definitions Tag

I’ve mentioned before that Valerian gets an upset stomach from eating foods that have a lot of baking powder in them. I’d never heard of this reaction before we met; in fact I don’t think I had ever given any thought to the leavening agents I used. I first read up on the chemistry of baked goods to maintain marital harmony. But if you’re ever interested in working out your own recipes, it does help to have a basic understanding of kitchen science to get the best results.

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cseresznye paprikaAs ginger and soy sauce are to Asian cooking, paprika is to Hungarian cuisine. When I say “paprika”, you almost certainly imagine the spice. The truth is that paprika is much more then the red powder from the shelves of the supermarket.

In Hungarian, the word “paprika” means both the spice and the pepper itself. Peppers are a very important cooking ingredient. They are plenty of variations, different shapes and sizes and levels of hotness. Each of these peppers has a precise role in the kitchen. We eat them raw with bread and butter, we sauté them, fill and bake them, pickle them, roast them, barbecue them but most importantly just eat them in huge quantities. And that was true even before Albert Szent-Györgyi won a Nobel Prize for isolating vitamin C from the Hungarian pepper.

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I remember once, back when Valerian and I first met about ten years ago, we saw a crowd of people gathered in front of a shop, and he exclaimed “oh, they must have bananas!” When I stopped laughing, I asked him what he meant and he explained that under socialism, if word got out that a store had bananas for sale, people would line up to try to get their hands on this rare and exotic commodity.

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I feel like this article has to be written. I am very disappointed when a magazine like Cook’s Illustrated makes a goulash recipe and it turns out to be something else. I love Cook’s Illustrated and I forgive them. But let’s put things straight in the case of Hungarian gulyás. The biggest mistake people make is mixing up other Hungarian foods and calling them “goulash”. So what is gulyás, really?

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