn't painful or anything after that

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Grilled trout

My Costco mania is getting a tiny bit out of hands, but what can one trout fan do if they sell the best trout on the market?
Coming from inland with small, cold rivers trout is one of the fish you get used to, and it has many benefits.
Number one, which is hard to look over with a family of five on a low budget: price.
Second: the mild taste, so even the pickier eaters are gonna make peace with it.
Third: I don't think one can really go wrong with it.
Fourth: no cleaning involved! Yeeee!!!
Fifth: lazy people without a grill, or without wanting to heat up a grill can easily make it in 20 minutes.

1 trout / person

rice or boiled potatoes

Wash the trout, rinse both inside and out, and cut the head off. If preferred cut the tail as well, I sometimes do as it fits better on my grill.
Sprinkle a little salt (I prefer the Himalayan pink salt from Sprouts) , maybe pepper (or pink pepper) in the inside of the trout.
Sprinkle additional salt on the outside skin as well. Do not add too much tough!
Wrap it in aluminum foil and throw it on the pre-heated table grill, and fry it at the highest temperature. Turn, and fry for additional 10 minutes.
Meanwhile boil some Basmati or Jasmin rice, they'll be ready in just about the same time.
While the rice is boiling and fish frying, you can also prepare a quick salad.
Serve with lemon slices, and optionally with some soy sauce.

I I were thinking ahead, as I wasn't, I'd have made my favorite salad to accompany this fish: "ecetes uborka", aka fresh cucumber in vinegar. Recipe next time.. :), now I settled for some fresh sliced cucumber and radish.

Bacon bomb

Uhh... I found a video of a guy making this beautiful bacon flower pan and I just couldn't resist.
Unfortunately bacon is one of the reasons I'm not a vegetarian yet, so this was a big temptation.

I made some mistake in the process, and learned what would make it better. In general it was an OK comfort meal, ut believe me, it was so HEAVY, and filling, that it won't be on our table often unless we get some teenagers over :).
Obviously I made it with Costco's golden potatoes, as they are so great for most potato meals with their rich yellow color and flavor.
I also used cheddar cheese, the shredded mild cheddar, but I think a sticky and less fatty mozzarella would be a better match. Next time...

2 pounds (1 kg) bacon
3 pounds gold potatoes
1 pound cheese -
salt, pepper to taste 

Peel and slice 3 pounds of golden potatoes. What I learned from making this dish is, that the potatoes should be sliced as thinly as possible or they'll never cook.In a pan arrange the bacon in a circle, preparing it like a crust :).

Do not start all slices from the middle, offset them with 0.5, even 1 inch, and start every 4th from the middle only or you'll end with a big bump in the middle..

Next arrange the potato sliced circular, with the larges slices on the outside and smaller ones in the middle.Not that it would really matter from the taste's point of view, it is just easier to arrange them.

You can sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the potatoes before adding the next layer of... cheeese!

Grate the cheese and sprinkle a thin even layer on top of the potatoes. I guess I little overdone this layer, it was pretty thick even after it melted :).
Next time thinner layer of cheese and probably one of mozzarella instead of cheddar.
Looks great though, like a sunflower :).

Repeat the layering twice or three times more, and finish with the cheese.
As you go towards the top, make the circles smaller, so it forms a kinda peak at the end.

Now comes the fun part, fold back all the bacon to nicely cover the potato/cheese mountain, and place it on a tray and the preheated in the oven for about 2.5 - 3 hours (yeah, right?).
The temperature can be anything between 400-430 F, 200-225C.
Takes time until it bakes together, so plan ahead if you wish to have this for dinner. Good part though, ones is in the oven there is nothing you should do. Except maybe pour the melted bacon fat out from the pan after about 2 hours, so that the bottom doesn't sit in it.
I ended up turning it at the end to broil the bacon on the bottom as well, 'cause bacon is heavenly if crisp only.

Optionally you can serve it with cold yogurt..
Bonn appetite!

Place a plate on top of the potato "cake", pour the fat by tilting it slightly, and with a decided move flip the cake onto the plate, than slid it slowly back in the pot.
Grab the handle with a SILICON glove!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Potato wedges

With young guests coming and going I am always looking for a crowd pleaser, but I try to avoid overdoing the preps.
With kids I had the most trouble, obviously, as many of them are unfortunately picky, and even if they eat home made food or veggies, they like the taste of home..

I have another reason to publish these very simple recipes. My only daughter won't enjoy my prepared meal, so I'll post some she can reproduce on her own :). Maybe I won't miss her so much by doing so :).

These potato wedges are soo simple, that in 50 minutes they were baked, eaten, and this blogpost was born :) (well, almost :)),  obviously not so artistic pictures, but you can't feed pre and teenagers with pics :D.

Gold potatoes or baking potatoes, about 2 large, or 3 smaller / person
oil for brushing
pink pepper (if you don't have at home I recommend buying some!, but you can use rosemary as well if you prefer or you can;t get pink pepper)

Greek or Strauss' European yogurt
sour cream, about 1/3 of the amount of the yogurt
1 larger green onion chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp mustard
salt, pepper
1 small cucumber, optional
shredded hard cheese, optional

Preheat the oven for 425-450 F, 225-250 C.
When it comes to potatoes, for this purpose I prefer Costco's Premium Gold Potatoes, those that are beautifully yellow when peeled. Unfortunately they don't sell consistent quality, but this batch I bought last was among the best ones!
Peal the potatoes, and depending on their size, and your preference, cut them into 4-6-8 slices. They don't have to be perfectly same. The smaller the crunchier, and a bit dryer, too.
Place them in a tray covered with parchment paper, brush them with oil, sprinkle salt to taste, and grind some pink peppers as well.

Bake on the higher rack in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, depends on the type of tomatoes you use and your oven.