Hello again! First of all, Happy New year to all of you. I hope your holidays were as joy-filled and exciting as mine were. I'm just now getting back to the United States after a lengthy trip to Poland and Romania (specifically Transylvania) with my family for the holidays. The trip was majestically enlightening and inspiring and I wish I could have brought everyone I love with me. If you have a chance to go, I really recommend it. There is so much to be gained, not only from the rich history there, but also from the simply glorious meeting of minds that occurs between people of dramatically different cultures sitting down to share a meal and conversation.
While I wasn't able to bring back any of the wonderful people I met while traveling, I did - fear not - bring back recipes. Buckets of them. And one of those is the one I'm sharing today. This fabulously hearty soup was one that graced almost every meal we had in Transylvania and it was perfect every time, regardless of the slight changes in recipe. 'Ciorba' is the word used to describe traditional Romanian soups consisting of a combination of vegetables and/or meats. As most of the meats involved in their soups are pork, I relied on the generosity of my hosts and their kindness to provide me vegetarian versions of the usual stock. One of the most popular variations of ciorba available seemed to be 'sour soups', which are basic ciorba seasoned with vinegar or lemon juice to give them a tartness that I hadn't often experienced before. The result is delicious. And now you can try it yourself.
I tried a few different variations before I managed this one, which is closest in taste to what I had while in Transylvania. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Ciorba: Romanian Sour Soup
(Serves ~10, stores and reheats marvelously)
3.5 oz diced red onions, caramelized
1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
32 fl oz vegetable broth (low sodium)
32 fl oz chicken broth (low sodium - can substitute with another vegetable broth if you want vegetarian)
1.5 cups sliced beets
1.5 cups chopped green beans
1 (28 oz) can whole natural tomatoes, drained and halved
1 lb brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1 lb shredded cabbage
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (more to taste)
2 heaping spoonfuls diced garlic
sea salt to taste (I didn't use any, but I don't much like salt)
Start by sautéing your diced red onions in a skillet with 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and stir until all contents of the skillet are slightly browned; the scent should be rich and sweet. Your kitchen will smell awesome for the rest of the day.
In a slow cooker set to low, add all the broth and vinegar. Add the browned onions and garlic. In twenty minutes, add all the vegetables (green beans, brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, and beets). Turn up the heat to just below medium and cook for about 4 hours. Depending on what sort of slow cooker you have, this might take longer. The test is in two parts: smell and softness. The smell of this soup is mouth-watering and gets richer and more decadent over time. When the smell drags you to the pot, you're nearing completion. Then you just need to make sure that the brussels sprouts are mushy. Lift one out in a ladle and press it with a spoon or fork; if it crushes easily, you're ready to eat. Serve steaming hot. Crusty bread is a great accompaniment.
Go on. Have a peace. :) Enjoy!