Here's another nod to my Hungarian heritage, a refreshing bowl that can even be served cold during the summer's hottest days, Dilly Green Bean Soup is at home with Tomato Cheddar Pie (not Hungarian at all!), an ear of fresh corn on the cob, or simply a humble slice of crusty bread. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to the late summer garden! And if you're becoming more of a herbivore, like so many these days, this is a soup that modifies easily into a stew (by adding less water, to create a more substantial chowder) to becomes the saucy center of a great vegetarian meal.
The taste of Hungary comes through with paprika, fresh dill and a touch of vinegar, flavors so distinctive of Magyar cuisine. And of course, it should be served with a beloved dollop of sour cream...so completely Hungarian! A water based soup, (although you may prefer to use chicken stock), the challenge is to create a tasty bowl using very common and basic ingredients, a skill that in our hyper indulged culinary culture may not be sophisticated enough for some. I disagree, for great cuisine is born of humble beginnings, in countryside kitchens of peasants and farmers making the best use of that which the land brings forth. Hungarian cuisine is full of vegetable stews, rich with brilliant orange sauciness, courtesy of paprika, the spicy pride of Hungary. Although I usually choose sweet or smoked paprika, you may opt for the hotter versions.
So today, because of green bean overload, it'll be those beautiful verdant lengths of grassy goodness as stars of the bowl. But you may substitute most any vegetable on hand for an equally delicious soup. I recommend yellow wax beans, shell beans, summer squash or a combination of farm fresh produce, with mushrooms added as well. The amount of vinegar you add at the end is up to you too, although my recommendation in the recipe is enough to add a happy zest to the pot. My dad always added a splash of plain vinegar at the table as well to amp up the dill. Oh, and let's not forget the sour cream, another essential condiment on every Hungarian table, and lots of it!
aka Zöld Bab Főzelék Kaporral
About 6 servings
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp Sweet Hungarian paprika, or a combination of hot, smoked and sweet
5-6 cups green beans, strings removed and cut into 1" pieces
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 -1/2 cup chopped dill
2 Tbsp plain vinegar
In a large pot on medium heat, pour the 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, add the onions and garlic, sweat the onions and garlic until transparent. Remove the pot from heat and add the paprika while stirring and allow to cook off heat so as not to burn it. This allows the flavor of the paprika to expand and develop. After a minute or two, place the pot back on the heat and add the tomatoes and green beans, cook on a higher heat for a few minutes while stirring until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
While the pot simmers, make your roux. In a small sauce pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the flour and stir while heating. Allow the flour to begin to brown a bit, but not too much because the browning reduces the thickening power of the starch in flour. This will take only a few minutes. It will bubble slightly and get extremely hot! Do not allow it to spatter on you...trust me, it blisters and hurts! But the fragrance of a roux cooking is one of my favorite kitchen aromas!
Now here's the way a Hungarian adds roux to the simmering pot: remove the lid of your simmering stew, run your tap water very cold and measure 1 cup, remove the roux from heat and quickly add the cold water to the roux while stirring. (I do this over the sink and right from the tap, no measuring cup for me) This shocks the roux, stops the cooking and breaks it up instantly. Quickly pour this cold roux into the simmering pot and stir immediately into a beautiful silky chowder! Simmer for a few minutes on low just to completely cook all the flour starches.
Add the chopped dill and vinegar, giving it another minute of simmer time. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve plain or with sour cream.