It is true that this blog is not really the place for weird food. The point is to make food that you are comfortable with, economically, time-wise, skill-wise, and even emotionally, because we want healthy food to be accessible food. However, I spent part of my summer (away from RealisticChef) in Moldova, a small, Eastern European country. Then I spent time back in the states creating intimate environments where I could share about my experience in Moldova. This was always done around a traditional, Moldovan dinner. I was happy to discover that this time (as opposed to my return from, say, India or Israel), the food was enjoyed by everyone present, no matter how picky an eater. Turns out that Moldovan food fits well into the standard, American palate. So I think you will enjoy.
Feel free to serve this meal in pieces, or to add on bread with butter and/or Hungarian wine (since you can not get Moldovan here. We particularly like Bull’s Blood). Traditionally, the meat would be served on a plate with sour cream and sheep’s cheese alongside the mamaliga, which is plated on a flat surface and sliced with a piece of thread. You could just lay down the mamaliga and top with meat, sour cream, and cheese. Dessert could be as simple as vanilla, chocolate, or peanut wafer sandwiches (bought at an Asian grocer) with hot tea.
I got creative with this and included parsnips and rutabaga, which is the essence of Moldovan cooking: creating simple meals from what is growing right then and there.
- In a soup pot, combine 3 quarts water, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped onion, and 1 peeled and chopped beet. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 1/2 hour.
- Add 2 chopped bell peppers (preferably green), 1 can diced tomatoes, and chopped 1/4 green cabbage (preferably white). Simmer for another 1/2 hour.
- In a small dish, melt 1 tablespoon butter and whisk in 1 tablespoon flour. Whisk this mixture into the soup along with 1 tablespoon minced parsley and/or dill and salt to to taste. Taste soup for veggie tenderness.
MAMALIGA (Moldovan polenta)
- In a medium-large sauce pan, bring 2 cups water and 1/2-1 teaspoon salt to a boil.
- With a wooden spoon, whisk in 1 cup yellow cornmeal all at once. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir constantly until polenta is thick and starts to separate from the side of the pan. If your mamaliga seizes, add water and continue stirring.
- Officially, you should turn your polenta out on a flat surface and form it into a disk which you will slice, but you could also just scoop out with a spoon. Serve with the Paprikash, sour cream, and sheep’s cheese.
CHICKEN (OR PORK) PAPRIKASH
- In a saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive or safflower oil until hot, but not smoking. Add 3/4-1 pound chopped chicken or pork (making sure it is dry and you are not crowding the pan) and brown for 5-6 minutes.
- Lower the heat a little and add 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 tablespoon paprika (sweet or hot, to taste). Saute another 5 minutes, being careful not to scorch the garlic.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup water, bring to boil, and reduce heat to medium. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until water has almost completely evaporated and meat is cooked through.
- Shred 1/2 head white cabbage.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste, until emulsified.
- Toss dressing with cabbage, a minced handful of parsley and dill, and optional shredded carrots and apples.
CREAMY CUCUMBER AND TOMATO SALAD
- De-seed and chop a couple superior tomatoes and a few peeled cucumbers and throw in a bowl with a large hand of chopped dill, 1/2 cup minced red onion or shallot, and optional chopped green bell pepper. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sour cream with a few splashes red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1-2 pressed cloves garlic.
- Immediately before serving, drain off any water that has seeped from the veggies and dry out the bowl, then toss with the dressing.
- In a soup pot, bring 4 liters of water to a boil with about 2 fluid liters of fruit (like frozen cherries) and 2 cups sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Strain drink through a sieve, pushing out extra juices, and discard of fruit. Serve warm or room temp. (Likewise, you can can it for later consumption in the usual, sterile way.)