02 February, 2010

Eastern Block Cooking pt. 2

I've been putting off these applications, I mean really putting them off. I'll do pretty much anything that doesn't involve writing an essay or statement of purpose for yet another law school. I've started making fresh juices, listening to new podcasts, and watching religious fanatics on YouTube all so I can avoid what I should be doing. I've found cooking is the best distraction; it presents itself as productive, which for my needs it clearly is not, and gives me an image of selflessness when I present the newly created food to my eager tasters, though I think they're on to me. Though not to worry dear friends, I promised myself that before I could write this blog entry I would have to finish my application essays to CEU, which I have completed as of yesterday. Thank you, thank you. All they need now is a quick proof read and some scanned documents and I'll have one more application down, making that 3 completed, 3 to go.
On to the cooking! So I've been promising Alin that I would try my hand at Ardei Umpluti, Romanian stuffed peppers and a few nights ago I finally did. I scoured the internet looking for recipes (in English) that looked like something we would enjoy, and I, of course, had to 'vegetarianize' them. Here's what I came up with:

Whitney's Ardei Umpluti

4 bell peppers
1/2 lb of Quorn mince (or equivelant in pork or TVP)
1 tbsp oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 chopped tomato
1 diced onion
1 'handful' of rice
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
1 pint of water or vegetable stock

for tomato sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup flour
2 cans of tomatoes
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp salt
1/2 lime

Cut off very top of bell peppers, wash, and seed; place peppers to the side.
Sautee Quorn in olive oil with salt, spices, onion, and tomato until onion is translucent. You may need to add more olive oil if the mixture gets dry. If you're using pork sautee the other ingredients alone and mix pork with onion mixture raw. Take Quorn off of heat and let cool.
Once Quorn mixture is cooled, in a bowl, mix in the egg, rice, and flour, to create a paste. If the mixture is not sticking together add water. Stuff each pepper with 1/4 of the mixture and place in a dutch oven or covered casserole dish. Pour the water or vegetable stock around the peppers and cover. Bake at 400F (200C) for an hour, until rice is cooked.

For the Sauce
In a blender puree the canned tomatoes until smooth. In a saucepan heat oil then add oregano and salt. In a separate small bowl whisk the remaining broth from the pepper with the flour, slowly add that to the oil mixutre, wisking to prevent lumps. Once fully incorporated add lime juice and the the tomato puree. Cook until thickened to your liking, you may add a bit of cornstarch if you like.

Serve the peppers with yoghurt or sour cream on top and surround with sauce.

They turned out pretty decent, a little bland for my liking, but still good. I think I would have made them spicey, but for the sake of authenticity I restrained. The sour cream and sauce really helped the flavours pop.
Alin, while he still ate them, said they were indeed good, but not exactly
like the ones he grew up with. Granted those are made with pork and bound to taste different. But I knew there was a risk at making Romanian food for a Romanian with no point of reference, but I gave it a shot.
He was excited that these would make it into the foodblog and so we took an 'action shot' of him eating the peppers. Clearly staged, eating these is a much messier event.

For dessert we had crepes with lemon and powdered sugar. I got the crepe recipe from a Romanian website, so I think it counts as eastern European.

1 egg
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
1 pinch salt
1 tsp almond, lemon, or vanilla extract
1 tsp sugar substitute (optional)

for topping
1 lemon
powdered sugar

Mix egg with half of flour, slowly add milk and rest of flour, whisking to prevent lumps, until the batter is thin. Add sugar substitute, salt, and extract. Heat flat non-stick pan to high, pan must be quite hot. Use a ladle to spread thin layer on bottom of the pan. Flip with spatula or using a chopstick.

Fold each crepe into a triangle and top with butter (or margarine), a sprinkling of powdered sugar, and a squeeze of lemon juice.


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