Getting out of the car with my bags of groceries to start today’s project I was forced to wait for a funeral procession to pass by before being able to cross the street. I am not joking. Never have I seen a such a sight on a side street….ever! I watched the black hearse slowly pass by, the closely following cars with their headlights on in the brightness of day, the accompanying officer on a motorcycle. Inside my head I could hear my inner voice saying…”this is truly fascinating.” Why now? Are spiritual forces playing with me?? It was a real moment. The clues are still being revealed I guess.
Anyway, back to the living, do you know what else is fascinating? The variety and richness of the eastern Mediterranean region. This month I will cook from “Purple Citrus Sweet Perfume” by Silvena Rowe and we will explore countries like Turkey, Jordan, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Syria and Greece. Apparently sumac is a key ingredient for these recipes and is the inspiration for the title of the book.
Today I am making a recipe from a collection that Silvena informs are called mezze, a style of dining in the Mediterranean and the Middle East made up of small plates meant to stimulate your appetite. But unlike appetizers, mezze often makes up an entire meal, combining both cold and hot, vegetarian and meat items. This recipe, I will confess, was fussy. I struggled with the pastry. It wasn’t pliable and I had to add more water to work with it, knowing it would make the dough tough but what else can a cook do? Start all over? Nah. Not on a hot humid day with no air conditioning and the oven up to 400F. Next time I would use 2 cups of flour instead of 2 .5 cups. The filling is super yummy rich with eastern spices and lamb. It’s good and I would definitely make these again probably making the filling a day ahead. For me, I would prefer this in the colder months. They are also super filling!
Pastry: 2-2.5 cups of self rising flour, 6 tablespoons cold unsalted cubed butter, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/3 cup of yogurt, 1 large egg yolk, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Filling: 12 ounces ground lamb, 1 cup coarsely cut pine nuts, 1 Granny Smith apple cored, peeled and grated, 4 finely chopped shallots, 2 garlic cloves minced, 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate molasses, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, sea salt, ground pepper, 8 ounces of fresh spinach stems removed.
- Make the pastry by pulsing the flour, butter, salt into course crumbs in a food processor. Add the yogurt, egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of cold water and cumin seeds. Pulse again. Knead dough until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling by combining the lamb, pine nuts, apple, shallots, garlic, cilantro, pomegranate molasses, spices and seasoning into a bowl. Steam spinach until wilted and drain immediately. Wait until spinach cools to squeeze dry. Chop and mix into filling.
- Preheat oven to 400F. Let the dough stand room temperature for 10 minutes. Divide pastry into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 3 inch circles using a cookie cutter or cup. I used my mason jar ring. Place about a tablespoon of filling in to center of each circle and pull up the four edges of the pastry to make a square. This takes a little practice. Pinch the corners closed. Repeat with remaining dough until you have about 20-24 squares and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the pastries with the egg mixture and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Watch the bottoms so they don’t burn!