Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mercimekli Afyon Böreği - Turkish Lentil Mini Pies

Mercimekli Afyon Böreği

Fashioned like an open mouth, these little lentil pies hail from the Afyon Province of Turkey, inland from the Aegean coast. They are traditionally prepared with a butter-rich, homemade crust that requires an overnight's rest before assembly. In the interest of convenience and a lighter calorie load, I have substituted miniature filo shells, readily available from the freezer case of most supermarkets.

While the filling itself can enrich a bowl of broth, their diminutive size makes them perfect to serve as finger food. Dollops of strained yogurt, and mild or hot ajvar, the popular Balkan/Turkish red pepper and eggplant paste, along with a few oil-cured olives, are festive and flavorful accompaniments to a tray of mezze that will leave you with your mouth open for more.

Mercimekli Afyon Böreği - Slightly adapted from a recipe in The Turkish Cookbook, Regional Recipes and Stories

Serves 4 as a starter.

Ingredients

1 cup lentils (preferably Puy or Beluga, which hold their shape after cooking)
7 cups water (to be divided for soaking and cooking)
2 large vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried, crushed Aleppo pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

12 - 16 miniature frozen filo shells, thawed

Method

Soak the lentils overnight in three cups of water. Drain. Add lentils to a large saucepan with 4 cups boiling water and bouillon cubes. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately twenty minutes (less time if not using Puy or Beluga) until al dente. Drain, then toss with butter in a large bowl. Reserve.

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat until shimmering and thin (5-7 seconds). Add minced onion, lowering heat to gently sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lentils, Aleppo pepper, salt, and black pepper. Stir and heat through without allowing lentils to brown.

Preheat oven 350 ° F.

Fill filo shells with 1 1/2 teaspoons lentils, mounding them gently. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately. --

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This recipe is for Heather of Girlichef, host of My Legume Love Affair 45 for the month of March. Heather will have the round-up online very soon. Do stop back to visit. Heather has one of the most stylish and prolific blogs around.

Although my appearances as host of MLLA are infrequent, I do have the pleasure of assuming the duties for April. No joking. ; ) I'll be back tomorrow with the official announcement, as well as the status and particulars of Black and White Wednesdays.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Café au Lait for the Literary Minded

Cafeaulaitfinaloriginalsmall


From the moment we are born, our first cries from the womb herald that we are social creatures. We will never be naturally quiet again; the need to communicate is so wired into our biological survival strategy, that the choice not to speak is often interpreted as an act of aggression.

To be ignored was Werner von Ebrennac's fate in Le Silence de la Mer* (The Silence of the Sea) written by Jean Bruller under the pen name Vercors. Bruller published the slim volume in Paris under the radar of the Nazis, an impassioned and compassionate study of the mandate of French resistance played out in a provincial village with only three main characters: von Ebrennac, an idealistic and naive Wehrmacht officer billeted in the home of an elderly man and his niece, whose names remain hidden from the reader.

The tale's tragedy is two fold. It is as much about von Ebrennac's disillusionment with Nazi propaganda as it is the hopelessness of love and unification with the young Frenchwoman whose trenchant silence softens to just one word when the cultured and kind soldier she has come to have feelings for is transferred to the Soviet front.

The conviviality and solidarity between uncle and niece is displayed in the many cups of coffee they drink throughout their days, listening without response to von Ebrennac's romanticized soliloquies focusing on the merging of German and French cultures after the war is over. The officer, who takes his meals at military headquarters, is never offered to join them for coffee, as he is denied all hospitality usually enjoyed by house guests in happier times.

Their coffee, as in the manner of the French style, is often drunk with an equal part of steaming dairy. Though a very strong brew can be quite bitter at times, the milk of human kindness cannot always be denied.

Café au Lait - My way

Serves 1-2 (It is typically served in large bowls without handles, as seen in the above photo)

Ingredients

1/3 cup ground Turkish coffee (or very finely ground espresso)
1 cup filtered water
1 cup cream, whole milk, or reduced-fat milk

Method

Combine coffee and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Heat your choice of dairy in a separate small saucepan until steaming, but do not allow to come to boil. Remove from heat. Strain coffee through a fine sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth to collect the finest particles of grounds. Pour strained coffee and steaming dairy simultaneously into 1 or 2 deep and wide bowls. Although a matter of taste, sugar may be stirred in at the last minute. Serve immediately while still steaming.

This is for Simona of Briciole who is hosting the fifteen edition of Novel Food, an event she co-created with Lisa of Champaign Taste, highlighting the food and drink found within the pages of the literature, poetry, memoirs, and essays which feed our minds as well as our bellies.

* For those interested in screen versions of this novel, Jean Pierre Melville's 1949 film is available with English subtitles on DVD. There is also an exquisitely beautiful 2004 French TV production on You Tube, but it is not offered with English translation, only in its original French, as well as Spanish subtitles.

Spring Renewal

Eirlysiau


Six weeks of dormancy have never felt so long - more like six years, it seems. Time has been oddly askew. My rhythms in rest have stretched into the surreal luxury of more hours in the day than our silly concepts of calendar allow. I never know what day it is, never mind the date. And I have learned that it doesn't matter.

I am well now and very happy to be back. That was always the plan, to shut up and shut down long enough to renew myself. It's been five years since I launched The Well-Seasoned Cook. Crashing was inevitable. A bout of flu-like illness in December put me over the edge, triggering a particularly nasty and stubborn stint of sinusitis. We take that mask of hollows under our faces very much for granted until they start burning as if you've inhaled water. You know how some opera singers can hit the high notes to an octave that shatters glass? Well, I could sneeze with such violence that the racked pots and pans in my kitchen would clank and rattle from a room away.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you - you and your kindnesses, poignant concerns, well wishes, emails, dedicated blog posts, and generous spirits. I have you to thank for hastening my recovery. The world is full of all sorts of people. I am very fortunate to have met all of you, the right sorts, the ones who make all the tough times endurable. You have been missed and valued more than you could possibly know. As I slowly ease back into my online life, I look forward to renewing friendships with a talented and fun community of kin whose hearts are even bigger than their appetites. I'm glad to be back breaking bread with you. Thanks for keeping a place for me at your tables.