All the world is nuts about
What's in The Nut Gourmet
Bistilla is a traditional non-vegan Moroccan main dish "pie" that combines savory flavors inside a filo dough wrapping with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and nuts on the top. I confess I've taken grand liberties with tradition to create a special dish for those with a more compassionate heart. This vegan version delivers awesome exotic flavors and a knockout presentation. The succulent recipe is most definitely a celebration dish you might plan to reserve for very special occasions. Moroccans are used to serving Bistilla as a community dish eaten with the fingers. My typically American tendency is to cut it into individual wedges and serve it with forks. But you choose. A daunting list of ingredients and a daunting set of instructions? Yes, however, if you have all the ingredients readily available, you can have several processes going at one time. Plan on one hour to have the Bistilla ready for baking. To ease the preparation, make the filling a day ahead and assemble the dish 2 to 3 hours before baking. Serve with a wholesome tossed salad and a steamed green vegetable.
VEGGIE BISTILLA A LA MARRAKECH
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
3 cups (720 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) pressed or pearl barley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1/3 cup (80 ml) golden raisins
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 15-ounce (425g) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Salt and pepper
9 sheets filo dough
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely ground pistachios
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint or parsley
1 small tomato rose (optional)
- Have ready a small jellyroll pan or baking sheet, a lightly oiled 10-inch (25 cm) skillet, a 12-inch (30 cm) skillet, and a pastry brush.
- TO PREPARE THE FILLING, combine the water, barley, and salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 35 to 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside.
- Place the chopped nuts on the baking sheet and roast for 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to a dish to cool and set aside.
- Place the sweet potato chunks into a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Set aside.
- Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with very warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes to plump the raisins. Drain and set aside.
- Combine the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, olive oil, cinnamon, and allspice in the 12-inch (30 cm) skillet and sauté for about 15 minutes or until caramelized, stirring frequently. Add a tablespoon or two of water if needed to prevent burning the vegetables and reduce the heat slightly, if needed.
- Add the tomatoes and zucchini and continue cooking another 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are broken down. Add the garbanzos and parsley and cook 1 minute.
- Add the cooked barley, roasted nuts, cooked sweet potato, and plumped raisins to the onion and tomato mixture and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4).
- TO WORK WITH THE FILO, unroll the filo dough and place it on a kitchen towel on the counter. Cover the filo sheets with another kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Place the canola oil into a small bowl near the filo. Remove one sheet, recover the filo stack with the towel, and place the filo sheet into the prepared 10-inch skillet, allowing some of the filo to drape over the side of the pan. Brush that sheet lightly with the canola oil, including the portion that drapes over the side.
- Remove 5 more sheets of filo, one at a time, keeping the remaining filo stack covered, and place each sheet into the skillet, draping each of the sheets in a different direction to form a circle around the skillet. Brush each sheet with the oil. These 6 filo sheets form the base of the Bistilla. Spoon all the Bistilla filling into the filo-covered pan, packing it firmly. Lift up the draped filo sheets and lay them over the filling.
- Place the last three sheets of filo over the top, brushing each with the oil. Tuck the ends down into the sides of the pan and lightly brush the top layer with the oil. Place the Bistilla into the oven and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the filo is golden.
- TO SERVE THE BISTILLA, invert the cooked Bistilla onto a large serving platter. If the skillet has sloping sides, it may be easier to slide the Bistilla onto a platter. Then place another platter on top and invert the Bistilla. Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon, coarsely ground pistachios, and mint. Finish by placing the tomato rose in the center, if using. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice the Bistilla into wedges and lift them onto the dishes with a pie server.
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