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 thinking...is 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.