I don’t know about you, but I never want to cook when it’s hot. And it’s been hot. And in my little bitty NYC kitchen, I haven’t had the heart to turn on the oven, or, frankly, even the stove. When it’s hot, I’m not as hungry as I am on cooler days, so I’ve been less than inspired about what recipe to share with you here. So I started to ponder what I could make this week that wouldn’t require actual cooking.
The other night, while snacking on olives and cheese, and enjoying a refreshing, frosty beverage, I thought it would be nice to share a food for summer, something ideal for grazing and munching on while enjoying cocktails and conversation with friends. So, this week, I hope I can help you beat the summer heat by sharing a Hungarian recipe with you that I think you should include as part of your next cocktail party: Liptauer Cheese, or Körözött, as it’s called in Hungarian.
Taking its name from the town of Liptov, in modern-day Slovakia, Liptauer cheese is a spiced cheese spread that is enjoyed throughout Hungary and Austria (where it is served often in wine bars called Heuriger) the Czech Republic, and even Scandinavia. One of those recipes that each family has its own, slightly different version of, Liptauer usually consists of a combination of fresh, soft, white cheese (cream cheese, cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese, or sheep’s milk bryndza), Hungarian paprika, and other spices. Typically, Liptauer is served with dark bread or crackers, sliced radishes, hard-cooked eggs, peppers, onions, and beer or wine.
Something about Liptauer makes me imagine high summer on a farm in the Hungarian countryside. In the kitchen, there is an abundance of fresh cheese from the farm’s cows. Big, gleaming red peppers are overtaking the kitchen garden, a wheelbarrow of hay is left abandoned in a dusty yard during a much-needed break from the midday heat. I imagine sunburned faces, smiling, shimmering with sweat, gathered around an outdoor table to enjoy a simple alfresco meal in the shade: thick slices of salami, cheese, bread, and raw summer vegetables—a meal put together quickly and easily with the items already on hand at the farm.
My romantic image of Liptauer might have to do with the fact that I only vaguely recall eating Liptauer with my grandparents. But, both my mother and father remember growing up eating their mother’s versions of this Central European spread. While my German grandmother served it as a spread with crackers and bread, my Hungarian grandmother did as many Hungarians do, stuffed raw peppers with it and served it as a small meal or appetizer. So here it is, my Hungarian grandma’s version with a few of my own tweaks. Go ahead and eat it however suits your fancy. Try it as a spread for a turkey sandwich, add a bit of sour cream and serve it as a dip for assorted crudites, or eat it as is, smeared on whatever you desire.
8 oz cream cheese or farmer’s cheese, softened.
4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature.
1 tablespoon Bryndza or feta, grated
1 tablesoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon pimenton, or smoked paprika
1 tablespoon caraway
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon chopped chives
salt and pepper, to taste