52 Dinners - Week 15: Hungarian Food & Garlic for Transylvanians

52 Dinners Place Setting Inspiration

Beth Beverly is the artist behind Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. She’s extraordinary, and a true kindred spirit.
She and her wonderful husband Zsolt got married in Transylvania (where Zsolt is from) last summer and I had the privilege of attending. There, I met their friend Donovan (a friend of theirs from Philly who was in the middle of a year-long backpacking tour of the world) and we hit it off, forming an unexpected brotherhood, of sorts, as we navigated a whirlwind weekend in a small Romanian town.
Beth, Zsolt, their year-old son Zoli, and Donovan all came up to visit us for the weekend. So of course, I made Hungarian food.

While in Transylvania, a few of us stayed at a little farm/B&B run by a kind and eccentric museum owner also named Zoli. He put together an elaborate breakfast spread for us every morning, which included a smoky eggplant salad called Vinete.
I did my best to recreate it as an hors d’oeuvre, served with some good bread. I then served a simple chopped salad with lots of peppers, garlic (insert joke about serving garlic to a Transylvanian) and venison sausage.

Our entree was chicken paprikash served over nokedli, a noodle/dumpling similar to spaetzle.

For dessert, I made chimney cakes (Kürtoskalács), which are made by wrapping strips of enriched yeast dough around a special roller, covering in sugar, and cooking over a spit.
One of the highlights of the Transylvania trip was when Zsolt took us to the neighboring town of Kokos to pick up chimney cakes to serve before the wedding.
I thought we were headed to a bakery, but was delighted when we pulled up to a trailer on the side of a busy road to find a couple of ladies cooking up chimney cakes over hot coals with a car battery powered spit. I was able to replicate this by wrapping rolling pins in foil, setting over a roasting pan, and baking them in a hot oven.
The highlight of the evening was toasting with shots of pálinka, which Zsolt’s father made using plums from their backyard. These little bottles were their wedding favors, and I smuggled it back home to save for a special occasion. Egészségére! (That means “Cheers!” in Hungarian)

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