Romanian comfort food (part I - the ingredients)
If I should make a count about Romanians' favorite ingredients or foods I would get to a very simple conclusion: meat (a lot of it, mostly pork), mamaliga (polenta), telemea (a Romanian cheese, a bit similar to feta, but better in taste - sorry Greeks, but it's true), tomatoes, fresh onion and garlic.
You might think it's simple, but we, Romanians, are taking our tomatoes very seriously. Almost everybody with a garden or even a small corner in a balcony or kitchen or yard, will plant at least one type of tomatoes. We mostly eat them raw, with a bit of salt and a bit of oil and that's that. The best comfort food you can get in the summer. One of my favorites, actually.
Let's start with the beginning. We once loved our land and all the gifts it gave to us. And I am talking about ingredients you forage everywhere or ingredients you are cultivating yourself. Romanian chefs and bloggers are making an effort to bring back the local products on everyone's minds and tables. Less Mac's, more ciorba de lobodă cu leuștean (red orache sour soup with lovage), let's say. So, nowadays, we are trying to come back to this, to our roots. Therefore, if you go in a Romanian open market in the spring, you may be astonished by the richness of herbs, roots and aromatics, people gather from the woods and gardens: lovage, parsley, wild garlic (ramsons), young nettles, lesser celandine leaves, spinach, patience dock, sorrel, red and white orache, dandelion leaves and flowers, taragon, mints, arugula leaves and flowers, dill and some more beautiful greens like that.
What can you do with those? Soups, stews, salads, pies, quiches and many dishes your heart and belly desire.
The summer and autumn are full of fruits, vegetables and seeds. Almost all markets are rich and colorful like that.
Now, we have all these veggies, but I can say from all I've seen in my thirty something years, that Romanians do love meat. And they eat it in the morning as cold charcuterie, at lunch and dinners in soups, stews, main dishes, grilled.
The cheeses - oh, the cheeses, they are great. I've already said I love telemea (which can be done from cow, sheep or goat milk or mixed from all these three). But there is also the burduf cheese which is kept in coniferous bark, maturated cheese with hot or sweet pepper, herbs, caraway seeds, molded cheeses (these are rarer), fresh cheeses.
The fishes - since we have access to Black sea and also a lot of rivers, we have both fresh or salty water fishes: carps, perches, pikeperchs, trouts, Pontic shads, European anchovies.
There are areas where fishing is the main source of food. One of them is Danube Delta. Lipovans, as most of the people that live there are called, are making the best fish soup there is (or so they say). It contains many types of fishes, vegetables and herbs.
The seeds and the nuts: wheat, corn, beans, peas, fava beans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts (from the forest or cultivated), hemp and linen seeds are good as such or in dishes or for making oils and flours.
These are the main ingredients. I will tell you about the Romanian dishes soon. I also plan to write about other countries' foods so maybe you can help me with some suggestions. Thank you!
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