Location: South eastern Europe
Population: 19.6 million
Geography: A country of hills, mountains, and plains with a coastline on the Black Sea
Signature flavours: Potato, meats, bell pepper, parsley
“The randomizer [we use to assign ourselves countries] must know I was born in Russia,” says Eric. “I keep getting eastern Europe.”
In fact, Eric spent his first year in the Soviet Union before moving to Cuba, and later Venezuela, the US, and then Canada about nine years ago. His connection with his Soviet past is tenuous, but he can thank WSW for reconnecting him with those lost Russian roots.
Ardei Umpliti (Stuffed Peppers): Rice, beef (veggie beef for us), and red onion, with dill and parsley, baked in bell peppers in passata and sour cream.
Prep and cooking time: 90 minutes
Salată Orientală (Oriental Salad): A mild-flavoured potato salad with hardboiled egg, onion, black olives, and a parsley garnish.
Prep and cooking time: 25 minutes
Ţară Pâine (Rustic Bread): A crusty traditional Romanian bread, often used for dipping. A fixture of everyday Romanian tables, this vegan bread has been around since the Middle Ages.
Prep and cooking time: 3 hours
Salată de Icre (Fish Roe Salad): A salty, pink dip made from carp caviar, with red onion, black olives, and lemon, reminiscent of the taramosalata we enjoy regularly in Toronto’s Greektown.
Prep and cooking time: 10 minutes
The Shopping List
The most difficult-to-find item on Eric’s shopping list was carp roe. He searched Toronto’s Greektown high and low, and finally located it at Athena Bakery, which sells–beyond the usual Greek baklava–select groceries as well. He didn’t know if he would find passata easily, but found it at the supermarket in the tomato sauce section.
I can never get over the sight of a freshly baked loaf of bread on the table. I’m still intimidated by the bread world, and while Eric has thrown himself into one bread adventure after another — Togolese ablo, Hungarian kifli, Argentinian empanadas…he has even bought himself a nice, big jar of active yeast — I avoid baking breads if possible. The rustic bread was beautiful. I could easily imagine it gracing a heavy oak table 600 years before being set upon our own. Light brown, with a crunchy crust and a fluffy interior, it had a mildly corn-y flavour (it includes some cornmeal) which went very well with the saltiness of the salată de icre. The salată orientală had an eggy, onion-y flavour, with a buried olive lending it a kick every couple of bites. The stuffed peppers were excellent. The sweet peppers tempered the savoury stuffing of rice and veggie beef, and we drizzled spoonfuls of creamy passata over them to finish.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.