Friday, October 19, 2012

On the Menu: Romanian Food

A little of this, a little of that...

When I looked at the Romanian recipes I noticed something.  Most of the recipes sounded vaguely like other recipes I'd seen before.  The more I read about Romanian food the more I understood why.  Over the course of history Romania has been occupied by many other countries.  Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Poland, and Russia have all influenced the food of the country - not to mention immigrants from other countries who have settled in the area.  They like to say that it gives their food a uniqueness because they took a little of this cuisine and a little of that and blended it into their own.

Many of the dishes are prepared using the age old cooking techniques and family recipes that have been passed down for generations.  Do they eat like this everyday?  Probably not, I'm sure in the big towns they have pizza and burgers when they've had a long day.  But when there's a big occasion or a guest comes to town they have some great traditional recipes to break out!

A "traditional" Romanian meal would usually include some or all of these courses. 
  • An appetizer-usually fresh cheeses, cold cuts or vegetable spreads
  • soup
  • fish - maybe grilled Black Sea sturgeon or herring
  • meat entree - stuffed cabbage leaves (sarmale), stew or handmade sausages they call "wee ones"
  • desserts like stuffed crepes or sweet breads
Feeling full? I found some good resources for recipes online at Home Cooking in Montana and We made the sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) and I know after my plateful of pork and sour cabbage cooked in a tomato sauce I sure was full! I couldn't even imagine eating all that other food!

Sarmale (Stuffed cabbage rolls)

This recipe is a compilation of many I found on the internet
For the recipe you will need:
  • 2-3 lbs ground pork
  • 1/2 cup long grain rice
  • 1 onion chopped
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh dill
  • 2 cans condensed tomato soup
  • 1 12oz can tomato juice
  • 2 med. heads of cabbage (cut out core)
  • 1 large jar of sauerkraut
  • bacon
1. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and plop a cabbage into it.  As the leaves begin to come separate take them out of water and place in large bowl. Repeat with other cabbage until you have a whole bunch of leaves.  Pour sauerkraut and juice over the leaves and let sit for awhile.  The traditional recipe calls for "sour cabbage" which is like sauerkraut but a whole head instead of shredded.  This was the closest thing I could think of.
2. In large bowl add pork, onion, rice, a little sauerkraut, some chopped dill (1/2 cup maybe?) and chopped parsley(same amount as dill).  Mix well.
3. Shake off the sauerkraut from the cabbage leaves and place in the bottom of a high-sided roasting pan.
4.  Take a cabbage leaf (cut in half if very large) and put 2 T of meat mixture in center and roll up to form little package. Place on top of sauerkraut.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.
5.  Put strips of bacon on top of first layer and finish the next layer.
6.  Pour tomato juice and soup over top of rolls.  They should be covered.  Add another few strips of bacon on top (.I didn't but wish I did)
7.  Cover with foil or lid and bake covered for 2 hours and then uncovered for 2 more hours.

This was something I've never made before so I'm not sure if I did it right, I know I made them bigger than they should be because I was in a rush to get them in the oven for 4 hours!  
These would probably be really good in a crockpot.  The adults liked them - the dill and sauerkraut gave them an interesting taste- different but good. The kids wanted nothing to do with them.  I think their cultural curiosity doesn't go as far as cabbage rolls.

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