Thursday, January 04, 2007

Vivianna's Apple Walnut Cake

Love passes through the stomach (Romanian proverb)

On New Year's Day, Romania joined the European Union, bringing with it a rich cuisine that blends several cultural traditions.

My first experience with Romanian food was, ironically, in Angola. A small group of friends, all of us humanitarian aid workers, used to meet in a kitchen on the 14th floor of an apartment building overlooking the bay of Luanda. Up there, a light breeze would cool us off and after cooking together for an hour or two we would move out to the balcony to catch the sunset and watch the world go by. Once you got up the stairs (the elevator almost never worked) the apartment felt comfortable and safe and we felt protected from the manic streets below.

Most of our meals we led by the formidable Roshni, who has an incredible flair for food. Her traditional Indian meals were amazing, but she could also whip up Thai, Italian, Chinese, you name it! The rest of us mostly did what Roshni instructed us to do, but every once in a while we had a chance to offer our own special delicacy. That's how we came across this Romanian dessert. (Forgive me if the recipe isn't perfect -- I scribbled it into my notebook as I watched it being made.)

Vivianna's Apple Walnut Cake

6 apples, cored, peeled and halved
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
6 eggs, separated
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. oil
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vinegar

Sprinkle sugar in the bottom of a baking dish and caramelize over an open stove. Core, peel and halve the apples and arrange them in the pan over the sugar. Dust with 1 Tbsp. sugar, ground cinammon and walnuts and bake at 200-250 degrees until soft.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites until firm. Add sugar, one spoon at a time, and continue beating. In another bowl, mix egg yolks with oil. Fold into egg whites. Add flour, one spoon at a time. Mix baking powder with vinegar and add to batter. Add vanilla.

Add batter to pan and bake until golden brown.

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