Smitten By Bitten
This is lecso. Thanks to Mark Bittman’s wonderful blog Bitten I think lecso is going to be my new summer favorite vegetable. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Bitten, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s an ever-changing, smart and interesting collection of recipes and articles, one I’m sure you’ll like too. Check it out, if you haven’t already. Ok, are you ready to lauch into lecso?
You’ll need to find some frying peppers, those long, sometimes twisty, thin-skinned beauties that are in season right now. And it’s worth hunting for some good paprika, one that tastes deep and rich. Give yours a sniff. If it smells like dust, toss it out without mercy. Other than that, there’s nothing to it. A couple of hours in the kitchen at most and you’ll be smiling for at least a week, since this recipe makes a huge amount. Thank goodness.
Get out your favorite wooden spoon, because you’re going to be stirring quite a lot and it might as well be fun. And sharpen your knife, because lecso takes some serious knife work: you’ll need to julienne a couple pounds of peppers, plus onions and tomatoes. If you’re following along with the recipe, let me say that I did peel my tomatoes and I think you should too. I used duck fat instead of lard, because that’s what I had, and it’s delicious. And even though there’s some discussion in the article about reducing the sugar content, I’ll confess to having used two entire teaspoons. My tomatoes were straight from the garden, but that added sugar is just right. Be sure to taste and adjust at the end, as the recipe recommends.
If you’re a person like me, a person who likes to keep duck confit in your fridge all winter, lecso may be just the summer substitute you’ve been searching for. Keep a bowlful on hand and you’ll never have to wonder whether to call out for a pizza because there’s nothing for dinner. It’s Hungarian, it’s healthy, and I’m pretty sure it’s good with everything. Stir some into pasta, put it over polenta, fill an omelette, use it as a sauce for anything the least bit bland, or eat it on toast. Although, honestly, it’s good enough to eat with a spoon.