Friday, July 18, 2014

Pan Con Tomate and Bulgarian Banitsa

Greetings, folks. Let's begin with a message we can all get behind:
And as proof that I like my subversive activities thoroughly riotous, here is a shot of my large arsenal of fireworks for the 4th of July:
Before we move on to the regularly-scheduled culinary delights, check out my latest article where I up to my usual Martha Stewart meets Marla Singer cultural pokings :)
And since we are talking about hipsters, natch, let me tie this in to talking about tapas. The latest "in" thing amongst the prison-tattooed masses are the small bites that have long moved past their originally Spanish roots to essentially mean exorbitantly-priced appetizers. I say we replace tapas with the new item du jour--dim sum is, at least, significantly more substantial and forgiving on your wallet.

Pan Con Tomate, usually priced at $7 a plate, is ridiculously easy to make at home. All you need is good bread, garlic, and a good tomato.
Slice bread; toast it in the oven. When you take it out, rub a garlic clove all over it (trust me when I say I could live on this and this alone. Bread and garlic. The life for an Eastern European). In a little bowl, take a nicely-ripened beefsteak tomato and grate it. There should be no skins--only pulp and seeds. Of course, if you are a real food snob, you could always make tomato concasse, but...whatever, Martha! Add salt and pepper. Assemble the pan con tomate by just spreading the tomato mixture on the bread. Maybe drizzle with good olive oil (that's like the "good" living room--for guests only!) Yes, that simple! "Trust the T :)," as my friend Frank would say.
And in segueing over to my Bulgarian recipe, allow me to share some photos of Bulgarian tomatoes I had the pleasure of eating. Al fresco national pride indeed :)

To further get you into a Bulgarian state of mind, watch this absolutely delightful trailer:

Then proceed with the Bulgarian Justin Timberlake to get amped for your cooking exploits:

Now you are ready to make some banitsa! Opa!

There is no Bulgarian dish that is loved more than the banitsa (well, maybe the shopska salata is a close second). All of our Slav neighbors have some version of it; the Greeks have spanakopita and the Turks have burek.

So--on to Toni's Vegan Banitsa. My poor Grandma is probably rolling in her grave reading this very thing, but I invented a vegan banitsa, sans feta cheese, butters, milk, or eggs. Crazy, you say. Indeed!

1. Chop some green onions (the poor man's leeks, as I like to call them). Toast some walnuts in a pan and chop them. Super crucial step--add zaatar! Zaatar is a spice blend quite akin to a Bulgarian table salt blend called chubrica. This basically makes the dish. Add good olive oil and make the oleo.

2. Take phyllo dough sheets and take about two sheets; maybe drizzle a bit with olive oil and start to do layers. The top layer should be phyllo with olive oil on it.
3. This is super crucial--make criss-cross knife cuts into the whole thing so the slices are in place. Bake the whole thing at 350 until it starts to get a tad bit brown on top; no more than 5-10 minutes. Then take a bottle of sparkling water and pour it over the whole banitsa, making sure it gets through the cracks. You will likely use about 1/2 to 3/4 of the bottle. Throw it back in the oven and bake until the whole thing is set--maybe 15-20 mins. max.

I hope you try it :)

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