Thanksgiving was a great meal and party. The day after was just a little different, a nice rest and a chance to savor some leftovers. When I lived in Rome I learned a really cool trick using leftover risotto called suppli: a breaded and fried ball of mozzarella stuffed risotto. The possibilities are as endless as combinations of risottos. I made a vegetarian mushroom dish. This is what the sequence looks like...
1) Form balls around mozzarella cheese.
2) Then it's time for an egg bath and a roll in breadcrumbs
3) Repeat and fry a few at a time in a heavy skillet using a good oil
4) Be sure to keep on eye on them and roll them when needed for even cooking
5)Cook until golden-brown and delicious! Buon Appetito!
Betwixt the Mozart kugel, the waldhonig, the Hirschboxerl and the Bergkäse I found many new favorites. Not to mention that I found most of these foods in one place, the public market. As I look out the bus window on my way to work every morning, which is a different bus and different destination for every day of the week, and as I travel through Europe one fantastic, heart-warming constant is the sight of the public markets, big and small. You win for public markets Europe!
This delightful discovery was made in Salzburg, Austria and is made locally. The charcuterie artisans use venison to make this very simple yet tasty salami.
The Bergkäse is a mountain cheese that is made in the mountains (duh!) in the immediate area of Salzburg. The wheels are massive, but thin which makes them manageable. Please note the cutting board for this cheese: a table with a large enough diameter for a single wheel of Bergkäse and a giant knife hinged to it to cut to the center of the wheel; genius! The cheese is aged 8 or 12 months with the latter being a little more dry tasting, and sharper. Delicious!
The pretzels are top notch and made fresh daily!
Austrian organic forest honey: probably one of the best souvenirs anyone can find!
The Mozartkugel, first called Mozartbonbon when created in 1890, are a Salzburg native chocolate created by Paul Fürst. Fürst's original achievement of the Mozartbonbon was the first perfectly round confection. The original recipe to this Paris fair gold medal winner (1905) remains a secret, but the subsequent name "Mozartkugeln" had no copyright and has since been used to launch a severely successful campaign of chocolate famedom. I had the good fortune of going directly to the industrial source of this wonderful confection: the Mirabell chocolate factory (A Kraft subsidiary) in Grödig which is just outside Mirabell (Salzburg). Though I wasn't able to tour the factory itself, I was able to go into a store in the factory that sells all of the chocolates, candies, cocoa powder, marzipan, stb. stb. at about a 1/3 of the retail price! It must be noted that the handmade counterparts to the industrial "knock-offs" can still be found in Salzburg in 4 stores that bear the name Fürst Confiserie. The original recipe handmade chocolates continue to win medals over the industrial counterparts today.
It just occurred to me that I had not given any specific word on pálinka. Pálinka is an eau de vie, a distilled fruit brandy, usually twice distilled, and must be made within the borders of Hungary or specific areas of Transylvania or Austria. There are similar spirits, but they cannot be sold under the label of pálinka.
The most common, and popular varieties I've encountered range from fruits like peaches, plums, apricot, and cherry, but also include cumin and paprika. I've seen all varieties take on further variations by adding honey or other fruits such as raspberries.
This alcohol also has an infamous reputation. Going back to legalities according to law the pálinka must contain alcohol in a range anywhere from 37.5% to 86%. I recently found a reference for the most alcoholic pálinka: kerítésszaggató which when translated means "fence-ripper". Cool, huh?!
We arrived to Zetelaka to a fantastic event of Imre and Anikó in traditional costume handing us palinka as we got off of the bus. I didn't know it at the time, but they were about to become my favorite hosts of all of Transylvania! After "moving in" because we were staying here for two days we were served a wonderful meal of soup, csirke tejföl, fried potatoes, rice, and wine.
Marosvásárhely was once a great Hungarian city that was ruined by the Ceauşescu regime. The Communist Romanian government ordered the eviction of nearly all of the ethnic Hungarian residents and at the same time offered monetary incentives for ethnic Romanians to move to the city and take up newly formed jobs as part of the Romanian industry. The city itself is still a great center of Northern Transylvania, but the percentage of Hungarian residents is minimal.
Back in the aqua mobile and on to the Transylvanian village of Torockó. Upon arrival we had a fantastic meal, beginning with pálinka of course, and consisting of a carrot and parsnip soup, meatballs, and mashed potatoes.
After dinner I walked through the village and as there was so little light pollution I was able to look at the stars! It was so nice to see stars again, and whats more, the milky way. After such a wonderful evening it was a pleasure to be able to turn in for the night.
Before breakfast the next morning I was up early and decided to walk around the village by myself. It was during this time that I snapped some of my favorite shots of the entire trip. Then I headed off to eat. For breakfast we had coffee, tea, csipke bogyó lekvár (a thick rose hip jam), bread, meats, cheese and my newest obsession: zakuszka! Zakuszka and csipke bogyó lekvár are traditional foods of the region and are served as hearty supplements to the winter diet that usually lacks any fruits or vegetables. The rose hips contain massive amounts of vitamin C, as does paprika, but the peppers aren't grown in the mountains and what paprika is here must be imported from the Carpathian basin and greater Hungary. Zakuska contains some paprika but is a special mixture of tomatoes, onions, and eggplant as well. This wonderful sauce is spread on bread in the mornings and couldn't be more delicious!
After breakfast the whole group went to the Torockó museum that captured village life as it was when Transylvania was still a part of Hungary and fame and riches of this village was brought not by tourism, but sweat and toil from the iron mines and forges. During the 14th century German immigrants moved to the area to mine and smith the ore found there. This continued until industrialization moved the jobs out of the village collapsing its industry and artistry.
I was thankful for this stop not only to break up the monotony of traveling and only stopping at gas stations through Hungary and Romania, but for its cultural substance and for the minister who gave us a great start to the trip by explaining the recent history of the area in a church that goes back to the strength of Hungarians in Erdély.
This traditional Hungarian Protestant church had two sets of carved hand carved and painted ceilings. The motifs are that of the traditional Székely culture and include pre-Christian symbols. The entire church was also bedecked in embroidery from the community. The traditional colors of this artform are black, white, red and blue. The only way embroidery survived as strongly as it did was that it was passed down from women to girls within the church community. A peice of embroidery was made for baptisims and especially for confirmations. The funeral wreath of Kossuth Lajos is also enshrined here, as his memorial took place in this church.
This was especially important during the time of the Ceauşescu regime during which ethnic Hungarians were not allowed to speak Hungarian in public and the church became the only safe place for their culture. In essence Ceauşescu attempted to erase one of the most historically entrenched cultures of the Transylvanian region from its future. As this is a very controversial subject I'll limit the remainder of my comments. Suffice to say this was a moving site, and a great introduction to the region.
This is a 1 kilo bag of paprika. Pure, unadulterated, Hungarian Red booger sugar, I mean ground pepper. This is serious stuff, and a daily essential for Hungarian dishes, yup, it's not just a garnish. This set me back 2,400 HUF, not too bad, especially considering that it's way better than 99% of the paprika exported to the States! It's fresh and that means a lot to volatile spices like paprika. Plus I bought it in Kalocsa from the farmer direct. I know exactly where it was grown, dried, and ground.
A quick word before I get on with blogging about my trips to Transylvania and Salzburg. If you see a movie with this title arrive in a theater near you, GO SEE IT! For many people who actually read this blog and know me will already know some, or a lot, of what this movie will tell you, but more people need to be aware of what the role of food plays in their lives. Please, go see this movie, because I won't be able to for a long time.
So to celebrate Halloween before the October vacation, Franny bought a pumpkin at the Mars tér market. Franny and I carved it and named him Csaba! Then I carved him and made pumpkin soup and toasted pumpkin seeds. I also made a gnocchi dough, and had Franny spent a lot of time rolling and cutting it out. So I put both together and created pumpkin soup with gnochhi dumplings.
So while I'm procrastinating finishing my blog entries for my vacation, from which I learned so much that it's hard to process in even a few sittings, I made some soup. This is a vegetarian soup made from celery root, and has a Hungarian pasta called Eperlevél that finishes it. Enjoy!
So I went to Transylvania from October 21-October 26 turned around in Budapest and jumped a train to Salzburg, Austria and stayed until I went back to Budapest for Halloween, turned around to Kalocsa then finally back to Szeged tonight. It's been a lot of hours traveling, lots of new foods, and 3 countries. I'll be making a lot of posts, hopefully, about the separate cities and topics.