Merry Christmas and Happy Eating (3 min read)

Hello and merry Christmas my friends!

I hope this finds you warm and cozy, as this year’s Once in a Lifetime Storm battles our coats and window panes, making America’s dogs wish they had litter boxes like the cat. I’m on the edge of it, in Portland Oregon, and enjoying endless cups of hot tea with a view of snow on the other side of a good stout window.

I took this last January in a Romanian village (the other photos in this blog are from other folks online)

Tonight I’m making a Christmas lasagna, which no, is not a tradition, but here’s to new habits and tasty dishes! Speaking of which, next week I’ll be among Romanians again, and I’m hankering to make some of their cuisine. So if you have a vote for which of these you’d like to read about, let me know:

A: Tochitura – hearty stew of pork sausage in a savory sauce of onion, garlic, bay leaves, white wine, tomato sauce, and generally served with a nice sheep’s cheese (feta is a candidate, but I like a dryer option). Cook that up, then pour it over a bed of creamy (or firm, but for this one I like creamy) polenta, which is so much better than I appreciated before. I’m always on a quest for extra veggies, so I’m going to add bell peppers, probably zucchini, and perhaps eggplant. Think I should push for green beans too?

B: Cozonac – this one intimidates me, not going to lie. It’s a sweet leavened bread, soft with eggs and butter, derived from the Italian recipe for panettone, their Christmas cake, brought by the Roman Empire. But the Romanians kicked it up a notch or six by layering inside a tectonic strata of mixed cocoa, rum, walnuts, and sometimes pieces of Turkish delight. Romanians often add some lemon zest in there too, because life is short and beautiful. It takes four hours to make, but I’m up for the challenge.

C: Sarmale – This one occasioned astonishment and consternation among my Romanians after I told them Americans generally don’t hold cabbage in high esteem. “But cabbage is wonderful!” they said, sounding like they were having to inform me that the sun is warm. “Surely something like sarmale, everyone loves that, right?” When I told them we don’t eat cabbage rolls, and find them a somewhat off-putting idea, I saw nothing but pity in their eyes, with a certain holy zeal to enlighten us.

Sarmale is arguably one of Romania’s top national dishes, cabbage rolls stuffed with fillings like ground pork, bacon, rice, onions, garlic, tomato juice, and savory seasonings. My chef advisor makes a vegetarian option too, with plenty of mushrooms, and onions, plus carrots and tomatoes. I’m going to insist on bell peppers, since I love ‘em, and I might sneak in a little leafy green. They’re a nice golden brown when done, dusted with fresh parsley and I like a dash of paprika to liven things up, with sour cream on the side.

I’m tempted to add a fourth, but my stomach is already growling, so vote for any of those that particularly pique your interest, and stay tuned for the result. I might make one of them on January 8 too, and show the results on a video call you’re welcome to join.

Merry Christmas and very happy holidays to you all!