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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)

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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

Serbian Meat Burek October 29, 2010

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers, Main Dishes.
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The inspiration for the Junior Potluckers’ “Serbian Cooking Show” was this burek. I wrote this article for the May/June 2010 issue of Serb World USA magazine. It is copy written and appears here with their permission.

Dona tells me the recipe is an amalgamation of many. Of course, she and Diane had learned burek from their mother, Darinka. But, as Dona said, “Over the years, we changed it here and there. Somewhere along the way, I quit using potato, found ingredients I liked on internet recipes, and so on.” Mother Darinka, after years of watching Diane make burek and adding her constant reminder ~ “You’ve got to roll it tighly”, only gave her stamp of approval a couple of years ago. “You finally learned,” she said, “how to roll the burek” Well, Diane tells me that put a big smile on her face.

She continues to make burek with her mother and her sisters, and now her daughters, too. While this recipe is perfection, they enjoy experimenting with different fillings: a variety of cheeses, spinach, and more.

Whenever her friends have a party, Diane doesn’t even have to ask what they want her to bring ~ burek, of course.

Dona credits Chef Maja of the Belgrade Hyatt for her addition of paprika. She had complimented Chef Maja on her wonderful sarma (stuffed cabbage) and asked how she made it. It wasn’t until she returned home that Dona realized Chef Maja had meant “paprika” not “red peppers.” (Darinka hadn’t been there to translate). As a result, Dona experimented with paprika in every meat dish after that, including burek.

The sisters, Dona and Diane, think the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese may have been their mother’s additions. She often sprinkles a bit into her meat mixture. But, with daughters, mothers, and sisters all sharing in the kitchen-as in life-who is to know for sure where the idea came from? The end result is a burek that truly reflects what I think we Junior Potluckers are: a bit of our mothers and grandmothers, a bit of our own journeys, and a modem twist thrown into the mix.

Click here for the full article “The Serbian Cooking Show”

BUREK RECIPE

1 T olive oil
1 med. yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 Ib. ground beef
¾  cup, chopped fresh parsley
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 box phyllo (filo) pastry sheets (12″ x 17″)*
¾  cup butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs, plain
1-2 tsp. paprika
2-3 garlic cloves crushed or finely chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

* Phyllo can be found in the frozen section of most supermarkets.
Ethnic markets have a higher turnover, so it’s fresher.

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute the onion until soft, and then add the ground beef, garlic, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the meat is crumbly but not dry (if too greasy, drain the meat mixture). Then add the parsley. Stir for a minute, let cool, add the eggs and stir together.

Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on a clean kitchen towel. Brush with some butter. Then sprinkle with a little bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Continue layering with dough then crumbs and parmesan until you have 4-6 layers of phyllo or more, depending on your preference.

Place meat mixture across long edge of prepared phyllo about 2 inches in from the edge. Fold the long edge over the meat mixture then fold in the sides. Roll your burek into a fairly tight roll, butter the folded sides and then the long edge at the end to seal the dough. Diane uses the towel to help roll the burek. Her tip: hold the towel taunt, spreading your hands as wide as possible to maneuver and tightly roll the dough.

Place the roll on a parchment lined baking sheet or non-stick baking sheet. Brush with additional butter on the top of the roll, and sprinkle with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Repeat this process, making burek rolls, until the meat mixture is used completely.

Preheat your oven to 375° and bake burek rolls for 15 to 20 minutes or until just golden. Slice and serve. Yields 2-4 burek rolls, depending how thick you make your rolls.

Note:  Burek freezes beautifully by flash freezing. Place unbaked rolls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and into the freezer. When frozen, tightly wrap each roll separately with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Then tightly wrap foil over the parchment.

Place the wrapped rolls back in the freezer. When ready to use the frozen burek, remove as many rolls as needed from the freezer. Unwrap and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Allow to thaw at room temperature-about 10 minutes-while the oven preheats to 375°. Bake 15 to 20 minutes as above, until golden brown.

Prijatno! (Serbian for “Bon Appétit”, “Con Provecho”, “Afiyet Olsun”, “Buon Appetito”)

Mercimek Kofte or Turkish Red Lentil Patties November 15, 2007

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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mercimek-1.jpg

This Turkish vegetarian appetizer is based on the flavors and texture of a raw lamb dish, Cig Kofte. My first taste of it was in my husband’s hometown, prepared by his niece. I loved it at first bite.

2 Cups Red lentils* (Mercimek in Turkish)
2 Cups Water (up to 3 Cups)
1 Cup Bulgar, Koftelik* fine for meatballs
1 Onion, Mayan Sweet finely sliced
2 Tablespoons Butter, unsalted
1 Tablespoon Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon Red Pepper Paste, Hot*
5 Scallions chopped – green part only
½ Cup Parsley, Italian finely chopped (about ½ bunch)
¼ Cup Olive Oil, Extra Virgin up to ½ Cup
2 Tablespoon Aleppo Pepper* or cayenne adjust to taste
1 Tablespoon Cumin
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan bring the Red Lentils and Water to a boil. Cover and simmer (soft boil) until the Red Lentils are soft – about 25 minutes. Stir often to keep lentils from sticking to bottom of pan and to check water level. If water is absorbed too quickly add more (up to a total of 3 cups). When lentils are soft (some will be very soft, some will have a bit of a bite to them), add the Bulgar. Mix well and cover, remove from heat. Bulgar will enlarge and become soft.

mercimek3.jpg

In a separate pan: Sauté the Mayan Onion slices in 2 Tablespoons Butter until lightly browned. Add Tomato Sauce and Red Pepper Paste. Mix well. Cook about 3 minutes to meld all flavors then remove from heat.

mercimek-2.jpg

In a large mixing bowl: Mix Red Lentil and Bulgar with the cooked Onion mixture. Add ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Scallions, and Parsley. Add seasonings to taste (Aleppo Pepper, Cumin, Salt and Black Pepper). Use your hands to knead the mixture. If too dry add more Olive Oil a little at a time. The mixture should hold it’s shape when pressed with your hands into small log shaped patties.

Serve with lemon wedges and small lettuce leaves (optional)

 *Available at Middle Eastern Markets
If unable to find Aleppo Pepper substitute Cayenne in a lesser amount
If unable to find Hot Red Pepper paste substitute Tomato Paste (add more hot pepper)
The Bulgar must be “fine for meatballs” or the texture will not turn out correctly.

**********************************************************************************************

Spinach Prijesnac or Spinach Squares December 8, 2006

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers.
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The “Potluckers” have been meeting for potluck lunches since 1955.  Their connection is being raised in the Serbian Orthodox communities of Los Angeles. They are sisters, cousins, in-laws and above all else Friends.  I am proud to say that their members include my mother, several of my aunts, and many women I greatly admire.  This recipe has been a staple among the “Potluckers” and their daughters for as long as I can remember.   Desa P. is credited as being the creator of this wonderful dish.

 

2 eggs, beaten
1 C Milk, whole
1 C Flour, all-purpose
1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 lb Butter, sweet, melted
10 ounces Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed – Squeeze out excess liquid
1 lb Jack Cheese, diced 

 Butter a 10×15 pan.  Mix beaten eggs, milk, flour, salt, baking powder, melted butter, and spinach.  Then fold in Jack cheese.  Pour in pan.  Bake in middle of oven for 30 – 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cut into squares, serve warm.

spinach-prejesnac.jpg

Click here to read an article related to this dish and “The Potluckers”