Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here.

Not too long ago I blogged about a savory pie made with olive oil crust and ground turkey. It was delicious, and I knew I wanted to re-visit it shortly after. Today I share a departure on that recipe, using a very similar filling but wrapped with phyllo dough. It is considerably lighter, especially because I use a light hand with the olive oil spray in between the layers. Works great and is a lot kinder on the waistline.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

large or jumbo size muffin pan, makes about 5 parcels

for the parcels:
1 box of phyllo dough, thawed in fridge overnight
olive oil spray

for the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey
2 large carrots, cut in pieces
8 oz mushrooms cut in pieces
2 celery ribs, minced
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon harissa, or to taste

Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet using 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and seasoning with 1 tsp salt. Once the meat is brown, transfer to a bowl. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil and saute the carrots, shallot and mushrooms, sprinkling all the spices and the final 1/2 tsp salt over the veggies as they cook. Once the veggies start to get some color, add the harissa, the ground turkey reserved, and mix everything gently. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool it completely.

Lay your phyllo sheets and cut squares large enough to cover the whole inner surface of the muffin pan. Lay 3 sheets of phyllo over each hole, each slightly  twisted in relation to the previous one, and spray a very light amount of olive oil as you lay them. Add the cold filling, get one square and fold it in four, so that you are left with a small amount of pastry that can sit right on top of the filling (see photo on the composite below).  Crunch all the phyllo from the base layers over the top, spray olive oil.

Bake at 375F for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. They should un-mold very easily and neatly.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The idea for these little parcels came from the new cooking show by Nadiya Hussein, “Time to Eat.” She used this method to make little apple pies but I really liked the way she handled the phyllo and wanted to adapt for a savory meal. Instead of fiddling with one sheet of phyllo at a time, it is a lot easier to just grab several sheets, cut them all at the same time in squares and then peel them off to place in the tin. Brilliant. I highly recommend the show, available on Netflix. A recipe from it should be on the blog soon.

The filling is already cooked, so you are basically just browning the phyllo and making it all crunchy and delicious. Super easy to assemble, this would be absolutely perfect for guests, and of course you could make it vegetarian-friendly. I imagine a filling with butternut squash and mushrooms, or eggplant and sweet peppers, lots of tasty ideas. You can also go for a hearty lamb filling, but with warmer weather on the horizon, lighter is definitely better.

We enjoyed it with mashed sweet potatoes, made sous-vide, but I need to tweak that recipe before sharing, there were a few “issues.”

Depending on the size of your muffin tin, you might be able to get 6 little parcels. They hold well in the fridge and to warm up what I like to do is run them in the microwave for 1 minute (yes, 60 seconds) and then transfer them to a hot oven for 10 more minutes. They turn out perfectly warm all the way through and the phyllo retains its nice texture.

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Gastronomic heresy alert: I am calling Shepherd’s Pie a concoction made with ground turkey and cauliflower topping. And what’s even worse, I’ve committed this sin before an I am doing it all over again, without a hint of shame.  This preparation is filling but moderately so. It won’t let you go into a state of total lethargy once you move away from the table. It is also low in carbs and saturated fat, in case you worry about those details. I used a trick quite popular in keto-type recipes to give ground turkey a more pleasant texture upon cooking. It involves baking soda and a few minutes of your time. Absolutely worth it. Read on the comments for full explanation on the baking soda trick.

(adapted from several sources)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, core removed, florets cut in pieces
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tablespoon harissa
¾ cup homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan until ver hot. Add cauliflower and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Pour 1/2 cup water, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until the cauliflower is fully tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth. Add the egg and paprika, and process a few more seconds. Reserve.

Prepare the ground turkey: in a bowl, add the meat, one tablespoon water, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and baking soda, mixing everything together. Set aside for 15 minutes. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Make sure to use a skillet that can go under the broiler.  Add mushrooms and celery and cook until no liquid remains.   Stir in harissa and cook for a few more minutes.

Add broth, carrots, and Herbes de Provence,  and bring to a simmer.  Add the turkey meat, breaking it up with a fork.  Cover and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat every few minutes. Whisk cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons water together in small bowl, then stir mixture into filling and continue to simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Pat the meat mixture to make it leveled, and spread the cauliflower puree all over the surface.  If you like, use tines of fork to make a pattern of ridges on the surface. Place skillet under the broiler and broil for about 10 minutes, if necessary move the pan around to get homogenous color on the surface.  Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Quite often ground turkey develops a dry, unpleasant texture when cooked, unless you use alternative methods such as pressure cooking, or the crock pot low and slow for a long time. The addition of baking soda changes everything, by raising the pH. This has two benefits: it reduces the interaction between protein molecules in the meat (by a mild denaturing effect) and accelerates browning. Since the proteins are not able to interact with each other very efficiently, they acquire a more tender texture. It is important to not overdo it. You don’t want the meat to get all mushy, it is a delicate balance. In other words, don’t add the baking soda and walk away for a couple of hours.

This recipe can be assembled all the way and kept in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, place it covered in a low oven to warm up, then uncover and run under the broiler.  Leftovers are superb, and as usual, they showed up as my lunch two more times that week.

Note added after publication: a dear friend of mine from UK brought to my attention that a lesser sin would have been to call this a Twisted Sister of the Cottage Pie, as that at least involves other kinds of meat, whereas the Shepherd is always made with ground lamb.  So there you go, a bit more culinary trivia for us all.  I will keep my title, since one sister was already out there… (wink, wink)

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Fact: I’ve had this recipe waiting since 2005 when a friend raved about it. I know that for sure because I was cleaning files in my computer and stumbled on this folder of “must make recipes.” with a date of May 2005. Fourteen years. Talk about taking my sweet time. To make things even more interesting, I did not include the recipe, but something that at the time seemed enough for me to retrieve it. Mean Chef’s Favorite Chicken Peanut Stew.  Anyway, to make a long story short, I have no idea which recipe he was referring to, but found a bunch of possibilities online and from that I came up with this version that turned out absolutely blog-worthy. I used turkey breast that we smoked ourselves, but you can go with the more authentic version that calls for chicken thighs.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1/2 turkey breast, smoked (or 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skinless)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 piece of ginger, minced (about 2 tsp)
salt and pepper
2 sweet potatoes, cut in large pieces
3 cups chicken stock
1 can small diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen, about 15 ounces)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tsp ground coriander

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. If using chicken thighs, brown them well on all sides, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, and adding more oil if needed. Remove the chicken to a bowl as you work with the other ingredients.

Add the fennel pieces and the ginger to the pan, a touch more of salt and pepper, saute until fragrant.  Add the sweet potatoes, stir a few times, then add the chicken stock, stirring the contents to release any bits stuck to the pan.

Add the tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, and coriander, mix well to combine. If using chicken thighs, add them now. Cover the pan and cook for about one hour at gentle heat, until chicken is cooked through.  If using smoked turkey (or any type of pre-cooked poultry), cook the sweet potatoes until tender, then add the pieces of meat and simmer everything together for 10 minutes or so.

If using chicken thighs, when they are tender, remove the pieces, shred the meat, discard the bones. Add the meat back to the stew and simmer it all together for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning, add cilantro right before serving.


1 turkey breast, bone-in
1 (64-oz.) bottle apple cider
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 rosemary sprigs
10 fresh sage leaves
1 hickory wood chunk
1 black walnut wood chunk

Make the brine in advance to give it time to cool completely. Bring cider all ingredients up to wood chunks to a boil in a large stockpot. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Cool completely.

Place turkey in brine; cover and chill for 12 hours.

Heat smoker to 250 F. Place wood chunks receptacle. Remove turkey from brine, and dry with paper towels. Smoke turkey, maintaining temperature inside smoker between 225° and 250°, for around 4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165°. 


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I know most people do not have an electric smoker, but please don’t let that prevent you from trying this recipe, go for chicken thighs and it will be equally delicious. I must say, however, that the stuff that we smoke at home is so much better than anything bought at the store, that it makes the investment worth it. Salmon is the best example, but turkey comes a close second. I would not dream of making this stew using store-bought smoke turkey. It is way too harsh and intense, with a very dry texture. In this dish we can detect some hint of smoke in the background but it is subtle and delicate.

We both thought that this would be a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving for two or four people. You know, when roasting the whole bird seems like unnecessary trouble. It has the perfect combination of flavors. Add some sage instead – or in addition to – coriander, and you will be all set with a great meal for that special holiday of November. I intend to remind my readers about it when the time comes… but first, there is a lot of Spring and Summer to enjoy and I CANNOT WAIT.

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The traditional Shepherd’s Pie, a delicacy from Ireland, is a casserole type dish made with lamb and veggies covered with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven.  After our Thanksgiving meal this year, I decided to improvise on a version to use our leftover turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, and gravy.  It turned out much better than I expected, so I must share with you. Plus, it gives me a chance to show off our recent gift, the Le Creuset baking dish… gorgeous!

If you already used up your leftover turkey meat, ground turkey could work well too, but spice it up with more sage, maybe some sautéed mushrooms, and use some type of stock slightly thickened with a roux in place of gravy.


(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

leftover roast turkey, preferably dark meat, cut in small chunks
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 shallot, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen green peas
a few leaves of fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper
gravy from your Thanksgiving turkey
cooked sweet potatoes
veggie stock, amount variable
low-fat milk, amount variable

Cut enough leftover turkey meat to fully cover your baking dish. Give preference to dark meat, but a mixture of dark and breast works fine.  Reserve.

Sautee the shallot and diced carrots in olive oil until they start to get some color, and soften up slightly. Season with salt and pepper,  then add the turkey meat, the frozen peas, and the sage.  Mix gently until the peas defrost, add some gravy, enough to moisten the whole mixture.   Pour into a baking dish.

Prepare the potatoes by warming them slightly in a microwave, then mashing them with a little veggie stock and milk, also warmed up in a microwave.  Taste, and if necessary, adjust seasoning.   You need to add just enough liquid to be able to spread the mashed potatoes over the turkey.

Spoon the mashed sweet potatoes over the turkey & veggies, and place in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes or until all bubbly and hot.

Remove from the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.


to print the recipe, click here


Phil is always in charge of roasting our Thanksgiving turkey, which he does according to his family recipe. Our bird is stuffed with a mixture of bread, sausage, celery, green apples… absolutely delicious!   He also  makes the gravy, which ends up dark brown, thick and very flavorful. Usually, he is also in charge of coming up with leftover ideas, but this year I decided to explore this road on my own.

This was so good!  Comfort food indeed, but not overly heavy, sweet potatoes are less filling than regular ones.  I know that using ground turkey could work too, but honestly, this recipe is best if made with leftover roast turkey,  moistened with real gravy.  Phil and I enjoyed some of this “Twisted Shepherd’s Pie”  for our dinner, and the rest is in the freezer, waiting for one of my stepsons who will be visiting us soon.  I know he will love it!

plated1Dinner is served!

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The weather is cooling off and football season is warming up!  Because our university team is ranked near the top this year  every game matters, and they’re all nail-biters.  This weekend brings the season’s most anticipated and exciting game, OU vs Texas.   It’s a great rivalry, a grudge match for the schools, and every year both cancel classes the day beforehand  so that students can drive to Dallas and watch the pageantry and festivities in the Cotton Bowl, surrounded by the Texas State Fair.   I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s a wild, wild adrenaline ride.   But, sports attract too much attention and praise, relative to the pitiful amount given to academia and research.  The coaches make so much money, making me painfully aware of how broke our academic departments are.  It makes me wonder if the priorities aren’t a bit twisted.   On the other hand, we all know what may happen if the University withdraws financial support  from its  sports programs. The TV revenues will drop, and the schools will have lower profits, resulting in even greater struggles for scientific research.  Having failed to solve this pressing problem of the universe,  I go back to food.  😉 … Ohhh, and I almost forgot: GO SOONERS!

Football food. Several classic options come to mind: hamburgers, grilled sausages, hot-dogs, one-pot type meals like… chili!  Once chili was mentioned, we reached a delightful agreement.  I modified a turkey version from  The Gourmet Cookbook, to showcase the colors of our team, crimson and cream.   It was like throwing a 98-yard touch down pass!

(adapted from Gourmet)

2 chipotle chilis in Adobe sauce (canned)
1/2 cup water
2 cans ( 15 oz each) diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbs ground cumin
2 pounds ground turkey (dark meat or a 50/50 mix of dark & white)
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 red bell pepper, roasted, chopped
1 – 2 minced serrano peppers
1 Tbs cornmeal
1/2 can of white beans, rinsed (about 8 ounces)
fresh cilantro leaves, minced

Puree the canned chipotle beans with the water in a blender or small food processor, Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, ad the shallot, saute for a couple of minutes, add the cumin, mix well and cook for another minute.  Add the ground turkey, increase the heat, and cook stirring often, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the chipotle puree, the canned tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, oregano, and salt, and simmer without a lid for 1 hour.  If the level of liquid drops below the surface of the meat, add more water.   Add the red bell pepper, serrano chiles, and cornmeal, and continue simmering gently for another 30 minutes.

Stir the white beans into the mixture, discard the bay leaf, taste, adjust seasoning, and right before serving add as much cilantro as you like.  Serve with sour cream, sliced green onions, and shredded cheese on the side.


to print the recipe, click here

Compared to our default recipe for chili, this one is much easier to prepare, and – I cannot believe I’ll be saying this –  I like it even better!   It has beans in it, which would normally turn me off, I rather have my chili with meat and peppers only, in a tomato-base stew.  But, in this case, the beans added creaminess and flavor, perfect alongside the delicate turkey meat.  Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are simply too tasty.  If you haven’t cooked with them yet, grab some on your next stop at the grocery store and you will be going back for more…

Hope you are all having a great weekend, football or not on your menu…  😉

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