Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hideg Citrom Koch -- Cold Lemon Koch (Transylvania)

A decade or so ago I found out that one of my grandfathers grew up in the part of Romania known as Transylvania.  His heritage was German but his home town was pretty close to the Bran Castle, also called "Dracula's Castle" because of the story of the vampire Count Dracula, a fictitious character created by Bram Stoker.  The castle described in the book is very similar to the Bran Castle and it is believed that Stoker used a picture of it found in a book to create his castle of horrors.  (See reference here.)

It just tickled me to think of my grandfather as a boy growing up on the stories of vampires and possibly being able to see the castle.  So one day, when I was walking through a library bookstore, I spotted Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine.  Published in 1985, it is a compilation of some of the 20,000 recipes Mr. Kovi collected on his research in the area.  I bought it without hesitation, hoping to find something of the culture in which my grandfather grew up.

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
In all honesty, I don't know if any of these recipes were something he experienced.  From what I have heard the Germans in the area were a tight-knit group, keeping to themselves, and preserving their language and culture.  But I like to imagine that he tasted some of these dishes and so I gave one a try.  Mr. Kovi notes that this "was a favorite of fine Saxon households."

Hideg Citrom Koch (page 338)

6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
1 envelope gelatin, dissolved in warm water
Butter for greasing mold
Fruit preserves (any flavor) for garnish

That is one big lemon
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and powdered sugar together.  Add the lemon juice and the grated peel.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, fold into the egg yolks, then stir in the dissolved gelatin.

Folded, not spindled
Butter a mold (such as a ring mold) lightly and pour in the mixture.

I measured it to be about 6 cups in volume
Chill until well set.  Turn the koch out of the mold and onto a platter.  Garnish with fruit preserves.

My Notes

You should notice that there are raw eggs in this dish as it is served.  The mixture is only chilled, not cooked!  I had confidence that the acid from the lemon juice would take care of any contamination problems.

Before I started mixing up the ingredients I grated the peel, juiced the lemon, and dissolved the gelatin in about two tablespoons very warm water.  It needed stirring a few times to get it completely dissolved.

I found it interesting that the gelatin was stirred in after you carefully fold in the stiff egg whites.  The purpose of folding is to incorporate the whites without deflating them, keeping your mixture light and fluffy.  Stirring in the gelatin afterwards seemed to be defeating that idea, but it really only reduced the volume a little bit.

I was pleased that the mixture filled my turban mold to a ring line.  I thought that would make the dish looked "finished" or at least planned.  I chilled it for about 3 hours but I think it was ready before that.

Once I ran some warm water over the outside and ran a dull knife around the edges, the koch slipped out of the mold onto a plate.  I thought it was pretty!

Not quite centered on the plate
The darker yellow part was where the eggs whites had separated from the yolk mixture.  I loved the contrast more than if the whole thing had been uniform in color.  The whole thing was very delicate so trying to center it would have broken it apart.

The fruit preserves I chose to garnish with were apricot.  This picture was taken right after I spooned some all around the top; honestly it looked better about 10 minutes later when the preserves had a chance to slide down the sides more.

The Verdict

Each piece was as light as a feather and fluffy soft.  It was very lemony in flavor and not too sweet, which is good.  My guest taster thought it was just right for the amount of tartness; for me, it was on the edge of too tart, especially with the tart apricot preserves with it.

I suspect my very large lemon had something to do with that.  Of course, that didn't stop me from eating it!  I just took my bites slowly to give my taste buds a chance to adjust.

It was so delicate and light that it did not feel filling.  It was cool and refreshing and the lemon zest gave it an interesting texture to contrast with the egg white fluffy feel.

We ate more than half after a hearty dinner of pork and sauerkraut -- that recipe will follow this one on December 1.

I declare it a success!  If I did it over again, I would use a smaller lemon and choose blackberry preserves as the garnish.

By the way, no one got ill from the raw eggs.  We just enjoyed the flavor!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Sweet Onions -- Tapping into the experiences of others

One category of cookbooks is the fundraiser book, where the members of a group contribute their favorite recipes.  This compilation is bound and sold to raise money for the group.  Quite often the group is a women's club or church organization.

I have several of these in my collection and I prize them for three reasons:  some have the names of people I know, some have recipes I've loved and lost in the past, and every one of them contains tried-and-true recipes.  Consider that these people know each other and tend to buy the books for themselves, too.  No one is going to submit a recipe that isn't proven wonderful!

The style of recipes depends on the age of the book.  You can see the shift in ingredient preferences over the decades, from canned soup casseroles to gelatin desserts to gluten-free anything.  You'll often find "throwbacks"; these are recipes that have been handed down over several generations of cooks and cherished despite current taste or health trends.

I also like the variations on recipes with which I am familiar, like three-bean salad and seven layer dip.  It is fun to see what others have done to substitute ingredients they were missing or just to enjoy a twist in the usual flavor.

I was attending a neighborhood potluck barbecue and felt like bringing something different, so I turned to my ladies' group collection.  I chose the Washington Stars Quilt Guild 10th Anniversary Cookbook, published in 2009 out of Olympia, Washington.  Are these recipes historical?  Probably not but I think this qualifies as General Foodie Fun (salute!).

The hosts were providing the burgers and hot dogs with condiments.  I knew many people would bring desserts and potato chips, so I focused on a side dish.  My choice was submitted by Pat Umino with an end note, "It was very popular at our potlucks."  How could I go wrong?

Creamy Sweet Onions (page 67)

5 large onions, white (sweet)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon celery salt *
salt and pepper to taste

*The body of the recipe calls for celery seed, which is what I used.

I switched to celery seed after I took this picture.
Thinly slice the onions and place in a large bowl.  In a saucepan combine the sugar, cider vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then pour over the sliced onions.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain onions, discarding the liquid.  In a bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, celery seed, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add the drained onions and toss to coat.

My Notes

My onions must have been very large because three of them sliced filled my large bowl.  I stopped there.  Mine were designated as white onions but not labeled as "sweet".  That did not turn out to be a problem.

Boiling the vinegar mix made an onion-scented kitchen smell very strong indeed.  I let the bowl of onions with liquid cool a bit before I covered it and placed it in the refrigerator.  Basically you are pickling the onions!

The next day, a few hours before the party, I drained the onions, mixed the sauce, and loved the contrast of the celery seeds against the white onions and white sauce.

Just before stirring
The Verdict

Yes, it was a hit!  I noticed that the people who like peppers, chilies, and other strong-flavored foods liked it the most.  One woman said she put it on top of her hamburger patty as a condiment.  I didn't label what it was so people were guessing a noodle salad at first, then they thought coleslaw, and then they realized it was onions.

I would put this in the category of "onion coleslaw".  The creamy sauce mixes with the little bit of vinegar pickling liquid that clings to the drained onions.  Adding the celery seed just pushes that creamy-sweet-sour mixture right into the coleslaw range.  The onion flavor became milder with the pickling process yet still retained some crunchiness that made it exciting to eat.

I liked it!  It isn't my favorite because it was a stronger onion taste than I usually seek out but I would eat it again.  If I were to make it more for me, I would use half onions and half cabbage.  Of course I like sauerkraut and pickled red cabbage, too, so that would be a bonus for me.

Success!  Tasty!  Give it a try!