Food from the Count von Count’s country
Greetings! The Count von Count (in Germany known as Graf Zahl) is living in my appartment. And he was longing for food from home. The Transylvanian Deli was too far away, so I prepared Zacusca with him – a Romanian (I’m not sure, if it’s even Transylvanian) preparation of veggies that you can use as a bread spread. Together, we prepared 6 glasses of this good and yummie stuff, so he’ll be able to eat food from home, when he feels like. It’s also perfect for a picknick, but he should take care that no ant will steel his Zacusca!
The preparation takes some time and a little effort. But it’s worth it.
The count helped me to prepare it. First, he counted the ingredients: “Eight”, he counted, “eight ingredients!” and then he counted how much of each ingredient I used:
6 onions (about 400g)
10 tomatoes (about 1 kg)
3 big eggplants (Auberginen, about 1,2 kg)
7 bell peppers
3 big carrots
1/2 cup (125 ml) of oil
3 bay leaves
Then I started to prepare the Zacusca.
I washed bell peppers and eggplants and put them on a baking sheet. Then I put the sheet into the oven. “200!” the Count said. “That’s 200 degrees Celsius!”. He was right – we were baking the stuff. While I was doing other things, he counted the minutes. When he had counted 30 minutes, I looked for the veggies in the oven. The bell peppers were a little black (which was good!) and I turned them 90° – and the Count continued counting. Up to 60 minutes. Then I pulled the baking sheet out of the oven and covered the veggies with a towel.
While the bell peppers and the eggplants were cooling down, I peeled the carrots and grated them finely. I peeled the tomatoes, too. For this, I cut them crosswise on top, put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them. After some minutes I drained them, cooled them with cold water and peeled them using a knife. Then I cut the tomatoes in cubes.
When the bell peppers and the eggplants had cooled down, I peeled them (I saved the juice that came out of the bell peppers).
Then I peeled and chopped the onions. The Count started to count all of the small pieces that I had chopped, but I was quicker: I heated the oil in a laaaarge pot and started to sauté the onions. The Count was sad. He wanted to count something. So I asked him to count the minutes that I was sautéing the onions. “Ten!” he said at the end. “Ten minutes!”
So after these ten minutes, when the onions were translucent, I added the carrots and the tomatoes. Then I chopped the peeled and chopped oven-baked veggies and added them, too (as well as the juice they had lost). I heated everything and brought the mix to a boil, added one teaspoon of salt (that’s what the Count counted. He wanted me to add some more, as he wanted to count – to count from 0 to 1 is a little boring, but I convinced him by saying that I want a good-tasting Zacusca and not a salty one) and 3 bay leaves.
When the mix was boiling, I reduced the heat and let it simmer – stirring once in a while. For 1 hour. It was the Count’s task to count the minutes, of course. At the end of the hour, I raised the heat again. “Why are you doing this?” the Count asked me. “We want that the liquid evaporates. We want to make a spread, not a soup”, I told him.
Meanwhile, I tasted the bubbling-boiling mix. “More salt”, I said. The Count was delighted. Something to count! “1.5 teaspoons of salt in total!”, he said.
I added a pinch of chili. And as it was a little bit bitter, I added one teaspoon of sugar. I tasted and added 1/2 more teaspoon of salt. “Two!”, the Count shouted, “two teaspoons of salt!”. I nodded.
The mix was bubbling and bubbling – I was stirring and stirring. But it got less liquid. “That’s good”, I said.
I got 6 clean glasses with a lid and rinsed them well with hot water.
When I noticed that the texture of the Zacusca was well (which means well spreadable), I put away the bay leaves. The Count helped me to find all of them by counting them.
Then I filled the glasses and closed the lids.
For making preserves, I decided to boil the glasses again, as unlike jam, Zacusca doesn’t contain enough sugar to keep away mean bacteria and disgusting fungi such as mold. So I put the glasses in my pressure cooker and filled it with water up to a height of about 1/4 of the glasses. I closed the lid and heated it. The Count counted the coloured circles that show the temperature. He counted until the second one (which means 132°C) appeared. Then I asked him to count 3 minutes while watching that the cooker kept the temperature. When he said “three! Three minutes!”, I turned off the stove and left the kitchen. I’m not a very patient person and I wanted to avoid my impatience. No, I won’t open the cooker to cool it down quicker. No, no, no. I’ll wait until there is no more circle to see. And then I could open it. And I had finished.
The Count counts the days now until he will open the first glass of Zacusca. I don’t know how many days he will count – maybe he thinks that counting days is more interesting than opening a glass of his food, but maybe he’ll find other things he can count. We will see.
…meanwhile, the Count von Count has tasted the Zacusca. He said: “well… it’s not the same as from the Transylvanian Deli. But it’s good! I like it! The original would contain more eggplant. Maybe 4. 4 eggplants. Or 5? And this Zacusca tastes a bit sweeter than the original. And would be smoother, too. However: it’s good, this Zacusca. And a good replacement for the Zacusca from the Transylvanian Deli!” – ufffff, I was happy to hear that.
Filed under: Recipes: Dips, Dressings, Sauces, Recipes: Jams and spreads, Recipes: Vegetables | 4 Comments
Tags: preserves, Romanian, tomato, vegan