Monday, May 27, 2013

Feeling the Lovage: A traditional Romanian soup, Ciorba de perisoare


This week I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking with some of the goodies found in the garden this time of year.  So far the two main ingredients from the garden have been Rhubarb and Lovage. How many of you know about the herb, Lovage? If you have never cooked with this herb, it's time to start feeling the Lovage! Lovage is an amazing plant with a beautiful, fragrant odor and tangy, complex, out of this world flavor.

My husband Josh spent two years living in Romania when he served in the Peace Corps. While there he ate many sour soups, called Ciorba, which uses this herb to add an unmistakable flavor:  tangy, a bit sour and very flavorful. Ciorba de perisoare (meatballs), Ciorba de burta (tripe), Ciorba de cartofi (potato).... the list goes on.

Josh and I went to Romania and Hungary 10 years ago for our honeymoon. We had a wonderful trip and experience visiting and staying with some of the friends Josh made while in the Peace Corps. True hospitality met us during every interaction and with all the friends with whom we spent time. We traveled all around the country: Bucharest, Pitesti, Sighisoara, the Danube delta, Constanta (on the Black Sea coast), the mountains... As you can guess, I was struck by the culture and folk arts while in Romania. I especially admired the ornamental wood carved gates found in a certain region of Romania and the woven wool rugs were particularly striking, I loved looking at the rural dwellings especially. My friend Razvan remembers me taking a special interest in the folk arts on that trip. Perhaps some seeds were sown and embers were left smoldering...a foreshadowing of my interest in Eastern European traditions. I took the following photos during our trip in 2003. After this little photo tour you'll find a tasty recipe for Ciorba de perisoare if you would like to try and make it in your kitchen.

Bucharest, Romania: View from our friend's flat
Rural Mountain scene in Romania
Sighisoara, Romania
Village house, Romania
Flowers blooming, Romania
Constanta, Romania

I made Ciorba de perisoare on Friday and brought a little bit of Romania into our home for an evening spent with some friends. Oh, the smell of that soup! My house was filled with it's fragrance. We played all our favorite Romanian music which was bought on our trip many years ago. Kids and some adults danced around the living room table, what fun! If you can't travel to the place, bring it to you!

If you have some Lovage growing in your garden, can find some in a friend's garden or at a Farmer's Market perhaps you'd like to try this recipe. The soup was delicious. Even Kazmir, my 11 month old, got excited about eating it! Here is the link where I found the recipe:
Romanian Sour Meatball Soup

Ciorba de perisoare
Sour Meatball Soup Recipe (ciorba de perisoare)
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes (preparation: 50 minutes; cooking: 30-40 minutes)

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound grounded meat (mixed beef and pork)
  • 1 pound beef (or veal) with bones
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2 tablespoons rice
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 parsley root
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1 parsnip root
  • 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of lovage leaves (or parsley leaves)
  • 2-3 tablespoons vinegar
Preparation: 
  1. Bring to boil  6 cups of water in a pot.
  2. Finely slice: 1 onion, the parsley, the parsnip and the carrots and put them in the water.  Add the beef (or veal) meat.
  3. In the mean time soak the bread in water then squeeze it. Mash the bread with a fork.
  4. Mix the ground meat with the other finely chopped onion, the mashed bread and the rice, and season with salt and ground black pepper. For a more tender meat composition add 2-3 tablespoons of water.
  5. Make small meat balls rolling them with wet hands.
  6. When the vegetables become tender put the meat balls in the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  7. When the soup is almost done the meatballs are coming to the surface as the soup simmers.
  8. Add the tomato paste and stir.
  9. Finely chop the lovage and add it to the soup, and then season with salt and vinegar. If you do not have lovage, you can use fresh parsley leaves instead.
  10. The soup is delicious served with a bit of sour cream, and a hot pepper on the side.

8 comments:

  1. Hey Kim :)

    that's touching...you know how many times in these 10 years we talked about your epic journey we had with you that summer?

    and seying the image from our flat...that's intense and emotional...thank you for that! I miss those times...as I miss my youth...

    In other words (and to escape nostalgy), let me tell you that after discussing with Elena about your previous post and your answer (about making ciorba de perisoare), elena got inspired and on Saturday morning she made that soup, as well :) DELICIOS! we too have some lovage in our garden, because is not easy to find it here.

    next time when we'll see eachother, I will cook for you a very interesting soup: ciorba de burta :)

    Hugs to your boys

    Razvan

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    1. Long live Ciorba de perisoare! That's great that Elena cooked the soup this weekend too! The only thing better would have been to eat it together :-)!

      I think about that trip a lot too! It was so special to us. I have so many good stories. I think I'll get back to Romania one of these days. We'll have to try and meet overseas some time...harder now that we all live in North America but not impossible.

      Uh oh...Ciorba de burta...I'm a little afraid of tripe but if you make it, of course I'll eat it!

      xo Kim

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  2. Razvan, if you promise to cook Ciorba de Burta, I may have to come and see you again very soon!

    Josh

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. it's already a promise :)

      see you soon, my friends :)

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  3. Kim, this soup sounds wonderful. When Trish and I went out west in '09 we stayed at Mary Jane's Farm (http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/bb/) in Moscow Idaho. They had lovage all over the property and used it in a shirred egg dish. (baked in a small jelly-jar). I've looked for it here, but not found it yet. Let me now if you see it somewhere. Maybe the farmers' markets.
    I love your pictures and dream of more travels!
    Hugs,
    Sherry

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