Going Puerto Rican with Pastelón: Plantain, Ground Turkey, and Cheese

Appetizer, Baking, Poultry Recipes


Plantain topped with ground turkey and mozzarella

Plantain topped with ground turkey and mozzarella

One of the perks of having friends from different cultures is the exposure to many delicious dishes. Zulma, a dear friend of mine, has successfully introduced me to Puerto Rican’s mofongo, tostones, and pastelón. (Mofongo and tostones are my must-eat whenever I visit the island.) A few days ago, over the phone, Zulma told me that she was making pastelón for dinner. Feeling intrigued, I used her recipe as guidance in making one myself. Usually described as “plantain lasagna”, the dish offers a good combination of sweet and savory. The plantain gives out a sweet taste while the ground turkey, cooked with onion, garlic, peppers, and cilantro, makes a fantastic meaty topping. And of course, the melted mozzarella sealed everything nicely. Buen Provecho!

Here’s my version, with a little twist 😉
We’ll need:

  • 4 ripe plantains (Per Zulma’s recommendation, I got the yellow ones with black patches all over the skin and with sweet aroma.)
  • ½ pound of ground turkey (Usually made with ground pork or beef)
  • ½ of sweet onions (chopped)
  • 3 garlic (chopped)
  • ½ cup of chopped cilantro (Zulma’s recipe calls for long coriander leaves but I couldn’t find them so I went with cilantro)
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 3-4 hot finger peppers (chopped). This is totally optional. (I made mine spicy, of course :))
  • 1 or 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese



  • Fill a medium pot with water and bring to boil
  • Cut the peeled plantains in the middle
  • Boil the plantains for 15-20 minutes
  • Once cooked, remove, and let them cool down before slicing them lengthwise
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  • Place the sliced plantains on a baking dish that has been sprayed with vegetable or olive oil
  • On the stove top, heat a medium pan with a tablespoon with vegetable oil. Cook the onion, garlic, and bell and hot peppers for two minutes. Add ground turkey, salt, and black pepper. Combine and cook well.
  • Cover the sliced plantain with the meat, top with shredded cheese, and place it in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool down for a bit before serving

My special thanks to Zulma

Savory Pastry with Turkey and Vegetables

Appetizer, Baking

Inspired by Indonesian’s pastel goreng, a savory treat similar to empanadas, I made this easy pastry recently. The wonderful smell of ground turkey, peas, carrots, garlic, and onions baking inside of a pie crust in the oven filled the apartment. Hmm…delicious!  This flaky and savory pastry makes a great appetizer.

Here’s a list of things we’ll need:

  • 2 sheets of pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 pound of ground turkey (or beef)
  • 1 bag of thawed frozen (mix) peas and carrots
  • 4 garlic (chopped)
  • 1 sweet onion (chopped)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • A dash of curry powder


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat up a medium pan and add the oil.
  • Add garlic and onion. Cook for two minutes.
  • Add ground beef and let it brown.
  • Mix in the peas and carrots, salt, pepper, and curry powder.
  • Following Paula Dean’s direction on her empanada recipe: I cut out rounds from the pie crust using a small cookie cutter (3-inch), place a bit of cooked turkey and veggies in the middle of the crust, brush the edges with water, fold, and repeat. Place the pastries on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they turn golden brown.

Olive Oil Herb Dip for the Bread

Appetizer, Dip

Love dipping bread into olive oil? Here’s my latest obsession with dipping sauce. Inspired by my friends Leena and Spas’ chili pepper marinade and motivated by the urge to use up all of my planted herbs and peppers, I have made this condiment a must-have at home.

Back in August, at the dune house we rented for a weekend, the couple made this wonderful chili peppers marinade. They grilled a few Serrano peppers, wrapped them in an aluminum foil (so that the charred skin can be easily removed), and then mixed the peppers with chopped garlic, lots of fresh dill, extra virgin olive oil, and white wine vinegar. An overnight marinating process brought out and blended all flavors very well.

Since I wanted to use up the herbs that I had, I came up with a slightly different version of the dip. My mix contained: fresh thyme, fresh mint, chopped garlic, grilled (or roasted) cayenne peppers, extra virgin olive oil, apple vinegar, salt, and black pepper. So fragrant and inviting. The cayenne peppers really gave a nice punch! Great with warm baguette or pita bread.

(Note: Fresh chives, mint, and garlic combination make a fantastic olive oil herb too.)

Hope you like it!

Parsley and Feta Cheese Pastry


My Turkish neighbor had made this pastry a while back. Both Jeff and I thought they tasted fantastic. But it wasn’t until I read a novel (that was also) filled with dreamy descriptions of Turkish cuisine did I get the strong urge to try making this amazing baked goods. One sentence from the book did it for me: “The delectable smell of newly baked börek  wafted from the kitchen: white cheese, spinach, butter, and parsley melting into one another amid thin layers of phyllo pastry.” (Shafak, Elif. The Bastard of Istanbul. Viking/Penguin2007. Pg. 126.)

I asked my good friend Farah, who’s also Turkish, about the pastry. She explained that in Turkey, börek could also be stuffed with other delicious things such as meat, potato, vegetables, etc. Yum! So I found an excellent recipe for the pastry. The successful first trial encouraged me to do a repeat. So far I have made this fantastic crispy, salty, and fragrant snack twice this month! Another addition to my favorite-food list and…one excellent way to use up my parsley plant.

Here’s what I came up with:

Parsley and Feta Pastry

A few things that I did differently from the original recipe:

  • I chopped and mixed my parsley leaves and egg in a food processor.
  • I folded the phyllo dough (with the cheese and parsley mixture in it) into a rectangle instead of rolling it.
  • For an extra kick, I brushed the wrapped cheese and parsley with a little bit of herb olive oil (marinade: olive oil, vinegar, thyme, garlic, chili peppers, and chives) before they go to the oven (350 degrees F for 15 minutes).

Thanks for reading!

Original Recipe: Filo Pastry Stuffed with Feta Cheese and Parsley by Kathryn at London Bakes

My flat parsley plant. Hopefully it overwinters and returns to life in the springtime.


Appetizer, Dip, Vegetable Recipes

A recent weekend trip to the dunes by Lake Michigan sent me home with plenty of food inspiration. One night at the cottage we rented, I saw my newly-wed-couple friends mashing avocados into guacamole on the kitchen’s island. They worked together like couple of scientists in a lab, immersed in the task at hand. I, on the other hand, stood nearby, watching, and waiting impatiently, like a little kid, eager to taste that avocado sauce. Ro added some salt to the cut up avocados, mashed them up, and tasted it. Then he added some onion, garlic, and lime juice. Zulma tasted it and she said it needed a bit more of something something. I was so hungry I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. It seemed like the mashing, adding things, and tasting continued on for a while before I could get my arms around the bowl of goodness. The couple’s hard work paid off though. They produced a fantastic guacamole.

After Jeff and I got home from the cottage, I couldn’t wait to try my friends’ guacamole recipe. Actually, I’ve made it twice in the past two weeks. The vibrant flavors of garlic, cilantro, onion, and jalapeno peppers mix so well together with the sweetness of the avocados. I am addicted to this sauce.

Chunky Guacamole

Or make it: Smooth and Creamy Guacamole. Either way is good for me 🙂

Here’s how I made mine:

(Serve 2-3 people)

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 handful of cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 3 garlic (finely chopped)
  • ½ sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers (finely chopped)
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of Cumin
  • Lime juice from 1 lime


  • Peel, cut up, and mash the avocados
  • Mix everything together in a bowl and then drizzle with lime juice
  • Serve with tortilla chips

Special thanks to Roneil and Zulma for the guacamole and the recipe

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Tomatillo Mango Salsa

Appetizer, Seafood Recipes

A good conversation with a friend could lift up the spirit. A good FOOD conversation with a friend could inspire and create a fantastic dish. Spicy grilled shrimp and mint chutney, along with other types of food, came up during the talk. Then for a couple of days, not sure how, my mind played a food puzzle game by itself. It combined these images of grilled shrimp, some type of sauce, and the ingredients I’d like to use together. These pictures seemed so real I felt like I could almost taste them. The next day, I produced my grilled shrimp with tomatillo mango salsa dish 🙂

Here’s how I do it. For the grilled shrimp, we will need:

  • 24 jumbo shrimp (raw, deveined, and shelled)
  • Lemon juice from 1-2 lemon
  • A handful of mint leaves (chopped)
  • A handful of parsley (chopped)
  • A teaspoon of minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 6-8 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for at least 30 minutes)


  • Mix everything together in a zip lock bag and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Thread 3-4 shrimp on each skewer
  • Fire up the grill to medium high and let the shrimp sizzle for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are pink and firm.

For the Tomatillo Mango Salsa:

  • 5-6 tomatillos (remove the husk and wash until the green tomatillos no longer feel sticky)
  • 5 Jalapenos peppers (please adjust the number to your preference)
  • A handful of cilantro leaves (chopped)
  • A tablespoon of minced garlic
  • Salt
  • 1 ripe mango

Steps to prepare the salsa:

  • Heat up a small skillet on the stove over medium heat.
  • Halve the tomatillos and chop the jalapenos
  • Add into the skillets and let them char a little
  • Add a tablespoon of water, cover with a lid, and let them cook for 5 minutes.
  • In a food processor, add the cut up mango, cilantro, garlic, a little salt, and the cooked tomatillos and jalapenos. Pulse until everything is mixed together.
  • Put the salsa in a bowl, let it cool down, cover with a plastic wrap, and place in the fridge before serving. I like the salsa to be served cold. I like it even better when I make it the night before serving. It gives all of the great flavors some time to chill and blend well with each other. There’s a little bit of everything in this salsa. It’s sweet, tangy, with a jalapeno kick, and fragrant with wonderful fresh aroma.
  • To serve, scoop the salsa into a serving plate and place the shrimp on top of it.

These two things could also be served separately. Next time, I’ll put the salsa on top of grilled (white meat) fish or on a nice skirt steak.

Have a great weekend!

Easy Summer Menu: Baked Martabak (Martabak Panggang)

Appetizer, Beef Recipes

Summer is almost here! Time to slow down and enjoy the gorgeous days. As we ease into the warmest season of the year, I plan to stay cool and light in both what I wear and what I cook/eat.  So for food, I am compiling recipes that might go well with my idea of summer menu: simple, light, and delicious. One dish that I thought about immediately was martabak, one of my favorite street food in Indonesia.

Baked Martabak

Recently, inspired by a recipe I found online, I baked martabak instead of following the street vendor’s traditional way: frying (less oil mess, less stress). They came out crispy and delicious.

Here’s my version:

(Make 8-10 martabak)


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pound of sirloin ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 3 bunches of scallions (chopped)
  • 1 egg for eggwash
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper powder
  • Salt


Making the mixture:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium pan (over medium heat)
  • Add garlic and let it sizzle for two minutes.
  • Add curry powder, cayenne pepper powder, and salt. Mix together with the garlic.
  • Add ground beef and mix it with the spices.
  • Dump the juice from the meat and let the beef continue to brown.
  • Taste and add spices if necessary.
  • Add the chopped scallions, mix them up with the beef, and set the pan aside.

Folding the martabak:

  • Pick up 3 fillo dough sheets for each piece of martabak, brush with the rest of vegetable oil, scoop the beef mixture, and add to the middle of the sheets. Repeat.
  • Place the folded martabak on a greased oven tray, brush the top with eggwash, and place into the oven for 20 minutes until they are golden brown.
  • Let them rest for a couple of minutes, cut in the middle, and serve. (I made mine a bit bigger and then I cut them before serving).
  • Serve with Thai peppers (optional).

    Hot out of the oven

More to come later!

Mini Beef and Turkey Meatballs

Appetizer, Beef Recipes

I love these mini meatballs. They are great to serve as appetizers or to enjoy with pasta. Best of all, they are easy to prepare.


  • 1/2 pound of ground sirloin
  • 1/2 pound of ground turkey
  • 2 slices of bread (whatever kind you have to make toast: white, whole wheat, etc)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • Salt
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (blanched)
Here’s how I prepare the meatballs:

In a big bowl, mix ground sirloin, ground turkey, egg, ginger, garlic, black pepper, chili powder, and salt. Dampen the bread with drinking water and mix them well with the other ingredients. With two hands, massage the mixture together until everything gets incorporated. Preheat oven to 350. Using your hands, shape the meatballs and place on a baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Serve with the asparagus and pour a little tomato pasta sauce on top of them.

For tomato sauce recipe, please see:

 Sweet Tomatoes!