Sunday, January 6, 2013

christmas eve report

After a great deal of flip-flopping, K. and I found last-minute (and very serendipitous) Christmas Eve inspiration in the form of this Wall Street Journal article, promising "festive foods from far-flung lands" (and featuring Ana Sortun, our favorite Middleterrean chef).

Thankfully, it delivered. This was a memorably delicious (and, thanks to the sweet potato bisteeya, show-stopping) meal, worthy of any winter holiday.

The Menu:
Sweet Potato Bisteeya
Winter Salad With Spiced Buttermilk Dressing
Turkey Meatballs with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Mint Yogurt Sauce
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle 


Sweet Potato Bisteeya
Adapted from Spice, by Ana Sortun

A brilliant (and vegetarian) variation on my favorite Moroccan chicken-almond-confectioners sugar creation. It may be the best thing I've made this year.

2 pounds (about 4) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely minced (about 2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of saffron (about 12 threads)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup confectioners sugar plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound phyllo dough (you will need only 9 sheets)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt and brown the butter. Stir in the onion, turmeric, and saffron. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft but not brown. Stir in the ginger and set aside.

Drain the potatoes, reserving ½ to ¾ cup of the cooking liquid.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée the potatoes until they are creamy and, soft, adding the reserved cooking liquid. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to purée them in two batches. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and herbs and blend again until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl, stir in the onion mixture, and season with a little more salt to’ taste. Set aside.

Place the pine nuts on a heavy baking sheet and toast them for 8 to 10 minutes in the oven, until golden brown, Cool.

Coarsely chop the pine nuts by hand or in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Place in a small mixing bowl and stir in ¼ cup of confectioners sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

Begin to assemble the bisteeya by brushing the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with olive oil. Place one sheet of phyllo dough on the counter and brush generously with oil. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of the pine nut mixture. Top with another sheet of phyllo dough and brush generously with oil. Add a third sheet and brush with oil.

Place these layers in the pie pan, allowing the edges of pastry to hang over the sides. Repeat the same process with another three layers of phyllo dough (one with nuts and two with oil only) and place over the other sheets in the opposite direction, so that the edges of the pan are completely covered and you have 4 equal flaps to eventually fold over.

Fill the dough with the sweet potato mixture. Make one last layer of 3 by repeating the same process of nuts and layered sheets. Place the dough on top of the sweet potato filling and fold the overlaying edges over on top so that the pie is completely covered.

Brush the top with oil and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Bake the pie for 40 to 45 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

Cut the pie into slices and dust with more powdered sugar. Serve the bisteeya warm or at room temperature.


Turkey Meatballs with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Orangette

I plan on incorporating these meatballs into my weeknight rotation. To minimize fuss, we prepped them in advance and baked them in the oven.

½ pound ground white-meat turkey
½ pound ground dark-meat turkey
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 egg
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup golden raisins (chopped if they’re large)
½ cup fine bread crumbs
A few pinches ground cumin
Salt and pepper
A few pinches freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Mint yogurt yogurt sauce (see below)

Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl, preferably using your hands. You don’t want to overwork the meat—that would make your final product tough—but you do want all ingredients to be evenly mixed. Form the mixture into balls (about 1½ inches).

Heat a thin film of olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, and sauté the meatballs in batches, so as not to crowd them. As they begin to color, turn them regularly so that they are golden on all sides. They should be done when they are evenly browned and feel medium firm—but not hard—to the touch. Place on a paper towel to catch excess oil. [Alternatively, to bake, arrange meatballs on an aluminum foil-lined sheet tray. Brush with one tablespoon oil, then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.]

Serve warm with mint yogurt sauce.

Mint Yogurt Sauce

2 cups plain yogurt
3-4 tablespoons minced mint
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Whisk together yogurt, mint, lemon juice, and salt to taste.


Winter Salad With Spiced Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Ana Sortun

A perfect winter salad—Green Goddess meets Waldorf, with an edge. We changed the proportions to make it a little leafier; the original recipe called for 5 cups of radishes and 1 cup of escarole. Adjust to your liking.

Serves 6

1 Hungarian wax pepper or jalapeño, seeded
2 cups cilantro leaves
½ cup parsley leaves
½ cup tarragon leaves
1 small clove garlic
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
3-4 tablespoons buttermilk or plain yogurt

1 head escarole (or other winter lettuce), dark outer leaves removed and pale green and yellow inner leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1-2 cups thinly sliced mixed radishes and turnips
2 cups thinly sliced crisp apples 
3/4 cup chopped dates
2/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts, finely chopped,

Combine first ten ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You may need to add more buttermilk or olive oil—adjust to taste.

Place thinly sliced mixed radishes and turnips in a large mixing bowl and lightly season with salt. Let sit 5 minutes. Add apples, dates, escarole and dressing, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts.

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