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Sunday, June 30, 2013


So, it's summer time, and the garden is beginning to pay us back for all the hard work we put into it in the spring.  Today's small harvest - hungarian wax peppers.  When I saw these at the local nursery, they looked so beautiful that I just HAD to add them to my hot pepper garden.  Today, when I picked the two largest ones, a funny thing occurred to me - what do I actually DO with these?  True, you can stuff them, grill them, grill them AND stuff them (now we're just getting zany!), pickle many possibilities!  But the sad truth is, it's the beginning of pepper season and I got two. 

But......LOOK AT THEM!!
 So beautiful!  (Yes, I get excited over produce).  There are a couple of things you need to know about hungarian wax peppers.  First, they have a HUGE range on the Scoville scale.  For those who don't know about this scale, it is how the heat of peppers is measured.  The numbers go from 0 (bell peppers) to OHMYGOD I'M DYING, or, you know, 15,000,000 (pure capsaicin).  The wax pepper can go from 1,000 (a little hotter than tobasco) to 10,000 (a little hotter than a jalapeno).  If you pick them when they're still green like this, they will be lower in heat.  But, know this - those little ribs on the inside of the pepper are still hot.  It's a good idea to remove as many ribs as you want and taste this little baby so you know what your tastebuds are up against, and adjust accordingly. 

But again I ask, what do you DO with two hungarian wax peppers?  I was at a loss until my husband suggested goulash.  Now, I have a vast mental inventory of recipes, but while I've heard of goulash, I've neither cooked nor eaten it. Even more intimidating is the fact that this is a dish that my husband's mother and grandmother made for him a lot, so this was his warm, fuzzy comfort food.  And I had no idea where to start!  I knew meat, pasta, tomatoes - and that's where my knowledge ended. So, I did the logical thing - I hit the interwebs searching for goulash recipes.  I needed to find the base flavors, the spices, the essence of what this dish is.  I found that it's meaty, it's hearty, it's simple yet complex all at the same time.  It's heavy on paprika and sweet.  Some people use veggies, some don't.  No two recipes are alike, so I took the gist of what I liked from several different recipes, and omitted what I didn't.  I basically created my own by using the basics.  I whipped this up, happily chatting with my husband while creating a piece of his childhood, all the while nervous that somehow I'd get it all wrong.  After all, I'm a goulash virgin!  But after about 40 minutes, I nervously handed him my creation and waited for his thoughts.  Verdict?  NAILED IT!  And I loved it so much that I had a second helping.  So good, in my opinion, that the title warranted an exclamation point.  I ran to my recipe book and immediately wrote it down, because I didn't want to forget what I did.  So, without further ado....

Best Goulash EVER!

1 box elbow macaroni
1.5 lbs ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh oregano, minced
2 hungarian wax peppers, diced
3 medium carrots, cut into "half moon" slices
1 package sliced white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
Salt to taste
1 T onion powder
4 T paprika
1/2 c water
1/3 c sugar

Boil water seasoned with salt.  Add macaroni until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Brown ground beef in dutch oven (I use an enamel coated, cast iron one).  Add 1/2 cup water, garlic, peppers, salt, mushrooms, carrots, and oregano.  Simmer on medium to medium high until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. 

Add tomato paste and stir.  If it's really thick, add a little more water.  (just a smidge.  Maybe 1/4 cup)

Add tomato sauce, paprika, sugar, and onion powder. 

Simmer for 10-15 minutes until flavors combine. 

Remove from heat and stir in macaroni.

Here it is!

So fast, so easy, so delicious!  And, the leftovers!  Great for next day lunches. 

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