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American Goulash (sort of); 4-6 servings

I have been fine-tuning this 20-minute marvel for almost a year, and in that time I have found that the word "goulash" means vastly different things throughout Europe and North America. A woman from Sweden I once talked to railed against what we here in the states call goulash, how it never remotely resembled the hearty, more stew-like Hungarian version she was accustomed to back home.

I started down this recipe road remembering my mother's goulash from childhood. There were elements I remember liking about her version as a kid, and others that I didn't. Mostly I remember picking through it like a surgeon every time it appeared on the dinner table, mostly to avoid the red kidney beans in her recipe that to this day I do not like.

My version is simple and can be expanded upon by adding things like bacon (my mother's trick), Hungarian wax peppers, or smoked Hungarian sausage to the overall dish. Or, obviously, omitting the meat to make it vegetarian. This is one of my favorite after work-meals to prepare in the fall because it is so simple, takes only about 20 min start to finish and provides leftovers for days.

You will need:

1 lb. ground beef (80/20 Angus is best)

2 yellow onions (medium diced)

2-3 green bell peppers (large diced)

2-3 cloves garlic (German hard-neck is best, sliced thin)

2-3 Tbsps. Fresh Parsley (fine chopped)

1 lb. dry semolina pasta ("shellbows" are best)

1 large can (28 oz.) peeled tomatoes (Cento San Marzano is best)

1 can (15 oz.) beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer Cannellini or other white beans, red kidney beans are also an option)

2 Tbsps. Hungarian paprika (more to taste)

2 Tbsps. garlic salt (more to taste)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Cumin to taste (just a dash)

1 cup pasta water

4 Tbsps. olive oil

*This recipe requires two large pots, one for the pasta and a second heavy pot with a lid for the goulash (ideally a Dutch oven).

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and par-cook the pasta for roughly 6 minutes, reserve one cup of the water the pasta has cooked in, drain and shock with cold water, set aside.

Place the Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan and once the oil begins to lightly smoke add in the chopped garlic and onion with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onion begins to color lightly then add in the ground beef. Cook on medium high until the beef has crumbled and colored (5-10 minutes), stirring frequently.

Add in the bell pepper, beans, paprika, garlic salt, parsley, and cumin, and stir to combine, then add in the can of tomatoes and cup of pasta water. Break apart any chunks of tomato and stir to combine until the mixture comes to a simmer then add in the reserved par-cooked pasta. Stir until simmering, cover and let cook for 5-10 min until the pasta has absorbed the liquid and become fully cooked (taking care not to over-cook).

Remove the Dutch oven from heat, add in salt and pepper to taste, stir and cover, let rest 5 min before serving.

Coconut Rice Pudding

This dessert adds a slightly exotic ending to any meal and is always a crowd pleaser. It has a great texture, a light and sweet custard like consistency and a toasted flavor finish. Overall this very quick, easy-to-make pudding is very convenient as it can be made hours before (even the night before) you intend to serve it.

You will need:

1 cup rice (short grain sushi rice is best)

1 can coconut milk (Polar brand is best)

1 cup water

1 cup white sugar (more to taste)

2 cups whole milk

2 eggs

½ cup sweet shredded coconut

¼ cup un-sweetened shredded coconut

Coconut oil

Powdered cocoa (chocolate, optional garnish)

Start by rinsing the dry rice under cold water until the water runs clear.

In a mixing bowl whisk the sugar, eggs and one cup of whole milk together (set aside).

Place the rice in a large pot with the un-sweetened shredded coconut on a low heat and mix in enough coconut oil to evenly coat all the rice. Cook on low heat until the rice and coconut start to slightly toast and brown (you will hear a popping sound), this will give the overall dish a slightly smoky-toasted flavor.

Once toasted, add in the coconut milk and 1 cup of water and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat until the liquid simmers and slowly stir the mixture until it reduces to a thick paste-like consistency and the rice is nearly tender. Add in 1 cup of whole milk and return mixture to a simmer.

When the rice has again reduced and absorbed any remaining liquid slowly stir in the egg/sugar/milk mixture and return to a low boil. Add in the sweet shredded coconut and remove from heat. Let sit covered for at least an hour then chill in refrigerator before serving.

Before serving, dust the top with powdered cocoa.

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