A few months ago I was lucky to be invited by Justin to the publishing party for his book "Cook With Me!" It was a lovely event and the variety of dishes prepared by Justin was delicious and looked magnificent.
Here is his story.
My name is Justin Cassablanca, I am 13 years old, and the author of “Cook with Me!”, a book inspired by my Great-Grandmother, “Mama Ie”. In August 2018, she turned 92. For as long as I can remember, every year she has taught me a new recipe. One of the first recipes was a 100-year-old apple pie she knew from her mother.
Mama Ie made with me this summer an old recipe; a Romanian classic, “plum dumplings” for which she let me climb her plum trees to harvest the plums. Her gift for the end of my summer vacation this year was a recipe book handwritten by her with some recipes from the turn of the century. Inspired by her legacy to cook, I collected traditional recipes and put them together in my cookbook “Cook With Me!” which was published in August of 2018 in Timisoara, Romania.
|A page of Mama Ie recipe book
photo by Justin Cassablanca
Romanian Sponge Cake
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup oil
1 small yogurt
14g baking powder
Pinch of salt
Lemon and orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Separate the egg whites from the yolks and put them in separate bowls. Beat the whites until become fluffy, then add the sugar slowly until you reach stiff peaks. In the yolks put the yogurt, oil, vanilla, and zest and mix together. Mix the baking powder, flour, and salt I another bowl. Over the yolk mixture add in 3 parts 1/3 of the flour, and 1/3 of the meringue folding well after each addition. Preheat oven to 360°F and place the batter into a rectangular baking pan lined with parchment paper, and over the top place pitted and halved sour cherries or regular cherries. Place in the oven and let bake for 25-30 min until golden brown and when you poke with a toothpick it comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy.
|Mama Ie and Justin photo by Ian Cassablanca
|Together making Cozonac, a traditional Christmas sweet bread Photo by Ian Cassablanca
|Raspberry mousse cake made by Justin photo by Marie Christine Katz
Here below are some pages of Justin's book and a forward by Andrei Codrescu
I wish I had known so marvelous a passion when I was as young as Justin. This book is many things: it is, first of all, a collection of culinary delights, many of which I had the pleasure of tasting. I can attest to their terrific gustatory success. Secondly, Justin’s recipes are a family history told through the richness of the regional dishes of his Romanian heritage. Last but not least, the evident joy in creating his food is reflected in Justin’s stories and images of a traditional world whose flavors will survive through him.
Andrei Codrescu, author, NPR commentator