Traditional Hungarian Lecso

There is so much buzz about home-grown food right now and I feel fortunate to have learned the origins of food at an early age.  My Hungarian grandpa came to the United States in his mid 30’s and he and my grandma had the most beautiful garden.  They spent hours cultivating fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, string beans, green beans and herbs to use in traditional Hungarian and Polish dishes.

Apparently green thumbs are not genetic.

Fortunately, the farmers market is booming and I am able to find beautiful produce every week. I caught a glimpse of some gorgeous tomatoes and Hungarian peppers last week and I knew it was time to make Hungarian Lecso (Lecho), one of my favorite summer dishes.

This dish is so versatile, you can omit the sausage for a vegetarian version; you can serve it over rice, potatoes or without a base at all.  It is full of fresh vegetables cooked the old-fashioned way and it has wonderful flavor.

There are 3 secrets to great lecso; fresh, ripe tomatoes, Pride of Szeged paprika and a little love.

Because everything tastes better when it is cooked with love.

As you scout the farmer’s market this weekend, keep your eyes peeled for ripe tomatoes and yellowish-green Hungarian peppers and treat yourself to this dish.

Traditional Hungarian Lecso

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 c. white or brown rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 T oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4-5 Hungarian Peppers*
  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely diced*
  • 2-4 links of smoked Polska Kielbasa depending on your preference (optional)*
  • 2 T Szeged Hungarian Paprika (sweet or hot)*
  • 3.5 cups of water, divided into 2 c. and 1.5 c.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
* see notes

Method:

Cook rice in a rice-cooker or on the stove according to package directions, al dente consistency is preferred because you will later add it to the pot and it will continue to soften.

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat until water sizzles when splashed into the pot.  Add the oil; when oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until they are soft and beginning to brown (5-7 minutes)

Add the Hungarian peppers and saute for 10 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften

Add the peeled tomatoes, sausage, salt, pepper and 2 c. water and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add the additional 1.5 c. of water and the al dente rice, allow to simmer on low heat, uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice absorbs some of the water and the lecso thickens.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serve hot.

Notes

* Fresh tomatoes from the farmers market are wonderful in this dish, look for tomatoes that are in season* Hungarian peppers are incredibly mild, long, yellowish-green peppers found in many grocery stores or the farmers market.  DO NOT substitute for green, red or yellow bell peppers because you will lose so much flavor and texture.* Smoked, Polish sausage can be found at many grocery stores, this is an optional ingredient because this dish is also wonderful as a vegetarian meal *You can use other brands of paprika but trust me, the flavor does not compare* If you prefer not to serve this dish with rice, you may omit the rice and serve it over potatoes

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