Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lemon Pistachio Sambusaks


It appears I have stuffed pastries on my mind this week ... not a bad thing, mind you. In fact, anything involving pastry is sublime to me, especially when filled with something scrumptious. Stuffed foods are traditional to eat for Purim (in addition to triangle shaped) so Lemon Pistachio Sambusaks are ideal for the holiday.


These savory crescents are Iraqi in origin. It seems like each culture has its own delightful stuffed pastry (such as calzones, samosas, empanadas and borekas – just to name a delicious few). Sambusaks have been enjoyed in the Middle East for centuries. They are quite a popular snack or appetizer in Israel – I once savored amazing ones at Abulafia Bakery in Jaffa.

Samusaks are filled with ground meat, chick peas, potatoes, hard boiled eggs or cheese and can include a variety of spices, herbs or seeds. They can be made with dough, puff pastry or phyllo, deep fried or oven baked.


I prefer to bake sambusaks using a pastry dough with some whole wheat flour in it. This dough is simple and easy to work with and allows you to get creative with fillings. I am rather crazy about feta cheese (my favorite is Pastures of Eden) and it’s typically the cheese for sambusaks. I like to create unique fillings so I zested and juiced a lemon to stir into my feta and yogurt mixture and finely chopped some pistachios. Topped with sesame seeds, they are pretty as well as tasty.


Sambusaks can be prepared ahead and frozen (either unbaked or baked), making it easy to bake or warm them just before serving. Served with some spicy zhoug, these flaky turnovers are crispy, cheesy, tangy and satisfying – a welcome addition to your appetizer repertoire.

Lemon Pistachio Sambusaks
Makes 20

Dough
1/2 cup olive oil (plus 1 tablespoon, if needed)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

Filling
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons plain, thick yogurt
1 lemon, zested and squeezed to yield 2 tablespoons juice
1/8 cup pistachios, finely chopped
A few grinds of black pepper

Topping
1 egg, stirred to brush on top
3 teaspoons sesame seeds (black or white)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oil, butter, water and salt. Slowly stir in the flour, stopping to incorporate fully a few times. If the dough feels a little dry, add the additional olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap while you prepare the filling.

In a medium sized bowl, mash all of the filling ingredients together until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half, keeping one half wrapped in the bowl. Divide the half into 10 equal portions. Roll each ball of dough out into roughly a 3 inch circle. Place a generous teaspoon of filling on half and fold over to create a crescent shape (a spatula can help with lifting the dough). Pinch to seal and crimp the edges with a fork to decorate (it helps to seal, too).

Place the 10 sambusaks on the prepared baking pan. Brush the tops of each with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve the sambusaks warm with zhoug or za’atar to dip.

**If desired, prepare and freeze the sambusaks up to a month ahead of time (do not brush with egg). Wrap the baking pan tightly and freeze. When ready to bake, brush the tops with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

18 comments:

  1. I have had these before and they are delicious, love your recipe. Saved and making very soon.

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    1. Thank you, Suzanne! I hope you enjoy them. Let me know if you try any other filling variations. :)

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  2. These look amazing! Thanks for sharing

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    1. My pleasure, Pat - have a lovely weekend!

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  3. Sounds like a fantastic combination of ingredients! I LOVE pistachios. It does seem like each culture has its own stuffed pastry-thingy. Lots of "pasties" in British cooking.

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    1. You're right, Lauren - there's a terrific variety of pasties. In fact, I have Lentil and Squash Pasties bookmarked to make in "River Cottage Everyday" (as well as a toastie!).

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  4. Replies
    1. There's a lot to love in a savory pastry... :)

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  5. These look beautiful. I always shy away from pastries but I'd love to try these!

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    1. Thank you, I hope you enjoy them, Jenni!

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  6. As a Brit, I don't LOVE pies or pasties as they are usually filled with suspect meat. However the flavors in these Sambusaks look divine - feta, pistachios and lemon!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I'd be wary of suspect meat, as well...so unappetizing.

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  7. Mmmmm these look amazing! I love sambusaks and all kinds of savory pastries like this. The filling is incredible.

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    1. Thank you, Katherine! You are in the land of incredible savory pastries - I'm sure you've discovered some delicious ones.

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  8. Is stuffed food traditional because it keeps well? Or for another reason? Either way, who cares! These look fantastic. I love how savory pastries makes it completely acceptable to eat them whenever! Wonderful.

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    1. Thank you, Mikaela! Good question - I think you're right about keeping well, and perhaps because stuffed foods are portable/easy to serve? Whatever the reason, it's quite interesting how there are so many varieties in each region of the world. Wouldn't it be a fun food quest to try them all?

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  9. I am wanting to eat all of your pastries! I love feta too....especially enveloped in pastry :)

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    1. I wish I could drop some pastries off for you, Mairi! You can't go wrong with feta in any form. :)

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