Pitha – a Bengali style sweet dumpling. Narkeler pitha – dumpling filled with coconut and date sap. Usually the dough is made with rice flour and water(?), filled with the coconut mixture, then deep fried. I never learned how to make pitha, but I did teach myself how to make hand pies.
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.
Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies
I gave into peer pressure, guys. When the first ramps popped up in my instagram feed, I rushed to the Union Square Green Market to pick some up. Not too long after, I picked up some rhubarb without much idea about what I was going to do with it. I am all about eating seasonal foods, local, humane, natural, sustainable, etc. But sometimes the thing that’s in season isn’t exactly worth all the hype. Ramps are great and all. If you are less familiar with them, they are a green leafy vegetable available for a few short weeks in spring. They are sold leaves, stalk, bulb and all and have a lovely mild onion flavor. I loved them first time I used them, as a topping on my homemade pizza. More recently, I chopped them up and stewed them with some tomatoes. I even bought a ramp pesto that works wonders on a tomato mozzarella panino.
But I thought part of the point of seasonal foods was that they would be a bit more affordable? Because of their limited availability these items can be incredibly marked up. I vow for next year (and for later on this year), to wait until the end of a crop’s season to buy them. After the hype dies down, so does the price. And that, my friends, is how I internalize Supply and Demand (take that AP Microeconomics). I’m not posting an original recipe here today. I worked off a Smitten Kitchen recipe and am sharing my experience as a novice in hand pie assembly. This is after all a Web-Log. I am logging my forays into new foods and techniques. Observation 1: Mamma mia that’s a lot of butter. 3 sticks. That’s an amount usually reserved for Ina’s Pecan Bars or the frosting for a 2 layer cake.
Observation 2: It was a pleasant salty, tangy, sweet and savory flavor experience. I thought the tartness of the rhubarb would be off-putting, but it worked well with the buttery-ness of the crust. I am so used to inundating my tart fruits with sugar (see Lemon Yogurt Cake) that my aging palette appreciated the change of pace. I actually misread the recipe and used 1/4 cup sugar for the filling as opposed to 1/3 cup. Oops. I did, however, intentionally add 1/4 tsp of salt. I ALWAYS need plenty of salt on my tangy fruits.
Observation 3: Make sure you have a good stainless steel saucepan to make this compote in. You have to leave it in the pot for 15 minutes, covered, so it is essential that it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom. Do not try this on your Mother’s or Mother In Law’s 100 year old Imusa pot. Next time I might try it with black pepper or balsamic vinegar added to the fruit compote. Mmmm….I got to use my pastry blender for the first time. Or as my kids like to call it, The Monster. I had to resort to my salad bowl for mixing. You need a nice, big, wide bowl to work the dough in. Although I regretted not making this with store bought pie dough (because of the million other things I had to do that in preparation for our weekend beach getaway), I can comfort myself by saying that a store bought pie dough would not have been made special with buttermilk and grapefruit zest. Small comforts when you’ve got fried chicken grease splattered all over your kitchen, a cold dough to work until flat, and a suitcase that just won’t pack itself!Pardon my cutting board’s appearance. It’s close to retirement.I think I should have gotten them thinner than I did. The directions were to roll to 1/8 of an inch but this was the best I could do. Is it ghetto to roll out your dough on a cutting board rather than the counter? I don’t trust myself to clean the counter well enough to roll out dough onto it. Maybe it’s a desi thing. And given my limited counter space, I wouldn’t gain a whole lot by nixing the board. Directions also stated a cooking time of 15 to 20 minutes. I needed to go a bit beyond the the 20 to ensure a nice golden color on my hand pies. Enjoy the season, folks, and all that it has to offer (but maybe wait a week or two ;)).
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp grated orange or grapefruit zest
- 1 1/2 tbsps granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
- 1 cup cold buttermilk
- 3 cups chopped rhubarb and strawberries (I used two cups rhubarb, one cup strawberries. Cut off the leaves and any tough parts of the rhubarb)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your strawberries are, but if you’re using all rhubarb, go with 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- Make the dough: mix the flour, citrus zest, sugar and salt in a large bowl with a whisk. Add the butter and work with a pastry blender, fork or your fingers until you have pea sized bits of flour encrusted butter running throughout. Then, slowly add the buttermilk and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon to incorporate. When all the buttermilk has been added, knead a few times with your hand to get it in the shape of the ball. Divide the ball in four and flatten each into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Make the filling: combine the fruit, sugar, and salt in a medium to large stainless steel saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. You don’t need to stir during this time. Enough liquid emerges from the fruit to self baste. After the 15 minutes are up, uncover and cook for an additional 15 minutes at medium low. Stir occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom, particularly towards the end. After these 15 minutes are up, pour onto a plate to let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Generously flour your surface and rolling pin. Roll out one of the disks until 1/8 of an inch thick. Do this with a swift back and forth motion, rotate the dough 45 degrees, then repeat until it is sufficiently thin. Take your time with this, young Jedi. Trim off the edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut to make 4 squares or rectangles. In a small bowl, beat the egg with a dash of water. Brush two of the squares with the egg wash. These will be the bottoms (hehe). Spoon a teaspoon of the cooled fruit compote onto the two squares. Place the adjacent squares a top the squares with filling, pulling a bit to ensure the edges line up. Crimp the edges with a fork. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a slit to let the steam out while they are in the oven. Place the two completed hand pies on a baking sheet and sprinkle the tops generously with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. While those bake, work on rolling out the next quarter of dough and assemble the next two hand pies in the same fashion. I alternated by sticking the second batch in the oven as soon as it was ready and calculating the extra time required when the first timer went off, but it really browns best when there’s only one baking sheet in the oven at a time. Continue with the rest of the dough. Let cool a few minutes before moving onto a wire rack for complete cooling.
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.
Stone Fruit Crostata
I don’t know at what point I got the inspiration to make this. I’m not one of those people who go ga-ga over summer fruit. I pretty much prefer a chocolate dessert any time of the week (or year). And the work involved in making a crust, rolling it out, refrigerating – usually too much for my lazy self. But I went to the farmers market this past Sunday and OD’ed on my fruit purchases. There were just so many different kinds of plums. And nectarines, and peaches, oh my! Or maybe it was the barrage of emails I was getting about galettes (french for crostata) from other food bloggers. This may be a good time to mention what this thing is: a free form pie. A rustic dessert that can be filled with pretty much any fruit of choice. Anywho, I thought, now is the time. Except making the crust wasn’t the labor intensive part…cutting all this fruit was! The peaches were fine but the plums and nectarines were impossible to pit without turning it into mush. So, you have to cut out each wedge, one by one, with an exact motion away from the pit in order to get decent slices. This is an example of how not to fill the dough: on the wooden board where you roll it out as opposed to on the parchment paper itself. Transferring it to the parchment paper lined baking sheet was a nightmare. It got so wet and soggy from the fruit juices that we (my sister and I ) just barely made the transfer without turning the whole thing into a giant fruity baked donut. This pastry has wonderful buttery crumb topping. And the crust is perfect in its simplicity. No vanilla, no cinnamon. Just pure butter, sugar, flour (and a bit of salt). Keeps me coming back for more! Though I did not excel at the folding over and pleating part. And given this batch of fruit, it needed a bit more sugar for our taste. So, we topped it with some powdered sugar and served with a scoop of ice cream (white chocolate raspberry truffle to be exact). The day was coming to an end by the time I got around to taking these pictures, so the only sun filled surface left was the kids’ toy chest. I think that’s ok. As long as you can see the food, right?Recipe just barely adapted from Ina Garten. Keep in mind, this makes two crostatas so if you planning on freezing the other dough for later, make sure to cut down the prepared fruit by half. I only pictured one here since the other one came out not so pretty from the transfer.
For the pastry
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar (I use raw sugar, just give it a whir in the food processor beforehand)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water
For the filling:
- 1 pound firm ripe peaches, unpeeled
- 1 pound firm ripe plums, unpeeled
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
For the pastry:
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly (and carefully!) with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you only need 1 disk of dough The other disk of dough can be frozen.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the baking sheet.
For the filling:
Cut the peaches and plums in wedges and place them in a bowl. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the orange zest, and the orange juice. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
Combine the 1/4 cup flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.