A Romanian Sukkot Feast

Photo by Manidipa Mandal https://www.flickr.com/photos/rodosee/

Guvetch. Photo: Manidipa Mandal.

Romania is blessed with rich earth and hot summers. When Sukkot is celebrated in the fall, the Romanian larder is rich with the summer harvest. Romanian Jews make use of this plenty when they prepare two famous specialties to enjoy in the sukkah: guvetch and mamaliga.

Guvetch is a vegetable stew, reminiscent of the French ratatouille. Sometimes, more than 20 different vegetables are used in its preparation. This recipe goes back to ancient times, when the Romans controlled the area that is now Romania.

Traditionally, clay pots are used, giving the stew a distinctive flavor. Guvetch is not heavily spiced, allowing the natural flavors of the vegetables to dominate.

Guvetch

Adapted from Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks.

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, minced
  • 1 cup okra
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sugar
  1. Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the eggplant, and pat dry.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan.
  4. Sauté the eggplant until golden-brown. Set aside.
  5. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Set aside.
  6. Oil a casserole dish, preferably clay.
  7. Cover the base of the casserole dish with eggplant.
  8. Layer the peppers, zucchini, okra, carrots, and green beans on top of the eggplant.
  9. Spread the sautéed onions and garlic over the mixture.
  10. Top with tomato slices and parsley.
  11. Pour the vegetable broth into the casserole.
  12. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.
  13. Bake uncovered for 2 hours.

The traditional accompaniment to guvetch is a type of Romanian polenta called mamaliga. This dish also originates from Roman cuisine. The Romans subsisted on millet gruels, which were cheaper than bread.

In the mid-1600s, Venetian merchants imported maize, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes from the New World. The Ottomans introduced these new plants to their empire. The Romanian climate was beneficial, allowing these tropical vegetables to thrive in their new home. Corn quickly replaced millet as the grain of choice for mamaliga.

Customarily, mamaliga is served by slicing pieces with a thin wire. Consisting of only three ingredients, mamaliga is very easy and inexpensive to prepare.

Photo by Theron LaBounty https://www.flickr.com/photos/notanyron/

Photo by Theron LaBounty.

Mamaliga

Adapted from Food.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the salt and the cornmeal.
  3. Bring to a boil while stirring with a wooden spoon.
  4. Lower the flame, and continue stirring the porridge until it thickens.
  5. Check if the mamaliga is ready by dipping a wooden spoon in water. Insert the spoon into the mush. If it comes out clean, the mamaliga is ready.

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