Pascale's Kitchen: Last-minute hametz

It’s amazing what treasures you find pushed back in the corners of your freezer.

Pastel de carne – Meat-filled pastry (photo credit: PASCALE PERETZ-RUBIN AND DROR KATZ)
Pastel de carne – Meat-filled pastry
Every year I make a promise to myself that next year I won’t go crazy with Passover cleaning and preparations right after Purim is over. But for some reason I can’t seem to help myself – I guess it’s in my DNA. I tackle the high shelves all over the house, but especially in the kitchen. I love taking everything out and organizing it once a year.
In addition, I take everything out of my freezer to make sure that we finish eating everything that has hametz in it before Passover. It’s amazing what treasures you find pushed back in the corners of your freezer.
This week, I found two packages of frozen dough – one pastry and one phyllo – so it was obvious that I would just have to make some pastry treats and quiches this week so I would have room in the freezer for all my kosher-for-Passover food.
TIPascale: Do you have pastry squares left over in your freezer? Grease a cupcake pan and place paper cup holders inside. Then place a square inside each cupcake holder and mold it so it’s like a little basket. Bake in oven at medium heat and then let cool completely. Fill with fresh fruit and cream and serve.
Pastel de carne – Meat-filled pastry
This is a traditional Jerusalem Sephardi Bulgarian dish eaten on Shabbat. Originally, this was prepared as one long strip, but I’ve changed it a little and instead make small individual snail-shaped pastries. Makes 10-12 pastries
■ ¼ cup oil
■ 2 large onions, sliced thinly
■ 400 gr. beef, ground finely
■ Salt and pepper, to taste
■ ¼ tsp. cinnamon
■ 100 gr. pine nuts
■ 1 egg + 1 beaten egg
■ ¼ cup parsley, chopped
■ 1 package (400 gr.) store-bought pastry dough
■ ½ cup sesame seeds
■ 1 Tbsp. nigella seeds
Heat oil in a wide pan and fry onion until golden. Add the meat and stir-fry until it turns gray. Cover pan and cook over medium flame for another 6-7 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Add salt, pepper and cinnamon, and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from flame, add pine nuts, egg and parsley. Stir.
On a floured work surface, roll out dough into a large thin rectangle. Cut into the desired number of squares (10 or 12). Place a bit of meat on the side closer to you and roll up into long, thin tube. Then twist tube up in a spiral and place on a tray that is lined with baking paper. Prepare the rest of the pastries in the same fashion.
Make sure the pastries are evenly spaced on tray so that they have room to expand. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame and nigella seeds. Bake at 250° for 10 minutes. Lower to 200° and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
TIPascale: When you reheat the pastries just before serving, don’t cover them, since the steam will moisten the pastry and it will lose its crispiness.
Spanakopita – Spinach and cheese quiche
This traditional Greek quiche is one of my favorites. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing. Makes 8-10 servings
■ 1 kg. fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, dried and chopped thinly
■ 250 gr. Bulgarian cheese, crumbled
■ 250 gr. kashkaval cheese, grated
■ 3 Tbsp. olive oil
■ 3 eggs
■ Salt and pepper, to taste
■ 1½ packages (150 gr.) butter, melted
■ 10 sheets of phyllo dough
Cook the spinach leaves in boiling water for one minute. Rinse them well and squeeze the water out with your hands. Cut them into strips or tear them apart with your hands. Place pieces in a bowl.
Add the cheeses, olive oil, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
Brush a pan with melted butter. Place a layer of phyllo dough in the pan and brush it with melted butter. Continue until you have four layers of dough. Make sure that the dough hangs over the edges of the pan. Use one more layer on top.
Pour the cheese mixture on top of the dough and flatten. Flip edges of dough over the cheese. Brush with butter. Place another layer of dough on top of the filling and brush with butter. Continue until you’ve used all 10 layers of dough. Brush top generously with butter.
Bake at 180° for 60 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot.
TIPascale: You can add other foods to cheese mixture, such as mushrooms or cooked broccoli. Or you can add a layer of fried onions and tomatoes on top of the cheese filling.
Apple turnovers
These are wonderful served together with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 38 pieces
■ 6 large Granny Smith apples
■ ½ cup brown sugar
■ ¹⁄3 cup maple syrup
■ 50 gr. raisins
■ 2 tsp. cinnamon
■ 2 cups sweet red wine
■ 20 large phyllo dough sheets
■ 1½ cups biscuit crumbs or bread crumbs
Butter wash:
■ 100 gr. butter (or margarine), melted
Serving suggestion:
■ Maple syrup
■ Vanilla ice cream
Peel and core the apples. Slice them thinly. Place apple slices in pot with sugar, maple syrup, raisins, cinnamon and wine. Cook over medium flame for 25 minutes until apples turn soft and liquid begins to evaporate. Drain.
Cut each sheet of phyllo dough into four sections. Place one piece of dough on your work surface and brush it with butter. Place another piece on top. In the center, place a tablespoon of biscuit crumbs and a tablespoon of the apple filling. Close up like an envelope or roll up into a tube. Continue with all the rest of the sheets.
On a pan covered with baking paper, place apple pastries with space in between. Brush with butter. Bake at 190° for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Translated by Hannah Hochner