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Mediterranean Mother’s Day – Sofra-style brunch

15.May 2011

Back at the beginning of March, I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class at Sofra, the bakery and cafe run by the Oleana family.  I’ve written about Sofra before, but I hadn’t really appreciated the scale of their genius until I took this cooking class.  See, whenever I go to Sofra, I always have the same things – their yogurt parfait or a mezze platter.  They’re always DELICIOUS, but that means I don’t ever try new things.  (I do that – I get in a rut when I find something I like.  Do you?)

But at this cooking class we made a real variety of things I’d never tried before.

The evening’s menu included

  • Pistachio Semolina Flutes
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava
  • Revani
  • Kunefe
  • Bacon & Caramelized Onion Strudel
  • Milk Pudding

The class was run by Chef Maura Kilpatrick and her assistant (whose name I didn’t catch! Sorry!), who explained things really thoroughly and had all sorts of tips and tricks to share with us.  You’ll be happy to hear that they’re working on a Sofra cookbook!  I personally cannot wait.

Anyway, the class was just sensational.  Beyond the excellent instruction, we learned about all kinds of exciting ingredients – have you heard of sesame flavored candy floss?  Amazing!  You can see more of my photos from the class over at Flickr.

When I heard that my parents were going to be in town for Mother’s Day, I knew what I had to do.  They came over for brunch and I had a spread of Mediterranean delights waiting for them.

Above, you see Mujadara, cracker bread and miniature pitas, sundried tomato hummus, marinated olives, and whipped feta with red peppers all from the Sevan Bakery in Watertown.  It turns out that this is the ultimate source of all kinds of hard-to-find Mediterranean ingredients and specialties.

I didn’t just buy the good stuff, though.  I also set to work and baked a couple of great treats.  I settled on the Bacon & Caramelized Onion Strudel and Kunefe we had made in class.

The Bacon & Caramelized Onion Strudel was a hit.  The filling perfectly balances savory and sweet flavors and the thin flatbread used to make the crust bakes up to be so crispy and delicious.  It’s hard to stop eating this thing and no joke about it.

But Kunefe was my favorite recipe from class.  I could easily develop a problematic relationship with this recipe.  As in,  I could eat an entire tray of this stuff on my own, no trouble.

So, I’ve got two recipes for you today.  Enjoy!  Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day, mother mine!

Bacon & Caramelized Onion Strudel

  • 1 large sheet Lebanese mountain bread (I’m told you could substitute three or so sheets of fillo dough for this bread if you can’t find it)
  • 8 slices smoked bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 4 red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 T poppy seeds
  • 1/2 c crème fraiche
  • 1 c grated haloumi cheese (it’s easy easy to grate when it’s VERY cold – use a food processor)
  • 5 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy.  Drain on paper towels and discard grease.
  2. Add 3 T butter and olive oil and melt over medium-high heat.  Add onions and raise heat to high.
  3. Cook onions until translucent.  Reduce heat and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.  Stir frequently to prevent burning and/or sticking.
  4. Remove from heat, then stir in poppy seeds, crème fraiche, haloumi, bacon, and dates.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To assemble, unfold Lebanese mountain bread, spread on clean, flat surface, and brush liberally with melted butter.  (If using fillo dough, butter between the layers.)
  6. Spread onion mixture into a log shape along the long edge of the bread, leaving about a two-inch border on three sides.
  7. Fold bread over onion filling and roll into a log shape.  Continue rolling until you reach the end.
  8. Once rolled up all the way, start at one end and twist into a circle.  Be careful or it will explode.  If it does explode, it will be okay.  Don’t worry.
  9. Transfer to baking sheet, brush liberally with butter, and sprinkle remaining poppy seeds on top.
  10. Bake for about 40 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Kunefe
*Syrup and milk pudding can be made in advance.

Syrup

  • 3 c sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • juice and peel of one lemon (rather than zesting the lemon, cut strips off with a peeler)
  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Keep bay leaves and lemon peel in syrup until ready to use syrup.

Kunefe

  • 1 lb box of shredded fillo (aka Katafi)
  • 8 oz butter, melted, divided
  • 1/2 c milk, divided
  • 1 c cream
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 c pistachios, toasted and chopped
  1. Make the milk pudding: whisk corn starch into 1/4 c milk.
  2. Heat cream and sugar to full boil.  Whisk in cornstarch mixture quickly.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
  3. Pour into a small bowl, press plastic into surface of pudding and chill until ready to use.
  4. When pudding is firm and cold, process in food processor with ricotta until combined.  Chill until ready to assemble.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Assemble the Kunefe: Place half of katafi into food processor and pulse 5-6 times, until cut into approximately 1″ pieces.
  7. Pour in 2 T milk and 4 oz butter while pulsing.  Pulse 2-3 more times until butter and milk incorporated.
  8. Butter an 8″x8″ square pan.  Press prepared katafi into even layer on bottom.
  9. Bake this layer for 20 minutes until beginning to brown.  Cool completely.
  10. When cool, spread milk pudding into even layer on top of baked katafi.
  11. Prepare second half of katafi as above (#6-7) and spread into even layer on top of milk pudding, pressing lightly to level top.
  12. Bake for one hour, or until top layer begins to brown.
  13. When done, remove from oven and pour syrup over warm kunefe.  (Tip: pour cool syrup over hot kunefe.)  Allow to cool completely and syrup to absorb completely before attempting to slice and serve.
  14. Garnish with chopped pistachios.
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    15.May 2011 12:31

    Great post! It’s impossible to describe just how delicious all of these treats were — an amazing combination of flavors and textures.

  2. 30.May 2011 15:51

    Looks amazing! That kunefe looks a bit like Jordanian knaffea… I wonder if it’s the same idea? Either way, a great opportunity to learn… I’m sure you had a blast!

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