...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Carnival of the Recipes is up!

Lots of yummy meals, very summery (after all, it is July): still time to go and grab ingredients for any of them. Check out this week's Carnival of the Recipes at Feisty Repartee (she, by the way, recently encountered my favorite-ever LUSH Cosmetics, and, totally understandable, heartily endorses their aptly-named Silky Underwear body powder. Whee! I see another post coming up about nicely-smelling things soon!)

Weekly Update From the Garden

We actually had RAIN this week. Woot! I mean, like, the soil got wet and stuff...and for at least an hour, I am sure, we were under 90 degrees...How exciting...
Yes, this is Texas in the summer. Lawn is almost totally asleep (although aforementioned rain wake it up a bit). After experimenting with various specimen of shrubs and trees, The Husband made the realization that ''full sun'' labels on plants in Texas mean ''almost total shade''. Heh. More planting this fall. My tomatoes are still trying to produce. Amazing. The peppers are all waking up, taking a deep breath as if to say: ""Well, hello, scorching heat of the South, I LOOOOVE you so!'' The habanero pepper grew more in the past month than the sum total of all growth since April, and the rest of the peppers are all in flower. Weird, this dichotomy between tomatoes and peppers...but I cannot complain, we had loads of tomatoes this year, and the peppers will see us though until a second crop of them can be planted for the fall season. Yum, cherry tomatoes.
In my herb garden, the lavenders continue to flower and grow, and so are the citrosa geraniums(actually, these latter ones are rather huge and healthy). This year's basil plants are smaller than last year's enormous monsters (SIX freezer bags forth of basil leaves from two plants), but fragrant and healthy. Must pinch one of them this weekend while leaving the other in flower so it reseeds; maybe I''ll have volunteer basils next year 9unlikely, but hey, one can always try). The oregano totally overgrew the container it was originally planted, so much so that unless I tell you you wil not know it's sitting in a terracotta window box. Yay.
The two climbing roses are flowering again, although with less abundance than in the spring when they were completely covered with flowers, and they developed new shoots too. Gotta train the new canes up. The rest of the roses are hanging on, although the ones we planted this year are not doing very well, despite the recent round of fertilizing. Note to self: round of foliar feeding this weekend.

Will put up some pictures this evening from home to illustrate: until then: happy gardening!

My two

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This Week's Hungarian Delicacy...

I am somewhat behind with writing this up, so without further ado, I give you:
Hungarian Turos Csusza (Cottage Cheese Pasta)--not for the faint-hearted

You will need:
1 package lasagna noodles (or homemade pasta--recipe follows below)
1/2 package thick sliced bacon (slab bacon or real Hungarian bacon is the best if you can get it, if not, just use non-sugar added grocery store bacon), chopped
24 oz. small curd cottage cheese
24 oz. sour cream
salt and paprika to taste

To prepare:
1. Break lasagna noodles into squares; prepare according to package directions; rinse.
2. While noodles are cooking, place chopped bacon in a frying pan and render the fat until bacon turns into rinds. Set aside.
3. In mixing bowl, mix sour cream and cottage cheese well, add salt to taste.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
4. Assemble csusza:, in 13x9 lasagna pan mix noodles, cottage cheese mix and 2/3 of the bacon plus fat (yes, fat). Sprinkle top with remaining bacon and fat plus paprika.
5. Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes or untilk top starts to brown and bottom is bubbling happily.
Serve with additional sour cream dollops on top.
Did I mention this is my favorite dish ever?

If you are in the mood for homemade pasta, this is what you do:
4 eggs
3 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 cup water
Mix all on pasta board; let rest for 20 minutes; divide into 4 parts; roll out until very thin (either by hand using rolling pin, or using the thinnest setting on your pasta machine)
let it sit for 10 minutes and tear it into irregular shaped (fairly rectangular) pieces about 2 inches long and wide. Fresh pasta only needs about 2 minutes cooking time, so adjust preparation of other ingredients accordingly.


Monday, July 25, 2005


Let me just say this: watching two men preparing home brewed beer in a kitchen on Sunday afternoon is totally fascinating. Partially because it was not done in my kitchen...:-) but mostly because the whole process of homebrewing is really neat. Almost like canning; and since my cooking magazine's latest issue contains some homemade jam recipes in SMALL quantities (memories of both of my grandma's summer kitchens loom, with cans lining the counter row upon row in raspberry, plum or apricot season), I might attempt to make some apricot jam or spicy peach, since it's season anyway...Gotta get me some jars...

Thursday, July 21, 2005


One of these days I will remember taking my digicam with me when we zip out to celebrate something with sushi...
Last night we had a dinner to celebrate my annual bonus check, at our favorite sushi place called Hanasho in Irving. They have the best eel I've ever had. M-m-m...unagi...

Back to the grindwheel...but yay, sushi goodness!


Monday, July 18, 2005

Hungarian Cold Sour Cherry Soup

Okay: it's STILL hot in Texas (what's new?), I am STILL hesitant to spend more time next to the oven than necessary, and The Husband and The Lizard Queen kept bugging me about this soup, so Sunday night I finally made it the first time in the US...now that we discovered that the local Kroger stocks real canned sour cherry in the International section.

You will need:

1 24 oz. glass jar of sour cherries, already stemmed and pitted, drained. You can use the light syrup as a cold fruit drink, it's traditional
6 cups of water (by the way, if in a hard water area like us, do everyone in your family a favor and invest in either a BRITA pitcher or a filter on your kitchen tap. The results of using filtered water for coffee, soups and just plain ol' drinking water are rather dramatic...)
2 tablespoons of sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. of real lemon juice (or more if you prefer it more sour)
4-5 cloves
1 piece of cinnamon (about 2-inches long, or 1 tsp. ground. Traditionally it is the Ceylon variety that is used in Eastern Europe, I am not sure how Korintje would taste..or even Vietnamese..hmmm. I'd expect you'd need less lemon as those are somewhat more lemony in their middle tones)
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 heaping tablespoon of flour (unbleached is just fine)

1. Place cinnamon and cloves into 1 cup of water and prepare a spice reduction by cooking over gentle heat (just boiling) for about 8-10 minutes. Strain, reserve water in a larger pot.
2. Add remaining water, sour cherries, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes or until cherries are just tender.
3. Mix half pint of the cream, the sour cream and the flour in a small bowl. Ladle some of the hot cherry liquid into it, mix well until smooth and pour back to soup while it is off the heat source. Mix fast and well until smooth.
4. Return to heat and cook JUST until it starts to thicken a bit, about 2 minutes. Stir continuously to avoid curdling. Taste and season, if needed with more lemon or sugar.
5. Pull off heat and cool first in a cool place in your kitchen then in fridge or freezer until totally cold.
6. Whip the remaining cream until stiff: serve soup with dollops of whipped cream and some sprinkles of cinnamon if desired.

VARIATIONS: This same recipe can be used also with strawberries, peaches or with raspberries and blackberries in a 1:1 ratio. In these variations, you can puree some of the fruit after cooking to intensify the flavor.



As usual, it wasn't long enough, but we managed to accomplish fun things in life, which lately became one of my main goals.
1. Friday night with The Lizard Queen Miss Vilya and The Marmot went and saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp who I think is a sadly underestimated actor and is clearly gets better every time I see him. We had a great time, and the soundtrack of this movie is definitely worth owning: it has actual Danny Elfman-sung-Danny Elfman songs!
2. Saturday we had seen old friends (old friends for my husband from the UD days, that is) at our semi-regular koffeeklatsch in Farmers Branch...had a great time just to sit in the kitchen and catch up on family matters, current events, literature and even the origins of firefighters and property insurance...
3. Saturday afternoon The LQ and I went out and got our respective copies of Harry Potter's latest installment, and by Sunday evening we both finished (she was done earlier than I was actually). Don't ask me about it yet, still percolating. All I can say right now, I am amazed how some can say this is an un-Christian book.
4. Sunday we went over to a friend''s home to assist in a beer-brewing project. Well, that is, The Husband assisted, i was reading harry Potter and occassionally looked up smiling and said: ''Well done, well done, guys...um...can I have more coffee please?" Oh yes, some time later there was hamburger and hot dogs off the grill, too...
5. Sunday night I finally made my famous Cold Sour Cherry Soup. Stay tuned for the recipe of this one, I am still debating whether I shall pull and Old Martial Arts Master's Trick and leave out/mislist some ingredients so no one can reciprocate it perfectly...

As a results of all this, I am slightly dazed this Monday, and as The Husband was up until almost three AM working on two, read TWO Carnivals over at Boxing Alcibiades, we have "NAPTIME " written all over our calendars from 530 tonight until he needs to go to savate practice...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Last Night's Simple Pasta con Pesto

It is hot in Texas these weeks, as a rule, over 95 degrees plus humidity (which means real-feel temperatures by the time I get home from work are around a hundred), with the occassional thundertstorm popping up in the afternoons--never over our house, alas...::sigh::
So, naturally, I am not in the mood for long and involved slaving in the kitchen. But since hunger is a powerful motivator, I decided to rummage around last night and see what I could make... and it hit me while I was already deciding on the old standby "something pastalike"--hey, I haven't made fresh pesto this summer yet...and The Husband is quite fond of it. The fact that I did not have pine nuts that the original purist recipe requires never hindered me: I do not have an Italian deli nearby where I can get relatively cheap pine nuts, and the local grocery stores although stock it, charge a fortune of a tiny little jar. So. Here's my version: adjust amount of ingredients as necessary.

Anna's Pasta Con Pesto:

1 pkg. spaghetti
2 cups fresh basil leaves (I have two plants growing in my herb garden every year religiously, so it's easy for me to say, but imho nothing beats the aroma of fresh basil)
3-4 cloves of garlic (you can NEVER have too much garlic)
1/2-2/3 cup of olive oil, preferably extra virgin (more if needed)
1/2 to 1 cup of walnuts, lightly toasted (I just toss it into a pan and shake and stir over medium heat until lightly fragrant)
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated parmeggiano cheese (trust me, it needs to be freshly grated... after one sad incident, I am willing to pay extra and get a chunck of the real stuff every time as opposed to the shaken-from-the-can variety ::shudder::)

Boil water in large pot; make this a lot of water.
Just before it boils, salt the water; otherwise you'll end up with tasteless strands of starch
When it is at a rolling boil, add 1 tsp of olive oil and stir-this prevents said tasteless strands of starch to stick together into a sad lump
Add pasta, STIR once, and cook, without lid on pot, for about 10 minutes.
While it cooks, prepare the pesto.

Put olive oil, basil leaves, garlic cloves, and nuts into food processor and process until only slighlty chunky. This may require some stops and scraping the processor down. taste and adjust if necessary by adding more olive oil, and salt and pepper. When done, spoon it in a bowl and set aside; grate the cheese.

Now turn to your stove; check your clock.
Taste pasta after 10 minutes, and if it's JUST a tad hard, it's ready.
Now the trick: switch off the heat and pour in 1 cup of COLD water to stop the cooking process: this is the ''scare the pasta'' part. :-)
Pour into colander, rinse SHORTLY with WARM water, pour back to pot, add some olive oil & freshly grated black pepper to pot, stir, and yell: DINNER! (banging of pot is allowed)
By the time everyone is in the kitchen, have spoons in the pesto and the grated parmeggiano, next to the pot of pasta, and line up with pasta bowls by the counter.
Tell everyone to really stir the stuff together as pesto tends to stick to bottom of pasta bowls.



Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another Book Recommendation

Since my birthday resulted in a veritable rain of books gifted by The Husband ::happy dance:: I am reading a LOT of fiction lately. All the books I got were hitherto unknown to me, and of the science-fiction genre; so far I enjoyed most of them.
The one I finished last week was The Skinner by Neal Asher. You know, this new generation of British sci-fi writers is truly gifted. This one is touted on the cover as: 'Dune meets Master and Commander' and it actually meets that description pretty good. Without giving out much of the storyline: imagine a planet, mostly covered by oceans where every living organism is literally the food of others, and besides that, a bite of some of these critters can grant immortality to humans. As if, you do not die. You suffer, you get hurt, mutilated, eviscerated alive, skinned, thrown to vicious sea creatures as food...but you do not die. Hence the natives of this planet has a peculiar social structure, some really weird social customs, and some really dark secrets. Throw in a long-ago alien invasion, an undead cop not willing to die until he finishes his last assignment, a relatively young immortal woman who is looking for the meaning of her immortality, a bunch of 700+ year old sea captains and a hive mind of Earth's wasps with its own agenda... I think we all could enjoy this one despite some of the really violent parts, which, I must warn you, are NOT very nice. However, at the end, the adventure eventually comes to a very satisfying ending.
I hear there is an actual prequel to this, where the world of the planet Spatterjay is first introduced; I shall eventually take a look at that one too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Walnut-Crusted Baked Chicken

It's summer, so I am using more chicken recipes than otherwise...This got absolutely rave reviews from those who had it last Saturday. Please note that the ingredients are approximated values only, you can experiment with more or less depending on how much chicken do you have. This amount will cover about 8 pieces.

You will need:
8 pieces of chicken (thighs or breast) patted dry
1 cup breadcrumbs (I actually grated my own from crusty foccaccia bread, but you can use storebought just fine)
1 cup ground walnut/ or pecan
1/2 cup grated parmeggiano cheese
oil, salt and pepper to taste

Rub chicken with salt and pepper. Mix breadcrumbs, nuts and cheese in medium bowl, pour it on a tray or piece of wax paper.
Line baking sheet with foil, rub with oil. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Coat chicken pieces in crumb mixture until well coated. Pat excess off.
Place chicken pieces on lined, oiled baking sheet in one layer. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 F and juice runs clear when checked with toothpick.
Serve with sauteed vegetables or just a big bowl of salad.