Moldovan Cuisine – My Opportunity
Moldovan cuisine has always intrigued me. So when I began a friendship with a beautiful Moldovan lady, I quickly asked if she enjoyed cooking traditional recipes. You can imagine my delight as a food blogger when her answer was, “Of course!” My excitement grew when she agreed to do a cooking session for Nature’s Yoke.
A Little Background
Why is Moldovan cuisine such a lovely gastronomic delight? Well, the country’s political history has allowed (or sometimes forced) Moldova’s culture to be influenced by Romania, Russia, Greece and Poland. There is even Turkish influence from the old Ottoman Empire. With its rich background, Moldovan cuisine has evolved into its own “personality.” Unfortunately, few Americans ever have the privilege of tasting these traditional recipes. I was hoping to become an exception!
At Home with Ala
I was excited to visit Ala Nacu in her own kitchen in Lancaster county. When the photographer and I walked in, Ala had dough balls resting on the counter alongside other ingredients. Warm and friendly, she made us feel at home. It was obvious she had spent hours in preparation and yet she was relaxed and hospitable. She worked quickly and continuously, yet still laughed and answered my many questions.
First Recipe – Placinte (Flat Pies)
If Moldovan cuisine had one trademark recipe, I would vote for their flat pie. Found in cookbooks under placinte or placinta, they are filled, flat pies cooked individually in a skillet. I’ve seen recipes with all manner of fillings- cheeses, fruits, even chocolate. Ala had a wonderful bowl of savory filling ready and waiting. She had simply used chopped green onions, diced boiled eggs, and a little seasoning. She calls it Flat Pie with Green Onion, or Placinte cu oua si ceapa verde.
Ala held my attention as she deftly rolled out her dough balls, placed filling in the center, folded them into pockets, and flattened them with a rolling pin. She worked on her island stuffing and rolling, while behind her on the stove were two skillets.
She would turn and fry each pie, all the while watching another one cook, and rolling out her next one. Now keep in mind I was interviewing her as she worked, and I was frankly amazed that each pie was always removed to a plate, and cooked to the exact golden perfection as the one before. I mean, seriously. I would have had about three colors of “doneness” on my stack. Somehow she managed to work fast with no appearance of rush. And the stack grew.
Speaking of stack, I tried to place the pies on a platter for our photographer. At that point Ala kindly but firmly corrected me. The placinte are traditionally stacked for serving, not laid out on a platter. The presentation is pretty impressive. and the finished product – scrumptious! Want to try your hand at Moldovan cooking? Here is her recipe. Go for it.
Second Recipe – Fresh and Simple Moldovan Cuisine
The next recipe was uncomplicated, yet unlike anything we have in our recipe collection. She called it Salata de oua si castravete. Ala explained that in her native country they enjoy using fresh ingredients, especially in-season produce and fresh herbs. Her egg and cucumber salad was so fresh and innovative that we published it here with our Nature’s Yoke salad recipes. Cucumbers, eggs, chives, dill and her own homemade mayonnaise (which we included with the recipe) made a delightful change to the everyday picnic salads we so often see in the summer. I grew up with homemade mayonnaise, so I find it a treat; and Ala’s is tangy and delicious, as is her salad.
Third Recipe – Moldovan Dessert
Moldovan cuisine has many fresh and healthy components, but it is not without its treats. Ala had a lovely example baked and ready for us to photograph and taste. A cake was on display, that appeared to be covered by a chocolate ganache and had a sponge-like souffle filling. Ala called it Torta Lapte de Pasare which translates as Bird Milk Cake. Whaaaaat? She laughed and said, “I suppose the souffle filling is so light and sweet that someone once imagined that if birds had milk, that’s how it would be.” Don’t you love linguistic nuances? That’s one of the reasons I enjoy multi-cultural studies and languages. But back to the cake.
It was delicious and appealing. For a similar taste experience, we recommend this Bird’s Milk Cake Recipe. Although the title is in Ukrainian, it still translates to “Bird’s Milk Cake,” and is made in like fashion.
The day spent with our new friend was an adventure. We experienced new tastes and new methods. And we received a tiny introduction to the Moldovan culture. I hope it’s not our last visit.