Friday, March 4, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different

My recent excursions/pilgrimages/quests to the slowly-dying Borders has left me with a ton of new books. Duh. That should be obvious. The unexpected part is that because of this, some mystery of my psyche gives me the desire to revisit all my old books, the ones that haven't been properly appreciated. Does this make sense on any level? Oh wait; I don't care. Books!

Some recipes collections, though, I've been reading far too often. I've been through my Italian a lot, so that's out. Bittman likewise; not good for recipe browsing. I'm sick of staring at a computer screen, so the Internet is of no use to me. Not feeling fancy enough for Food & Wine or the Silver Palate, and tapas are too much effort for too little output. And so on, until I had all but whittled my options away.

And then my eyes alighted on a little-used hardback tucked away in a corner of the bookshelf: Sephardic Flavors. Hmm, that's one I don't use often. Neen & Do gave it to me a few years ago when they were experimenting with new flavours. But not knowing how to approach the food, I haven't made good use of it. Time to remedy that, methinks!

Scanning through the various options, none of which seem remotely similar to my standard cuisine, I eventually settled on mantikos. Evidently based on the Turkish manti*, these are palm-sized savory pastries -- kind of like warm bread dumplings filled with fresh cheese and [meat|onions|spinach] (the recipe offers three possible fillings). Somehow, they both taste delightfully Mediterranean and are bracingly warm for the remaining cold nights of winter. Making them was a bit of a pain, as I am very bad at wrapping up fillings without making a horrible mess. It turns out that it doesn't matter, though: if you can't pinch one mantiko (?) closed, simply let it cook on foil or parchment paper with the opening facing up. Even though some of the filling might escape, the rest can be put out on display.

And if, like me, you end up with too much filling, let me say one word: quiche.

for the starter:
  • 1 envelope (2,1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbs flour
for the dough:
  • 2,3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp plus 1/3 cup vegetable oil
for the meat filling:
  • 2-3 Tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

for the spinach filling:
  • 1 lb spinach, stems removed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, OR 1/4 lb kashkaval or gruyère cheese, grated
  • nutmeg, salt, pepper
for the onion and cheese filling:
  • 3 Tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 4 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 lb ricotta cheese, fromage blanc, or cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • pepper, nutmeg (optional)
to finish:
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water

To make the starter, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water, then stir in the flour. Set aside for 10min until frothy.

To make the dough, in a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and the 1 tsp oil. Add the starter and using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 10min. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 18 to 24 balls. Place the balls in a bowl, add the 1/3 cup oil, and toss to coat the balls with the oil Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 30min.

Meanwhile, select one of the fillings and prepare it. If making the meat filling, warm the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10min. Add the garlic and beef and cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5min. Add the salt, pepper, and parsley and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned, about 10min. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To make the spinach filling, cook until wilted in the rinsing water clinging to the leaves, squeeze the spinach dry, and chop finely. Place in a bowl and add the eggs and cheeses. Mix well and season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

To make the onion and cheese filling, warm the oil or margarine in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and golden, about 15min. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and let cool. Fold in the cheeses, eggs, and dill and season with pepper and with nutmeg, if using.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a ball of dough into a rectangle or square about 1/3-inch thick. Place a generous tablespoon of filling on the center of the dough. Fold in the sides, fold up the bottom, then fold the top over the bottom to seal. Pinch the seams together securely and place seam side down on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the pastries are filled. Brush the tops with the egg wash.

Bake the pastries until golden, 25-30min. Serve hot or warm.

* Plagiarising the recipe notes: "Traditional Turkish manti are made with a kind of pasta dough and are usually dressed with paprika and melted butter or yogurt and garlic sauce. The Sephardic mantikos pastry from Cannakale is a yeast-raised dough."


mums said...

Suggestion about sealing these adorable puffy savories: try brushing at least one side with water before the pinching part. This is basically how raviolis are shut up. It might work if you're worried about presentation.

Glee said...

I know the feeling! Everytime I get a new cookbook (which is a major event these days, considering that it only happens when something stunning comes my way, since we have three packed shelves of cookbooks) I find myself rereading all my old ones to make sure they still feel loved. Greatest cookbook to read aloud at a dinner party: "The cooking of Vienna's empire." Lines such as "The Danube provides the people who live along it with fish, poetry, squabbles, and love."

Neen said...

Yay, so pretty! I've never made that recipe but have been tempted to for a while, so I'm glad to see that you liked it. Other favorites include: tomatoe and rice soup, spinach gratin (love me some anchovies!), lamb with green garlic (great for spring!), veal and spinach stew with egg and lemon, and the cheese-filled filo pastry. Especially the cheese-filledc filo pastry. Yay!