Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 9: Who's Day Tuesday? Jess!!

No! Not me! The other Jess. The one that has the same name. Who's boyfriend is also her high school sweetheart and is named Dan. Just like my Daniel is my high school sweetheart. Oh, and did I mention that Jess and I happened to move to Boston the same fall, and applied and were accepted to the same grad program (of only twelve students) the same year? That we're both vegan and that we were the only two students commuting over an hour to school from Boston and so obviously commuted together? That on the first day of school she got out of the car, I took one look at her shirt and burst out laughing because I had the exact same one at home? That we both moved to Boston so that both our Dan's could go to graduate school at MIT? That both of these Dan's got their undergrad degrees in mechanical engineering and were on their schools' FSAE (race car building) teams? That we're the exact same height? 

So there's that. I don't know how that's possible, but the best part was when we first met, because it just happened to work out that everything Jess said, I responded to with, "Oh, me too!" Like some bizarre copy cat compulsive liar. I was afraid to friend her on Facebook for fear that she would think I was stalking her. 

But eventually, all was revealed as true, as implausible as it sounds, and Jess and I became fast friends. We even dressed up as a raccoon and a fox for Halloween, because apparently I am the best at making friends on Halloween and because apparently I only dress in animal costumes (see last week's Who's Day Tuesday if this makes no sense) #Icantwaitforthisyearscostume. 

In our program we had some really emotionally straining days, like when we visited a huge pig farm, when we saw how they dehorn calves, or when we spent class with guest speakers who included a rabid dog breeder and a poultry expert who demanded someone name a religion which opposed the use of poultry without being vegetarian (why this specifically and how it falls under the purview of a poultry production expert I was never sure). I was always glad to be able to laugh or cry about it with Jess for the next couple hours in the car. To be honest, I'm pretty sure that the number of people in the world that I could spend 2-4 hours a day, 4 days a week for an entire school year in a car with and not want to kill, is precisely one, and that one would be Jess. :) Thanks for putting up with me and my incessant yammering lady! 


Hi everyone! My name is also Jess, which will make it that much easier to hijack my friend’s fabulous blog for a day (cue evil laugh). Just kidding, I was invited. But it is true that we have the same name and a shared love for animal rights and amazing vegan food.

Today, I’m sharing a classic Romanian dish that I’ve loved since childhood, which also happens to be vegan! My parents immigrated to the U.S during the communist regime in Romania. I was born here in the U.S. but learned Romanian as my first language and was brought up eating Romanian food. Romania is a gorgeous country, a little known gem, and if you have the chance to visit, you should. We’re even home to Dracula’s castle! I’ve made it out alive twice!

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the poorer countries in the E.U., and during the communist years food was rationed and resources scarce; YET Romanians have created a delicious cuisine based on cheap ingredients that combine with sublime simplicity into dishes that never disappoint. I hope you enjoy one of my all-time favorites below for a little taste of Romania!

As Jess would say, “Noroc!” (Cheers!)

Romanian Bean Dip (Fasole bătută)

Serves: 2-3 (as dinner), 3-4 (as an appetizer)
Time: 35 minutes

What you’ll need

For the dip:

3 cans of Great Northern beans (I prefer Bush’s brand)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt

For the topping:

1 large onion (white or yellow)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp tomato paste

Start on the topping first (it takes a while to cook and you can make the dip in the meantime, just be sure to mix every few minutes to avoid burning.).

Peel onion and slice into thin, long strips. Add the vegetable oil to a frying pan, use to coat pan, then add the onion. Saute onion on medium heat until browned (usually about 15-20 minutes so that the onions caramelize). When onion is nearly done (~5 min left) add tomato paste and mix with onions and oil, allowing it to cook together for a few more minutes.

While the onion sizzles, start working on the dip. Drain and rinse the beans, then place them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they form a chunky paste. (If you want to cheat a little, you can put the beans in a food processor or blender on low speed, so that they mash together but still stay a little chunky). Once the beans are mashed, mince the garlic and add it to the beans along with the oil and salt. Use a hand mixer to beat and mix the ingredients together; the oil will help to smooth out the bean paste and give it a creamy texture.

Transfer the dip to a serving dish or Tupperware, then spread the caramelized onion topping over the surface.

Serve with warm, delicious crusty bread.  (Tastes great cold the next day too)

Have I mentioned that Romanians also LOVE dill? You’ll find this unassuming spice, dried or fresh, in many classic Romanian dishes. For an easy, refreshing side, try this.

Mom’s Dill Salad

Serves: 2-3
Time: 10 minutes

What you’ll need:

2 cucumbers
2 tomatoes
1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
¾ tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried dill
salt to taste

Peel cucumbers and slice. Rinse tomatoes and slice. Mix cucumbers, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, dill, and salt in a bowl and toss.

Enjoy! (Poftă bună!)

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