When narrowing down 80 countries from around the world, Malta may seem like an odd choice. Most people probably haven’t heard of Malta, and if they have there’s a good chance they think it is an Italian island like Sicily. I have had Malta on my brain for almost a decade now, thanks entirely to my dear friend Liz. Liz’s parents are both from Malta and they own a home there where Liz and her siblings spent summers parading up and down the island, causing a big raucous I’m sure. She is extremely proud of her heritage and won’t let you forget it. So when I told her we were finally cooking food from Malta I received an overwhelming amount of texts that went something like this:
I decided to take on the famous Pastizzi – which is a very difficult word to say! Pastizzi is essentially a mini pastry twisted into a football shape with fillings like ricotta, mashed peas, or ham. Many of the recipes included directions on making your own dough. Sorry Liz- I cheated. I used phyllo dough, although puff pastry would have probably been even better. I laid out layers of dough and brushed on melted butter to act as a binder in between each layer. Then I mixed together ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper and scooped a small amount onto each circle, twisting the edges into a football shape. You want to make sure all the edges are sealed so the filled doesn’t spill out while baking.
The Pastizzi was fabulous. I could just imagine walking down the streets of Malta, stopping into a small pastry shop, ordering a couple of pastizzis in a paper bag and continuing on my way. The ricotta would spill out upon each bite and it would be the perfect doughy, crunchy, and cheesy snack.
As an additional appetizer, we made broad (or fava) bean dip. This dish was one of the easiest things we’ve ever made AND one of the tastiest. We used canned beans, pureed them with garlic and olive oil, and Voila! you have a healthy, vegetarian dip. Seriously I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved, and was surprised by this dip. And it was so simple.
We added some Mediterranean olive oil to the bean dip and sprinkled paprika on top. That beautiful country bread is from our new favorite bakery The Mill.
As another appetizer, you know, because we didn’t have enough food on the menu, we added a Maltese type pizza. The pizza is called Ftira and it’s pretty genius. The dough is very similar to regular pizza dough, but as you roll it out you create a hole in the middle. The whole allows for a center point for rolling and as an added bonus- double crust! I have a sneaky suspicion that pizza was invented here- this is how pizza is supposed to be made! To continue with the Mediterranean theme, Ashley and Sergio added sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and sausage as the toppers.
Ashley decided we must, for once, include a salad. And a salad she made! This thing alone extended our lives by an entire year. Lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, feta, all in a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing. Sometimes nothing tastes better than some fresh vegetables.
For the main course we had RABIT! I was so freaking excited. I don’t think I’ve ever had rabbit before. I asked Sergio to text me a photo of the rabbit pre-stew. If you’re sensitive to raw meat I suggest you look away. If you’re like me and you’re uber- curious about what a whole dead rabbit looks like… ENJOY!
That beautiful little create turned into this mind-blowing delicious stew. I can’t even describe how good this dish was. To date it has been my favorite stew. Kind of like lamb, the rabbit is such a distinct flavor that it turns the stew into something of its own. From now on I will never pass up a chance to enjoy some rabbit.
For dessert we had what I like to call “Drunken Pear”. The pears were baked and covered in a crust of almonds and amaretto. After a night full of carbs and meat, the simple dessert, highlighting the sweet fruit flavor was a much needed ending. And then we added vanilla ice cream. We just needed a bit more fat to round it out- I’m sure you understand.
I also never had amaretto before tonight and I am a converter. You know the commercials that say “Disaronno on the rocks” wink, smile, wink? I GET IT. Disaronno and therefore amaretto is delicious. It’s nutty and sweet, but with just enough harsh alcohol flavor to make it the perfect nightcap. I never fell for the commercials, but if you need a new reason to try it- let this blog post be it!