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Fall Cheese Spreads November 7, 2013

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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Fall, the season that brings to mind beautiful leaves, crisp air, and warm gatherings with friends. Of course living in Southern California it is only the later that we can truly count on. A group of friends gathered to kick off the season with an early Thanksgiving themed luncheon. I was asked to bring an appetizer and came up with two cheese spreads inspired by my memories of the classic Connecticut Fall.

Fall Cheese Spreads

Pumpkin Goat Cheese is on the left and Pomegranate Blue Cheese is on the right. I served them with Sesame Melba Crackers (Trader Joe’s), and Fall’s most abundant crop – apples (great with pears too)

Pumpkin Goat Cheese Spread November 7, 2013

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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8 oz   Chevre Goat Cheese
8 oz   Neufchatal Cheese (light cream cheese)
¼ C   Pumpkin preserve, coarsely chopped* (about 2 ½ oz)
1 T     Pumpkin preserve syrup (or more to taste)
½ tsp Hot Red pepper flakes** (or more to taste)

Mix the goat and cream cheeses together; they should both be at room temperature for easy mixing (or micro for up to 30 seconds to soften). Add the chopped preserved pumpkin, hot red pepper flakes, and pumpkin preserves syrup. Adjust seasoning to your taste, I use up to 1 tsp of hot red pepper flakes.

Shape the mixture into a log using plastic wrap. Then coat the log with pumpkin seeds (below) by spreading the seeds out on plastic wrap and rolling the cheese log over. Wrap tightly and refrigerate (I bring it back to room temperature prior to serving).

Pumpkin Preserves & Red Pepper  * Turkish or Armenian Pumpkin Preserves are sold at Jon’s and Middle Eastern markets. Do not use pumpkin butter, pumpkin preserves have solid pieces of pumpkin packed in a sweet syrup – you can eat them right out of the jar as a dessert!

 

** I use Başak “Acı Pul Kırmızıbiber” – which translates to “Hot Red Pepper Flakes”, choose any you like but don’t skip the heat as it balances the sweetness of the preserved pumpkin.

Pumpkin Seed Coating
½ C Raw Pumpkin Seeds
¼ tsp Hot Red Pepper flakes
¼ tsp Kosher salt

Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the hot red pepper flakes and kosher salt. Bake at 375° 3 to 5 minutes (the seeds will start to “jump”).

Pomegranate Blue Cheese Spread November 7, 2013

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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8 oz Neufchatel (light cream cheese)
3 oz Blue cheese crumbles
½ tsp Sumac (up to 1 tsp to taste)
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar (or more to taste)

Mix everything except the blue cheese; adjust seasoning to your taste. For best results the cream cheese should be at room temperature. Fold in the blue cheese crumbles.

Crust & Topping
½ C Walnuts, coarsely chopped & toasted
¼ C Pomegranate seeds, fresh

Approximate measurements as the amount will vary based on the dish you use.

Line a ramekin or small tart pan with plastic wrap; allow enough wrap to cover the top. If using a ramekin or similar bowl you’ll be inverting the spread after it sets, so the bottom will become the top. Spread fresh pomegranate seeds evenly over the bottom; the fill with the blue cheese mixture; finally cover with toasted walnuts. Bring the plastic wrap over the top to completely cover; gently press down so the pomegranate seeds will adhere to the cheese and there are no air pockets. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pull the plastic back from the top; place on a serving plate; lift the ramekin off the cheese and remove the plastic. If needed add additional pomegranate seeds or walnuts to the top and sides.

Chicken Puff Pastry Bureks February 14, 2013

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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01 Appetizer Bureks

1 package      Puff Pastry Squares (5×5 – 10 pieces[1])
1 small-med  Potato – boiled and diced
1-2 T                Vegetable oil
1                        Onion, brown
2 T                    Pine Nuts
1                        Serrano Pepper (or more to taste), seeded & finely chopped
4                       Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb                  Chicken, ground
1 tsp                Paprika
to taste          Salt, Black Pepper
Dash               Cinnamon
Dash               Allspice
Dash               Cayenne
¼ C                 Parsley, chopped
2                      Eggs – separate use
Nigella Seeds (Black Caraway seeds)

Have 2 pastry brushes available (one for water one for the egg wash)

Set puff pastry on counter to thaw.

Heat sauté pan on med-medium high heat and add vegetable oil (1 – 2 T max).  Cook the onions until soft, add the pine nuts until lightly colored, then the chopped Serrano pepper and garlic.  Add the ground chicken and seasonings, break up the chicken as it cooks and be sure to mix all the seasonings, onion, garlic, and  pepper into the chicken. 1 Chicken Filling

The chicken is thoroughly cooked when there is no pink color remaining, also any liquid will have evaporated or been reincorporated. Mix the parsley and finely chopped cooked potato into the chicken mixture.  Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Mix one beaten egg into the cooled chicken mixture just prior to filling the puff pastry.

Heat oven to 375° Convection Bake or 425° regular oven

Mix one egg with about an equal amount of water (no more though) in a small bowl.  Put plain water in another small bowl.  Have a separate pastry brush for each (you can even use a disposable paint brush from the hardware store – just wash first).

I used Puff Pastry that came in 5 inch squares with 10 pieces to the package.  On a lightly floured surface, I roll these slightly to be about 6×6 inches; I then cut each square into 4 pieces.2 Chicken folding

Brush all four sides of each square with water.  Place a spoonful of filling on the square and fold one side over the top making a rectangle.

3 Crimped with forkCrimp the three sides with the tines of a fork to seal, poke the top of the burek with the fork to allow steam to escape while baking.

Place about an inch apart on a non-stick baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Brush each burek with the egg wash then sprinkle with Nigella seeds.  Bake in a preheated oven set to 375 ° Convection Bake or 425° conventional oven for 15 – 18 minutes and golden brown, it’s better to over bake puff pastry than under bake, just don’t burn them.  Makes 40 pieces of appetizer sized bureks.

4 Chicken on baking sheet 5 Chicken baked


[1] Any brand should work fine – I get mine from Jon’s Market (frozen)

Cheese & Olive Puff Pastry Bureks February 14, 2013

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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1 package      Puff Pastry Squares (5×5 – 10 pieces[1])
1 lb                  Feta, Bulgarian or French (others are too salty), diced
2                      Eggs
¼ C                 Parsley, chopped
3 T                   Kalamata Olives, chopped
1                      egg for egg wash[2]
Sesame seeds

Have 2 pastry brushes available (one for water one for the egg wash)
Set puff pastry on counter to thaw.

In a mixing bowl beat 2 eggs.  Add the feta cheese, parsley and Kalamata olives to the beaten eggs.  Mix thoroughly.

Heat oven to 375° Convection Bake or 425° regular oven

Mix one egg with about an equal amount of water (no more though) in a small bowl.  Put plain water in another small bowl.  Have a separate pastry brush for each (you can even use a disposable paint brush from the hardware store – just wash first).

I used Puff Pastry that came in 5 inch squares with 10 pieces to the package.  On a lightly floured surface, I roll these slightly to be about 6×6 inches; I then cut each square into 4 pieces.

Brush all four sides of each square with water.  Place a spoonful of filling on the square and fold one side over the top making a rectangle. 1 Cheese mixture on squares

Crimp the three sides with the tines of a fork to seal, poke the top of the burek with the fork to allow steam to escape while baking. (See picture for Chicken Puff Pastry Burek)

Place about an inch apart on a non-stick baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Brush each burek with the egg wash then sprinkle with Sesame seeds.  Bake in a preheated oven set to 375 ° Convection Bake or 425° conventional oven for 15 – 18 minutes and golden brown, it’s better to over bake puff pastry than under bake, just don’t burn them.  Makes 40 pieces of appetizer sized bureks.

2 Baked Cheese Bureks


[1] Any brand should work fine – I get mine from Jon’s Market (frozen)

[2] Will make enough eggwash for 2 batches of appetizer bureks

Dolma or Yalancı Dolma October 22, 2012

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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(makes approximately 45 Dolmas)

1 lb      Grape leaves, jar

2 C      Rice, short grain
3          Onions, medium sized sweet
¼ C     Currants
1/3 C   Pine Nuts
1 tsp    Allspice, ground
½ tsp   Cinnamon, ground
½ tsp   Cloves, ground
1 tsp    Sugar
1 T       Mint, dried
1 T       Dill, dried
1 C      Parsley, leaves flat
1          Tomato (I used a Roma)
Olive Oil
Salt
Black Pepper

2          lemons, juice from
1          Lemon, sliced to serve

Gently remove the grape leaves from the jar. Place the leaves in a large bowl of cool water to remove the salty brine they were packed in.

Drain and repeat several times so the leaves will not impart additional salt to the Dolmas. Drain the leaves in a colander while preparing the rice filling.

The quantities in the recipe will make about 45 Dolmas.  There are approximately 55 leaves in a one pound jar:  you’ll use some to line the bottom of the pan while cooking the Dolmas (I set aside any torn or “ugly” leaves for that purpose).

Pour boiling water over the currants and let sit until they plump up (about 20 minutes) then drain.

Pour boiling water over the rice and let stand about 10 minutes.  Rinse in cool water and drain – this is to remove excess starch from the rice.

Chop the onions, chop the parsley leaves and set aside.  Grate the tomato and set aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent.  Add the pine nuts and sauté until golden.  Add the drained rice to the onions and pine nuts, sauté about 15 minutes (I never measure my olive oil, adjust as you sauté to ensure the rice gets coated with oil).  Stir the drained currants, dried spices/herbs (not the fresh parsley or tomato yet), sugar, salt and black pepper into the rice-onion mixture.  Add 2 ½ cups water to the pan and bring to a boil.  Cover and let simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes.  The water should be absorbed and the rice mixture should be very moist. Turn the heat off and stir in the fresh chopped parsley and grated tomato: taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Assembly:

I like using 3 large rimmed baking sheets for my assembly line:  One for the drained grape leaves; another for rolling the Dolmas; and, the third to place the rolled Dolmas.  The pan with the rice filling should be in easy reach.  Also have kitchen shears or a paring knife handy to remove the stems and any tough veins from the leaves. This can take a while (especially the first time), so pull up a chair, put on some good music (preferably Turkish or Greek) and get started.

Place one grape leaf on your work surface (rimmed baking sheet) with the vein side up.  Trim off the stem and any really tough large veins with either a knife or kitchen shears.  Place a large soupspoon full of rice filling along the stem end of the leaf (see the pictures).  Fold the bottom ends of the leaf up over the filling, then the sides over the filling, and then roll from the stem end up – like a burrito for my friends in the West and Southwest US. Note: some Turks prefer this type of Dolma rolled long and thin like a cigarette.

  (oops, no pictures of the Dutch oven – guess I was glad to be done rolling)

Line the bottom of a wide based stockpot or Dutch oven with some of the leftover grape leaves.  Place the Dolmas side by side, seam side down tightly in the pan and in layers (place the largest at the bottom).  Mix 1 ½ Cups water with 4 T Olive Oil and the juice of 2 lemons, pour this over the Dolmas in the Dutch oven.  Cover and cook over medium heat until it comes to a full boil, then reduce to low: total cooking time 1 hour.  Turn heat off and allow to cool in pan.  Arrange on a serving platter with fresh lemon slices: serve cold or at room temperature.

Ezme ~ Acili or Antep Ezmesi September 3, 2012

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers, Salads.
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Ezme is a Turkish salad that is often served as part of a “meze” table.  Meze is a wide assortment of salads, bureks, spreads and other savory bites commonly accompanied by Turkish Rakı (an anise flavored liquor) – sometimes a full meal will follow, sometimes not.  There are as many variations of ezme as there are opinions when the rakı flows.

Antep Ezmesi is named for a city in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border, now Gaziantep.  It is well known for its cuisine and even boasts a food museum.  Many consider its baklava and lamacum (Middle-eastern pizza) to be the best.

Ezme can be thick, hot and spicy (like the recipe that follows); or can be made more “wet” as a condiment for köfte; either lemon or pomegranate is added for acidity; and, chopped walnuts may or may not be used. The true Turkish method would require a lot of fine chopping; I use the food processor for this one (but be sure to strain the tomatoes per the instructions below).

Ezme is at its best at the end of summer when tomatoes are bountiful and flavorful, and when Hatch Peppers are available.  Hatch peppers get their name from Hatch, New Mexico and look like thin Anaheim peppers, but are very hot – if you drive through the town of Hatch you can roll down your windows and smell the aroma of peppers being sundried on the roofs of every building in town.  You can use any hot green peppers you like and adjust the recipe to suit your heat preference (see notes below).
Be sure to taste the ezme (before refrigerating and before serving) and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Recipe:
6-7 Tomatoes, medium in size (about 2 pounds total)
1 Brown Onion (10 – 12 ounces)
1 Hatch Pepper[1]
4-6 Garlic cloves
1/2 Cup Parsley leaves, flat
1/2 Cup Walnut halves & pieces
3 T Hot Red Pepper Paste[2]
3 T Tomato Paste
3 T Pomegranate Molasses[2]
2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp Cumin (or more to taste), ground
½ tsp Black Pepper, ground
Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper[3](to taste)
Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish

Peel and seed the tomatoes, set cut side down in a colander while proceeding with the recipe.

Coarsely chop the hot pepper, onion, and garlic cloves place them in a food processor along with the walnuts and parsley leaves.  Run the food processor until finely chopped.

Transfer this “walnut paste” to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Coarsely chop the peeled and seeded tomatoes and place in the food processor, quickly pulse them until they are finely chopped. Pour this mixture into a fine sieve to strain the tomatoes of their excess liquid.

While it drains, mix the “magic” that turns this into Ezme.

           

In a small bowl whisk together the Hot Pepper Paste, Tomato Paste, Pomegranate Molasses, Olive Oil, cumin and black pepper.

Mix the strained tomatoes into the walnut paste in the mixing bowl and stir in the “magic” pomegranate-pepper-tomato paste sauce.  Adjust to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the flavors to fully develop.

Spoon onto a serving platter and drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Note:  Acılı means with hot spice, so beware when ordering food “acılı” in Turkey.


[1]  Two to three Serrano peppers can be substituted   
[2] Turkish Red Pepper Paste and Pomegranate molasses can be found in Turkish, Middle Eastern,, or Jons Market in Southern California – I always use the Hot variety
[3] I only add this red pepper when Hatch peppers are unavailable or more heat is desired – available where you’ll find the Hot Red Pepper Paste and Pomegranate Dressing or molasses

How to Peel & Seed a Tomato September 3, 2012

Posted by Paula Erbay in Other.
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Score the bottom of each tomato with a sharp thin bladed knife.

Place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the tomatoes.  Let sit for about 1 minute, the peel should start to separate where the tomato has been scored.

Carefully pour out the hot water and run cold water over the tomatoes to stop them from cooking.  Keep the tomatoes in the cold water and carefully peel the thin skin from each starting where it has been scored. You may need to run a thin bladed knife just under the skin to help loosen – but with this method you should be able to easily remove the peel with your fingers.

 

 

 

To seed them: cut in half crosswise; cut or scoop out the exposed seeds.

Sophia Ducich and the Serbian Sisters’ Bake Sales December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.
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This article was published in the July/August 2011 issue along with my article “Remembering Our Past Through Celebrations at LA’s St. Sava & Jackson’s Summer Camp”  and is posted here with  permission from Serb World USA.  Order a copy of the magazine to also view the companion piece “Everything Old is New Again” by Nadine Radovich and Anita Sabovich Rowe.

Draga Milkovich, Olga Stanisich, Baba Sophia

Sophia Ducich and the Circle of Serbian Sisters, or Kolo Srpskih Sestara (KSS), were steadfast supporters of the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. They had a contract with the mission and ran the day-to-day operations of the camp and the kitchen—ensuring that the camp was open to all children every summer.

Sophia’s experience had begun decades before. At the age of 5 and already proficient in arithmetic, she had helped her mother run a boarding house in her native Montenegro, or Crna Gora. Sophia would use those skills often throughout her life.

First, there had been another boarding house in Wyoming after her father died in World War I (1914-1918). Years later in Butte, Montana, Sophia Ducich often provided board for miners, and in Fresno, California, she had owned and operated the Hiawatha Guest House.

When she came north to Jackson, she devoted herself to supporting the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. When donations were sometimes difficult to come by, she would offer her home to Serbs visiting Jackson, suggesting they donate what they felt was fair for their lodging: every penny went to St. Sava Mission since her own income came from other properties she owned.

In addition, Sophia and the ladies of the KSS would raise additional money by catering events for up to 450 people two or three times a month. The banquets were held in the mission’s large dining room, one of the largest banquet facilities in the area.

Also to benefit the mission, the Serbian Sisters would hold large bake sales. The whole of Amador County would be invited, and the sales were a huge success.

Another of Sophia Ducich’s projects was remembered by Lana Vukovich: “Baba Sophia would sell the old miners’ favorite meat pas ties up and down Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day to raise money for the mission.”

One St. Patrick’s Day, a reporter from The Amador Dispatch recognized Baba Sophia and asked, “Isn’t it unusual for the ladies of St. Sava Mission to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day event?”

“I don’t see why not,” she responded. “St. Sava and St. Patrick were both working for the same cause.”

While the recipe below is not one of Baba Sophia’s, I’d like to think it could have been at one of the bake sales, and in that spirit, I have chosen it. There are similar recipes, with slight variations, from Montenegro to Vojvodina, and for me, the fresh cherries are a reminder of all the roadside fruit stands along old Highway 99 heading north to Jackson’s St. Sava Summer Camp.

Višnjak : Serbian Cherry Cake December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts.
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I first published this recipe in Serb World USA July/August 2011 issue.  It is part of a series of articles about the 50th anniversary of the Serbian Summer Camp in Jackson, CA.  Read my related articles: “Remembering Our Past through Celebrations” and “Sophia Ducich and the KSS Bake Sales”

8 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2cup, plus 1 T sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1T lemon zest, finely grated
2 T lemon juice, fresh
1 tsp. vanilla extract, pure
2 C flour, all-purpose
pinch of salt
10-12 oz cherries, fresh and sweet
powdered sugar to finish

Pit the cherries and cut in half. Set aside.

Separate eggs.

Lightly butter an 8×2-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and butter the wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Add the egg yolks, then lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. (I use all the zest from 1 lemon: 1 tablespoon is approximate).  Scrape down the sides to incorporate all, then beat in the flour and mix well to make batter.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form (if doing by hand, use a large balloon whisk). Using a rubber/plastic spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter (about 1/3 of the egg whites at a time), just until all is incorporated.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pitted cherries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar over the cherries (up to 1T).

Bake at 350 F. for 40-50 minutes. The top should be golden and spring back when gently pressed.

Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a thin blade around the edge, then remove the outer ring of the springform. Allow cake to completely cool before removing bottom and transferring to a serving plate. Sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.

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