AUSTINTOWN - Mariana Dumitrascu Grimes is Romanian. She's becoming an American citizen. She loves Italy and its cuisine. Her Trumbull Cooks recipe is from Germany.
Grimes, 54, is a blonde bundle of energy. She came to the U.S. in 2004 to live with and care for an elderly woman.
Harvey Grimes was told of her situation - new to the country, pretty much alone and stuck in the house - and began sending her e-mails of encouragement. He quickly learned Friday was her only day to get out.
ABOVE:?Mariana Dumitrascu Grimes of Austintown prepares to dish out her Sauerkraut Medley. The meaty dish is a family favorite. BELOW:?Grimes prepares a plate of her Sauerkraut Medley. The recipe originally came from Germany.
"Of all the places she could come in this country, she came to California, Pa.," Harvey Grimes said recently in the kitchen of their home.
They married in 2006.
Mariana Grimes opens a roaster, practically singing "yum" and "mmmmm" as she does so.
Sauerkraut Medley Submitted by Mariana Dumitrascu Grimes
3 bags of sauerkraut
4-5 pork chops (bone-in) or pork roast
3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2-3 pounds kielbasa (skinless)
1 big onion, diced
12 ounces of beer
Place 1 bag of sauerkraut (with juice) in bottom of the roaster.
Place chicken breasts on top of the sauerkraut.
Sprinkle onion on top of chicken.
Place another layer sauerkraut (drained).
Place pork on top of this layer.
Sprinkle more onion.
Place third layer of sauerkraut (drained).
Cut kielbasa into 3-inch pieces and place on top.
Sprinkle remaining onion on top.
Pour beer over the top.
Cover roaster and cook in oven 3 to 3 1/2 hours at 325 degrees.
"This is my favorite dish," Harvey Grimes said as he watched his wife dish out hefty portions for guests. "You won't eat sauerkraut like this anywhere else."
Grimes' brother served in the military for 30 years and brought the recipe back from Germany. Mariana began making it, and now it's a family favorite, too.
"The family, they like to put (it) on buns with the mustard," she said of the kielbasa. Her husband said boneless chicken breasts have to be used - otherwise the chicken gets so tender you risk eating the bones.
He also claims that the sauerkraut in this recipe won't cause any of the ingredient's infamous, well, gastrointestinal distress. He says the light beer "mellows it out."
Mariana Grimes is confident in her cooking abilities, partly due to her Romanian heritage.
"We are very talented," she said. "We love to cook, we love to eat, we love to dance."
She also said it's very expensive to eat out in Romania.
"In Romania, the most traditional food is cabbage rolls, so I do those for holidays," she said. "It's more tasty - I use my own mix of spices."
She said in her home country, they prepare the cabbage for sauerkraut and cabbage rolls whole. The cook just peels off leaves as needed.
She loves Italian food not only for the taste, but because of its simple ingredients and because it's healthier than food in the U.S.
"Their philosophy is a poor cuisine is better than a rich cuisine," she said.
She loves to bake, although interestingly the cookies she's known for come from a Betty Crocker pouch. There's just something about the way she makes them.
Speaking of dessert, Grimes served an Italian one with this recent lunch - tiramisu. With it, she suggests a muscato wine.
"I am European," she said. "I know my wines."
With the medley, which features a lot of meat, she recommends red, such as cabernet savignon or merlot.
Grimes loves to read and has taken English-as-a-second-language classes. She is preparing for her U.S. citizenship. Her husband said she is really into watching politics on TV - she can't wait to be allowed to vote.
"She values things that we take for granted. She appreciates the freedoms," she said. "She'll be a good citizen."
Grimes said her Sauerkraut Medley is healthy because it's all steamed. She also said it tastes even better after one or two days.
"I try to do healthy, but once in a while I have a burger," she said. "I am (an) American girl now - in the end."