Why It Works
- Misting the lavash strips with water helps to soften them, which will prevent cracking and allow them to stick together once formed into a bundle.
- Brushing the triangles with oil before and midway through baking lets them crisp up without the hassle of shallow-frying them in a pan.
- The herbed pinto bean filling and vibrant herb sauce makes a delicious vegetarian dish, whether served as an appetizer or as the centerpiece of a meal.
I first encountered a recipe for these bean-filled triangles in the Armenian cookbook Lavash, by Kate Leahy, Ara Zada, and John Lee, and I was immediately intrigued. They're something of a cross between boreks—the Armenian baked phyllo-wrapped crispy turnovers—and samosas, the crunchy, fried South Asian dumplings stuffed with savory fillings.
According to Leahy, Zada, and Lee, they are the creation of their friend Anahit Badalayan, a cook from Goris, Armenia, a city known for speckled beans not unlike our pinto or cranberry beans. While it's common to turn Goris beans into a simple coarse paste very similar to Mexican refried beans, Badalayan’s innovation was to use the bean mash as a filling for turnovers made from strips of lavash, shallow fried in oil until crisp.
I made them, and they were so good that they quickly became a staple in our house. The vegan mashed bean paste is satisfying and filling, and the lavash fries up to yield a shell with a delicate, crunchy texture that's unlike any other turnover wrapper.
Over time, my own recipe evolved to become the version I'm presenting to you here. Aside from a few minor changes, I've stayed more or less true to the recipe from Lavash. I added a zesty dipping sauce made from the same herbs in the bean filling (cilantro and dill in the original recipe, to which I also added parsley), along with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. And I worked out a way to bake the triangles rather than pan-fry them, to make the cooking process simpler and less messy, without sacrificing that crispy fried texture.
Most importantly, I worked out some of the mechanics around buying and using supermarket lavash. While lavash in Armenia is undoubtedly of better quality overall, I found that the lavash I could find at my local supermarkets varied in both size and freshness. None of it was unusable, but I learned some tricks for making the most of supermarket lavash:
- It’s a good idea to buy more than you need, in order to get enough 3-inch by 11-inch strips to yield 16 triangles. Lavash comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some portion of each flatbread will yield strips too short to use in this recipe. Moreover, it's sometimes so fragile that it tears or cracks when removing it from the package. Starting with more than you need ensures you get 16 usable strips. (Most lavash is sold in 1-pound packages; two packages should be more than enough.)
- While the authors of Lavash recommend pre-moistening the lavash strips only if they are extremely fragile, I found this step to be essential with the lavash I had access to. I used a water mister bottle to spray each strip lightly but evenly on both sides, which both made it more pliable to work with and more likely to stick to itself when folded into triangles. (Fortunately, there's little risk of over-hydrating the lavash here, as any excess water evaporates when the triangles bake.)
- Finally, this is a rustic and forgiving sort of turnover. A little tear here and there in the strip or a burst seam in the finished triangle won’t matter in the end—they will still be delicious. (That said, it’s still a good idea to fold them as gently as possible to avoid mishaps.)
- For the Triangles:
- 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons (125ml) vegetable oil, divided
- 1/2 cup (75g) finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste; for table salt use half as much by volume
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (see note)
- 2 (15.5-ounce; 439g) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups/25 ounces cooked, drained beans)
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves and tender stems
- 4 to 5 large sheets homemade or store-bought lavash (at least 1 pound)
- For the Herb Sauce:
- 2 1/3 ounces (about 1 cup; 65g) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 2 1/3 ounces (about 1 cup; 65g) coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
- 3/4 cup (180ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 ounce (about 1/4 cup; 16g) coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves and tender stems
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
For the triangles: In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, salt, and baking soda and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has broken down into a soft paste and is just starting to stick to pot, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, black pepper, and Aleppo pepper and cook until mixture is hot, about 2 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and, using a potato masher or pastry cutter, mash beans to form a coarse paste. Fold in cilantro, parsley, and dill. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Cover and let cool to room temperature.
For the sauce: Place parsley, cilantro, olive oil, dill, lemon juice, garlic, Aleppo pepper, salt, and cumin in the jar of a countertop blender or food processor and process until just smooth, 15 to 30 seconds. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside. (Sauce may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.)
To finish: Place 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on a rimmed baking sheet and, using a brush, spread evenly on bottom of sheet. Cut lavash into sixteen 11-inch-long, 3-inch-wide strips. Keep cut lavash covered or in a plastic bag so strips don’t dry out.
Lay 3 or 4 lavash strips on the countertop side by side, with short ends facing edge of countertop. Using a mister bottle, lightly spray both sides of each strip with water to soften.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, place scant 3 tablespoons (about 40g) filling on the bottom left-hand corner of one strip, about one inch from the bottom edge. Using a spoon, form filling into a rough triangle with its long edge (hypotenuse) facing the bottom right edge of the lavash. Working gently, lift the bottom right corner of the lavash and fold it over the filling and gently press to form a right triangle. Continue folding up and over, like folding a flag, until you reach the end of lavash strip. Using a sharp knife, trim off any overhanging lavash. Place the triangle seam-side down on the prepared sheet and repeat with the remaining three strips.
Repeat with remaining lavash strips and filling, arranging triangles in pairs with long edges facing each other, so that they form four rows of four triangles. Cover tray and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate tray for up to two hours.
Set an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350°F (175°C). When oven is ready, place remaining 1/3 cup oil in a small bowl. Using a brush, thoroughly coat both sides of each triangle with oil and return to tray, seam-side down.
Bake until golden and crisp on one side, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove sheet pan from oven, brush tops of triangles with oil and then drizzle any oil remaining in bowl over them. Flip triangles and continue to bake until they are golden brown and crisp on both sides, 12 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and let triangles cool at least 5 minutes before serving, passing sauce on side.
Rimmed baking sheet, pastry brush, wire rack, water mister bottle
If you want to use dried beans here, use 3 cups cooked and drained pinto beans in place of the canned ones.
It’s a good idea to buy more lavash than you need, just in case some of it is torn or too narrow to yield the necessary 11-inch long strips. Lavash is commonly sold in 1-pound packages; 1 ½ pounds lavash should be more than enough.
Be liberal with water when spraying the lavash strips, particularly if your lavash seems fragile. It can handle a lot of moisture, and any excess will evaporate during baking.
Aleppo chile peppers, which have been cultivated in Syria for centuries, are quite mild in terms of heat, with a hint of raisin-y, sun-dried tomato sweetness. Due to the ongoing civil war, true Aleppo pepper from Syria is no longer available for import, but chiles grown in neighboring Turkey are. You can find Aleppo pepper at Middle Eastern markets, or online. Korean gochugaru or paprika (plus 1/8 teaspoon cayenne to add heat to the latter) can be substituted for Aleppo pepper in this recipe.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The herb sauce can be held in the fridge for up to 48 hours; allow to warm to room temperature before serving.
To make the triangles ahead of time, it is best to bake them off, cool them to room temperature, and then refrigerate them in an airtight container for up to 2 days. (Or freeze for up to 3 weeks.)
To reheat, place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet in a 350˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes (20 to 25 if frozen).