Placinta cu branza si marar is traditional to Romania and the Republic of Moldova, a country where I spent a year as a Peace Corps Volunteer. With talk of a reunion trip amongst the Moldova5 RPCVs (Returned PC Volunteers from the 5th tour to Moldova), I was feeling a little nostalgic for some of their food. I could have made mamaliga, a cornmeal based dish like polenta that would have been just fine for my gluten and dairy-free diet, but cheese and dill pie sounded so much better. So, I made some modifications and wound up with a dish I’m quite pleased with, which also tasted pretty darn close to the original.
The whole thing came together when I drove past a health food market on the way to somewhere else. I stopped, looked around, and found fresh dill, mozzarella-flavored rice-milk cheese alternative, and a package of Chebe’s gluten-free pizza crust mix. Perfect!
Placinta cu marar has a very strong dill flavor. When I first tried it, it was a little overpowering. But, after eating it at the local market and in people’s homes often enough, it became a regular part of my diet. The way I make the placinta here is different from the pan-friend hand pies I ate in Moldova, but has the same flavor with fewer calories. I’ve had bad-luck with gluten-free hand pies in the past, so I didn’t even want to go down that road.
I made the pizza crust as per the package’s instructions, but I left out the optional cheese. I know some of you might like cheese-covered pizza with cheese embedded in the crust, as well, but I’m not one of them. So, pizza mix + 2 eggs + oil + rice milk. Chebe is made from tapioca flour and starch and so it has a pretty sticky and stretchy consistency. If you coat your fingers in more tapioca flour, it makes the dough very easy to handle.
For the filling, I referred to a recipe on Gourmandine, home to Romanian blogger Iulia. Using her recipe as a base, I used eggs, some Tofutti Sour Supreme, the cheese alternative mentioned above, corn meal, fresh dill, S&P, and a little cayenne, as well as some garlic and onion for good measure. I figured that the cheese alternative would probably need a kick.
Dill and Cheese Pie (Placinta cu branza si marar) Recipe
- 1 package Chebe’s gluten-free pizza crust mix
- 1 8-oz package of Mozzarella-flavored non-dairy cheese alternative, shredded
- 2 eggs
- 3 Tablespoons dairy-free sour cream alternative
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons corn meal
- 2 Tablespoons minced green onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
- Salt, pepper and cayenne, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8″ baking pan with olive oil and set aside.
To make dough, follow instruction on pizza crust mix package, leaving out cheese. Divide dough into 2 equal size balls. Dust a clean surface with tapioca or corn starch for best results and, using your hands, pat each dough ball out into an 8×8″ square.
In a medium bowl, mix together all filling ingredients until well blended.
Place one dough square into the 8×8″ pan and pat it down evenly across the bottom. Pour filling into pan and spread evenly, leaving 1/4″ of dough exposed around edges. Place second layer of dough on top of filling and lightly press down around the edges to seal the pie.
Bake pie for 35-40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and has pulled away from the pan’s sides.
Cut into squares and serve.
By the way, if you ever run across a foreign website that you wish you could read, just install the Google Toolbar. I happen to speak some Romanian, but I like to use the Google translation feature to double-check my understanding. They offer translation in about 60 languages; it’s not always correct, but it’s close and it’s better than nothing.