Ton’s Lamb Pastry

This is not for the faint of heart.

Not only this dish is loaded with calories but it is also a bit of work. As fattening as this dish is, it is one of my signature dishes and I stand by it. Yes, it is a bit bad for you. Well, don’t eat so much of it, stupid.

I am proud of this dish. I’ve always wanted to do a “borek” (Turkish word for pastry that has some sort of layered ingredients) that resembles my mom’s. This is as close as I am going to get. Is it as good as my mom’s? I am not sure. I remember the taste of my mom’s pastries and I don’t think I will ever place it anywhere or in anything now. The taste is more of a memory than an actual taste. For all I know, her boreks may taste too pedestrian now (since I’ve become a spice junkie).

I make the lamb pastry frequently, primarily for others. We’ve had enough, I think. It is usually good (I constantly play with the ingredients so no two batches are identical in texture or taste) and people pay a lot of compliments so I will bank that.

Before I forget, this pastry goes well with red wine. I’ve catered a winemaker friends’ red wine release one year, serving this and the turkey meatballs in passata recipe.

My recipe for this dish was published in a Northwest wineries and recipes for their wines (representing Hestia Cellars) book in 2008/2009 timeframe but the fucking bitch who collected recipes (saying she authored it would be like calling Office Depot a publishing house instead of a printing company for printing my menus for the last week’s party) changed my recipe to a cheese/spinach version (which I had provided as a more vegetarian alternative but not as the main recipe). Needless to say, my chance to culinary stardom was squished expressly afterwards. Sigh.

Ton’s Lamb Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 package Phylo dough
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp or to taste, thyme, dried (1.5 tablespoons if fresh)
  • Italian parsley, a small handful, coarsely chopped
  • Salt, to taste         
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300 ml fat-free milk (about 1 and 1/3 cup)
  • 100 ml sunflower oil (just less than half cup)

Thaw the Phylo dough (which comes in frozen packaging). This will take 2-5 hrs depending on the brand. Or you can thaw one in the fridge overnight.

On medium high, heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Add the garlic and the onions, stirring frequently, and sauté until translucent, approximately 7-8 minutes. Add the ground lamb, using a wooden spoon to break down clumps. Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chili pepper, cinnamon, thyme, parsley and salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and sunflower oil for about 30 seconds until well combined. Set aside.cake and borek 037

Grease a 9×13 oven-safe dish. Unwrap the Phylo dough. Using two sheets of dough per side, create flaps overhanging from each of the four sides of the dish. These flaps should hang over approximately 2-3 inches from the edge of the dish. The rest of the sheets will rest inside the dish.  Using a pastry brush, brush the sheets with 1/4 cup of the milk and egg mixture. Create another layer of dough using two sheets and brush with 1/8 cup of milk and egg mixture. Do this four more times. Then add another layer with two sheets and this time, cover the layer with approximately 60% of the lamb filling.

Create four more layers of dough using two sheets each and moisten with 1/8 cup of milk and egg mixture. Add another layer and cover it with rest of the meat mixture. Use up the remainder of the dough making layers of two sheets and brushing each layer with the milk and egg mixture.

When done, fold the overhanging flaps of Phylo on to the dish and pour the remaining milk and egg mixture on top. Using a paring knife, make a dozen small incisions on top, allowing juices to penetrate lower levels. If you run out of milk and egg mixture, just use more milk.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. During baking, the pastry may puff up. Do not intervene. Once the color turns golden brown, remove from oven and let it (and the puffing) rest 10-20 minutes. Like most lamb dishes, it tastes even better the next day.

Makes 20-25 servings (2-inch squares).

Here are the nutritional facts:

Vegetable Musakka

If all vegetarian dishes tasted this good, I would not think twice about giving up chicken. That statement is a cop out and really annoying to some people but I mean it. This is a great dish. A bit high on the calorie count because of the frying of the eggplant plus the carb content but it is also well-balanced for protein. Even if you are skeptical, trust me and try this once and you will be hooked.

Note: I haven’t taken any pictures of this dish. Will remedy that next time I make it.

Vegetable Musakka (Vegetarian recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant (one large, or two smaller), cut to 1/2 inch slices
  • 4 oz green lentils, 4 oz
  • 2 and 1/2 cup vegetable stock (preferably homemade, low or no salt version of off the shelf)
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz, oyster or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 14-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14-oz can, diced tomatoes,
  • 2 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Herbes de Provence
  • 1 and 1/4 cup non-fat yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a deep bowl water, soak the eggplants with salt for 30 minutes. Put a plate on top to help soaking.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, simmer the stock with lentils and bay leaf for 20 minutes. Drain.

Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and 3 tbsps of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Drain the eggplant slices and pat dry. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the slices in batches for 3-4 minutes, turning once.

Arrange a layer of eggplants in the bottom of a 9×13 dish, then spoon a layer of lentil mixture on top. Continue layers until all eggplants are gone.

Beat the yogurt and eggs and pour over the layered veggies. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 8 very generous servings.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Red Lentil Balls (Turkish recipe, Mercimekli Kofte)

When I was growing up, my mom had a group friends with whom she would hold “silver” days: Everyone in the group would chip in money to buy the host something lavish in silver (or gold sometimes) and the host in return would host a lavish Saturday afternoon gathering, rich with food and drinks. For women only. And sometimes with kids in tow.

It was in one of those Saturday afternoons that my mom dragged me to a ‘silver’ day at one of her friend’s house that I was introduced to red lentil balls… Very simple yet so very delicious. I tried several recipes before I found a version that I can replicate what I liked so much about this lentil appetizer.

Each ball is about 50-60 calories so eat with caution. They are highly addictive. Also, beware of the ‘bloat’: Bulgur expands in your tummy. Have one or two and wait for 10-15 minutes before you eat something else… Great for 20/20 lifestyles if you can stick to 2-3 of these along with some really good fish or chicken.  If you are allowing yourself some wine, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or dry Chenin Blanc would be awesome with it.

Red Lentil Balls (Turkish recipe, Mercimekli Kofte)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • ¾ cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 4-6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils. In a 1-2 quart pan, cover the lentils with just enough water to soak in its entirety. On high heat, bring to boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the water level. While you don’t want too much water in the pan, you also want to avoid burning the lentils. You can add more water if necessary.

Once the lentils are soft and mushy, remove from heat and add the bulgur to the pan and cover. Let it sit for 20 minutes until the bulgur expands and softens. If you find the bulgur too crunchy at the end of the 20 minutes, add some hot water, stir and cover again to allow the bulgur soak up the moisture.

In the meantime, in a sauce pan, heat the olive oil on medium and sauté the onions until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lentil-bulgur mixture with the sautéed onions, the hot red pepper paste, the tomato paste and cumin. Knead it until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (I personally do not add salt since the hot pepper paste is usually quite salty. I do put some red chili flakes and black pepper though).

Add the green onions, the garlic and the parsley and knead to mix.

Take a small to medium size ball of the mixture (size of 2 walnuts, the shelled kid) and shape it into a football (American football, not soccer) with your palm and serve it at room temperature.

The individual portion should look be as tall as a roll of coins, but a little thicker, like 2-3 fingers together. You can serve it on a platter layered with lettuce, for looks if you’d like.

Here is the nutrition information I got by entering the ingredients on SparkPeople recipe calculator:

Kapuska (Cabbage with Rice, Chicken Breast and Bell Peppers)

Cabbage. I grew up hating it. With a passion. The stench of boiling cabbage. Reheated cabbage. Anything cabbage. Then one day in 2008, I craved it. Not sure where it came from. Maybe there was some cabbage in the weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery. I searched online for recipes (specifically the Turkish dish I was craving, called Kapuska) and I came across at least 200 different recipes. Some with rice, some with beef, others with bulgur. After trying a few versions, I made up my own. I replaced the beef with ground turkey breast or chicken breast. I settled on rice. I went for a one-pot type of solution, rather than boiling the cabbage ahead and then cooking it even more afterwards.

Earlier this summer, there were a string of cabbage deliveries with our CSA boxes so I went back to the old favorite. I made it 20/20 Lifestyles appropriate. I love how it turned out.

Kapuska (Turkish recipe for Cabbage with Rice, Bell Peppers and Ground Turkey Breast, 20/20 appropriate)

Ingredients

  • A small head of cabbage, any variety (use half of red, half of green for a more colorful dish)
  • 16 oz chicken breast, boneless, roughly cut into chunks (if not available, use ground turkey breast)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or orange or a combination, roughly chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, grated (if not available, use half a cup of canned crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsps hot red pepper paste, (use tomato paste if not available)
  • 3 Tbsps olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown rice,
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt to taste– OPTIONAL. DO NOT USE IF ON 20/20
  • 1 Tbsps red chili flakes, 1 tablespoon – OPTIONAL
  • Thick yogurt, for serving – OPTIONAL

In a 6-quart pan or a dutch oven, combine all ingredients (except optional items and items for serving such as thick yogurt). Let cook, covered on medium-low heat for 40 minutes. At the end of the period, mix the dish with a wooden spoon to “test done-ness” of cabbage. It should be translucent and soft. If not ready, cook on low heat for another 20 minutes or so. The rice should be firm but not hard. Adjust seasoning. Serve with thick, non-fat Greek yogurt, if desired.

Note: I know, I know. It sounds crazy. I am not used to just dumping ingredients into a pot and walking away. But it works.

Makes 6 servings.

The nutritional information (without the yogurt):

Barbunya (Pinto Beans with Tomatoes, Carrots)

This is a dish from my childhood… I remember hating this dish (with a passion) for the best part of my young life. Just when I found an appreciation, it was time to leave… Now, I finally found a balanced recipe (my own, from many attempts based on online recipes) that works…. Not better than my mom’s, of course. Is anything really ever better than mom’s though? Or is it the memories associated with those meals that makes it ‘taste’ better? Discussion for another time)

Zeytinyagli Barbunya (Pinto Beans with Tomatoes, Carrots)

Ingredients

  • Pinto Beans, 3-4 cups, soaked overnight
  • Onion, 1 large
  • Anaheim Peppers, 2 of them, chopped
  • Carrots, 3-4 medium ones, cut into mini cylinders or half moons
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Pepper paste, 2 tbsp
  • Garlic, 5-6 cloves, minced
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon
  • Italian parsley, handful, chopped
  • Lemon, half of one, juiced
  • Black Pepper, to taste
  • Salt – OPTIONAL

In a pressure cooker, cook the beans to appropriate doneness (8-12 minutes to “firm but not hard, soft but not mushy” consistency). Alternatively, boil the beans in a deep pan with enough water for 20-30 minutes.

In a Dutch oven or a 6-qt pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. Sauté the onions and the garlic for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the pepper paste, tomatoes, sugar, salt (don’t add salt, if on 20/20) and black pepper. Sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the peppers and the beans. Stir well. Add a cup of water. Bring to boil and then turn down the heat. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

When the cooking period is done, mix in the parsley. After the dish is chilled, stir in the lemon juice. Add more lemon juice and Italian parsley as desired while serving.

Serves 10. Small portions, great soothing taste.

Here is the nutrition information on this recipe:

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