Hai la masa!: Coltunasi
Remember when I told you about plans for a Moldovan dinner party (also known as a masa in Romanian)? Well, the plans finally lead to a date being set, the date being changed, discussions about food, and ultimately, a Moldovan masa. At a typical Moldovan masa you will find slices of cheese and sausage, olives with fish (which Peace Corps advised us not to eat), large slices of bread, racitura (chicken jelly), sarmale (cabbage or olive leaves stuffed with rice and meat), and different salads, the most common of which was corn with fake crab, boiled egg, potatoes, peas and mayonnaise.
More than once I complained about how they never served the “good” Moldovan food at masas (the only thing I really liked was the sarmale) and how it was always mediocre or completely inedible (would you eat a jellied chicken foot? I didn’t think so.). Once I heard that horse meat often finds its way into Moldovan sausage, I never touched it again.
I’ve talked about making coltunasi before and I kind of provided a step-by-step tutorial on making it, but the pictures were ugly and I left out some stuff. This isn’t really a pictorial recipe guide blog, but some people might find this interesting, so here we go…
First, you’ll want to make some pasta dough. I mixed together 3 cups of flour with 4 eggs and some salt. Usually I do this by hand, but I decided to use a food processor and it was SO EASY I was floored. What usually takes 15 minutes took maybe 3 minutes and it decreased the kneading time too. If you want to do it by hand, you’ll want to make a well in your pile of flour, put the eggs in the well and slowly mix the flour into the eggs. I would suggest doing it in a bowl because sometimes the egg runs through the flour. Once your flour and you eggs are mixed together, knead the dough until smooth and a little elasticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least half an hour. It should look like this:
Next roll out little sections of your dough. You can do this with a rolling pin, but it’s WAY easier with a pasta machine. I rolled mine to a thickness of “5”, but I would recommend going thinner if possible. Slice the dough into squares and put a spoonful of filling in each square. I used farmers cheese mixed with an egg and pepper (no salt because the cheese was crazy salty on its own), as farmers cheese was the closest thing to brinza that I could find. Brinza is a soft fresh cheese that can be made with either cow or goat cheese. It is really tasty.
Next take a square of pasta with filling and fold it over so it makes a rectangle. Everyone has different ways of doing this, but I like to pinch the top shut and then pinch up from the corners to seal in the filling. Basically, you want to seal the edges so the filling doesn’t leak out. You dough should be elasticky enough that you can stretch it if you put in too much filling (which I often do).
After you’ve sealed the edges, fold the two corners of the hypotenuse (you should have what is essentially a right triangle), or the only side that is folded over and not sealed, around and press them together. Your final product should look something like this:
It’s good to not get too much flour on the filling-side of the pasta dough because then it can be difficult to get the edges to seal. This is what they look like after a good 6 to 8 minute boil, topped with sour cream and dill:
[Sidebar: I hate dill. I hate the smell, I hate the taste and I hate the site of that cursed herb. Samira brought some over for our masa and I shrieked “Get that stuff out of my kitchen!” You may then be wondering why there is dill on top of the coltunasi in the above photo. It made the bad-lighting picture look prettier and then I picked it off. That is why there is a large sprig instead of chopped up bits. Chopped up dill would have been much more difficult to remove from my coltunasi and I didn’t want to ruin it.]
Coltunasi cu brinza (Ravioli with cheese)
1 lb farmers cheese
3 tbsp heavy cream
salt, if the cheese has no salt added
3 c flour
To make the filling, mix the filling ingredients together and set aside.
To make the pasta, mix the ingredients together, either by hand (if you are a zen kind of person) or with a food processor (if you are short on time). Knead the dough and let rest for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Roll out the dough and make the coltunasi, following the guidelines provided above. Cook the coltunasi in boiling water for 5-8 minutes, depending on how thick your dough is. Top with sauteed onions, sour cream, dill, or all three.
You might end up with left over filling. If you’re wondering what you can do with this filling, say tuned for tomorrow’s post, which details how to make some of the other dishes we had at our masa.