Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One updated old world comfort food (and recipe)

The updated lecso

possibly with German Spaetzle noodles

Lecso (prounounced ‘letchoh’)  is a traditional Hungarian dish.  As much as I love Hungarian food (being Hungarian, this is the food of my childhood), it tends to be very ‘rich’ (meat fat used in cooking and dairy cream laden sauces).  Maybe with smaller portions, lots of walking and non factory farmed dairy, it’s not the worst thing.  However, I don’t walk around the streets of Budapest, instead I sit at a desk all day, have a two hour commute, eliminated dairy from my diet, and have a child with dairy allergies.   Yet I love the flavor and smell of Hungarian food.  I would like to expose Jordan to the rich flavors as well.

Over the past few years I realized that with minor modifications we can have my Hungrian food without getting a prescription for cholesterol lowering medication (and of course Jordan can eat it too).  

This Lecso recipe is just one of my  ‘updated’ dishes.

There are many ways of making this dish.  Using the diced tomatoes saves time on peeling and chopping tomatoes.  Italian sausage style seitan adds a great texture and  protein to this dish.  What is seitan (not satan)?  It is a wheat based meat textured source of protein.  It was actually invented by Buddhist monks  as an alternative to tofu.  If you don’t like tofu and can have gluten it’s a great meat substitute (no, I’m not a vegan, but love the flavor and texture of this Italian sausage style seitan and there is no gross fat flavor).  If you are avoiding gluten, then I would suggest adding tofu instead (but marinating/baking to get a better texture).  You can avoid tofu/seitan and add nothing  or add some sort of meat.  But it’s healthier without the meat (and with a growing child, protein is important here) and I like the refreshing flavor.  Even if you aren’t a vegan, many doctors believe that the American diet has too much meat protein. But then this is not a medical blog; free will.

Expeller pressed oil is healthier than processed oil.  This again is not a necessity, but it helps.  I try to keep my ingredients at home the best. I can’t control the ingredients in a restaurant, but I can control it at home.

Paprika must be authentic Hungarian paprika.  If you live in the Chicago area, there is a Hungarian store called Bende that sells it a reasonable price.  Recently I found it on Amazon also.

This dish is fairly easy to make (it’s one of the weeknight dishes here).  Serve it with brown rice, soy buttered spaetzle or tarhonya (another Hungarian specialty).  Clearly brown rice is the best, but spaetzle and tarhonya are not bad alternatives.  Needless to say-it’s loaded with some great vegetables (and it’s not salad).

Lecso Recipe

3 large red peppers julienned or a mix of other ones (but not green…they are VERY bland and just have a waxy contribution)-
2 medium red onions – cut in half and then thinly sliced
1 pckg. of Upton’s Natural  8 oz Italian Sausage Seitan (available at Whole Foods, Woodman’s or other specialty/health store)
2 14.5 oz. Organic Muir Glen Diced tomatoes (not flavored)
3 TBS. Authentic Hungarian Paprika (not durkee or some colored bland powder)
3-4 TBS. Expeller pressed canola oil
2-3 tbs. chopped parsley
2-3 tbs. chopped dill
3 – 4 tbsp. oil (this is approximate-add enough to stir fry, not deep fry).

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the sliced onions on medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the julienned peppers and fry for another 15 minutes.
Add 3+ heaping tbsp. of authentic paprika and stir for 30-60 seconds to roast it a bit (this optimizes the flavor of the spice-I do this with other spices also)
Add diced tomatoes
Add about ½ c water (from canned tomatoes to get tomato residue-it should be saucy not liquidy)
Bring to a simmer and simmer covered 15-20 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure it’s not drying out)

While simmering:
 prepare the side dish

crumble or chop the seitan and pan fry for a minute or two in very little canola oil

After the simmering is completed,  add the parsley and dill and stir for one minute (herbs should always be added at the end for a brief time, overcooking causes a loss in flavor).

Add Italian Sausage seitan and serve.

Enjoy the time you save from researching potential cholesterol lowering medication.

Feel free to ask questions on this recipe.  I like creating dishes a lot more than writing down the detail. If something isn’t clear, let me know. 

I use the Italian Sausage flavor for this dish (not chorizo)

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  1. this sounds delicious and easy to make!

  2. It's great for leftovers too (the flavors blend real nicely).

  3. This looks delicious. I make something similar but with lots of garlic powder! Will definitely get some real Hungarian paprika next time I shop and try this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I made it with plain diced seitan today and simmered it for five minutes toward the end....it was really good..