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Posts Tagged ‘Romania’

A couple of months ago, my parents told me that they were thinking about going to visit my brother for Christmas… they live in Boulder, CO. I was so sad! I have spent every Christmas with my parents… only one time we were not together. And then I thought about the Christmas Eve dinner… my mom and I always make the traditional Romanian dinner together and I have never actually made any of the dishes on my own. I could not have Christmas Eve without the traditional dinner! I asked my mom to write the recipes for me so I could make them.

The dinner includes 7 dishes. It seemed a bit overwhelming to make all of them, especially since some are pretty time consuming. I decided to make my favorites… grâu, bob, and colțunași. I also debated about making the smoked fish dish, but decided on making a simple fish instead. And I did have a helper… sort of.

Grâu means wheat in Romanian. The dish is made with this wheat, which my mom found at a local Greek store. She experimented with a few over the years and the current one seems the best.

 

You have to soak it in boiling water over night, then you change the water, let it come to a boil, and then bake it in the oven for about an hour. Once baked, you add sugar, finely chopped walnuts, and poppy seeds. My mom also adds chopped walnuts, but I forgot to buy some so I did not add it. I actually liked it better without the chopped walnuts.

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Bob is pretty much just fava beans. You sauté onions and garlic with some salt and pepper, then you add the drained fava beans, and sauté until all of the liquid is absorbed. My sister mentioned that she skinned the fava beans before cooking them, so I tried that. It was kind of a pain to do, but perhaps it did help with the digestion.

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Colţunaşi, which means dumplings in Romanian, is definitely my favorite dish from this dinner. I look forward to it all year. They are super tasty but also the most labor intensive. I have been helping my mom make them for years. The most labor intensive part is rolling the dough and actually pinching them. It would take my mom and I hours to make. We had an assembly type line in her kitchen… my dad would roll the dough, my mom would cut the squares and fill them, and I would pinch them. We would make anywhere from 200 to almost 300 of them. Crazy, no!?! :) Then one year, one of us bought my mom the pasta attachment for her Kitchen Aid mixer. That was the best gift ever! It cut our colţunaşi making time in more than half.

The dough is very simple… flour, salt, a bit of oil, and water. The filling includes finely chopped granny smith apple that is mixed with poppy seeds. To finish them off, you add some sautéed onions on top and mix them. I made 84 colţunaşi this year. I think that it took me about an hour to make them, so it was not too bad.

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The traditional dinner also includes two types of fish dishes. Both include lots of onions and a bunch of smoked and non-smoked fishes. I decided not to make them. Instead, I got some Mahi Mahi filets, but I was unsure exactly what to do with them. After a quick text with my brother, he told me to sauté some onion, add a few lemon slices to the pan, add the fish filets, pour a bit of white wine, put the lid on the pan, and cook them for a bit until done. And that is what I did. :) It was super tasty!

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Our friend Yokko joined us for dinner. She brought a Cauli Cream Spinach dish, which was tasty and it went really well with the rest of the dinner.

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I am proud to say that the dishes were a success! I must admit that I was kind of stressed out about making them. I was unsure if they would come out as good as my mom’s. I was also worried about ruining the dinner… that would have been a bummer, especially since my parents were not around either.

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Merry Christmas… or La Multi Ani, as we say it in Romanian. It was also the first day of Chanukah, so Happy Chanukah!! :)

 

 

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My first introduction to Clafouti was during my stay in France while in college. I was lucky and fortunate to be able to spend 3 months in Tours, France.

I have had this obsession with France ever since I was 8. It was due to the numerous Alexandre Dumas novels from my neighbor’s book collection. My sister and I spent countless hours reading them to each other. Since my family decided to leave Romania, my sister and I were not able to go to school during this time. The waiting period lasted for 3 years, so we had enough time to go through the entire collection. :) It is one of my favorite childhood memories.

Due to this obsession, I decided to immerse myself into the language as well as the culture. Once in the US and as I entered 8th grade, I was excited to find out that French was offered as a course. I continued to study it all the way through college. Finally, while in college, I got the opportunity to go to France for a study abroad program to study the language as well as the culture. It was the best 3 months of my life.

During my stay, my French mother baked a Cherry Clafouti for dinner one day. It was so delicious! I still think about it. I have attempted it several times, but it has never come out as good as hers. It must be because she is French! So jealous! :)

While grocery shopping last week, I came across a display of cherries. They were so beautiful and they were even locally grown. How great is that?!?! Of course the fairly large container ended up in my shopping cart. The silly part about this whole thing is that I cannot really eat a lot of cherries and Joel is allergic to them. HA! “They would be great as a cherry Clafouti”, I thought. So they became Cherry Clafouti… a Cherry-Almond Clafouti, that is.

I found the recipe on Epicurious. It is very simple. It simply requires whole milk, almonds, sugar, cherries, eggs, almond extract, salt, and flour. The interesting part about the recipe is that it requires you to make almond milk from scratch. I decided to use store-bought almond milk, to save time. Also, I did not want to use whole milk due to my lactose intolerance. The worst part about the entire process was pitting the cherries. Now I know why pitted cherries or a cherry pitter are ideal. :)

The Clafouti turned out great! It is not quite as custardy as I would have expected it to be. This, I am sure, is due to the fact that I used almond milk instead of whole milk. I also think that I used more cherries than what the recipe required. But since I spent all that time pitting them, how could I not?!?

“Bon appétit!”, as my French mother would say.

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Quince Jam

Growing up, my mom used to make lots of homemade goodies… cakes, cookies, jams. Food was scarce in Romania during my childhood. All the grocery stores were completely empty, with the exception of some canned stuff. If the store all of a sudden received a shipment of any type of food item, everyone in the neighborhood formed a line the day before and camped all night to make sure that they got that item. I never understood how everyone found out about it. It was a mystery to me. I remember a bunch of times when my sister and I stayed in line all day for things like bananas, oranges, eggs, and other things. A couple of those times, the item was sold out as soon as we reached the counter. We came home crying to my parents informing them of the bad luck. Several bakeries did exist around my neighborhood, but going to them was a treat. Everything was very expensive.

One of the most frequent things that my mom made, as far as jams go, was quince jam. I have never found quince jam in Rochester or anywhere else for that matter. I do keep an eye out for it whenever I travel. I think that quince is not very well known in America. Somehow it was abundant in Romania. Also, it is definitely an acquired taste as far as eating it raw. I personally do not like it raw. Its flesh is very hard and tart. It does however make a good fruit for jams. The jam does remind me of my childhood. I can picture my mom in the kitchen shredding the quince, making the jam, and then canning it. It was definitely a chore, but the outcome was always well worth it.

During one of my phone calls with my mom a few weeks ago, she told me that my dad found quince at a local market and bought a bunch of it. She further told me that she got inspired and made several jars of jam. I was so excited since I have not had it in a very long time.

The jam was exactly as I remembered it. It was sweet and somewhat thick in consistency, similar to a marmalade. The first spoon of it took me right back to my childhood. Yes… I did say a spoon of it. There are certain jams that I can just eat by the spoonfuls. Growing up, jams were desserts (at least at my house), so eating a spoonful of it was normal. Joel always shakes his head every time he sees me doing that. I guess he will never understand. :)

I also like to spread it on a piece of freshly baked bread. It’s definitely heaven!!

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My co-worker Thuan and I talked about having an international food dinner a while ago. The requirement was that the food had to be authentic and home made. Shortly after our talk, I received an invite for the dinner. His friend Beth loved the idea as well, and sent the invite. I was very excited that it was actually happening (thanks Beth for organizing it!).

After consulting with my mom and sister, I decided to make Salată de Vinete, Gustare, and Negresa.

Salată de Vinete is an eggplant spread, which my mom has been making for years and I really like. The dish is very simple to make. It only requires roasted eggplant, roasted green pepper, onion, oil, and salt and pepper. My mom always decorates it with tomatoes and parsley leaves, so it was only fitting to do the same this time.

Salată de Vinete

Salată de Vinete

Another typical Romanian dish is Gustare, which means appetizer. The dish includes sliced tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with some salt and pepper, some feta cheese, and usually some kind of meat, such as pork.

Gustare

Preparing the ingredients for the Gustare.

Growing up, this dish was included on the menu of every party that we attended. Also, during our trip to Romania a few years ago, every house that we visited served it to us, which really surprised Joel. :) I did explain the popularity of it to him many times, but I guess it still surprised him.

After my failed attempt at making the Negresa a few weeks ago, I decided to make it again, but follow the recipe this time. So I included the required 2 sticks of butter and voilà… the cake was perfect. :)

The dinner was a success! All the dishes were delicious! I was surprised about how many different countries were represented. We had dishes from Romania (of course), Vietnam, Turkey, Korea, Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Poland, and US.

Kofte (beef patties seasoned with Turkish herbs. We have a similar dish in Romania, except that it is made with pork.)

The dishes included:

~ Thai Beef Salad
~ Kofte
~ Borek (a Turkish take on Spanakopita)
~ Pierogis and Kielbasa
~ Chicken Parmesan
~ Korean BBQ Pork
~ Vietnamese Egg Rolls
~ Portuguese Malasadas
~ Vietnamese Fried Rice
~ Kugel

Portuguese Malasadas

Portuguese Malasadas

The dinner was so much fun! It was great meeting some of Thuan’s friends. Delicious food and nice company… what more can you ask for?

Vietnamese Egg Rolls

Vietnamese Egg Rolls

I think that we should definitely have another dinner soon. I am sure that Thuan agrees with me. :)

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Măcinici

Măcinici… “What is it?” you ask. It’s a sweet, soupy, cinnamony mixture of goodness. It’s a Romanian tradition. Every March 9th, people across Romania make them to celebrate Saints day. My mom has been making them for years. I have vivid memories of being in our kitchen watching my mom making them and waiting patiently for them to be done. (I guess I have done a fair amount of that over the years.) Although, the tradition escaped our minds for a few years once we moved to America. I don’t know what we were thinking! The tradition is back and here to stay. :)

The recipe is simple but time consuming, typical of a traditional Romanian dish. You make a simple dough using flour, water, and a little salt. You roll the dough, and using a special punch, which my mom brought from Romania, you make numerous figure 8s.

You also have to make 42 figure 1s, which according to my mom, represents the Saints. Also, if you add up the figure 8s and figure 1s, they equal 9, which is why the dish is made on March 9th. Ha!

Next you boil the dough in a fairly large pot of water (at least that is what we do, since we always seem to make a lot of them).

Once the dough is al dente, you add sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, vanilla extract, rum extract, and lemon zest. YUM! The dish is a little better the next day, since the flavors have a chance to blend together and the liquid becomes thicker.

Apparently there are different ways to make Măcinici depending on what part of Romania you live in. For example, in Moldova (the north east part of the country), they are made as small bread-like rolls. While that sounds appealing, I think that my mom’s recipe is the best way to make them. Perhaps I am partial since it reminds me of my childhood. :) I look forward to next year!

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Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I love taking the trip to the Christmas tree farm to cut the tree and then decorating the tree and my house. What I love even more is our traditional Romanian Christmas Eve dinner. Well, traditional for my family. My mom grew up in the northeastern part of Romania, so the cuisine is heavily influenced by Ukraine. The dishes are truly a treat, since we only make them on Christmas Eve. As with every other Romanian dish, it usually takes all day to make. My mom spends countless hours in the kitchen, sometimes over 2 days, cooking and baking. I usually help her, which makes it even more fun.

My favorite dish is Colţunasi, which are raviolis/pierogis filled with apples and poppy seeds. YUM!! I look forward to eating them every year.

Making the Colţunasi is a team effort. My mom makes the dough and then my dad rolls it. Next, my mom cuts the rolled dough into squares and places the filling on each square. Finally, Joel, my mom, and I pinch them. Thanks to Monica and David, we can now roll the dough using an electric pasta roller, which somewhat speeds the process.

As we were getting ready to make the dough, my mom and I decided that we should use 12 cups of flour, since my brother was coming home and all of us love the dish. I don’t know what we were thinking!

After about 3 hours, we were finally done. We ended up making 268 Colţunasi! I was so glad that we had the pasta roller. Otherwise, it would have taken us twice as long to make them.

The dinner includes a few other dishes:

– Grău (wheat mixed with sugar, poppy seeds, and walnuts)
– Smoked fishes
– Bob (fava beans sautéed with oil and onions)
– Ciuperci (mixed mushrooms in a garlic and onion broth)
– Compot (mixed dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins, in a sweet broth)

I posted pictures of the dinner on my Picasa site, if you are curious to see the other dishes.

La Mulţi Ani!!

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Last week on Friday, I spent the evening with Anthony Bourdain. I was watching an episode of No Reservations, when an obnoxiously loud commercial came on saying that I can catch Anthony Bourdain in Rochester. I immediately looked it up and it was true! The show was going to be at the Auditorium Theater. The description simply said “an evening with Anthony Bourdain”. I was sold! Both Joel and my brother were a little skeptical. “What exactly is he going to do?” they both asked. My answer was “I have no idea. It just says an evening with Anthony Bourdain. But does it really matter?? It’s Anthony Bourdain!” :) Kristin and her friend Jon decided to join us. The evening was set – dinner at Kristin’s, followed by the show, and then drinks and dessert at Good Luck.

The show was great! He discussed his travels as well as his favorite foods and places that he visited. It was as if I was watching No Reservations, but he was standing only a few rows in front of me. :) Crazy!! I really love his humor. I was happy when he mentioned that when traveling, one should really try and eat local foods. Forget about Hard Rock Café or some other American chain! Find a small, local restaurant that has been there for years and eat there. That is how you should experience a new city, new country, or new region. Towards the end of the show, he turned the microphone to the audience for a question and answer session. The audience asked some interesting questions, some better than others. One person asked his thoughts on the fact that it was a Friday night and that the theater was filled with folks who worked in restaurants. He laughed, and when he asked how many people worked in a restaurant, about 1/2 of the audience raised their hands. The last question came from a woman (who apparently cut in front of Kristin, which was not very nice!). I can’t recall the exact question, but it was either what was the most memorable food or favorite food that he ever had. His answer was booze. Typical!! If you watch No Reservations, you would agree. I really wanted to say a few things but did not get the guts to go up to the microphone to do it. :( “What were you going to say?” you ask. What I wanted to say was this:

“Hi Tony! My name is Veronica. I am ecstatic that you are here. I really love your show! I want to say two things. First, my brother is a chef in NYC. A few years ago he worked at Babbo, and he mentioned that you and Bill Buford stopped by the restaurant and you were noticeably wasted. :) Secondly, I am originally from Romania. I was so excited when I found out that you were going to have a show on Romania. However, after watching it, I was not so excited anymore. That was the worst show you’ve ever done! What is up with Zamir?? I think that you need to go back and do another show there. I will be more than happy to be your tour guide.”

Perhaps the planets will align and he will somehow stumble upon my blog and read this post. :) Hmm… I can dream, can’t I??

I was very glad to go to Good Luck for drinks and dessert after the show. It was very fitting, after all. Good Luck was great!! The space is so cool – the brick walls, the antique lamps, and the table décor were great! Also, they have some very tasty drinks and desserts! YUM!! We ordered the chocolate cake and the goat cheese cheesecake. They were just delicious!! I really loved the goat cheese cheesecake. Who would have thought to make cheesecake out of goat cheese? It really worked! I can’t wait to go back to try the rest of the drinks and desserts. I also noticed that they have homemade gnocchi. Hmmm… :)

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