Friday, May 24, 2019

Peruvian Potato & Chicken Salad (Causa Rellena) – Behold the “Giver of Life”

There’s nothing very unusual, or interesting about serving a chicken or potato salad at a cookout, which is why this truly unique, Peruvian potato and chicken salad will cause such a stir. Or should I say, “causa” a stir, since in Peru that’s what this gorgeous dish is called. I’m told the name comes from the Inca word for “giver of life,” which is exactly what this will do to your summer picnic table.

Above and beyond the bold, vibrant flavors, this is unlike any other potato-based salad, in that we’re using mashed potatoes instead of cubes, or chunks, but it really does work beautifully, and the smooth, silky texture makes this even more refreshing to eat. Keep all that in mind the next time a heat wave rolls through your area.

I went very minimal with the cherry tomato garnish, but my Peruvian friends are letting me know that olives are a very traditional garnish, as are hardboiled eggs. If you do an image search, you’ll see all kinds of elaborate presentations, and that’s half the fun of making something like this, so go nuts. Regardless of how you dress yours up, or what ends up in your salad, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Appetizer-Sized Portions (in 6-oz ramekins):

For the potato mixture:
1 1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, or russet
2 tablespoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste (see note below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 or 2 limes, juiced, or to taste
salt and cayenne to taste

For the chicken salad:
1 large cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
1/4 cup green peas
1/4 cup cooked diced carrots
2 tablespoons finely diced roasted red pepper
1 teaspoon minced shallot, or red onion
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup mayo, or as needed
salt and cayenne to taste

For the sauce:
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon sour cream, optional
1 small crushed garlic clove
2 teaspoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste
a splash of water to adjust the thickness

Please Note: If you can’t find Aji Amarillo, you can make a paste from some fire-roasted and peeled orange or red bell peppers, and red Fresno chilies for some heat. While this does get you close, you should definitely try to find a jar of the real stuff, since it does have such a unique flavor.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Skewers with Miso Ranch – A Combo Made in Heaven, and Sebastopol

I’ve wanted to film a skewered version of our chicken teriyaki recipe for a while, but it was actually a karaage I recently enjoyed that pushed me into action. Michele and I were at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol, where they serve an amazing chicken karaage that comes with a miso ranch dipping sauce. The cool, tangy sauce is just perfect with the fried nuggets of chicken, and I assumed (correctly so, as it turns out) that it would be just as effective with these skewers.

None of the ingredients below are very hard to find, and any large grocery store should have Sake, and Mirin, as well as probably several kinds of miso. I used a “white miso,” which is actually gold in color, but apparently the “white” refers to the rice content, which is the other main ingredient besides soybeans. Feel free to make the dressing without it, but its fermented savoriness is such a great addition, I’d at least make some effort to track it down.

As far as the chicken goes, there’s not a lot that can go wrong, but I’d caution against an extra long marination. Especially if you’re skewering small chunks like we did here. The meat will “cure” in the sweet, salty mixture, which can make for an odd texture once cooked, as well as the meat is more likely to start falling apart. Personally, I think about four hours is ideal, which is perfect, since you can marinade in the morning, and then grill in the afternoon. Regardless of these variables, I really do hope you give both these incredible recipes a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients to make about 12 small skewers:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 or 4 chunks each
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
2 tablespoons finely minced green onions
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Miso Ranch:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 generous tablespoon white miso paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced green onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
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Friday, May 17, 2019

Crispy “Everything” Flatbread – “Everything” and Everything

These crispy “everything” flatbread crackers aren’t just called “everything” because they’re inspired by the “everything bagel,” but also because they’re everything you’d want in a flatbread. They’re savory, and interesting enough to eat by themselves, but also pair perfectly with countless dips, any cheese plate, and of course, anything you’d schmear on a bagel.

I played it safe with the powders, but I’m tempted to try this with freshly minced garlic and onions, which would get us even closer to their round inspiration. I’ll tweet a photo if it works, but even with the dried stuff, it was really close. By the way, garlic/onion powder, and granulated garlic/onion is the same thing, just ground to a different fineness, and they’re interchangeable. Just make sure they’re made with pure garlic and onion, and not a bunch of salt.

This easy technique will work with pretty much any seeds and flavorings, so I encourage you to go nuts customizing the recipe. Just don’t forget to flip your dough over before baking, so that your flatbread edges curl up the right way. For a more rustic look, you can bake these uncut, and then once cooled, snap them into irregular shards, which is also a great look. Either way, I really hope you give these crispy “everything” flatbreads a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 48 Crispy “Everything” Flatbreads:
3/4 cup spouted spelt or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hot water, or more as needed
poppy seeds and sesame seeds as needed

- Bake at 375F. for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and crispy.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sweet Potato “Hummus” – So Close

One of my all-time favorite things to do is take an iconic recipe, and somehow tweak it to maybe make it easier, healthier, or tastier; which was definitely not what happened here. This was simply a case of me wanting hummus, not having garbanzo beans, and making it anyway with sweet potatoes, which, much to my amazement, came out remarkably well.

I don’t blame you if you're skeptical, but this stuff really does have almost the same taste and texture as hummus. It has a little bit of a sweeter finish, which reminded me of a red pepper hummus, but all in all, it’s very close. In fact, my wife Michele, who has a much more discerning palate than I do, said that if she were blindfolded, she’d have trouble identifying this as not being actual hummus.

However, to get this close to what you think hummus tastes like, please be prepared to adjust the ingredient amounts to your liking. Some folks like just a hint of garlic and lemon, while others like to be crushed by it. Same goes for the tahini, and other seasonings, so taste, and adjust accordingly.

Of course, since the name, “hummus” comes from the Arabic word for chickpeas, one can make a strong argument that this isn’t hummus, and therefore shouldn’t be called hummus. But those people don’t have to worry about search engine results, which is why I just worked the word “hummus” into this paragraph four times. Actually, let’s make it five, as I say I really do hope you give this easy, and delicious alternative hummus a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 2 cups of Sweet Potato Hummus:
2 cups mashed, roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle
pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons cold fresh water whipped in to lighten texture, optional
freshly chopped parsley to garnish
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Friday, May 10, 2019

Lemon Poppy Seed Scone with Fresh Strawberry Glaze – These Passed the Test…Will You?

Certain things just go together, like lemon and poppy seeds, or gorgeous, freshly baked scones and a fancy brunch, which is why, with Mother’s Day coming up, the timing for these may be perfect. And yes, I was kidding about the poppy seeds affecting your Mom’s drug test, although if there are issues, I believe my joke disclaimer in the intro shields me from any liability.

The method for making these scones is very simple, but can be a little scary for a novice baker, since the dough starts off in such rough shape, but if you’re able to wrestle it all together on the table, verses mixing into a dough ball in the bowl, you’ll be rewarded with a much more tender scone. Having said that, even a slightly tough lemon poppy seed scone is a great thing to eat, so don’t stress either way.

Once again I’m using self-rising flour, and hope you do the same. It just works better for these recipes, and every serious baker should have some in their pantry. If you want to make your own, for every cup of regular all-purpose flour, just sift in a teaspoon and a half of baking powder, and a half teaspoon of fine salt. But regardless of which flour you use, or how you glaze these, I really do hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
2 3/4 cups self-rising flour (see note in blog post above)
1 stick (4 ounces) very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
grated lemon zest from one lemon
1 large beaten egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk or as needed

- Bake at 375 F. for about 25 minutes

For the Strawberry Glaze:
3 or 4 strawberries, cut in quarters, and then finely mashed
enough powdered sugar to make a thick spreadable glaze
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

White Bread – Good For You In Other Ways

For most of my early life, I ate sandwiches almost exclusively on white bread, and wasn’t thrilled when whole wheat was the only option, like when staying at a friend’s house. Thanks a lot, someone else’s mom. Then everything changed. I went out into the world, learned about nutrition, and fiber, and just how delicious a well made, whole-grain loaf of bread could be.

Before I knew it, I was eating all my sandwiches exclusively on wheat bread, and wasn’t thrilled when white was the only choice, like when visiting a friend’s house. Thanks a lot, someone else’s wife. Now, I’ve reached a new phase of my life, when I can enjoy, and appreciate them both. I mostly eat whole grain breads, but occasionally will indulge in some white, which if we’re being honest, really is a much more special bread eating experience, especially for sandwiches.

Whether we’re talking tuna, or chicken salad, the buttery, slightly sweet, but mostly neutral flavor of white bread really lets the main ingredients shine, and I can now enjoy it almost guilt free. So, whether you’re a nostalgic baby boomer like me, or just a curious millennial “wondering” what a classic white bread tastes like, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 1 loaf:
1 1/4 cups warm whole milk
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 large beaten egg
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, or enough to achieve the texture seen here
3 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter

- Bake at 350 F. for about 30 minutes
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Friday, May 3, 2019

Southern-Style Baked Banana Pudding – A Better Banana Cream Pie

If you like banana cream pie, you’ll absolutely love baked banana pudding. Not only is there no piecrust to mess with, but I think the vanilla wafer cookies pair even more perfectly with the fruit and custardy pudding. 

Speaking of banana cream pie, don’t even think of skipping the meringue topping. Sure, whipped cream, or God forbid “whipped topping,” might be a tad easier, but we need to use up those four egg whites anyway, so do it right.

As I said in the video, this is classically made in a clear glass bowl or deep baking dish, so that you can see the beautiful banana pudding beneath the meringue. That is a great look, but as long as it’s oven-safe, and you can fit everything in, any baking dish will work. We’re not really “baking” the pudding, but just browning the top, so the depth or shape of the pan isn’t really that important.

What is important though, is that you use nice ripe, soft bananas. We want them close to the same texture as the custard-soaked cookies, to really get the full effect, so make sure you buy them at least a week before you make this. Other than that, not much can go wrong with this Southern classic. In fact, this is so simple, and kid-friendly, it’d be a great thing to make for mom on Mother’s Day, which is why I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from Alton Brown's Famous Version
Ingredients for 8 Portions:
(I used a 10-inch baking dish)
For the pudding:
1 box vanilla wafers (you’ll have extra)
3 or 4 very ripe bananas, peeled, and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the custard:
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon banana liquor, optional
1 tablespoon cold butter
For the meringue topping:
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons white sugar

- Bake at 400 F. for 7-10 minutes, or until nicely browned
-- I think this is best served cold, but suit yourself! 
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sausage Mushroom Chicken – Don’t Let the Name Fool You

One of our most beloved, and popular dishes is the unremarkably named, “chicken, sausage, peppers, and potatoes,” which was sort of the inspiration behind this sausage mushroom chicken video. Besides their unimaginative names, what these recipes have in common is how they take advantage of rendered sausage fat, and its proven ability to make everything it touches taste meatier.

Cooking things in rendered bacon, or pancetta fat is fairly common, but not so much when it comes to pork sausage, which is funny, since not only are we getting that pork goodness, but we also get to utilize all the herbs and spices used in the grind.

I went with a sweet Italian sausage, which paired perfectly with the chicken, mushrooms, and wine-based pan sauce, but half the fun of a “recipe” like this is choosing which variety to use, depending on which other ingredients you plan on including. So, call that friend I was talking about in the video, and no matter which way you guys decide to go, I really hope you give this, or something like this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 portions:
1 (6-ounce) sweet Italian sausage, cooked, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless chicken breasts
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1 red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons cold butter
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Strawberry Crepe Cake – Works on So Many Levels

Using this simple “crepe cake” technique, you can turn any of your favorite cake fillings into visually stunning, multilayered masterpieces. By the way, I said this is simple, not fast, as it does take a little bit of time to make and stack all those crepes, but once you get rolling, it goes pretty quick.

I was going for a very light dessert here, in both taste and texture, but this technique really shines if you use a more traditional cake filling like buttercream. Since that gets nice and firm when chilled, you’ll get even more gorgeously defined layers. Chocolate ganache is also a great choice, especially layered alternately with pastry cream, which would create a sort of Boston cream pie.

The ingredient amounts below are just a guide, since it really depends on the size of your crepes, and how much filling you spread on. You’ll probably have a few more crepes than you need, which isn’t really a problem, and you can try to go even higher than I did. I also increased the cream filling ingredients below, since I had to make another half batch during my construction. 

Speaking of filling, I probably could’ve just folded the strawberry jam into the whipped cream mixture to save time when assembling. I though it would be nice to have streaks of fruit in the cream, but once sliced, it really wasn’t that noticeable. Of course fresh fruit would also work, just be aware of the extra moisture that might add. Regardless of how you fill yours, or how high you stack, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


For the crepes:
5 large eggs
3 1/4 cups milk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the cream filling:
3/4 cup mascarpone
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the fruit mixture:
10 ounce jar of strawberry jam
2 tablespoons water
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Crispy Beer Batter Fish & Chips – Sorry, I Meant Fish & Crisps

Virtually every beer batter fish recipe looks crispy coming out of the fryer, and some even stay crispy for a few minutes, but then the inevitable sogginess sets in, and by the time you take that last bite, you’re wondering why you just didn’t bake it. Well, with this simple formula, and a few easy tricks, you can achieve what many think impossible; a fried fish where the last bite is as crisp as the first.

The keys here are keeping your batter really cold, and your fish really dry. If you use frozen fish, make sure it’s fully thawed, and you’ve carefully blotted off any excess moisture, before giving it a light coating of starch. I like rice flour for this, but as I said in the video cornstarch, or potato starch will also work.

If you do want to season yours differently, you can apply whatever you want directly to the fish before it goes in the beer batter. Keep in mind that salt draws out water, so don’t go too heavy, and make sure your fish is as dry as possible before it gets dunked into your ice-cold batter. I generally keep things very simple, but the occasional spoon of Indian spice, or chili powder makes for a nice change of pace.

If you make your batter ahead, which is fine, be sure to keep it in the fridge, and if you’re doing a large number of portions, maybe place the batter over a bowl of ice, so it stays cold as you fry. Other than keeping things cold and dry, not much can go wrong, except maybe calling your “crisps” chips, which will definitely trigger your British friends. Anyway, they’ll be fine, and so will you after making this easy, and crispy-to-the-last-bite beer batter fish. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions Fish & Chips:

For the fish:
4 (six-ounce) pieces of boneless white fish, such as cod, haddock, etc., cut in half lengthwise into 8 strips
salt to taste
enough rice flour to lightly coat

For the batter:
1 cup self-rising flour (or all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp fine salt)
2 tablespoons rice flour, or cornstarch or potato starch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
about 1 cup lager-style beer, plus more as needed to adjust
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Fresh Spring Vegetable Tart – Eat Your Heart Out, Giuseppe Arcimboldo

This spring vegetable tart only looks hard to make, and would be a perfect centerpiece for any special occasion meal, just as long as you put it out on the table a little bit early, since we’ll need to allow enough time for all the Instagramming that follows. And please, no flash photography.

As long as you use a wide array of colorful vegetables, and tuck them into a gnarly base of greens, this easy cheese tart/salad can’t help but look gorgeous. In fact, the hardest things will be deciding which vegetables to use, and how to prepare them.

As I said in the video, you can go with anything from raw to roasted, but my favorite way to prep the vegetables, is to simply blanch them briefly in boiling, salted water. Just cook them for a few minutes to take off the raw edge, and then plunge them into cold water, before draining, and dressing.

Above and beyond the veggies, this cheese filling will work with any soft cheese, but I think the tanginess of the goat cheese is an important factor, so if you use something milder, you may want to sneak in some lemon juice. Regardless, of what specific ingredients you use, I really hope you give this gorgeous vegetable tart technique a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for a 10-inch round Spring Vegetable Tart:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (round or rectangular)
(This tart can be made with any type of shell, including piecrust, phyllo, etc.)
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water (for brushing, and then for the filling)
For the filling:
1 1/4 cups goat cheese
salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne to taste
1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs, like dill, parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil, chives, etc.
the rest of the egg wash
1/4 cup heavy cream
For the vegetables:
2 handfuls mixed colorful salad greens (including something light and frizzy if possible)
2 to 3 cups of bite-sized fresh vegetables, briefly blanched in salted water
1/2 cup thinly sliced raw radishes, and cherry tomatoes
For the dressing (this is what I used, but your favorite salad dressing will work):
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easy Baked Beef Brisket – Slow and Low is Not the Tempo

Remember that time you waited all day for your “low and slow” beef brisket to finish cooking, and once it finally did, it was dry? It left you disappointed, disillusioned, and wondering what went wrong. Well, I won’t bore you with all the scientific, easy-to-Google details, but basically meat can “stall” during long, low-heat methods, and never reach the proper internal temperature to fully release all the succulent goodness. 

If you really nail it, the results can be amazing, and I’ve gotten lucky a few times on the smoker, but this significantly faster method is much less risky. Unless you really overcook it, you shouldn’t have to worry about dry meat, and you can instead worry about other things, like whether you cooked enough meat. By the way, I'm not sure if they invented it, but I adapted this from something I saw watching an America's Test Kitchen rerun, so if you have issues, please contact them.

Speaking of enough meat, if you decide to use a whole brisket, this method will work as shown, but you’ll probably need to give it a little more time at the end to ensure it’s fork tender. Or not, but there’s only one way to find out, so have your poking fork handy, and use as needed. Whether you’re looking for a brisket recipe for Passover, or you’re simply interested in moister meat in less time, I really hope you give this easy, baked brisket recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 portions Easy Baked Beef Brisket:
(Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
3 pound beef brisket (the flat half of a full brisket)
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

For the gravy/braising liquid:
2 tablespoons butter, oil, or rendered fat
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup apple juice or cider

- Bake at 325 F. for 1 1/2 hours, then reduce oven to 250 F., and cook for about 2 hours 15 minutes, or until fork tender.
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Lamb Borek and the Secret of Sogginess

Lamb borek is stunning to look at, and even more enjoyable to eat, which is all thanks to, believe it or not, intentionally soggy dough. This is something I didn’t grasp the first time I made it, and I just brushed melted butter between the layers, hoping for something really crispy, and flaky, which in Phylloland is standard operating procedure. However, since my dough was not made flexible by the egg/yogurt/butter wash we used here, it basically exploded in like seven spots when I tried to roll it up. Lesson learned.

Besides moisturizing the phyllo, this magic mixture also adds flavor, thanks to the tangy yogurt; and the melted butter helps create a fairly crispy exterior as well. So, while we don’t want to fully saturate the sheets, a light brushing really does wonders. If you use a 9 or 10 inch round pan like I did, three rolls should work out nicely, but this technique will work no matter what you bake it on. You can also skip the spiral effect, and keep them straight, or bend them into any other shape.

You’ll need a package of phyllo that provides at least 12 decent sheets, and I really hope yours is better than the tragic box I bought. However, as bad as mine was, it still worked out quite nicely, so I’m not exactly sure why I’m complaining. Anyway, whether you make the recipe as listed, or tweak the filling to your tastes, I really do hope you give this lamb borek recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 large portions:
(for one 9-10 inch round baking dish)

1 package frozen phyllo (filo) dough
2 teaspoons sesame seeds for the top, optional

For the lamb filling (you’ll have some leftover):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup water

For the egg/yogurt/butter wash:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon melted butter

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons very finely sliced mint leaves
lemon juice to taste
1 crushed garlic clove, optional
enough water to achieve desired texture
pinch of salt and cayenne

- Bake at 400 F. for 35-40 minutes, or until browned and crisp.

Note: Save any extra phyllo, since the filling recipe above makes extra, and you can fold up some smaller, triangular boreks if you want.
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