At a job assignment recently I was in the midst of a group of culinary and restaurant professionals; all were native Lebanese, but each was from a different region. I started asking each one what kind of food did they love eating growing up. What was so surprising was that not one of them had similar food memories; in fact, each described a food that nobody else in the group had ever tasted. Lebanon is a tiny country with a population barely exceeding 4 million folks and a coastline of only about 140 miles long. This diversity is remarkable.
In any case, these turnovers were one of the foods mentioned; from what I gather, it is a specialty up North (Akkar), and the chef remembered it fondly as one of his mother’s specialties.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp oil
1 cup water (more or less to make a smooth dough)
3 cups areesheh (or ricotta cheese, drained in a sieve overnight); can also use a combo of feta and another white cheese, shredded
1 cup chopped fresh mint (or parsley)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper powder (paprika or chili powder), optional
Make the filling: In the bowl of a mixer, place the flour and salt and mix to combine; add the oil and mix a few seconds; gradually add the water while mixing until the dough is smooth and comes off the sides of the bowl. Flour a bit and set aside covered with a damp towel while your make the stuffing.
Stuffing: Sprinkle the onion with the spices and toss a bit.
In a bowl, place the cheese (if using two types, toss to mix), fresh herbs, and toss to mix; squeeze the onion to drain its juice out and mix it in the cheese mixture. Combine the mixture.
Roll out the dough and cut into circles; place a tablespoon of stuffing on each circle and top with another circle. Crimp the edges to seal. If baking the turnovers, you can simply make them as the image above with only one circle of dough, pinch both ends. If baking them, place them on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350F oven till golden. You can also brush them with olive oil for a crispier pastry prior to baking.
If frying, heat several cups of oil to 375F and fry till puffed and golden; drain on paper towels and serve.
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