I've been craving an apple pie since returning home from a ski trip to Nagano. I had brought home some omiyage (the sometimes, but not in this case, obligatory souvenir gifts from a trip) for my mother's friends who had kept an eye on her while Peter and I were away. This time, the gift was a baked apple pie from a bakery adjacent to Nagano Station. Considering Nagano is one of the top producing apple regions in Japan, we thought it would be an appropriate gift. Since we gave away the pie, I had to make one myself if I wanted to eat one, and I came across a recipe for an apple strudel using phyllo dough. It so happened that I had a package of phyllo stashed in the freezer waiting for me to make a feta cheese pie that I never got around to. I made the apple strudel from the Chow recipe and it turned out great. But I had so much phyllo left over since the apple recipe only called for 6 sheets. What to do? I had some eggplants in the fridge, and thought a moussaka type casserole would be nice, and started to envision a phyllo layered lasagne type casserole. It turned out pretty yummy and the flaky phyllo crust on top and around the edges were just crunchilicous. I didn't measure ingredients when I made this dish, but I'll do my best estimating for the recipe below. Don't worry about the exact amounts, just have fun with it!
260 g ground pork and beef
2 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 round onion, chopped
2 eggplants (Japanese, small), chopped (about 1 1/2 cup)
4 large shiitake, chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 400g can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
About 10 sheets phyllo dough (more if you want to use more than 1 layer in between)
100g mascarpone cheese
350 g shredded cheese, such as mozzarella
Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Fry garlic until fragrant and add in the ground meat, add some salt and pepper. Fry until the meat is browned, then mix in the cumin, turmeric and rosemary. Next, add in the onions, eggplants, mushrooms and peppers and saute until the vegetable become soft. Add the crumbled bacon and sprinkle in some salt and pepper at this point as well. Pour in the tomatoes and crush them with your hand as you add them into the pan. Mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano and vinegar. Turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cool slightly.
Pour about 1/2 cup of olive oil into a small bowl and using a pastry brush, grease a 9X13 inch pan. Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and brush it with some olive oil. If the phyllo is larger than the pan, just fold over the edges. Lay another layer of phyllo on top and brush with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce over the entire layer of phyllo. Cover with a layer of phyllo and brush the dough with olive oil. Add teaspoon dollops of mascarpone over the dough (about 6 dollops), sprinkle with a handful of shredded cheese and a shaving of parmesan all over. Cover the cheese layer with one sheet of phyllo (here you can add another layer of phyllo if you prefer more distinctive phyllo layers) and brush with olive oil. Repeat the next layer with meat sauce and phyllo, then cheese and phyllo. The third and last layer may have a sparse amount of meat sauce, but I used up the rest of the cheese and covered this with two sheets of phyllo. Grind some black pepper all over the top and place the pan in a preheated 180°C (350°F) oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until the top crust is golden and sauce is bubbling.
Cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Makes 6 servings, generously. Serve with a green salad on the side.