Monday, March 12, 2012

Eggplant Phyllo Pie

A few days ago, my boyfriend and I went and saw The Descendants.  Although we had assigned seats in the theater, a 10 minute intermission, and Turkish subtitles for the film, when the movie ended I had one of those moments when I had absolutely no idea where I was.  I thought to myself that the theater could be anywhere or in any of the places that I have visited before.  It was a fleeting feeling but such an innocent thought that I tried to hold on to it and savor it for a few moments.

These eggplant phyllo pies remind me of that feeling.  The ingredients are so simple and easy to find across cultures.   The pistachios, red pepper flakes, and mint leaves are so common in Turkish cuisine, but this recipe was found on an American website.  The phyllo dough makes me think of baklava, which has also been adapted by many countries.  Mint leaves make me think of Indian and Mediterranean cuisine.  Overall, I would say that this is a multi-cultural appetizer.

As for the taste, with each bite of the pie, I kept thinking that they tasted like little eggplant pizzas.  Wait, you may be that a reference to something?  Are eggplant pizzas common?  I honestly have never had an eggplant pizza but if I ever decide to make one I would expect it to taste this way.  The phyllo dough serves as a flaky crust, the eggplant is meaty enough that there is no need for sauce, and the cheese, mint and spices compliment the ingredients with flavor and spice. 

And as a side note, I do not know what magic happened while taking these pictures but they are my absolute favorites of all time on this blog.  Maybe this is a pretty big statement to make but I think I raised the bar for myself and I hope that I can find this same magic in future picture taking.

Eggplant Phyllo Pies, adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 6 pies

1 large eggplant, cut in half
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
5 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush cut sides of eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tender, 20 minutes or more if the eggplant is large.  (I actually did this step a day ahead, to save some time when preparing the pies).

2.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from skin and roughly chop. Transfer eggplant to a medium bowl and add feta, 3 tablespoons pistachios, coriander, red-pepper flakes, and mint. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

3.  Lightly oil 6 standard muffin cups. Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and, with a pastry brush, lightly brush with oil. Stack 4 more phyllo sheets on top, brushing each with oil. Cut into 6 squares. Gently press one square into each muffin cup and fill with 1/4 cup eggplant mixture.

4. Gently fold over corners of phyllo to enclose filling. Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon pistachios. Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes. Let cool and then serve the pies warm or at room temperature.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life in Photos

1. A happy discovery of a Thai restaurant
2. Green tea along with Thai lunch
3. Walking along the Asian side of the city
4+5. 2 Dali sketches.  Small, full of detail, and beautiful.
6. Picked up a small jam jar for $2.  I decided that it was so cute that I should use it to store my rings.  I am a sucker for glass domes!  Now, I want to buy several more and actually use them for jam and host large breakfasts.  Anyone want to come over for breakfast so that I have an excuse to buy more?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raspberry Breakfast Financiers

It is funny how the mind works.  Back in New Jersey, I had a well stocked kitchen with tons of baking sheets, muffin pans, cake pans and other baking equipment that I did not use as often as I wanted.  As baking ideas came into my mind, I would add different food to my pantry with the intention of experimenting and pushing myself to bake more.  As expected, a lot of what I bought went unused and now I miss it all.

Here in Istanbul, I have already stocked up on the essential tools that I need for baking but maintaining a kitchen that is ready for baking takes up a lot of space.  After the recent pain of packing up my kitchen, I am trying to keep my kitchen under control.  Hah!  We will see how long that lasts considering that I want to bake much more than I did in my old apartment!

As for these financiers, I made them a few weeks ago.  I picked up almond meal in Trader Joes with the all the best intentions.  Having never used almond meal before, it sat for several weeks in my pantry.  Finally, after searching through a favorite cookbook, I realized that I could make financiers.  This cookbook has many recipes for financiers that features a large variety of flavor combinations.  For my first attempt at financiers, I decided to try a traditional recipe with only a few raspberries on top.  I must say that they were delicious!  Light and sweet with just a little bit of fruit to add to the flavor.  I have the almond meal with me here, next I hope to try a more flavorful financier.

Raspberry Breakfast Financiers
Makes 8  


1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
5 egg whites
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease eight reccesses in a mini loaf pan.

2. Sift sugar and flour into a large mixing bowl.  Add the almond meal and stir to combine.

3.  In another bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy.  Stir into dry ingredients.  Then stir in the melted butter until combined.

4.  Evenly distribute the mixture between the eight recesses in the prepared pan.  Top with raspberries, pressing them gently into the batter.  Sprinkle with the rolled oats.

5.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and firm.

6.  Cool in the pan for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.



Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cider-Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts

I guess now would be a good time for me to insert the standard excuses for how busy my life has been and to explain myself for neglecting my portion of the whole "two minds" framework. BUT it's true, my life has been going through some changes (nothing bad) that have required a lot of traveling and sacrifice of the free time I normally spend experimenting in the kitchen. That being said, I'm back in my rampant cooking mode, so let's hope I'm able to keep up with Rona on posting recipes.

To ease my transition back into the blogosphere, here's a very simple recipe that even the worst cook can handle.

If you like the taste of brussels sprouts, this is a great recipe that perfectly meshes their somewhat bitter taste with the sweet taste of the fruit.


1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups brussels sprouts, halved
1 large apple, diced
1 large pear, diced
1 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp cinnamon


1) Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.

2) Add brussel sprouts flat side down and flip once or twice, until browned, approximately 10-12 minutes.

3) Add the apple and pear and cook until soft.

4) Add cider and cinnamon and simmer until all of the liquid evaporates.

Easy peasy. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Quick and Easy Cooked Leek and Carrot

I want to share one of my absolute favorite dishes to make when I have little energy for cooking.  The prep takes about 5 minutes and the cooking takes about 20 minutes so it is perfect when I want to be in an out of the kitchen quickly.  This leek dish is a Turkish meal that my boyfriend taught me.  I have seen it on the menu at Turkish restaurants but I have never tried it so this is the only version that I know.  But it is delicious, healthy, and appropriate for a variety of diets. 

Cooked Leek and Carrots
Serves 3-4

4 stalks of leek, trimmed
1 carrot, peeled
1 tablespoon of rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1.  Prepare the leek by washing it, cutting off the ends, and then splitting it in half along the entire length.  Cut it into pieces that are about 1.5-2 inches long and set aside.

2.  Cut the carrot in rounds of your preferred thickness.  I prefer them to be sliced as thinly as possible.

3.  In a large pan, heat 1 olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the leek and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Add the rice, tomato paste, and 1/2 cup of water to the pan.  Cook the leek for another 15-18 minutes until the leek is soft.   If the water evaporates too quickly, it may be necessary to add a little more. (but not too much, the final consistency should be a paste not be watery). Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the water level so that the leek doesn't burn.

Serve warm with rice or pilaf.



Life in Photos

1. At the airport 
2. View along the Bosphorus 
3. Istanbul traffic 
4. My favorite Starbucks, with the most amazing views 
5. Yummy macarons, raspberry was my favorite 
6. Mocha and dessert

The past few weeks have been a bit of a transition for me.  I am currently in Istanbul and will be for some time.  I also realized that in the past four years, since I have graduated college, I have moved over 9 times.  Some moves have been large, others smaller but I am pretty exhausted from all of the packing and moving.  I find that I am enjoying it less each time. 

Coming to Istanbul (for the second time) has left me in a bit of a 'shock'.  Not culture shock, luckily I have traveled enough that I can adjust to new surroundings.  It is more of a cooking shock.  As in, I find it difficult to find so many of the necessary items that I could easily pick up in any store in the US.  Because the few days I had to pack were so stressful and my suitcases were stuffed to maximum capacity, I ended up leaving behind most of my kitchen necessities in the US.  And yes, I agree, that was stupid. 

I thought that it would be easy enough to find what I need but after visiting many stores I have begun to think that baking desserts is not a popular activity here.  I have had trouble finding measuring cups and measuring spoons, baking dishes, and many of the spices that I need.  And vanilla extract-almost impossible to find!  I finally tracked down a small bottle in a 'specialty store' and it cost about $20!  For a bottle that would cost $4-$5 in the US.  Needless to say, I will not be baking chocolate chip cookies anytime soon! Most of my frustrations will be solved tomorrow after a much needed trip to Ikea.  As for the vanilla extract, I am still kicking myself for packing so carelessly.