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Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

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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As I wandered around the downtown public market last Saturday, I stumbled upon the most beautiful bunch of basil. “Ooo… I can make pesto!”, I told my friend Kathy who joined me for the market outing. Pestos are some of my favorite dishes to make.

They are super simple, and the result is just delicious. Also, each batch usually makes a fair amount, so you can use it for multiple dishes. It also freezes really well.

My all time favorite pesto is an arugula pesto. My friend Bruce brought me an amazing cookbook from a restaurant that I hope to visit one day. It’s my dream. The restaurant is called Hell’s Backbone Grill and is located in Utah. The restaurant grows all of their vegetables onsite and seeks all of their meats and dairy from local farmers. How amazing is that!! And to add to that, the restaurant is owned by two women. Even more amazing!! :) The cookbook is called With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant. I never thought about making pesto with arugula, but it was just delicious! The pesto includes arugula, spinach, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and salt and pepper. That’s it. It is definitely a favorite.

Toasting the pumpkin seeds.

Another favorite is the pistachio pesto, which is used in the Matchstick Pasta recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I have written about the recipe not too long ago (Matchstick Pasta post). That particular pesto does not require any greens, but it is just as delicious.

Throughout the years, I have experimented with different nuts and greens. The different nuts are what make the pesto more interesting, perhaps more so than the greens. You can use any nut, really. I have tried walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and pecans. The possibilities are endless! Also, due to my lactose intolerance, I no longer include cheese in my pestos. I really do not miss it at all. I think that they are just as good without it.

Back to the beautiful bunch of basil… For this particular pesto, I decided to use basil, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and of course olive oil and salt and pepper. I believe that a key enhancement to any pesto is to toast the nuts that you are using. It really brings out the flavors. I also do not like my pesto very oily, so I usually do not use the typical amount of oil. I use just enough to hold it all together. The pesto made a great sauce for a pasta that was topped with grilled chicken and goat cheese. We savored every bite!

I was lucky to find more basil and a bunch of arugula at the market this week. I foresee more pesto in the near future!

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Since Joel’s mom moved from Rochester about 3 years ago, I have been continuing the Jewish traditions. I love making the traditional dinners. Since Chanukah started at sundown on Wednesday, I decided to have a small dinner.

Bruce, Joel, and Yokko

I never know what to make as a main dish for any Jewish holidays, since the traditional dish is brisket. I am sorry, but I just cannot get myself to do it. After some searching, the menu was set:

My sister and I frequently talk about dinner menus. About a month ago she mentioned that she was making a Gingered Carrot Soup. I was so excited to make it. The soup is very simple. The recipe requires 2 pounds of carrots that are boiled until soft. While the carrots are boiling, you sauté some onions (or shallots in my case), and you add fresh ginger, cinnamon, dried mint, cumin, salt, and some lemon juice. Lastly, you blend the carrots, sautéed onions, and some cashews, and voilà… you have a pot of Gingered Carrot soup. I have made the soup 4 times since she gave me the recipe. It’s so delicious!! The soup was also a hit at the dinner. We finished the entire pot! :)

Joel’s mom shared her recipe for latkes with me a long time ago. I am not sure where it came from, but I know that she has been making them for years. I was so happy to have her recipe, since her latkes have always been delicious.

A few years ago I was searching for a flourless cake, and I stumbled upon the Walnut-Date Torte on Epicurious.com. I have made it several times since, and I am always pleased. It’s also dairy free, which makes me super happy.

The dinner was great! We finished the soup (as I mentioned above), all the latkes, spinach, and almost the entire cake. I am savoring the last piece as I write this post.

Happy Chanukah!

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