Earlier this year I introduced you all to the pre-cursor of Pastrami – Pastourma. It’s an air-dried beef that’s flavoured by spices and lots of garlic and paprika. Fenugreek is the pronounced in the mix.
Pastourma is enjoyed by Greeks, Turks, many Arab nations and probably the best stuff is made by Armenians. Pastourma is often laid-out as an appetizer (meze) or it can appear in an egg omelet or the main ingredient of a savory pie (Pita Kaisarias).
Today I’m going to share a quick, exotic and delicious meze (appetizer) that you make the next time you have friends over (Christmas season and cocktail parties are coming up).
Pitakia Kaisarias are individual phyllo-wrapped versions of the Pita Kaisarias. Phyllo sheets get wrap a filling of bechamel sauce, Kasseri cheese, ribbons of Pastourma, roasted red peppers and diced tomatoes.
Your biggest challenge in making these pillows of exotic tastes is finding Pastourma. You can always make your own or seek some at your nearest Greek, Turkish, Armenian or Mid-Eastern store. Here in Toronto, my friends at Greek House on the Danforth sell Pastourma.
The origin of these savory pies comes from the area of Kaisarias (now Turkey) that was home to many Greeks and Armenians. Many of these peoples came to Greece after a mass exodus from Turkey in the 1920’s.
These people could bring little but what remained was their memories which included recipes, recipes and recipes…including Pita Kaisarias. Today, the neighborhoods of Nea Smyrni (Athens) and Kalamaria (Thessaloniki) still contain a large population of the descendants of these Asia Minor Greeks.
I’m offering you two ways you can make Pitakia Kaisarias…one being on the stove-top (fried) and other baked in the oven. Both approaches yield delicious results and I’m still torn as to which method I like.
The baked version allows me to sprinkle sesame seeds yet the friend version gives me instant gratification with fried dough. I’ll have to make some more and try and decide!
Pitakia Kaisarias (Πιτάκια-Καισαρείας)
10-12 sheets of phyllo (cut into 7″x7″ squares)
1 roasted bell pepper (peeled, seeded and cut into ribbons)
1 tomato, juice and seeds removed and diced
20 slices of Kasseri cheese (or a firm white Gruyere or cheddar)
Approx. 12 slices of Pastourma, sliced into ribbons
(3 ribbons per serving)
black and white sesame seeds
melted butter (clarified) or olive oil for brushing
1 Tbsp. of butter
2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 cup of warm milk
1/2 cup of grated Kasseri cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. of paprika
Pre-heated 350F oven
- The night before, place your frozen package of phyllo in the fridge to thaw overnight. Take the phyllo out of the fridge to come to room temperature 15 minutes before assembling your Pitakia.
- In a small pot, add your butter over medium heat and then add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the the flour becomesÂ a paste. Add your warm milk and turn the heat up to high. Constantly stir with your wooden spoon until the Bechamel has thickened. Remove from the heat and add your grated Kasseri cheese and stir in until it’s amalgamated into the sauce. Take off the heat, add your paprika and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and reserve.
- Take out your phyllo (bring to room temperature) and prepare your ingredients needed for the filling (pastourma, cheese slices, roasted peppers and tomato + melted butter or olive oil for brushing).
- Grease a baking tray and lay out your phyllo on your work surface. Cut the phyllo into approx. 7″X7″ squares. Lightly brush the perimeter and place a Tbsp. of Bechamel on the bottom middle-part of the phyllo sheet, 1 inch from center. Now top with 3 ribbons of Pastourma, about a tsp. of roasted red peppers, tsp. of diced tomato and top with your slice of Kasseri.
- Fold the bottom 1-ich space of phyllo over towards the top to cover your filling. Now fold over the sides to form the next part of your envelope and finally, roll up your bundle towards the top-end of your phyllo. Place your phyllo bundle on your baking tray and brush the top with oil or butter. Repeat this process with your remaining phyllo sheets.
- If you choose to bake your Pitakia Kaisarias, top with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds and if frying, omit.
- Place your tray of Pitakia in your pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes (middle rack) or until golden brown.
- If frying, add enough vegetable oil to just cover the surface of your non-stick skillet and fry over medium-heat for about 2 minutes/side or until golden brown. Fry in batches (add more oil if needed), blot on paper towels and reserve/keep warm in your oven until serving.
- Serve warm with a bowl of strained Greek yogurt for dipping.
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