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
- 2,3/4 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp plus 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 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
- 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)
- 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."