This is the story of how a typo turned into an entree. In Whatsapp group of fellow moms, coordinating the dishes of a potluck, someone offered up a Samoa cake. Misreading that for “Samosa Cake” many of the moms jumped at the prospect: “Samosa cake?! What’s a Samosa Cake?! I want to try it!!”. After clarifying the mix up, some ideas were thrown around as to what a samosa cake would look like. I immediately thought of layers of phyllo dough stacked with a samosa meat mixture, baked and cut in slices. When I looked up for recipes that would meet these requirements, I pulled together elements from a Borek recipe (Turkish layered meat pastry), an Egyptian meat pie, and the filling from a Yemeni Samboosa. There are cubanelle or italian frying peppers here for flavor, often seen in Turkish recipes. There’s tomato paste from the samboosa recipe, an ingredient that is necessary for any red meat dish, in my humble opinion. And the whole layering and baking technique pulls from Egyptian meat pie recipe.
I recall an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations when he was schooling his viewers on some things every home cook should know. Among them:
- How to slice and onion. Key take away: don’t leave your fingers sprawled all over the onion. You are asking for it. Tuck your finger tips under like you’re tossing a knuckleball. Life-saver.
- Beef bourguignon. It’s just a pot of unattractive, purple-hued beef cubes simmering in an even less attractive liquid base UNTIL the magic time is up. For the first two, two and a half hours, that’s all it is. But when the time is right, it all comes together to become the legendary French stew. That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me for all my stews and curries. The key factor is time. Time for the meat to flavor the broth and for the broth to cook/tenderize the meat. You have to learn what that time is for each dish to have truly delicious stews and curries.
- There were a few other lessons. Since I’ve forgotten them, they clearly weren’t as life changing.
I’ve made sloppy joes the traditional American way before, loaded with ketchup, brown sugar, sometimes Worcestshire sauce and/or vinegar. It’s just too sweet for me. In my version, I add some warming spices, paprika to complement the bell pepper, a tiny bit of sugar to bring out the sweetness in the crushed tomatoes, and peas (hey food groups!). Both version wayyy surpass the school lunch version I had as a NYC public school student.
I have my usual brioche buns as the delivery vehicle for this hot mess. You can use kaiser rolls, hamburger buns – so long as it’s nice and porous and soaks up all the juices.
- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 red/orange/yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
- about 1 pound Honest Chops organic ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne/chili pepper
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 can of crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- Heat oil in a pot and add onion, pepper and beef. Brown over high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and spices and mix well. Add bay leaf, crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 min, stirring occasionally.
- Add peas and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, add cilantro and stir to combine. Serve on hamburger buns, kaiser rolls, brioche buns – something that’s going to absorb all the juices!
Samboosa, samosa. Tomato, tomahto. Either way – savory pastry stuffed with meaty goodness. A fellow homeschooling mom made this for a multicultural fair we had a few months back and it was so good I just had to recreate it. It is a traditional Omani recipe: ground beef infused with deep tomato flavor, spices, herbs and vegetables, enrobed in crispy fried pastry dough. Better than any of the samosas you’d find in Jackson Heights or any other South Asian enclave.
A long time ago, I was downright terrible at frying things. I would add things to the oil before it heated up properly. Or I wouldn’t regulate the heat carefully so after the first batch or two things would just go BAM – overly browned and out of commission. But then – then I got a candy thermometer. A wonderful little kitchen tool that helps with my caramels as much as my samosas (truth be told – this is the first time I’ve made them!).
I kind of winged it with the wrapping. I recalled some filo wrapping directions for Spanakopita ages ago and tried to apply it here. I tried cutting a single sheet in half and folding – the results were way too big. I tried thirds – still too big. Folding a sheet in half, and cutting it down the middle made the perfect size and thickness.
You will have some leftover filo left after making these. Not to fret. I am already dreaming up things to do with them. Baklava tassies? Or perhaps fill them with coconut (or nutella?!) and deep fry? I’ll keep you posted 😉
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro or parsley
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (not a heaping tbsp, not even a full tbsp, rather a scant tbsp)
- 1/2 tsp each turmeric, cumin, black pepper and cayenne/chili pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste (I needed 1 1/4tsp, just taste it to make sure it tastes really good)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- filo sheets for wrapping
- oil for frying
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup water
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add beef, onion and garlic. Cook until meat browns, 7-8 minutes, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon. Keep scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add carrots, parsley/cilantro, tomato paste, spices and salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add water and cover with a lid. Cook until liquid evaporates and carrots are tender.
- In a large pot, heat oil to 350 to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Take one sheet of filo, fold it in half lengthwise and cut down the middle, so you end up with two strips, two layers each. Place one tablespoon of filling on one end. Fold up into a triangle as shown above. In a bowl, mix flour and water. Brush on the final edge of the pastry to seal shut. Fry 3-4 minutes until golden.
Homemade Ricotta (and a lasagna, too!)
Why on earth would you make your own ricotta? Because it’s delicious that’s why! Also, for these reasons:
- Unlike homemade chicken stock, you don’t need 98765432 ingredients. You need 4.
- It doesn’t take 3.5 hours. It takes 0.5 (and you don’t even have to stand watch over it for the majority of that time).
- You don’t need any special ingredients/equipment (screw cheesecloth! I used a papertowel!)
- It is awesome over toast (or fruit) with a drizzle of honey and slivered almonds (that is, unless almonds trigger your eczema). Breakfast all week! Use it to kick your lasagna up a notch! The recipe I’ve used all these years advised defrosting frozen spinach, mixing it with some ricotta, eggs, and seasonings and adding it as a single layer. It was my least favorite layer. So, this time, I heated up minced garlic and oil in a saucepan/wok. I cooked the spinach in it, seasoned it with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then added it to my homemade ricotta, decreasing the ricotta to spinach ratio quite a bit. No egg. It was divine. I didn’t think this process through very thoroughly. I boiled all the lasagna sheets. I just kept adding layers while I had stuffing/noodles. The top layer didn’t receive its due (read: I ran out of sauce). I’m sorry top layer. I still loved your nutty, cheesy contribution. And now I have leftover cooked lasagna noodles in my fridge. Roll ups next week? Another thing to make with your fresh ricotta – lemon (or in my case lime) ricotta cookies! Not pictured: the tangy, sweet glaze that goes atop these lovelies. And hopefully, your baking powder isn’t out of date, like mine was, and yours more resemble fluffy clouds rather than lemon disks.
For the Ricotta (recipe courtesy of Ina Garten – surprise!)
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
- Heat milk, cream and salt in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Turn off the heat, add vinegar, and stir. Let sit 3-4 minutes while mixture curdles.
- Place a mesh sieve over a big (preferably deep) and line it with cheesecloth or a paper towel. Carefully pour mixture in and allow the whey to separate from the curds for 20-25 minutes. Voila! You have ricotta cheese.
For the Lasagna (warning: did not measure – approximations below)
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced small
- 2 carrots, peeled, diced into about 1/4 in pieces
- 2 celery sticks, chopped small (if you don’t have carrots or celery, don’t let this stop you from making this meat sauce!! use peppers, or more onions if you need to!)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomato
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp sugar
- about 2/3 box lasagna noodles (about 15 sheets)
- 16 oz frozen spinach
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup of ricotta cheese
- about 7-8 oz mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (sorry, no shortcuts allowed for this step)
- For the meat sauce: brown meat in lightly greased skillet or wok over high heat, breaking up the meat and cooking until meat is no longer pink and has a nice crusty exterior. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon. Set aside on a plate. Add a bit more oil, then onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté until translucent (about 5 min). Add garlic, oregano, chili flakes, and about 3/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add crushed tomato, bay leaf, sugar. Stir then cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 20 min, stirring occasionally. At the end of 20 min, turn off heat and check for seasoning (it should taste GOOD – if not, add 1/4 tsp more salt). Set aside.
- In a medium skillet/wok, heat 1 tbsp oil or butter over medium high heat. Add 1 clove of garlic, minced. After about 30 seconds, add frozen spinach. Stir to break down clumps of spinach. Add about 1/2 tsp salt and pepper and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Cook down until spinach is warmed through and flavorful (4-5 min). Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a tbsp of salt and lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions (6-8 min). Drain, then drizzle with oil to keep from sticking. Set aside.
- Assemble the darn thing: preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 1/3 of meat sauce to the bottom of a casserole or lasagna dish. Add one layer of lasagna noodles (3 of the traditional barilla noodles). Then add 1/2 of the ricotta/spinach mixture. Top with 3 more noodles. Then add another third of the meat sauce – spreading to distribute evenly. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese (shredded or sliced). Top with 3 more lasagna noodles. Add remaining spinach/ricotta mixture. Add 3 more noodles. Top with remaining meat sauce. Add 3 final noodles. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes. Uncover, then stick back in the oven for 10 more minutes. It should be bubbly and the parmesan should just be starting to brown. Let cool before slicing unless you want messy, gooey pieces like the one pictured here =).