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Italian Goulash in the Dolomites

  • March 3, 2012
  Yes, you heard me right – goulash – Italian goulash. Goulash (or goulasch) is mostly associated with Hungary, but the northeastern part of Italy where this is eaten once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire — that is until after World War I when the South Tyrol was ceded to Italy.


People in the region – now known as Trentino-Alto Adige – still speak German, as well as Italian. In a few valleys, including the Alto Adige’s Val Gardena, where I just returned from, Ladino is also spoken. Ladino is a language that derives from a mixture of Celtic, Latin and the original language of the inhabitants of the area. (Not to be confused with the Ladino language mainly spoken in Israel, Turkey and Greece by descendents of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.)

Signs are always written in at least two languages and sometimes all three in this Northern Italian region that also is home to the Dolomite Mountains — a fantasy land for skiers and hikers where mountain peaks  look like they were created by a fairy-tale set designer. This peak is known as the Sciliar, and is particularly picturesque.
 To ski the Val Gardena really does seem like you’re in the midst of a fairy tale, especially as you round a bend and find this 17th century castle in front of you – a private residence now owned by the heirs of the artist Cy Twombly, according to one local source I spoke to.

Every now and then a horse and carriage will trot by while you’re skiing, adding to the enchantment.


The mountains and vistas are truly majestic. Sometimes they speak with a grandiose voice:


And other times just with a delicate whisper.
Occasionally a Saint Bernard dog will saunter onto the scene (without the small cask at the collar, alas).
Little chapels spring up where you’d least expect them.
Evergreen trees are more common here than say, the aspens you see along slopes in Colorado.
If you choose La Longia, you’ll have 10.6 kilometers (or 6.5 miles) of uninterrupted skiing.
Just when you think your knees will give out, you come across a frozen waterfall that gives you an excuse for a respite.
But the sweetest reward comes at my favorite mountain hut near the end of the trail – the charming Cafe Val D’Anna, where a hearty lunch always tempts.
The crispy hard bread in the basket is known as schuttelbrot, a crunchy local bread made with caraway seeds and rye and perfect with sausages and polenta.
It’s hard to resist my favorite apple strudel with vanilla sauce (creme anglais). A couple of years ago, a barista working at a different restaurant on the mountain – the Mont Seuc – gave me its recipe (click here), much “cakier” and far different from the phyllo-like pastries in the typical Viennese apple strudel.
And it wouldn’t be skiing in the Val Gardena without at least one bombardino to loosen you up for the next round of schussing down the mountain. This one’s for you Rich. ♥
Back at the hotel, the view from the hotel room at sunset is mesmerizing. But the salt-water indoor-outdoor swimming pool also beckons – and I heed the call. ….. To be continued.


It’s still not too late. Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to: 

I have eaten plenty of bowls of goulash soup (recipe here) in my years of skiing in the Val Gardena, but have also enjoyed lots of more substantial goulash stews served with piping hot bowls of polenta. Here’s my version for you.

Beef Goulash

Printable Recipe Here

4 pounds beef chuck, cubed
4 T. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
@ 2 cups beef broth
3 T. tomato paste
3 bay leaves
4 T. sweet paprika
1 T. hot paprika
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. caraway seeds

In a large covered pot that is oven proof, saute the beef over medium heat in the olive oil until browned on the outside. Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onions, adding more olive oil if needed. When the onions are limp, add the garlic cloves and saute for a few minutes. Put the beef back into the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Apple Strudel

  • March 6, 2009

Apple strudel is a specialty that’s made and eaten not just in Southern Germany, Austria, and Hungary, but all over the the Northeastern mountains of the Italian Alps called the Dolomites. Everyone has a favorite recipe and some are partial to the dough that’s rolled so thin you could read a recipe through it. I once watched a cooking demonstration in the kitchen at Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace where the cook stretched the dough so finely that she did that exact thing.

But the other type of strudel – and my favorite – has more bite to it. It’s made with what is called “pasta frolla” in Italy – a rich, buttery pastry made with an egg that’s also used to make a crostata. After a bit of experimenting, I think I’ve succeeded in coming close to what became my daily afternoon snack break on the slopes. Oh, to be skiing down those glorious mountains again and stopping for a break at a little refugio instead of stuck home with a sore throat and cold. Well, even if those Alpine peaks are just a memory, I’ve still got the snow here in New Jersey, and now the strudel too.

Apple Strudel


3 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cups sugar
rind of one lemon, grated
pinch of salt
one large egg, lightly beaten


6 apples
3/4 cup finely grated breadcrumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup white raisins, soaked in rum
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of grated nutmeg

Place flour and sugar in mixer with grated lemon rind and salt. Add cold butter in small pieces, mixing until butter breaks down into small bits. Add egg and mix just until mixture holds together in a ball. Remove from bowl and roll out in a rectangle over a floured surface until the rectangle is about 18 inches x 9 inches.

Peel and core apples, then slice finely. Mix together with 3/4 fine breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/2 cup white raisins that have been soaked in a little rum and drained. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Place the apple mixture in the center of the rectangle. Using a spatula or a scraper, gently fold the pastry on one side over the apples. Moisten the other long end with water and roll the strudel over on itself until the pastry covers the apples. It helps to have another person helping. If there are some tears in the pastry, it’s no big deal. Seal both ends.

In order to carry the strudel to the cookie sheet without breaking in two (or more pieces), I used a long French chef’s knife and slid it under most of the strudel, in a way that most of the strudel would rest on the knife. With my other hand, I took a kitchen scraper and shoved that under the part I couldn’t reach with the knife. (Where is l’ingeniere when I need him?) Then I picked up both the scraper and the knife and transferred the strudel to a greased cookie sheet. (Gosh, that cookie sheet is a mess.)

Brush the strudel with beaten egg and bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown, turning it once in the oven.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired. It’s also frequently served sitting in a puddle of vanilla sauce. (You’ll just have to imagine the vanilla sauce.)