This has been an interesting process, thinking about family recipes. My mother’s parents were both college graduates. My grandmother always had help in the house, and I hardly remember her in the kitchen. As kids, my siblings and I always thought my mother was a decent cook, but as we got older and had our own families, it became obvious that love is blind, and mom was a lousy cook. Mom’s repertoire included macaroni and cheese made with Velveeta, Chinese food – using Chung King cans – and Salisbury steak TV dinners, which must be where my ongoing issue of keeping all my foods separated originated from. Both my brother John and sister Betsy have developed into wonderful cooks, and I consider myself to be a good, intuitive cook. My son cooks and my daughter bakes. None of that helps me with a family recipe, so I turned to my dad’s mother, whom we called Grandma Anna.
Every Friday night, we made our way to Grandma Anna’s house to welcome in the Shabbat. She always had sweet-and-sour meatballs, chopped liver, some sort of soup, roasted chicken, and Hungarian beans. Each week, mom reminded us that we were having dinner at home; we were just at Grandma Anna's to visit. It seemed to have taken forever for mom to realize that her dinners paled in comparison, and that she should give up preparing anything on Friday nights, since we were all full by the time we came home.
We all make Grandma’s beans. My cousin Marilyn stays true to the original recipe using water and rendered chicken fat. My sister Betsy has updated and perfected the recipe by using chicken stock and now even adds dill!
As a side note… Mom also made the beans. One Thanksgiving, as she brought the heaping bowl to the table she announced that something was wrong with the beans. As we each took a spoonful – and gagged – we realized that she had used cayenne pepper instead of paprika! Now, as we walk into the kitchen before a holiday meal, we all take a spoon for a taste, and Betsy says, “How are my beans?”
Here is our 21st-century version of Grandma Anna’s Hungarian Beans. We love them!
1 lb. dry lima beans
32 oz. chicken stock (more stock may be needed)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2-3 Tbsp. paprika – enough to make beans a deep orange
Fresh dill to taste
Rinse beans. Add beans to a large pot. Sprinkle with salt and half of the paprika. Add vegetable oil. Cover with chicken stock. Stir. Cook slowly on medium heat until stock begins to boil.
Reduce heat to simmer. Every 15 minutes, check beans and add additional stock and paprika if necessary. Lightly stir. Continue cooking until beans soften and stock is mostly absorbed, 1-2 hours.
Spoon into bowl. Add fresh dill. Enjoy!
Note: Beans can be cooked in the oven, but we traditionally use the stovetop. Day 2 beans have dried out and are really delicious!