Those of you that have been reading for a while know that I'm an avid recipe-follower. Sure, I'll make adjustments to a recipe - add in ingredients that I think taste better, or are more in-season, fresh herbs for dried, or occasionally low-fat ingredients in place of their full-fat versions if I'm in a "keeping my girlish figure" or "need to eat healthier" kick. But over-all, I'm a slave to recipes, as some of my blog friends have even alluded to with good-natured teasing and gentle urging to break out of my shackles. Most of the time, I'll look in my fridge, see what I have left over from the week's farmer's market or grocery shopping and spend countless minutes looking through cookbooks or magazines for any recipe featuring a single ingredient that I don't want to go to waste. This, I know, is a fat waste of my precious time.
So last week, coming home after a long day of work and without a recipe in mind, (usually, I shop with a few recipes I want to make in mind, but also get what looks freshest, sounds tasty, whatever I've been craving or I've never seen before and simply CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT), saw I had a few potatoes left over from the farmer's market (looked tasty), swiss chard (looked freshest), baby walla walla onions (been cravin') and half a jar of left-over sweet and sour carrot chutney from our trip to San Franscisco (COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT). Hmmm... everything needed to be used up, so how could I use them all in a semi-coherent dinner?
This is what I came up with...I call them Curried Vegetable-Potato Samosas because I don't know what else to call them. I don't really know if these fit the definition of a samosa, because they weren't triangular and they weren't fried, but that was the word that came to mind. I boiled the potatoes until they were tender, then mashed them up with a little olive oil. I sauteed the baby walla wallas, bok choy, and swiss chard together with some frozen petite peas, then added about a tablespoon of curry powder, a bit of salt and pepper. But how was I going to get this delicious-tasting mixture to my mouth? Ah, there's nothing like a little pastry to do the trick. I grabbed some totally frozen phyllo dough from the freezer and attempted a quick-thaw in the microwave.
Yes, there is always a disaster when I attempt to do something completely on my own. See here, here and here for evidence of this if you don't believe me. Let the phyllo dough thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, then let it come to room temperature before you attempt to use it, if you have the foresight. I, myself, completely lack foresight. My hindsight, however, is 20/20. If you do like I did, your phyllo dough will dry out, melt together and turn into a big mess when you try to unroll it. :) For the record, in an attempt to somewhat redeem myself, I did thaw it in 5 second intervals, rolling it around to try and get gentle, even thawing...but it still wasn't pretty.
Instead, be a good girl (or boy), let it thaw properly, unroll it gently and keep it covered until you're ready to use it. If you do so, you will be able to pull single sheets of phyllo dough apart (covering the rest until you're ready for it), lightly butter (with melted butter and a pastry brush) or spray each sheet with cooking spray as you do until you've got 3-4 sheets laid down, and make perfect little food packages. Me, I just tore off as much as I could get apart, sprayed the whole bunch, and lopped said potato-mixture into the middle, rolling it up as best I could. Finally, I sprayed (or you could butter) the top, and put the finished product on a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper... The second disaster was that I ran out of cooking spray, as I was in too much of a hurry trying not to let my improperly thawed phyllo dough dry out, so the outside of the last one didn't get sprayed, didn't brown very well and thus, didn't look very appetizing (but it did still taste good, thankfully). If you do everything properly, your somosas will be crunchy on the outside, with brown layers throughout (unlike mine), and soft and flavorful on the inside. Alternatively, you could deep fry them, but this is much healthier. I served them with the sweet and sour carrot chutney (Divine.) and this was my bungled attempt at freeing myself from recipe slavery. It wasn't exactly pretty, but it didn't taste too shabby either. There could be lots of variation on this particular dish - hopefully your attempts will be a bit more elegant than my own. Good luck, my friends. May the chef-force be with you. Or may there at least be a little food-fairy to watch over you and protect you from follies like my own.
**I'll be gone until Monday for field work down at the coast (yay Marine Biology), but I'll add the address - there isn't a website - for the chutney when I return. Have a great rest of the week, and weekend, and hopefully I'll be coming back with some fresh Dungeness crab that needs to be used up (considering that's the animal I work with - smart foodie scientist pick their experimental subjects carefully!).