Category Archives: Moldova

Sylvia’s Plăcinte

Mmm… plăcinte.  Having to give these up has been one of the hardest things about going gluten-free in Moldova.  The flaky crust, the warm oozing filling… you just really can’t beat a good plăcintă.  Today, I’d like to share with you the recipe that Sylvia, our school cook, uses and shared with me.

But first, let me pause for a quick Romanian lesson.  Plăcintă is singular for pastry and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tuh.” Plăcinte is plural and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tay.”  Actually, the most common translation of plăcinta is “pie,” but I am here to tell you that plăcinte are NOT pies!  They are pastries!  Let’s see some examples:

This is a pie:

My first (and possibly only) apple pie. Made to impress my starving fiancee.

These are pastries:

Assorted pastries

These are plăcinte:

 

Beautiful plăcinte with sesame seeds.

You tell me which word is the more accurate translation.

Anyway… back to the recipe.  There are probably as many ways to make plăcinte as there are Moldovan gospodinele (housewives), which is why I call these “Sylvia’s Plăcinte,” and not just “Moldovan Plăcinte.”

Ingredients:
1 liter (about 4 ¼ cups) water
25 grams (or one packet) yeast
3 grams (about half a teaspoon) salt
flour*
oil
desired filling (I’ll get to this in a bit)
sugar (granulated or powdered, see step 10)

*Sylvia didn’t tell me exactly how much flour she uses because she doesn’t know.  She just adds flour until it looks right (as described in step 2).  I’ve made these once but didn’t measure my flour either.  Other recipes I’ve seen say 8-12 cups… so… use your best judgment.

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Combine all ingredients, adding as much flour as needed until dough feels sticky but not too dry.
3.  Cut dough into baseball-sized pieces (my description, not hers), generously flour your workspace, and roll out pieces very thinly with rolling pin.

Rolling dough for plăcinte

4.  On a different workspace, cover the counter with oil and stretch dough until very, very thin.  It’s okay if it tears a little.
5.  Take ahold of the end of the dough closest to you, and bring it up and away from you to fold it in half.

Iuliana folding the thin plăcintă dough.

6.  Place a generous spoonful of filling on one end.

Folding a plăcintă with brînza filling.

7.  Fold triangularly until it is all folded up into a nice little triangular pocket.

Sweet little raw plăcintă ready to be baked.

8.  Place evenly on greased cookie sheet.
9.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.
10.  Boil sugar and water to make a glaze and brush on top while plăcinte are still warm, or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I can’t believe I’ve never taken a picture of freshly baked plăcintă.  You’ll have to trust me, they are so flaky and golden and amazing!

There are several different kinds of fillings that Moldovans use in plăcinte.  The most common are potato, brînza (a soft, salty homemade cheese), cabbage (which is better than you’d think- it’s Josh’s favorite), fruit butter or jam, and pumpkin.  My favorite would probably either be apple butter or pumpkin.  Below are some instructions for making your own plăcintă fillings, borrowed from a 2005 Moldova Peace Corps cookbook, or you could just use your favorite store-bought fruit butter or jam.

Potato filling: Boil 4 peeled potatoes and 2 chopped onions.  Mash and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Cheese filling: Mix 2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 egg, chopped dill, salt, and pepper.

Cabbage filling: Sauté 2 cups shredded cabbage and 2 chopped onions in oil until limp.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Apple filling: Peel and grate 4 apples.  Sauté over medium heat with ¼ cup sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Let cool.

Cherry filling: Mix 1 pound sour pitted cherries and ¾ cup sugar.

Pumpkin filling: Boil and mash 500 grams (about 4 1/3 cups) of raw pumpkin.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger… or just pumpkin pie spice) and sugar to taste.

You can find another good plăcintă recipe at the Gourmandine blog (the link is to the google translate version of the website, since it is written in Romanian).  There, she has also posted a lot of step-by-step pictures that are similar to the way Sylvia makes plăcinte, except that she doesn’t stretch her dough out so thin and then fold it in half.  If you want to do it this way, it would be a lot easier, but your final product will just be thicker and not as flaky.

Well, I hope this is enough to get you going on some authentic Moldovan plăcinte!  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me.

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Foxes Have Holes…

October 20th (I know, I’m a little behind in posting this) officially marked a milestone in Jude’s life.  It was the longest that he has ever lived in one house without moving.

For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with our lives, we decided before Jude was born that we were going to follow God’s call to serve in the country of Moldova for two years following Josh’s graduation from Bible college.  Jude was born in February 2009, and four months later we moved to live back and forth between our parents’ houses for three months before leaving for Moldova in September.

Because of Moldova’s visa requirements, before we got our green cards, we were only allowed to stay in the country for three months, and then we had to be out of the country for three months.  So in December, we packed up and moved back to our parents’ houses for three months.   Back to Moldova in March, we lived for three more months in our tiny apartment on the camp property where the school is.  Then, on May 20th, we moved down the road into our current residence where we are house and dog-sitting for an American family we work with who are back in America on furlough for eight months.  We have now lived here for five months.

Whew!  That made me tired just typing all of that, much less living it.

So why have we put our son (and ourselves) through so much moving and instability?  Because Josh and I resolved a long time ago to follow God’s call no matter what, and we know that this is what he has called us to do.  Throughout it all, we have clung to Matthew 8:20- “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”  When we follow Christ, he doesn’t promise us a life of ease and stability.  What he does promise us is that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

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Moldovan Culture and Health

Moldovans have some ideas about health that seem, to Americans, to be very outdated.

One of the most amusing things we have encountered is that the Moldovans are afraid of wind getting in their ears because that is, of course, how a person gets sick.  They would rather sweat to death in a hot car, house, or classroom than open a window.  Many women wear scarves over their heads not out of religious modesty convictions, but because they tie the scarf over their ears and it keeps the wind out.  And what happens if you do get wind in your ear?  You draw it out by putting the mouth end of a lit cigarette in your ear… of course.

It was actually a team from our home church who rode, in the blazing July heat, in a van with no air conditioning from our northern camp to our central camp.  The Moldovan who rode with them, knowing that the Americans would want the windows down, sat in the backseat with a winter coat and toboggan on, afraid of getting sick from the wind.

Moldovans also do not generally eat or drink cold things, and especially don’t give them to children, because they believe it will make them sick.  If they get some juice out of the fridge for a child, they will warm it up in the microwave.  At camp, there is a night where they give out ice cream, and we are told that one mother asked her kids to be sure and let it warm up before they ate it.

Children here are generally dressed very warmly.  The first few times we took Jude to the market, it was very hot and we had him in his usual t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.  It seemed like half of the people there stopped us and would talk to us in Romanian, motioning toward Jude.  I don’t know what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure it was something along the lines of, “Your kid is going to die because you don’t have enough clothes on him.”  Similarly, Josh has been chastised twice already in grocery stores for getting Jude too close to the refrigerator section.   Josh summed it up well when I mentioned needing to get Jude some warm winter clothes and he said, “I don’t think there is much of a difference between warm winter clothes and warm summer clothes for babies here.”

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Hello from Moldova!

This is my first post from our new abode, Moldova!  In case you need a quick brush-up on geography (because I sure did the first time I heard about this place), here is a map to show you where in the world we are:

See the dark blue sliver of land between Romania and Ukraine?  That’s us.  We live about 45 minutes northwest of Chisinau, the capital city.

We have gotten moved in to our apartment at the camp and Josh is in his first day of “real” work today… an all-day meeting planning how the Bible Institute is going to run.

Let’s see… what interesting things can I say about Moldova? 

1.  Two common trends for men here are mullets and capri pants.  I’m trying to get Josh to buy into both of these trends.  “Be all things to all people,” right? 😉

2.  Electric clothes dryers are very hard to find!  We will have a washing machine, but will be drying our clothes the old-fashioned way- on a clothesline.  I had mentioned to a few people before we left that I hoped there would be room for a clothesline.  Not only is there room, there is already a MASSIVE one right outside our apartment because they dry all of the sheets and blankets for the camp on it, and the Moldovan family who lives here dries their clothes on it as well.  I’m told that in the winter, your clothes freeze dry.  I’ll probably stick to indoor drying racks when it’s cold.  🙂

3.  The tap water here (at the camp, not in all of Moldova) has a very strong sulphur smell.  Yes, like rotten eggs.  I thought it would be nearly impossible to get used to at first, but Josh and I were just commenting this morning that we already don’t notice it hardly at all.  It is also a little brown from all of the minerals in it (it is well water).  Apparently the pipes need the mineral-heavy water to coat them, and purer water erodes the pipes.  We buy big 2-liters of water for drinking, and we have a pure, spring-fed well that we use for cooking.  Yes, that means walking down to the spicket and filling up my empty 2-liters with water.  I always said I wanted to be about half amish, right?

4.  There is a big store in Chisinau (pronounced Kish-now) called Metro that is kind of like a Sam’s club.  That’s where we got most of our stuff on the first day.   But most people buy things from local markets called bazaars.  Some are general bazaars that sell everything from plumbing fixtures to underwear to fresh produce, meat, dairy, and bread.  Other bazaars are specific.  Yesterday morning Josh and Eric went to an auto bazaar that was all cars.  I’m told that there is also a kind of bazaar that is all electronics.  I took pictures of the bazaar in Orhei that Stephanie and I went to yesterday, but can’t post them yet because I’m not on our computer.

I guess I’ve written enough for now.  Jude is starting to get restless.  Speaking of Jude, he has been an angel (almost ;)) through all of this.  If you haven’t heard already, he slept 7 of the 10 hours from DC to Moscow- an obvious answer to prayer!  We have had trouble falling asleep at night, but last night we went to bed around 11 and he only woke up twice between then and 8:30!   That’s even better than he was sleeping before we moved.

I love everybody back home and will post again soon!

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