In the spirit of trying to teach myself a new cooking skill each year, I decided to have some Phun with Phyllo dough during 2017. Because the month of March sees Pi day on the 14th, I thought a round, phyllo pie would be perfect.
Yeah. I know you’re going to ask why anyone would celebrate a day commemorating the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (measuring approximately 3.14159). Particularly me, since I hate math. But, circles are everywhere. They’re unavoidable. And it’s important (for mathematicians everywhere) to know that pi exists. Why? Because pi is the documentary film explanation of infinity. Pi drives scientists crazy. It’s the ultimate oxymoron: seemingly illogical, imperfect numbers that create the most perfect thing in existence — the circle. And from there, pi explains the world order.
But, don’t worry your head over it too much. I don’t.
Instead, combine ground lamb with sultry eggplant for a hearty one dish dinner that serves six. Leftovers would make a great picnic, too.
Lamb and Eggplant Phyllo Pie Recipe
For pie and filling:
12 oz ground lamb
10-15 phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
Note: find phyllo sheets in the freezer section of your grocery store
1/4 cup melted butter
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 green peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
2 eggplants, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup red wine
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Za’atar: combine the following together to create this ancient, Middle Eastern herbal condiment:
1 T Kosher salt
2 T ground sumac
Note: sumac is available in larger grocery stores and online spice shops like Penzeys Spices. Tart and lemony, sumac adds a subtle zing to dishes.
2 T toasted sesame seeds
2 T thyme
Cilantro Jalapeño Sauce:
2 garlic cloves
1 coarsely chopped jalapeño
1 1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
In blender or food processor, mince garlic and jalapeño. Add parsley, cilantro, water, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. Process until coarsely puréed. Keeps in the refrigerator covered for six days.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In round, greased deep dish glass pie dish layer 5 – 8 sheets of phyllo brushed with melted butter.
Warm oil in large skillet. Brown red onion and garlic over medium heat until beginning to soften. Add lamb, sprinkle with 1 T Za’atar and brown, stirring to break into crumbles. Transfer meat and onion mixture to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add eggplant and green peppers to skillet, adding oil if necessary, and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until soft. Add red wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Mix cream cheese and feta together until smooth in small bowl. Add to eggplant pepper mixture and stir well to combine.
Spoon lamb mixture and eggplant mixture into pie dish, alternating layers. Sprinkle with 1 T Za’atar.
Layer remaining phyllo sheets over pie filling in an overlapping pinwheel pattern, leaving a small opening in the center. Brush with remaining butter or olive oil to create a crisped top.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until phyllo crust is lightly browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with Cilantro Jalapeńo sauce.
Note: leftover sauce is awesome on eggs!
My beverage consultant and self-described wine dork, Stephanie Davis says, when it comes down to it, you could head in any direction with this dish. When I asked why, she said, “It’s all about the sauce, baby!” The spicy Cilantro Jalapeńo sauce is what makes this dish funky-fresh and eminently pairable. The combination of earthy, meaty, warm comfort from the pie — and that electrifying sauce — together they create a dynamic that if served alone, would dictate different beverage selections. So, even though you could enjoy beer, cider, sangria, white or red wine with this dish, since Stephanie’s corkscrew is pointing to Pinot Noir, and specifically the Winemaker’s Selection from Anne Amie Vineyards — thanks to its freshness, fruit, richness and persistence — I’d say let’s go with that, eh, Steph?
Priced at $28/bottle.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.
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