Monday, April 13, 2009

From Hungary to Japan and Back to Germany - 4.13.09

Last week my cooking had a decidedly international flair. Let's start on our whirlwind tour:

Hungarian Goulash

First stop is Hungary for some goulash. There's nothing like slow-cooking some beef to make it nicely tender and full of flavor. Some of you may be familiar with a recipe involving some macaroni and ground beef, but this is a decidedly more sophisticated version. First you brown about a pound and a half of cubed beef in a pan, then remove it from the pan. Cook 3 chopped onions and 1 green bell pepper until they are softened, stirring in some garlic afterwards, followed by 2T tomato paste and 2T flour, cooking for another minute. Return the beef to the pot and add 1c beef stock, 1 bay leaf, 3T parsley, 1T paprika, 1t salt, and 1/4t pepper. Let the mixture cook on low heat for 2.5 hours. Remove the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes to thicken the sauce. Serve on top of egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream. The veggies and paprkia give this dish a slightly sweet nature to pair with the tomato-based sauce that makes the beef delicious. The sour cream serves to add some tang and a little richness to the sauce.

Hoisin-Glazed Scallops

Next, a quick and easy seafood dish with some Asian flavors. First you dry and season some large sea scallops, then sear them in a hot pan. After they are seared, remove them from the pan and brush with some hoisin. Wipe out the skillet and add a full bag of baby spinach, 3 sliced scallions and 1c chopped cilantro, cooking until wilted. After removing from the pan, drizzle some sesame oil on top of the greens. Serve the scallops on top of the greens and enjoy. The flavors of this dish are simple, bold and enjoyable. The hoisin, which by itself can be overwhelmingly sweet, makes a nice glaze for the scallops. And if you are iron deficient, an entire bag of spinach cooked down to 4 servings will do the trick.

German Sweet Chocolate Cupcakes

A graduate student in my lab had her final defense a couple weeks ago. She's a big fan of coconut, so I made these delightful confections: German sweet chocolate cupcakes. The cupcakes are very light, helped out by a dose of sour cream in the batter. After baking, the cupcakes are split and the butter-sugar-pecan-coconut filling is put in the middle and on top. I thought these tasted pretty good, and most everyone else who had one agreed. My lab is going to love me for using them as an excuse to bring in goodies (for Easter I brought in Cadbury cream eggs and jelly beans, mostly so I could eat just one).

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