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 StoriesServes 4 as a starter.
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
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. --
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.