A Culinary Tour Around the World: Romania Round-Up

Well, one thing I learned in this stop is that if you’re Romanian, you are fiercely proud. Several of my travelmates have personal ties to Romania and it is clear these are ties than bind forever. They couldn’t stop themselves from submitting more than one dish. (It’s good thing I conquered the mosaic maker technique!

Cake of Laws of the Kitchen from Melbourne, Australia was the first to meet me with a dish of Parjoale (Romanian meatballs) which she served with mashed potatoes and twice-cooked spicy beans. I was beginning to think it was just going to be the 2 of us in Romania, but then…

I’m happy that Gabi showed up to give us an authentic and much tastier version of mititei than I presented. Gabi, was born and raised in Romania and only moved to Chicago after he married an American. He writes a blog called Mamaliga (named after the national dish of Romania) and it’s chock full of Romanian recipes. He’s a computer programmer, chef/blogger, guitar-rocker, and all-round good guy.

Cristina of La Cucina di Cristina was born in Bucharest, Romania and currently lives near Bologna, Italy. She was so excited to show off her native cuisine that she first prepared Chicken Ostropel…and then sent me 3 more recipes: semolina gnocchi in broth, traditional sweet bread and a cookie from Transylvania. She provides recipes in English, Italian and Romanian.  And, if you visit her blog, you’ll also see an enticing travel video with scenes of Romania.

Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction has a very special attachment to Romania. It is the birthplace of her 2 daughters and she once had the opportunity of spending 9 weeks there. The happy family now live in Montreal. Liliana also made mititei and sweet bread, as well as sarmale (stuffed cabbage).

Cindy of Cindystar in Lake Garda, Italy, has been a loyal travel companion on this journey. She offers up some heartfelt facts about children in need and about an organization called Fondazione Bambini in Emergenza with which she is involved. She also prepared this beautiful Cozonac, the traditional sweet bread.

Another loyal travelmate, Brii who writes Brii’s Blog in English is also from Lake Garda, Italy (you gotta love those Lake Garda gals!). This time Brii gave us a very interesting narrative about her husband’s experience working in Romania and a friend’s experience with adoption. Oh, yes, and she made something interesting called Indushaim, a geranium and quince jam.

Thank you to those who took the leap and met me in Romania. And thank you to those of you who commented from the comfort of your armchairs…you’re equally appreciated!

From here the tour moves to Ethiopia, an even more challenging location than any we visited before. Look for my post on or before Feb 23. Round-up will be Feb 25. 

Ethiopia represents the midway point of the tour, followed By Russia March 2, India March 9, Mongolia March 16, Philippines March 23, Peru March 30. The tour ends Apr 6 in the U.S.A.

A Culinary Tour Around the World: Romania

Buna dimineata (good morning) and welcome to Romania, ‘the last frontier’, i.e., the last European nation to come of age. It’s also said to be a ‘nation of survivors’. Like many of its European neighbors, Romania’s early history is scarred by foreign conquests and wars; its later history by a reign of communism. While I can’t vouch for its accuracy, I found this write-up on the history, particularly as it relates to its 50-year rule under the dictator Ceausescu, to be very interesting reading. It helped me understand why the country is seemingly lagging in cultural development and modernization. However, since it is way behind the curve in tourism, it still represents value for travelers.

Romania is also a very ‘colorful’ country steeped in mystery. One thinks of Romania and automatically Count Dracula…vampirism…Transylvania…gypsies come to mind. For a peek into the culture of the gypsy communities, check out this and this. For the Dracula legend, check this. These articles are not only enlightening but fascinating.

Food and Culture
• The culture is very rich in tradition and folklore. 
• The language, unlike its Slovak neighbors, is Latin-based and considered one of the romance languages.
• Traveling in Romania today is said to be like traveling in western Europe in the 1940s.
• The country has 3000 towns and villages and all are no more than 40 miles apart.
• Romania produces 402 different types of wine and was rated #12 of 70 world producers in 2005. Who knew?
Tuica, a strong potion, made from fruit is the national drink Noroc!

Fish and guests stink after three days. (Romanian proverb).

I had a difficult time with the cuisine in Romania and I must admit this dinner is not something I’d repeat. I saw a lot of recipes for stuffed cabbage, but I’d had my quota of cabbage in the first few stops. I also came across a lot of cake recipes (they must be good bakers) but, since I lack both the precision and patience gene, baking has always been my Achilles’ heel.

This noodle recipe called for serving it with caramelized apples, but did not include instructions so I just pan grilled a few slices with butter and some grated nutmeg and then sprinkled thyme to marry it with the herb in the meat.

Conclusion: All in all, I was left with a lot of bowls, fry pans, and pots to clean — and, sadly, not a satisfying meal. It could have been the “chef-ess” had a bad day in the kitchen or, it’s just not my proverbial cup of tea. I hope some of my travelmates will show up to Romania and do the cuisine the justice I’m sure it deserves.

Next Stop: Ethiopia, on or about Feb 23. Round-up Feb 25. 

White Bean Squash Chili

We momentarily interrupt the Culinary Tour Around the World to introduce a healthy chili recipe.

For those of you who follow FOODalogue, you know I like colorful plates and lots of vegetables. I incorporate veggies into eggs for breakfast, in sandwiches at lunch time, and in pastas for dinner. But, admittedly, I also like pasta, crusty bread and wine a little too much (well, o.k., a lot) so my New Year’s resolution was to try bringing in even more vegetables as a substitute for the carbs I really crave. 

I also like to ‘waste not’ in the kitchen…so when I had 2 small slices of pork loin leftover from a roast and I wanted to healthy-it-up, I thought about making a mainly vegetarian chili with a little pork to add flavor.

Like most of my recipes, this  is more about food pairings and presentation than actual technique and measurements — but because it is ‘chili’, I’m sending it off to Gloria of Cookbook Cuisine* for her ‘chili cook-off‘. 

What I did:
• baked 2 squash halves (butternut and acorn) in oven till tender; scooped out filling, cubed it and reserved to side for later. Meantime,
• sauteed shallot, green pepper and garlic in olive oil with some fresh thyme
• added about a cup of halved grape tomatoes
• a splash of wine
• 1 can of Goya white beans 
• 8 ozs of tomato sauce
• diced pork loin
• chili powder, cumin, chipolte, pimenton (paprika)
• chopped fresh cilantro
• a squeeze of lime
• a dash of hot sauce
• simmer till flavors meld
• fold in reserved chopped squash and serve in squash shells.

*Gloria is a published author of some 2 dozen books and she is offering a free online course of how to write a cookbook. We’ve only had one lesson so far so I don’t think it’s too late to sign up. She’s out promoting her new book but will be back to resume her head mistress role soon.

A Culinary Tour Around the World: Portugal Round-Up

Muito obrigado (many thanks) to my travelmates for sharing their stories and enlightening readers to the cuisine of Portugal which, as you can see, is delicious.

Denise of Chez Us in San Francisco, CA made a 3-course dinner. Chez Us also took the tour to a new technical level with a live webcast of the actual dinner. Up first: chicken soup with meyer lemon and mint, followed by clams & chorizos with bacalao-infused mashed potatoes, and an orange custard for dessert. 

Ricardo of Rico Cafe Bistro comes to us from the U.K., but he actually was born in Portugal so he spoke to us from a position of authority. Eggs with peas and potatoes “his way” is a sure winner (with or without the chorico that his ‘mum’ used to put in).

Val from More Than Burnt Toast in British Columbia takes us on another adventure with history, culinary tidbits and “Dear Joan” postcards from the front. She also introduces us to Bolo de Queijos (savory cheese bread).

Lydia of Cookbook Addiction in Montreal was delighted to find a recipe for Portuguese Paehla and imported these delicious-looking custard tarts called Pasteis de Nata from a nearby Portuguese bakery.

Holly from El Hajii in Honolulu not only prepared a delicious Punahou Portuguese Bean Soup which she served with Portuguese Sweet Bread, she tells us about some of the many contributions Portugal made to Hawaii’s culinary history.

And then, lucky us, along comes Karen from Karen Cooks in Montana with a recipe for Massa Souvada (Portuguese Sweet Bread) which was passed down by her maternal grandparents, who immigrated from the Azores. Their wedding photo is on the website.

Vinos d’Alhos (Portuguese wine and garlic marinated pork) came from ts and js, the sister team at Eating Club Vancouver. They have a very interesting and popular blog with each of them “speaking” intermittently and critiquing the dish online as they did with this one.

Brii in Lake Garda, Italy, who writes Brii’s Blog in Englishreminisced about her trip to Portugal 6 years ago and made these lovely pastries, Pastéis de Bélem.

And what’s a party without a nightcap? Thanks to Cindy of Cindystar in Lake Garda, Italy, we won’t have to deal with that question. She brought a Port Wine Flip.

Portugal was a great stop. I think everyone really enjoyed the experience. But, as much as I’d like to linger, we need to move on. And it’s going to get a bit challenging from here on out. I hope you all have the stamina to hang in there with me. Every stop is made sweeter by your presence, be it by participating or leaving a comment. I encourage readers to visit all the participants. Blogs are like their authors…each with a distinctive personality. 

See you in Romania next week. I arrive on or before Feb 16. The round-up will be posted on Feb 18 (EST-USA) so please get your links to me before then.

A note to food bloggers: Just a reminder about BloggerAid. The call for recipes for the fundraising cookbook is ongoing. Who wouldn’t want to see their recipe in print (I mean besides our blogs) and at the same time do something to help eradicate world hunger?