The Art of Romaian Cooking
book Review & Recpes
By Cheri Sicard
Anyone with Eastern European roots (not just Romanians) will find familiar fare in Galia Sperber’s new book. Inspired by her grandmother’s cooking and family memories of Romania, Sperber, a medical doctor who specializes cardiovascular disease research, has put together a well-rounded collection of over 200 recipes for appetizers, salads, soups, fish, meat, side dishes, Romanian Puddings (Budinci), Cakes and Sweet Loaves, along with other desserts. The chapter on Romanian Puddings, both savory and sweet is worth the price of the book alone, especially for anyone who grew up with these dishes. Interspersed with the recipes are stories and reminiscences from Dr. Sperber’s family.
As Romania stood as the easternmost outpost of the Roman Empire, it was traversed by a number of tribes who left their imprint on the culinary heritage of the land. While the food blends elements of Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, Slavic and French cuisines, the recipes are easy to prepare and use mostly common ingredients.
The book also offers several variations of favorite Romanian dishes such as Borscht or Stuffed Cabbage. You’ll find recipes for every night suppers as well as special occasions.
Recipes (and text) from The Art of Romanian Cooking
Borscht is an Eastern European dish that is recognized around the world. Anyone who has experienced the harsh winters of Russia, Poland, Romania, etc., knows why this hearty soup is so popular. There are many variations; the ones in this book have been made in the author’s family for years.
2 lb. beef, in large cubes
2/3 gallon water (2 1/2 liters)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cabbage, cut in strips
2 carrots, grated
2 carrots, whole
3 potatoes, diced
1 green bell pepper, whole
2 red beets, grated
2 red beets, whole
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, bring beef to the boil in the water. Remove any foam that forms. Add the tomato paste and all the vegetables except the two whole beets. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Now add the whole beets to reinforce the color, as well as the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the meat is cooked through, remove it from the soup. Also remove the whole vegetables. Only the liquid and the cut vegetables are eaten in the soup. Serve each bowl with a spoonful of crème fraiche (you could also substitute sour cream). The meat can be eaten cold, accompanied by a green salad and roasted potatoes.
1 large white cabbage
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons white rice
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or veal
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Break off the cabbage leaves and cut out the hard spines with a knife. Boil a pot of salted water and add the leaves, simmer several seconds, and remove when they begin to soften. Place the cabbage leaves on paper towels and allow to cool. In a greased frying pan, brown the chopped onions and rice, then add 1/2 cup hot water. Cover and allow the rice to swell, then cool several minutes.
In a large bowl mix together the meat, rice, parsley, salt and pepper.
On a wooden board, lay out a cabbage leaf, and crossing over the part that was cut out, add a spoonful of meat mixture, fold in the sides, and roll the leaf over the meat to form a sausage shape. Repeat with the rest of the leaves and meat.
Roll up the small remaining cabbage leaves and cut into strips. Slice the tomatoes.
In a large casserole dish, place several tomato slices in the bottom, followed by half the shredded cabbage, and a tight layer of stuffed cabbage. Cover with another layer of tomato and stuffed cabbage, and cover with the remaining tomato slices and shredded cabbage.
Dilute the tomato paste in 4 cups water. Add the lemon juice and garlic and pour the liquid over the cabbage. Cover and bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour. Add more diluted tomato paste if the liquid lowers to half its original level. Serve hot with mamaliga (a Hungarian version of Polenta) and sour cream.
Cheri Sicard Editor, Fabulous Foods -- http://www.fabulousfoods.com
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