I'm probably going to get lambasted by the Romanians for this post, but I say bring it on...
A very popular dish in Romania and arguably the national food is a grilled casing-less sausage called Mititei (pronounced: "mee-tee-TAY"). Ground pork and veal are heavily seasoned with garlic and a special blend of spices and mixed with beaten egg and beer which adds amazing flavor and moisture, then formed into small sausage-like shapes (that unfortunately look like poop, but whatever) and then are grilled to perfection on a smoky charcoal grill. Often served as is or with a spicy mustard, they are the perfect appetizer to go with the national drink Tuica (pronounced "tzw-EEK-ah") or a good cold beer.
|charcoal is a must -- it gives the proper char and smoky flavor for an authentic taste|
Unfortunately, as much as the Romanians want to take credit for it, the great Mititei are probably not indiginous to Romania, but rather were a Middle Eastern import during the Ottoman occupation in late medieval Europe. Uncaningly resembling the Kefta Kabob, Romanians probably replaced the traditional ground lamb with their preferred taste for pork, and omitted most of the traditional Middle Eastern spices and instead going with their own garlic and paprika based blend. Personally I love both styles, but I have to say, the addition of the beer makes a killer grilled "keftsausagmit" as I lovingly call these hybrid sausages.
I was feeling the Middle Eastern vibe and made a traditional mici (pronounced "meech"; the cute form for referencing the "little ones") using Romanian style with Middle Eastern flavorings. Loved the result.
To go with, instead of the blander Romanian style eggplant puree, I went to the Middle East again and did a roasted eggplant dip with grilled onions, fresh mint, pine nuts, and garlic. The result was perfect, heavenly earthiness paired with the grilled keftsausagmit. If you're looking to try something new on the grill this week or weekend, give these recipes a try! Add some basmati rice and make it a meal!
Middle Eastern Style Mititei aka "Keftsausagmit"
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
8 cloves garlic, minced into a paste
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Hungarian style paprika
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground clove
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup beer (preferably a lighter beer, German style)
Place beef and pork into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste, spices, baking soda, and beer and mix well until combined. Add more beer if needed until mixture is wet but can still hold form; if it feels too dry add more beer. Let mixture stand 30 minutes for flavors to combine. When ready to grill, take out a small palmful of meat mixture and form into torpedo-shaped little sausages. Set aside.
|meat mixture before it gets formed into sausages|
Preheat a charcoal grill to high. Add the sausages to the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well roasted on all sides. Because pork is involved, you'll need to cook them all the way through so no medium-rare this time! You wan to to keep rotating the sausages so they get evenly cooked all around. Total cook time is around 10 minutes. Remove and serve piping hot!
Roasted Eggplant Puree
1 large Italian eggplant, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
olive oil to roast eggplant + 1 Tbsp for onion saute
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small white onion, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp dried currants
1 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Drizzle the tops of the halved eggplant with the olive oil -- enough to coat the top but not over saturate -- and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until very tender, about 40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Once cooked, remove from oven and let cook while you do the onions.
Warm the remaining olive oil in a saute pan and cook onions until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and currants and cook another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
|all the ingredients just before it hits the food processor|
deep caramelization of the onions will give the dish its irresistable sweetness
Once cool enough to handle easily, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant (seeds and all) and place into a food processor; discard the skins. Add the cooked onion mixture, mint, and balsamic vinegar, and mix to combine until a thick puree is formed. Taste and adjust with seasonings to taste.