Adventures in Moldovan Cooking
This past week I went to a Romanian happy hour with the boyf and one of my best friends from Peace Corps, Samira. We had a blast and starting formulating plans for a Moldovan dinner party. We’d done this before, when Samira and another friend, Jamie, came to visit me and Ian (another PC friend) in Atlanta and it was staggeringly and utterly fantastic. If you think I’m being melodramatic, I’m not. It was one of those meals where with every bite you close your eyes a little, make wimpering sounds and can’t stop exclaiming how good it is. And you go back for seconds (and thirds and fourths) even though you are already stuffed. It really was that good. However, the main reason it was that good was because we had a Moldovan friend, Lica, (also from Peace Corps) that did all the cooking. She made the coltunasi (kinda like tortellini, pronounced “colt-sue-NAASH”) and the placinta (a yummy kind of stuffed bread, pronounced “plah-CHIN-ta”) and it tasted just like it did in Moldova.
However, sans the presence of a Moldovan who is willing to do the cooking, can we pull this off? I can probably do the coltunasi (assuming I can find brinza, or the equivalent soft farmers cheese, somewhere) but what about the placinta? I’ve only recently figured out the whole bread-making thing, and can I make placinta that will be just as good as a Moldovan’s? There’s only one way to know: I had to make some myself. (Insert eery spooky music here)
My first instinct was to turn to my Peace Corps-Moldova cookbook, which gave me a good idea of what to do. Plus, I’d watched Lica make placinta before and it didn’t look that tricky. Still unsatisfied, I turned (naively, perhaps) to my other trusty companion, Google. I typed in “placinta recipe” and the first thing that popped up was “placenta lasanga.” I rubbed my eyes. What?!? Yup, placenta lasanga. If you want to indulge in eating placenta, why not broiled placenta or sauteed placenta? Why make placenta lasagna and ruin such a fantastic food? If you’re going to eat something strange (although apparently it has health benefits) just man up and do it. I eventually recovered after puking in my mouth a little, although I would like to thank Google for forever tarnishing lasagna for me. If this paragraph grossed you out (hell, I’m still grossed out), blame Google.
[Side note: I just typed in "placinta reteta" and there was no placenta involved. Whew.]
This weekend I finally had time for some experimental cooking and I decided to make placinta two ways: baked and fried. I found some “fresh cheese” in the Hispanic section of the farmers market that was the closest thing to brinza around. I got home and tasted it and it was really salty. Like “eww” really salty. Luckily it worked out in the placinta since I hardly used any salt in the dough, but there is no way I’d use that cheese for anything else.
First I made the baked placinta, using my standard pizza crust recipe. I rolled it out thin, and then spread some of the brinza mixed with an egg on the dough.
Then I rolled up the dough, sealing the edges so there would be minimal leakage.
The “minimal leakage” idea didn’t pan out. It split open on the side and leaked all over my pizza stone :-( It also didn’t really rise, per say, but the dough on the inside rose and it turned out pretty well. It didn’t exactly look like Moldovan placinta (or invertita, I don’t really know the difference), but it tasted pretty darn good.
The boyf called this the “brinza worm.”
Next I tried my hand at making fried placinta. I had two lemon-sized balls of doughs that I used to make the placintas. I rolled them out really flat and thin, put the brinza in the middle, and folded the dough over. After sealing the edges I put it in a pan with a little hot oil, cooked it until brown on both sides and voila! It was SO good! The boyf said it “tastes just like it did in Moldova, except without the sadness.” Truer words have never been spoken.
It was so nice and crispy on the outside and cheese was moist, the saltiness was actually a nice contrast to the bread.
More food porn. Nothing is better than fried bread with cheese, regardless of who you are or where you’re from. It’s a fact, people.