Hungarian Snacking Tray
A proper snack tray in Hungary is teeming with sweetsâ€”doughy and poppy seed laced, or crumbly and tart. There might be butter cookies in a tin or savory cheese biscuits wrapped in a linen, and flaky stuffed strudels that disappear in a breath. No matter how unaccomplished at baking your hosts consider themselves, there will always be something deliciously home baked and there will be zero rules about eating your vegetables first. This jives with my children rather well. It doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™ve never been to Hungary, or never will; you can adopt this way of life as your own. Hereâ€™s how to make like a Hungarian and really live a little.
MEAT: If you can find it, goose liver pÃ¢tÃ© is a hallmark of Hungarian cuisine, but any pÃ¢tÃ© works great, or even liverwurst if thatâ€™s what you can find. Add ham, and plenty of sausages, thinly sliced; both csipos (hot) and edes (sweet) are welcome, though any dried Hungarian, French, or Italian sausage will do the trick.
CHEESE: Semisoft Trappist monk cheeses go splendidly with this spread, but there is plenty of room for interpretation. A round of soft and funky tomme, or a wedge of harder German or Alpine cheese would be right at home here. Consider your crowd and work from there.
PEPPERS: You can hunt down pale green and slightly spicy Hungarian wax peppers, as they are distinct and delicious on top of buttered bread. In their stead, use banana peppers. Theyâ€™re milder but have the same crisp edge.
OTHER VEGETABLES: Radishes, cucumbers, and fresh spring onions or scallions, sliced thinly or served whole (with a knife handy for DIY slicing), are a must for layering with cheese and meat into open-faced sandwiches.
EGGS: Hard-boiled or pickled eggs are great pick-up-and-eat foods and beautiful in the mix.
BREAD: White bread, brown bread, rye bread, cheese biscuitsâ€”anything works here.
BUTTER: European-style or cultured, lightly salted butter is a treat, or use a fresh local butter (a small splurge, but think of it like cheese). Butter the bread in advance or let guests DIY.
MUSTARD: A single pot of strong mustard, like smooth or grainy Dijon, goes a long way.
FRUIT: Anything perfectly ripe and in season belongs. In Hungary, wine grapes, small apples, plums, sweet cherries, figs, pears, and apricots are usually included, depending on the season. Add your favorites, fresh or dried.
SWEETS: They are a must. Our favorites: poppy, apple, or sour-cherry strudel; walnut beigli; Russian tea cakes; or any other nutty, fruity, not-too-sweet pastry