I always loved my mother’s Hungarian cucumber salad. That is, until my husband Jeff and I went to Hungary a few years ago.
As vegetarians, Hungarians were as bewildered by us as we were by their language. After two weeks gobbling cucumbers, we were both starved and bored.
Farmers markets displayed abundant arrays of fresh produce. So why then, we wondered, couldn’t we order fresh veggies in a restaurant?
Talk about being in a pickle. We soon learned we’d landed in pickling heaven! Few edibles were left un-brined.
One day, we visited a popular lake resort famous for its floating lotuses and radioactive water. Eyeing the health nuts in the water, it became obvious that every inner tube rental also included a free sausage sandwich. There was zero chance we’d eat a sausage or put even a toenail in that water, but our eyes bulged when we noticed a table laden with just the sandwich condiments. Raw tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, cabbage, sprouts: we drooled shamelessly.
Using our best charade skills, we signed, “Sandwich please and hold the sausage!” We loaded plates with every veggie except, you guessed it, cucumbers. After seconds, thirds and fourths, we bowed in thanks for the best meal we’d eaten in weeks.
Here are some dishes we would have loved when we traveled that year.
Roasted and Marinated Zucchini
(An applause-getting zucchini goodie. Nothing pickled here!)
4 6- to 7-inch zucchinis
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon minced basil
Salt and pepper
1. Trim the ends off the zucchini, then halve them, first length-wise then width-wise. Mix the 2 tablespoons of oil with the garlic and brush on the cut-side of the zucchini. (If there’s extra oil, spread it on the baking sheet you’re about to use.) Place the zucchini cut-sides down on a baking sheet, and bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees until the zukes are easily pierced with a fork.
2. Be assertive and liberally poke the fleshy side of the still hot zucchini. Then, put the zucchinis face-up in a glass pan, spoon on the marinade, and chill overnight. Pour off any extra marinade before serving.
(I love olive tapenade and experimented with eggplant as the featured ingredient. The result: I declare it a terrific appetizer.)
About 1 1/2 cups
1 pound eggplant, (I used the long Japanese kind)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon raw pine nuts
3 tablespoons diced red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
Salt and pepper
1. Split the eggplant lengthwise and place it face-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees until the eggplant is easily pierced with a fork. Let it cool a bit, and scoop out the insides.
2. Puree the eggplant innards, oil and pine nuts until smooth. Stir in the pepper, onion, basil and salt and pepper by hand. Chill before spreading on crackers.
Pureed Autumn Soup
(Fall means we can start slurping hot soup again.)
3 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced potatoes
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups veggie broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried dill, or if you can still find it, 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh
Salt and pepper
1. Bring the carrots, potatoes, celery, onions and broth to a boil, turn down the flame, and then simmer for 20 minutes until the veggies are tender.
2. Puree the veggie mixture with the sour cream until smooth. Stir in the ginger, dill, and salt and pepper by hand. Heat gently and serve.
(It’s apple season and the trees are loaded this year! Serve these with Autumn soup.)
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup quick old fashion cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white flour (I never sift)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 grated apple
1. I’m lazy and use an electric mixture, but hand stirring is probably a better cardio workout. On slow speed, mix together the egg and butter. Add the yogurt and beat until smooth. Blend in the oats and sugar, then the flour, powder and soda. Squeeze every drop of liquid out of the grated apples, and then mix them in.
2. Grease a muffin tin, and spoon in the batter. Advice: I’ve learned to start checking oven goodies about 5-8 minutes before the directions say they’re done. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the middle comes out when poked with a toothpick.