Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bring In The Goats!

Caroling with the Goat in ancient times between Christmas and Epiphany became extremely significant for Romanian farmers, as was intended to predict  the weather.... will it be better in the year to come, or would it bring many rainy days and cold?

The Goat would become a divine calling to bring blessings in all areas of agriculture, more fertile and fruitful land, rich harvest and increasing the number of animals in the shepherds’ herds. 

The folks receiving the Goat in their homes would throw seeds and berries in the path of the dancers to invoke a good harvest.

This dance came through the centuries from the Romans as a pagan ritual but it has become a folk tradition throughout Romania to bring joy, good fortune and good health to each house for the New Year.

In every region of the country, the Goat is celebrated in a special way, in Hunedoara is replaced by deer, in Muntenia and Oltenia called Brezaie while in Transylvania is known as Bourita. In the eastern part of the country, Moldova, the name of Capra is very common as well a Turca and each regional colors and textures are used in the costumes.

 Rejoice! Dance and Celebrate! Happy New Year!

                                                      Voyages of Discovery

Monday, December 30, 2013

Home in Saliste....a Memory

Săliște, Sibiu

Roaming the hills of my childhood, I remember stories about the old Dacian citadel between Saliste and Tilisca. The first document mentioning Saliste is from 1354 and refers to it in Latin as Magna Villa.

The air is sweet and crisp in Saliste, my grandmother's roses, herbs and apple orchard are as fragrant as ever. When the wind picks up, the green scent of cedar from the mountains touches my face. 

The wood stove is warming the kitchen, a big calico cat has found his nook near the herb drying shelf. 

A pot of GREEN BEAN CIORBA is simmering on the edge.

2 cups fresh green beans cut in bite size pieces
1 onion finely chopped

6 cups chicken stock(preferably home made)
4 hard boiled eggs finely chopped
1/2 stick sweet butter
lemon juice according to taste
4 slices of rustic bread
fresh parsley chopped
oregano a good pinch

basil a good pinch
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a sauteuse combine a bit of butter with the onion, green beans and 1/4 cup of water, cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, until beans are cooked al dente.

Heat the chicken stock in a separate soup pot. 

When the beans are ready, transfer them in the soup pot, add salt and pepper, lemon juice and the herbs. 

Toast the rustic bread and brush with butter.

Each serving bowl gets a slice of buttered rustic bread on the bottom, chopped egg, a sprinkle of fresh parsley and a large ladle of the soup.

Across the street, our neighbor is sitting at her loom adding more magic to the wool carpets she creates, her window is getting darker, the sound of bells is trickling through the air...the cows are coming home from pasture.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In The Company Of Shepherds

There is never a dull moment in the Romanian kitchen or the table for that matter. So for today's journey the table is set outdoors, in the heart of the mountains in the company of shepherds in the Fagaras Mountains.

Flock of sheep on the hills of the Carpathian Mountains


The colors of the day are muted rich greens disappearing into cerulean pale blue skies.

The sides of the mountains and emerald green meadows are gently dotted with brush stokes in shades of white, gray and black forming a moving tapestry...the hundreds of sheep, their guardians, shepherds and mountain dogs.

Sheep dog from Fagaras

The STANA, corrals with sheep waiting to be milked, has several fires going with large kettles that are are sending si
gnals of warm milk and smoke.
The charcoals are dripping with juices from sides of lamb and wild mushrooms filled with goat cheese.

Shepherd from Sibiu

Shepherd Polenta

Shepherd's Goat Cheese Grilled Mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms
Prosciutto chopped fine

Goat cheese
Garlic finely chopped
Fresh dill finely chopped

Basil, fresh or dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil
  • Clean the mushrooms, removing the caps and setting aside.
  • Chop finely the stems and place in a sauteuse with some olive oil, the prosciutto and the garlic. Allow to release their juices, stirring occasionally, salt and pepper to taste. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Mix the goat cheese in a bowl with the dill and basil, sweet paprika salt and pepper.
  • Fill each mushroom cap with prosciutto and garlic mixture and a spoon of the goat cheese spread on top.
  • They should be grilled on medium hot coals for few minutes and served hot.
  • The mushrooms could also be baked in a baking dish brushed with olive oil and a couple of spoons of water. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes and broiled for 3 minutes more.
This dish is enjoyed with a demi-sec white wine Feteasca Alba from Sebes.

On the day of St. George, the protector saint of the flocks, dogs and shepherds, the tradition of centuries is to make a basket with clay pots filled with fresh milk, sweet rolls and a candle. 

The women take them to poor families in the village as an offering for next year's safe and prosperous sheep herding season.

                                          Voyages of Discovery

Friday, December 27, 2013

Stefan The Great.... Warrior and Saint

St.Stefan the Great

As I light a candle for St. Stephen today for family members and friends that share the name, memories of Moldova’s greatest warrior and protector from the Ottoman invasions are passing by.

Prince Stefan the Great Voievod ruled Moldova region of Romania in the XV century from April 12, 1452 to July 2, 1504.

Detail from one of St. Stefan the Great's battle flags

Often I have followed his legacy through the travels in the region, visiting the monasteries that he founded, enjoying the hospitality of the people that love him and the traditional Moldavian food and wine that they share with the visitors.

Cheese Strudel

Sour Cherry Strudel

Bread for greeting visitors and salt


In 1992, Stefan the Great was canonized by the Romanian Orthodox Church and continues to be venerated as Saint Stefan the Great, savior of Romanian ancestral lands, hero of Christianity as he fought the invading Ottomans and kept them from advancing in Europe.

He is buried at Putna Monastery one of Bucovina’s medieval gems that he built after he had a vision from angels.

Putna Monastery Bucovina

Interior Frescoes Putna Monastery
Ceiling Fresco Putna Monastery

St. Stefan the Great's Grave


Having led a life of epic proportions, and feeling his end was near, Stephen the Great issued on 2nd February 1503, a document of final his will and testament, in which the privileges of Putna Monastery, from the time of its foundations until that date were again stated and stressed:

“And after we pass away, whosoever shall rule this country, the descendants of our children or of our kin, or anyone whom God may choose to be the ruler of this country, Moldova, he shall not disobey our legacy and command, but will strengthen it and make it stand.”

                                          Voyages of Discovery