Friday, July 31, 2015

Turkish Börek- Spinach and Feta Layered Pastry

Image of Serving of Feta & Baby Greens Börek

I lived in Turkey over 3 years, and ate Turkish food weekly, if not daily.  Börek is a popular food item in Turkey, more likely served in homes than restaurants.  It is made with thin layers of dough, similar to phyllo, layered with a filling, such as meat, vegetable, or cheese.  My favorite is spinach and cheese börek, which is very similar to Greek spanakopita.  Incidentally, sigara börek is popular in restaurants.  It is dough that is stuffed, then rolled, similar to a cigar, and fried. 

I did a search, and reviewed some börek recipes from various websites.  The first recipe I reviewed was from Food Network, and sounded nothing like any börek I ever ate!  One of the first ingredients was green bell peppers.  A lot of Turkish dishes call for peppers, but I never had börek with bell peppers.  Anyhoo, I reviewed a few recipes, and came up with this one, below. 


1 cup milk
1 egg
½ stick butter
½ pkg phyllo dough (½ lb, about 20 sheets)
16 oz spinach, thawed and water squeezed out if frozen, sautéed if fresh
16 oz feta cheese
salt and pepper

1- Pre-heat oven to 350°. 
2- Melt butter in metal mixing bowl or saucepan.  Whisk in milk and egg.  Place on warmer pad, or in a hot water bath to keep butter from re-solidifying. 
3- Grease a 9” X 13” pan.  Lay down 2-4 layers of phyllo dough. 
4- Brush 2-3 tablespoons full of milk mixture on phyllo. 

5- Top with about 5 oz of feta. 

6- Place 2-4 layers of phyllo.  You have to be flexible about this.  Sometimes it is impossible to separate layers, and sometimes a layer tears and may start to fall apart, and you need to pull it up with another layer.  Brush with 2-3 tablespoons of milk mixture. 
7- Spoon half of spinach onto dough, scattering evenly.  I used a mixture of fresh baby greens- spinach, kale, and chard. 

8- Repeat with phyllo, milk mixture, feta.  Then repeat phyllo, milk mixture, spinach.  Repeat for feta.  This will make a total of 3 layers of cheese, and 2 layers of spinach. 
9- Finish with final 2-4 layers of phyllo, and brush with milk mixture. 

10- Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.  Top of börek should be golden. 

11- Remove from oven.  Cool for 15-20 minutes.  Cut into squares.  Serve warm. 
12- Refrigerate leftovers.  Reheat in 350° oven for 10 minutes. 

I only experienced cheese, spinach, and ground beef or lamb börek when I lived in Turkey.  I found a börek recipe that gives ingredients and instructions for börek with feta, spinach, ground beef, potato, leek, or eggplant.  They all sounded good to me. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beautiful and Impressive Grilled Vegetable Muffuletta Sandwich in Round Bread Loaf

Grilled Vegetable Muffuletta made in round bread loaf

I found this recipe for Grilled Vegetable Muffuletta several years ago on Rachael Ray’s website, and finally got around to trying it.  This makes a huge and impressive looking sandwich, made in an 8- to 9-inch round bread, and cut into 6 to 8 wedges. 

I cut mine into 6 wedges, which made pretty huge servings.  In hindsight, this would have been best made for entertaining, with a party of 6 to 8!  But it was only my brother and me.  I would not like cold grilled vegetables, and the prospects of heating the sandwich seemed a little tricky.  Take the vegetables out of the bread, heat the vegetables, then carefully try to get them back into the bread?  So we delivered the leftovers to a friend! 

I think it would be fabulous to find 3- to 4-inch round bread loaves and make smaller sandwiches that serve one to two people.  It could probably be done by placing one layer of each vegetable instead of two.  Either way, the Grilled Vegetable Muffuletta is a very flavorful sandwich, which, as an added bonus, is impressive to look at. 

Constructing the Muffuletta is quite labor-intensive, but below are step-by-step pictures to walk you through it.  At the bottom you will find my modifications to Rachael Ray’s recipe. 

 Slice vegetables into 1/4" to 1/2" thick slices

Grill onion and eggplant slices 

Scrape out gills and grill portabella mushroom caps

 Grill zucchini slices

Slice top off of round bread loaf, and scoop bread out, 
leaving about 1/2" thickness of bread. 

Spread basil, kale, spinach or other favorite pesto inside bread,
 coating bottom and sides.    

Place eggplant slices inside bread bowl.  

Place grilled onions on top of eggplant.  

Place zucchini slices on top of onions. 

Layer roasted red peppers on top of zucchini.  You can use jarred 
roasted red peppers, but I roasted these on the Foreman grill and 
removed most of the skin. 

 Cover vegetables with provolone cheese.  

Layer portabella mushrooms on top of provolone.  I sliced 
my mushrooms because the fit was awkward with the whole caps.  

Add a layer of sliced olives and chopped giardiniera vegetables.  I was
able to find a jarred muffuletta mix that already had olives and the chopped
vegetables.  Rachael's recipe placed the olive and vegetable mix in the 
top of the bread.  I couldn't figure out how to place the top onto the sandwich without making
a mess and losing some of the mixture.  So I chose to put my muffuletta mix in the middle. 

Place another layer of zucchini on top of muffuletta mix. 

Add another layer of grilled onions, on top of the zucchini.   

Top onions with final layer of grilled sliced eggplant. 

Top vegetables with a final layer of provolone cheese.   

 Cover the inside of the bread bowl top with another spreading 
of pesto.  The recipe calls for two layers of basil pesto, but I used 
jarred tomato-basil pesto for this layer.  

 Place bread top back onto the completed sandwich.  

Slice sandwich into two halves, then cut 3 wedges from each half.   

Beautiful and impressive slice of 
Grilled Vegetable Muffuletta Sandwich. 

This is a pretty messy sandwich.  I wrapped it in press and seal wrap to 
contain it and make it easier and less messy to eat. 


1 medium eggplant, sliced into ¼”- to ½” rounds
2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ¼” slices
1 large red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
2 large portabella mushroom caps
1 red onion, sliced ~3/8” thick
½ cup olive oil or coconut oil
Salt and pepper
Basil pesto
Sun-dried tomato pesto
Muffuletta salad
6 slices provolone cheese


1- Slice eggplant, zucchini, and onion.  I used my mandolin, which would not cut any thicker than about ¼” to 3/8”, which was fine for the zucchini and onion.  The eggplant slices fell apart, so ½” slices would be better. 

2- Brush vegetables with oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Grill or fry 2 to 4 minutes each side. 

3- Remove gills from portabellas, and grill for about 4 to 5 minutes per side. 

4- Cut top off of bread.  Scoop bread out, including from top. 

5- Spread basil pesto on bottom and sides of bread.  I used jarred basil pesto, but you can make your own with basil, kale, or spinach, chopped in the food processor with olive oil, cheese, and nuts.  You can find a recipe and instructions in my pasta post. 

6-Spread sun-dried tomato pesto inside top. 

7- Layer in half of the eggplant, zucchini, and onion. 

8- Top with grilled or roasted red pepper pieces. 

9- Layer in 2 to 3 slices of provolone cheese. 

10- Add portabella mushrooms.  Slice as needed to fit. 

11- Add a layer of muffuletta salad.  If you cannot find muffuletta salad, use sliced green or mixed olives, and chopped giardiniera vegetables. 

12- Layer in remaining eggplant, zucchini, and onions. 

13- Top with 2-3 slices of provolone. 

14- Place top on bread.  Slice into 6 to 8 slices. 

Ultra Easy Chickpea and Lentil "Kinda" Masala

Chickpea & Lentil Masala

I had a recipe for Lentil and Chickpea Marsala from Weight Watchers Make & Take Cookbook that I had been meaning to try.  I also had an expensive jar of opened spaghetti sauce that I needed to use.  From there, this dish was born.  The grocery store was sold out of my favorite Arrabiata spaghetti sauce, so I tried a $10 jar of artisan arrabiata sauce.  The sauce was not bad, but I was subsequently able to order my favorite.  So this jar was sitting in the frig, and I figured I needed to make a soup, stew or something so as not to let it go to waste.  I used the jarred sauce, chickpeas, lentils, and a couple spices, including garam masala, and voila, I had a nice dinner. 

8 oz dried chickpeas
4 oz dried lentils
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups spicy spaghetti sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped
1-2 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, optional

1- Soak about half of a 1 lb bag of chickpeas for 4 to 8 hours.  In a separate bowl, soak about 1 cup of dried lentils.  Add 1 tsp of baking soda to reduce the gassy properties. 
2- After soaking chickpeas, drain, rinse and put in Dutch oven pot.  Add enough water or vegetable broth to cover, plus one inch.  I used salted water.  Boil covered for about 45 minutes. 
3- When chickpeas are starting to soften, add drained, rinsed lentils.  Add spaghetti sauce and garlic.  My sauce had plenty of garlic, so I didn’t add any more.  Add garam masala.  I only added 1 tsp of garam masala, and no cayenne because arrabiata sauce already has plenty of heat. 
4- Boil covered until chickpeas and lentils are both soft, about 30 minutes. 
5- Serve with couscous.  I bought whole wheat couscous unintentionally.  Not sure that I could tell the difference from regular. 

I’m not sure if this dish totally qualifies to be a masala with spicy spaghetti sauce in it, but this was a surprisingly great simple meal!  I’ve seen similar recipes with chickpeas, lentils, and eggplant.  This dish was super easy, especially when compared to something like the delicious, but more labor intensive Marrakesh Stew.  Chickpea and Lentil Masala would be quick as well as easy if using canned chickpeas and lentils. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hearty Vegetarian Entrée- Marrakesh Stew

Marrakesh Stew with Carrots, Potatoes, Butternut Squash, 
and Eggplant over Couscous

I recently served this beautifully fragrant Moroccan Marrakesh Stew to my vegetarian cousins.  I found the recipe, which was contributed by a reader, on Martha Stewart’s website.  The instructions were a bit overly simplified for me.  I could have used a bit more guidance.  All of the vegetables (one-inch pieces of carrot, potato, and butternut squash ) except the eggplant were added at the same time, but to me, the cook times are not the same.  For example, one-inch carrot pieces will take longer to cook than one-inch cubes of butternut squash.  The vegetables were to have been cooked in the Dutch oven pot, with one tablespoon of oil and the spices, until beginning to brown, in about 5 minutes.  It took a heck of a lot more oil than one tablespoon, and I could not accomplish this browning.  The spices however made the kitchen smell heavenly. 

I have made some revisions to the original recipe below, as to how I plan to make Marrakesh Stew next time.  I advise to either cut the carrots smaller, or cook them for a while before adding the potatoes, then adding the squash and eggplant. 

2-3 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground allspice
4 large carrots, cut into ½” pieces
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces
1 small butternut squash, cut into ¾” pieces
Salt & pepper
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 qt or liter box of vegetable broth
1 medium eggplant, cut into ¾” pieces
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked with salt as needed (or use canned)
Cooked couscous for serving

1- In a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven pot, heat oil on medium high. 
2- Add diced onion and cook in the hot oil, stirring occasionally until soft, 5-10 minutes. 
3- Add spices to onions and oil, and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. 
4- Add carrots and broth.  Cover and cook about 20 minutes. 
5- Add potatoes and cook covered 10 minutes.  Add water if needed to cover vegetables. 
6- Add butternut squash, eggplant, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Add water or additional broth if needed to cover vegetables.  Cook covered 20 minutes. 
7- Add chickpeas, and cook until chickpeas are completely warmed, and all vegetables are tender. 
8- Serve over couscous. 

Pot of Marakesh Stew with fragrant spices- cumin, coriander, cinnamon, 
cayenne, and allspice