On the lookout for Meatless Monday ideas here's Bisteeya from Vegan Eats World '300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet' (Da Capo Lifelong Books, October 2012) by Terry Hope Romero, the Vegan Latina who calls Queens home.
Moroccan Vegetable Filo Pie (Bisteeya )
Serves 6 to 8
Bisteeya (or bastilla or pastilla) is a glorious showoff entree pastry, a large pie made of layers of filo and toasted almonds encasing a creamy, aromatic filling that’s both savory and a little bit sweet. Traditionally it’s baked in enormous pans, but for our purposes a springform pan does a great job at containing the pie for a cozy dinner for six. Bisteeya is classically stuffed with pigeon and eggs, but this pie is filled with the internationally accepted vegan substitute for the darling bird and egg binder: cauliflower, chickpeas, and silken almond milk sauce. A touch of saffron gives the filling a golden glow and the top is dusted with an unexpected flourish of powdered sugar and cinnamon for a play on sweet and savory flavors (the sugar topping is traditional, so give it a try and enjoy this unusual combination).
Make this bisteeya when you have a few hours set aside. It’s also possible to spread the construction of the ingredients over a few days and enlist a friend to help with the preparation of the filling and layering of the filo. The assembled pie can be chilled for 4 hours prior to baking, helpful because bisteeya is best relished warm out of the oven. Pair this with a spicy Harissa Carrot Salad (page 106) to complement your work of filo art.
Follow the filo-handling advice for the spinach pie on the previous page.
Silken almond milk sauce
1 cup plain almond milk
6 ounces firm silken tofu (1/2 box of mori-nu shelf-stable tofu)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2-inch piece peeled ginger, minced
2 1/2 cups finely diced cauliflower
one 14-ounce can chickpeas (2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon of baharat spice blend (purchased or homemade, page 43) or a combination of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A big pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs, plus a little extra if needed
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 2/3 cups blanched, sliced almonds
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Filo Dough and topping
Eight 13 x 18-inch sheets of filo dough, thawed
8 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, melted
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2. Now sauté the vegetables: in a deep, 12-inch skillet over medium heat sauté together the onion and olive oil until the onion is tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger,sauté for 1 minute, then stir in the cauliflower. Sauté for 4 minutes, then stir in the chickpeas, vegetable broth, salt, baharat spice blend, and saffron. Increase heat to medium heat and bring to an active simmer.Simmer, partially covered for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to simmer for another 4 minutes or until most of the vegetable broth has been absorbed.
3. Stir in the silken almond sauce. Continue to stir and cook the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Sprinkle in the breadcrumbs, parsley, and cilantro and fold into the filling. The filling should have the consistency of a soft stuffing and not be too wet. If the filling is very wet, sprinkle in 2 to 3 additional tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Turn off the heat and transfer the skillet to a cold burner to cool off.
4. Make the ground almonds: in a small skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds until pale golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes; remove the pan from the heat, and cool for 5 minutes. Set aside 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds for topping the bisteeya. Transfer the remaining almonds to a food processor, add the powdered sugar, and pulse into coarse crumbs.
5. Get ready to put together the bisteeya! Preheatthe oven to 350°F and have nearby a 9 1/2-inch springform pan and small baking sheet to put underneath the pan. Combine the margarine with the olive oil and grab a pastry brush. Prepare the filo dough as instructed for spinach pie on page 255, but don’t trim the filo to the round shape of the springform pan. Instead, trim the sheets to large, 13 x 9-inch rectangles (the size of about half of an average-size filo sheet). Make sure to keep the filo covered at all times to prevent drying out.
6. Assemble the bisteeya: brush the insides of the springform pan lightly with the margarine mixture. Lay a sheet of filo in the center of the pan and press the long ends up the sides of the pan, overhanging the edges over the edge of the pan. Brush the top with a little margarine mixture. Now take another filo sheet, turn it 90 degrees, and lay it perpendicular to the sheet underneath it; press the longs ends up the sides of the pan and overhang the edges over the edge of the pan. Brush with margarine, then repeat layering the filo pastry, turning each new layer 90 degrees until the entire insides of the pan have filo encasing them. Use ten trimmed sheets of filo dough to line the pan. If at any point you run out of margarine while brushing the filo, melt a little extra or continue brushing with just olive oil.
7. Sprinkle half of the almond mixture in the bottom of the pan on top of the filo. Scoop the filling on top of the almonds, spreading it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining half of the almond mixture on top of the filling.
8. Layer another six sheets of filo on top of the filling, turning each sheet another 90 degrees before adding another sheet. Brush each layer with a little margarine. Now fold the overhanging edges of filo toward the center of the pie; this doesn’t have to look neat, as this will eventually become the bottom of the pie that nobody will see. Brush with any remaining margarine, and place the pan on top of the baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the filo is golden brown and crisp.
9. Remove pie from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Place a large serving dish on top of the pie, slide an oven mitt underneath the pan and flip it over onto the serving dish. Remove the ring and the bottom from the springform pan. Dust the top of the pie with powdered sugar, then cinnamon, then lastly scatter the reserved 2 tablespoons of toasted;almonds on top. To serve, slice the hot pie with a sharp serrated knife.
(* Recipe reproduced from Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero- October 2012- by permission of publisher Da Capo Lifelong Books)