Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pepper Stew with Corn Dumplings

As promised, Pepper Stew with Corn Dumplings. This recipe is based on a version my good friend Balázs made when he visited me in Berkeley a few years ago. He and his brother were on an American tour, and they called home to their mother in Budapest to make sure they were making the lecsó properly. It's a famous dish, and the Pixar film Ratatouille was called L'ecsó in Hungarian--the homey pepper stew substituting for the eggplant one that touches the grouchy critic's heart and inspires him to proclaim, "Anyone can cook!"

Balázs and Korecs took such care, peeling their peppers, and slowly cooking the tomatoes and onions. It was the height of summer, and everything was so fresh and delicious. This is a quicker version, vegetarian, which is not very authentic, and using canned tomatoes, but delicious all the same. We usually eat this over brown rice, and sometimes with a dollop of yogurt. The other night I had the brilliant idea to make dumplings for the stew, it was genius, I have to say.

Pepper Stew with Corn Dumplings
Makes 4 servings
Takes 1 hour

1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3–6 peppers, Hungarian peppers ideally, but red peppers otherwise (not green--they go to mush!  Also, if you are using Hungarian peppers, be sure to remove the stems and seeds, they can be hot)
1 500 ml (16 oz or so) canned tomatoes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons vegan margarine (or olive oil, or butter!)
1/2 cup ice cold water

In a pot, saute the onions and garlic on medium heat.  When they've softened, add the paprikas and saute until fragrant.  Add the peppers, and continue to saute until they've softened as well.  Add the canned tomatoes, salt, some black pepper, and turn down the heat to a simmer.

Combine flour, corn meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Mix in the margarine with your fingertips until the dough resemble course meal.  Add the water and combine to form a dough.  It will be heavy.  Divide into seven balls.  Drop them carefully into the stew.  Cover and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.  Check on the dumplings--they are done when you put a knife in them and they are cooked through.

The dumplings are like little pieces of cornbread that have already been dunked and soaked up all the juices!

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