Baker’s Delight: Kazakh Cheese Pastries

These savory pastries would be perfect for brunch or a snack or a dinner or any time. They are seriously delicious! They were a hit with children and adults alike. The buttery, flaky crust with the creamy cheese filling was pretty much perfect. I’m think these may be added to the Easter brunch menu this year.

KAZAKH CHEESE PASTRIES
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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Pastry:
1 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
8 Tb. butter
¼ c. ice water

Place flour, salt, cream of tartar, and butter in a food processor, Blend until texture is coarse and add water. Blend just until the mixture is combined and begins to mass together (add more water if needed). Place on plastic wrap, flatten to disk and wrap airtight. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 24 circles with 3 inch water glass or biscuit cutter. Pleat edges of circles and fit in bottom of muffin tins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cheese filling:
1 egg
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp & 3-cheese blend)
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tb. parsley, chopped
2 T. chives, chopped

Beat egg in bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon 2-3 tsp. filling in each pastry shell; spread level. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the filling is golden brown. Cool on rack and serve warm.

*These could be made ahead, refrigerated and warmed in the oven.

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Weekend Fare: Meat Piroshki

These tasty meat pies go by many names internationally. In Kazakhstan, you can find them being sold on the street corners and in bakeries – they are nearly always wonderful! These hearken back to bierocks that my husband enjoyed and pierogies that are traditional for our friends. Whatever the name, these are great for travel, for making ahead, and for freezing. I think they would be really good with some cabbage or other vegetables in them as well.

MEAT PIROSHKI
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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 Meat Filling:
1 med. onion, diced
1 T. oil or butter
8 oz. ground beef
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
fresh herbs (opt.)
1 egg

Brown the onion and ground beef together with oil or butter if needed. Add seasonings. Allow to cool. Add egg. Stuff in piroshiki dough as described below.

Dough:
1 ½ tsp. dried yeast
pinch of sugar
5 Tb. warm water
5 Tb. butter, softened
1 lb. (about 4 c.) flour
1 tsp. salt
8 T. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast and a sugar in the warm water. Mix in the softened butter, flour, salt, milk, and eggs. Knead into smooth dough (I let my mixer do the kneading). Leave to rise until it has doubled in volume. Punch down. Roll out dough until quite thin. Cut out in small circles and brush the inner edges with milk. Stuff with filling and fold into semi-circle or canoe shape. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks – they were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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1 c. rice, uncooked
¼ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.

International Cuisine: Mongolian Beef & Broccoli

My dad loves Asian food and over time, most of us have to come to share that love. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods and I really like that it makes the perfect relaxed evening or can be dressed up for a nicer dinner. While I thoroughly enjoy take-out, it’s also a lot of fun to make Asian dishes at home! Perhaps one of my first favorite dishes (beside Sweet & Sour Chicken) is Mongolian Beef. Today, I’m sharing a recipe that I adapted and we enjoyed. Just make sure to choose a tender cut of beef and thinly slice it.

MONGOLIAN BEEF & BROCCOLI
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2 tsp. vegetable or canola oil 
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced 
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar
vegetable oil, for frying
1 lb. flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 lg. head of broccoli florets
4 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Don’t get the oil too hot. Add ginger and garlic to the pan; add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

Slice the steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick slices. Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks. As the beef sits, heat up about one cup of oil in a wok. Heat the oil over medium heat until it’s nice and hot, but not smoking.

Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then add the broccoli and saute until tender crisp (about 3 min.). Remove broccoli and pour out excess oil. The add the meat and broccoli back into the wok and simmer for about one minute. Add the sauce, cook for one minute while stirring, then add all the green onions. Cook for one more minute. Serve over rice.

International Cuisine: Sabse Borani

I know, I know,  I said it would be market fresh but a girl can change her mind, right? My boys and I made this yummy dish last week during our study of Afghanistan. I found the recipe online and we all loved it! I served it on naan and as much as I would love to impress you and say that I made the wonderful onion naan, it would be a lie….it was a mix. There, I admitted it. 🙂 It worked out great and since my kiddos were helping, it made the process more age appropriate for them. Perhaps the making of naan from scratch will occur one of these days. In the mean time, this was easy and fabulous.


Sabse Borani

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4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup lightly drained plain yogurt (drain about 1 hr – easiest method is to place the yogurt in a coffee filter and let stand)

Place damp spinach in a skillet and cook until wilted (can cover). Drain and squeeze to remove excess water. Heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion at low heat until golden, add garlic and sauté briefly, then add spinach, and cook for a minute or two more. Let cool. In a bowl, smooth yogurt and add spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Delicious! We love it on the naan – kind of  like a pizza!

My Kitchen View

This past weekend, I had a chance to rediscover my love for cooking and baking. Life has been busy enough lately with many things and I have really missed just enjoying the kitchen. It was wonderful. I paged through my new magazines, planned a menu to serve my brother and his girlfriend for Sunday dinner, and then made three new recipes. They were successful, dinner was lovely, and I loved having some creative time in the kitchen!

Our garden is getting closer to having ripe produce and I can’t wait. The green tomatoes are just starting to turn red and yellow and the zuchinni is almost ready to harvest. I’ve been using a lot of basil from my plants and using some thyme as well.

We are looking forward to the Indianapolis Devour Downtown which is August 2-15! You can check out all the amazing restaurants that are participating – they have some delicious looking menus!

I’m going to give you a little preview of the August issue of Saveur and share this yummy Greek Salad. It was flavorful, fresh, colorful, and really tasty. I used less feta then the recipe suggested but put a little extra on the table to pass for those who wanted more. We really enjoyed this salad!


GREEK SALAD (Horiatiki) – Saveur, August 2010
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2 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 1⁄2″ pieces  
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1⁄4″ pieces
1⁄2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1⁄8 tsp. dried oregano, plus more
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
6 oz. feta, cut into thick slabs
8 kalamata olives
Combine parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, and oregano; season with salt and pepper and pour over cucumber mixture. Toss. Transfer salad to a serving bowl and top with feta and olives. Garnish with more oregano; season with pepper. Serves 2