Monday, December 1, 2014

Our Romanian Dinner Party

This evening we had a Romanian feast.  The table was set with a tablecloth that was the colors of the  Romanian flag.  About a month ago I had visited a vintage store and purchased some broaches for the ladies and small bottles of Jack Daniels for the men. All these were used as name place settings.  The candles were lit and it was time to get this party started.
Aurel had brought some special "Romanian spring water" that could knock you off your feet.  In fact, it did with two of our men folk. Hey, I'm not mentioning any names (the two oldest ones).  We started the evening with appetizers of ciabatta bread, olives, feta cheese, salami and spring water, a Romanian plum bandy. Hmmm, the light weight that I am I only partook in one glass shot, unlike some of the others.


Counting 1-2-3

 Bottoms Up

 Burning going down!

Hot all over...

Down the hatch, again!!! Not counting.

Finally we all gather at the table, ready to consume some food, but not until Stone, Aurel, Jim and Abby Gail had a final shot of Romanian Palinca, or so we thought!

The downfall was when Abby Gail brought the bottle to the table.  Not a good idea, seeing that caused the entire bottle to be consumed.

Salata Boeuf
3 large beef shanks
2 red onions
2 pounds small carrots already peeled
3 good size parsnips, peeled
1 bunch celery
1 bunch italian parsley
1 good size gala apple
1 jar dill pickles, chopped
1 bag frozen baby peas, (12 ounces)
5 medium size golden potatoes
Hellman's mayo, not diet
1 jar dijon originale mustard
Salt as needed
The day before:
Boil the beef shanks, 2 red onions, 1 pound carrots, 1 parsnip, 6-7 stalks of celery, salt, pepper corns, in water just enough to cover.
Skim the foam as needed, and then let boil at least 2 1/2 hours, by then the meat should be well cooked and tender.  
Separate the meat (throw out the bones, the marrow if you don't want to eat it separately, cartledge, fat, skin, etc.) put it in a covered container, and refrigerate.  
All the rest, except the liquid soup can be thrown away.
The soup should be refrigerated and skimmed the next morning.
Next Morning:
Boil the potatoes in water and save.
Boil the peas in some sugared water, drain, and save.
Boil the remaining carrots, 5-6 stalks celery and the two parsnips in some of the saved soup, until cooked, abut they should remain still sufficiently firm.  
Refrigerate everything until cold.
To assembly salad, layer all but the mayo and mustard.  Mix mustard and mayo together, portions to your liking.  Add to the salad.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Daniela felt at home as she fried up the Chiftele.

Chiftele Cu Fasole Batuta
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
4 eggs, whipped with a fork
1 large bunch of fresh dill or 3 packages of dill, chopped
1 bunch italian parsley, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

With hands mix beef and pork together.  Chop dill, parsley and scallions.  Add to meat mixture.  Mix in eggs.  With hands make into a little less than 1/3 cup patties.  Flour each one and fry in very hot oil.

       Abby Gail's Ciabatta Bread
Yield: 2 loafs
Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours 20 minutes
For the Sponge:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant (rapid-rise) yeast
1/2 cup water, at room temperature
For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon instant (rapid-rise yeast
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1. Make the Sponge: Combine the flour, yeast and water in a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a uniform mass forms.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
2. Make the Dough: Place the sponge and the dough ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, water and milk) in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until combined and a shaggy dough forms, about 1 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed.  Increase the speed to medium-low and continue mixing until the dough becomes a uniform mass that collects on the paddle and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 4-6 minutes. 
 Change to the dough hook and knead the bread on medium speed until smooth and shiny (the dough will be very sticky), about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Spray a rubber spatula or bowl scaler with non-stick cooking spray.  Fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding the edge of the dough toward the middle, turn the bowl 90 degrees, and fold again.  Turn the bowl and fold the dough 6 more times ( for a total of 8 times.)
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
4. Repeat the folding as in step #3, replace the plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
5.  One hour before baking, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack and preheat the oven to 450'.
6. Cut two 12X6" pieces of parchment paper and dust liberally with flour.  Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, being careful not to deflate it completely.  Liberally flour the top of the dough and divide it in half with a bench scraper.  Turn 1 piece of dough cut-side-up and dust with flour.  With well-floured hands, press the dough into a rough 12X6" rectangle.  Fold the shorter sides of the dough toward center, overlapping them like you would fold a letter in thirds, to form a 7X4" rectangle.  Repeat with the second piece of dough.

7. Gently transfer each loaf, seam-side-down, to the parchment sheets, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the loaves sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (the surface of the loaves will develop small bubbles.)
8. Slide the parchment pieces with the loaves onto a pizza wheel.  Using floured fingertips, evenly poke the entire surface of each loaf to form a 10X6" rectangle; spray the loaves lightly with water.  Slide the loaves and parchment onto the baking stone.  Bake, spraying the loaves with water twice more during the first 5 minutes of baking time, until the crust is deep golden brown and the loaves register 210', 22-27 minutes.

Abby Gail, spraying the loafs with water.

Malia slicing up Abby Gail's superb bread.

9. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and let cool to room temperature for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
The bread can be wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Wrapped with an additional layer of foil, the bread can be frozen for up to 1 month.  To recrisp the crust, thaw the bread at room temperature (if frozen) and place unwrapped bread in 450-degree oven for 6-8 minutes. Recipe Adapted from:

Delia mashing the beans for the fasole batuta cu ceapa.

Fasole batuta cu ceapa (Bean Mash)
5 (20 ounce) cans white kidney beans, drained.
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil 
In a food processor puree beans until smooth.  Add salt and pepper.  Add olive oil.  Serve room temperature topped with caramelized onions.

If you've never caramelized onions before you wouldn't know how much they shrink.  It's amazing how much.  Everyone in my family loves onions so I knew I needed to have a lot of these babies on hand.  For ten people I cooked up 7 pounds of onions.  I know right, thats crazy.  It took four hours, working in batches for them to become a deep caramel color.  Yum!

How To Caramelize Onions
Quantities depend on how much caramelized onions you wish to make.
several medium or large onions, yellow, white, or red
olive oil
butter salt
1.  Slice off the root and top ends of the onions, peel the onions.  Cut the onion in half.  Lay them cut side down and slice the onions lengthwise to desired thickness.  If you want, you  can cut a little wedge in the tough rootball end of the onion and discard that part, but we haven't found this to be necessary, as this part of the onion softens and cooks with the rest over the long cooking time.
2.  Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté' pan for maximum pan contact with the onions.  Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and butter (about 1 teaspoon per onion), Heat the pan on medium high until the oil is shimmering.  Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil.  Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally.  After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt over the onions, and if you want, you can add some sugar to help with the caramelization process,  (I add only about a teaspoon of sugar for 5 onions, you can add more.)
3.  Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes  As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn.  The trick is to let them alone enough to brown (if you stir them too often, they won't brown,) but not so long so that they burn.  After the first 20-30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil, if you find the onion are verging on burning.  A metal spatula will help you scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the caramelization proceeds.  As the onions cook down, you may find you need to scrape the pan every m inure, instead of every few minutes.  Continue to cook and scrape, cook and scrape, until the onions are a rick, browned color.  At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and bring some additional flavor to the onions.

This dinner was fabulous.  The salad is similar in taste to southern potato salad.  The main course tasted comparable to a hamburger patty with lots of pickles, and lastly the bean mash is very much alike to hummus.  So if you fancy all the above, you would enjoy this Romanian meal. We sure did!

Lastly, we served the baklava.  What's not to like. In fact, I have to control myself when I make this.  It is that good.

Best made the night before and let sit uncover over night.
Serves: 18

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped and toasted walnuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey
1 orange rind
1 lemon rind
1. Make sauce the night before and refrigerate.  Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted.  Add vanilla and honey.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350'.  Place walnuts on a baking sheet.  Toast for about 8-10 minutes, keeping and eye on them so they do not burn.  Once cool, chop finely, add cinnamon and 1/8 cup white sugar and set aside.
3. Reduce oven temp to 325'.  Unroll phyllo dough.  Cut whole stack in half to fit pan.   Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work.  Butter the bottom and side of a 9X13" pan.   Place one sheet phyllo dough, then butter.  Repeat until you have 10 sheets of phyllo dough with butter in-between each layer.
4. Next sprinkle 2-3 Tablespoons of walnuts. Then a layer of phyllo dough that has been buttered, repeat until you run out of walnuts.
5. Next repeat #3 until all phyllo dough is used. 
6. Freeze for about 15 minutes to harden butter.  This makes it easier to cut.  Cut prior to baking.  Do not cut all the way through, just 2/3 of the way so it doesn't get soggy when you pour the sauce on.
7. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes.  You may cut into 4 long rows then make diagonal cuts.  Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
8. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon cold sauce over it. Serve in cupcake liners.
9. Let sit on the counter over night uncovered.  If you cover baklava it will get soggy.
Recipe adapted from:

Baklava can be prepared up to baking and frozen.

This is what happens when you drink to much Palinca, a traditional plum brandy.  As the night progressed, we nicknamed it Romanian "spring water."