Tag Archives: Phyllo

Spanakopita Bites


I found some Phyllo tart shells on sale a while back and bought them without knowing just what I was going to make with them.   And then I remembered my friend Debi and the great Stuffed Grape Leaves she showed us how to make.   Well, that day we also made some Baklava and since there was a bunch of Phyllo dough scraps left over, Debi made some Spanakopita tarts.  And they were so good and disappeared so fast.

So, guess what?   I was totally shameless and stole her idea so I made some for the Boat Club Potluck this month.   I’m not using leftover phyllo dough, but I am using the phyllo or fillo if you insist, pre-made tart shells I bought.

It just so happened I also had some Feta Cheese in the fridge, as well as some Parmesan Cheese and the tart shells, and onions, and eggs, and I found a package of frozen spinach buried in the bottom of the freezer as well.   I had all the ingredients.    Don’tcha just love it when it all comes together?

   Nice little bites of goodness, well, I thought they were.   Although Debi did tell me I didn’t put enough onion in them, so next time, I’ll up the onion, or better yet remember to put the minced onion and garlic in them in the first place.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I sautéed the green onions, and totally spaced the minced onion  and the garlic clove,   sitting on the counter all by its lonesome afterwards as well.  sigh.   I was in a hurry to get these made and I forgot stuff.  So here’s the real recipe and do as I tell you, not as I did.  However, the Spanakopita Bites, still tasted good, just not as good as they could have.

30 Mini Fillo Shells, brushed with butter and set aside.

1 8 oz package of Frozen Spinach
4 oz. Feta Cheese, either the block or crumbles
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
4 green onions
1/2 cup onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 350 deg.
Thaw the spinach and put into a colander to drain, then squeeze out the liquid.  Do a rough chop if needed, makes it easier to fill the tart shells if you don’t have to deal with a bunch of stems.
Saute’ the onions til they have softened about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, stir around for about 30 seconds, take off the heat and set aside.
Place the spinach, cheeses, onions and garlic into a bowl, then pour over the lightly beaten eggs and milk, mix together.

Spoon some of the filling into the tart shells, and bake for about 20 minutes or so until they have browned  and the egg has cooked through.

Don’t forget to sample one as you take them out of the oven, you need to make sure they are edible after all.

Serve warm or at room temperature.    You can also make these ahead of time, and just warm them in the oven for a few minutes, they are very forgiving that way.

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Baklava


I’m not real fond of sweet desserts but I am helpless, when it comes to Baklava.  I simply cannot resist it.    If I see it on the menu somewhere, I’ll order it, or torture myself with   ” I shoulda/coulda had that” if I don’t get it.   I love nuts, human and otherwise.

And where I am going with this?  Well, a few months back, when Debi Jordan was kind enough to come out and show us how to make Stuffed Grape Leaves, Robin also brought the makings for Baklava.    I’ve been really remiss in not posting about that, but I didn’t have a recipe, just lots of pictures of how to make it.   And if I had realized just how easy it is to make Baklava, well, let me just say, I would have made it for years now.  And eating it as well.   Which may not be all that great cause I really have trouble not eating it when it is in the house.

Here are the basic ingredients:

Fillo Dough, sugar, butter, walnuts, lemons, honey.   Simple huh?  You put all those things together and you get WOW.
You actually start by melting some butter.  Set that aside for a minute and get the fillo dough out.  Unroll it, then, using a sharp knife cut it in half.   We actually put it on a large baking sheet.

Brush the bottom of the pan with some of the melted butter to start with.

Also, it helps to cover the fillo dough  with a damp towel once you’ve unrolled it.  This stuff dries out and gets brittle fast.  Take out a sheet of fillo dough, place it into the pan you’re using and brush it with some melted butter, repeat until you’ve built up a layer of 8 sheets.   Once it’s melted, layer the fillo dough in an oven safe pan, and brush the layers with melted butter.   Robin was working on three pans here.  But she was up to it. She knew what she was doing.    It was a regular assembly line.
If you notice, the fillo dough extends up the sides of the pan, you need at least a 2 inch deep pan for this.

After you get the first layer of fillo sheets down, and buttered, dump about a cup to a cup and a half of chopped walnuts down on top of the phyllo

Spread it out evenly, then continue with the next few sheets of fillo dough.   you do want about 8 or so sheets of dough down.    Then spread out some more walnuts, layer with more fillo sheets.  And of course each sheet gets brushed with some of that melted butter.   And no, you can’t hear your arteries clogging up, you really don’t use as much butter as you think on the sheets of fillo.

Just had to say it.

Continue on with the next layers of fillo dough, about another 8 or 9 sheets.
You then cut it all the way through to the bottom, (trust me on this, you don’t cut it after you’ve baked it).

If you happen to have a little butter left, just pour it on over the top.

You want to make the honey/sugar syrup to pour over the top while this is baking.  So go ahead and place the pan in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is nice and brown.

In a small pot place 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, a cinnamon stick if you choose, and about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice together and bring to a boil.  Let it cook down for about 10 minutes or so, until it is nice and syrupy.  Add the honey and stir to combine.

After you remove the Baklava from the oven, pour the honey/sugar syrup over the top, and let it rest.    You really can’t eat this right away, it needs to sit and age for a couple of days –  really it does.   I know from experience.   But after a few days, YUM is all I can say.   I had to hide this from myself, and only allow a piece every few days.   And I made that pan last, sigh.

 

Sorry had to keep taking pictures, but doesn’t this look YUMMY?  sigh, now I’m in the mood to make some more Baklava.

Hey Robin, you wanna come over my house and bake again?

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 lb Walnuts – Finely Chopped
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1.5 C. Butter (3 sticks), Melted
  • 1 Package Frozen Phyllo Dough (16 oz) Thawed
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1 C. Water
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 C. Honey (Net weight 12 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla

Mix the walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together, set aside.   Melt the butter, and place in on a warming pan to keep liquid or use a small crock pot.  Works, really.
Take out the thawed phyllo dough   (notice I’m using both spellings here, just saying) and place on a large cookie sheet, cover with a damp towel.   Preheat the oven to about 325 degrees, or maybe just a tad cooler.
Take out the pan size you’re going to be using.   We used three pans here, but a nice big 9×13 pan would work.  Brush the bottom of the pan with some of the melted butter, and then place one sheet of fillo dough inside, brush it with some of the melted butter, and continue with another sheet of fillo dough until you have 8 sheets layered.   (Here is where you make a choice about how many layers you want.  You can do up to four layers of nuts and dough.  I’m going to give directions for three layers. )  Spread out 1/3 of the walnut mixture evenly over the pan.  Spread another sheet of fillo dough over, brush with butter and repeat 7 more times.  You can stagger the sheets of dough here so that they do cover the top evenly, and extend up the sides just a tad.  That helps to keep the filling inside.
Repeat with the last layer of walnuts and dough.  Take a sharp knife and cut this into squares or diamonds at this point.  Cut all the way to the bottom.   You can’t cut it after it has baked, the phyllo dough shatters.   And if you have any butter left, just go ahead and pour it over the top evenly.   Place in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour and bake.
While it is baking, make the sugar syrup.  Place a cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice  into a pan and bring to a boil, let it cook for about 10 minutes or so until syrupy.   Then add the honey and vanilla and stir to combine.
Pull the pan of baklava out of the oven and pour the sugar/honey syrup over.   Set aside while it cools, then cover lightly and put in a safe place for at least 1 day if not 2 or 3 for it to set up before you eat it.  If you can wait that long.

Stuffed Grape Leaves, Syrian Style


I’m so excited, I’m going to learn how to make Stuffed Grape Leaves, giggle.  Now these aren’t Dolmathes, the greek style Dolma, these are Syrian style.   And I’m just lucky enough to have a friend who asked me if I was interested in making some with her.   I couldn’t believe my ears, someone asked me if she could come over and make something with me in the kitchen.  I love it.  And especially since I get to make something I’ve never made before.  I’ve had Dolmathes, and they were good, but these are a little different, a different riff if you will.  (very suitable for me to say this, since it’s a musician who will be showing me some new notes in my kitchen).   Oh and another friend is coming over to make Baklava as well.   How lucky can I get?   Sorry, bursting out with big grins here from excitement.   I’ve had Robin’s Baklava before and I know how additive it can be.   And now I’ll learn how to make it as well.  But that will have to be a separate post.

I wrote the above last week when I was all excited.   Now that the big day has come and gone, well, all I can say is I had so much fun.    Debi Jordan is my musician friend ( Shameless plug for her music here) and I gotta say she rocks it in the kitchen and is welcome any time she wants to come on over and cook with me.   Especially when I can expand my repertoire a little.

Now, you will have to bear with me, cause nothing got measured out, so a lot of it was ‘eyeballed’ and a smidge and a dash and some of this and some of that.  But I can guesstimate pretty well so…   I also did a little shopping and picked up a jar of grape leaves as well as a couple of other things.   We didn’t use the couscous, but I can use that when I make some Tabbouli again.

Debi cutting up onions, she already has the grape leaves spread out

To make the stuffed grape leaves you need grape leaves, and they come in a jar.  Debi prefers Orlando Brand, California style.  I also picked up a jar just in case, but we had more than enough and we didn’t get a count on just many of those little suckers we rolled.   There are a few things you need to know about grape leaves, one is that you must remove them from the jar and gently flatten them onto a plate so they can relax a little and unfurl.   Another thing to know is that there is a right and a wrong side on grape leaves.  You always put the meat or rice on the inside of the leaf, where the main veins are.  The smooth side is always out.   Another tip, you nip off the end of the stems as you don’t want them inside.   All that being said, let’s get on with it.

I ground up some lamb and some beef.   There was about three pounds total.

I love my KitchenAid, it does so much for me.

Put that in a big bowl and Debi added some rice and seasoning.   There is the other thing, she used a spice mixture called Syrian Pepper.

All ready to mix together.

Which is basically a mixture of black peppercorns, allspice, cloves and nutmeg, all ground up together.   Some recipes call for cinnamon as well.   This was a new taste for me, and while I was a little hesitant, I found I liked it.  I’m not all that fond of Nutmeg, but it was complemented very nicely by the other spices.  Recipe for Syrian Pepper at the end of this post by the way.

Debi added about a cup or so of rice into the meat mixture, she did what many good cooks do, she eyeballed it.  Of course she has made this many times before so she knew the right proportions.    I’m guessing she also added almost a tablespoon of Syrian Pepper as well as about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of regular ground pepper.   She mixed that all together and we commenced to rolling.

Open the grape leaves up, with the vein side in, take about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture and form it into a cigar shape.  I found out later, we actually put too much meat in each package, but it’s all good and a learning curve.

 Tuck the base of the leaf up and over the meat, and fold in the sides, just as if you were wrapping a package, you don’t want any loose leaf hanging out.
Roll it up into a cylinder, making sure that the leaf stays tucked in.   You want it tight but not too tight, the rice will expand as it cooks and you don’t want a bunch of burst leaves, it would totally defeat the whole concept of stuffed grape leaves.   Also, you place them in the pot seam side down.   If you don’t they will come undone.    And I need to add something else here.  Some of the grape leaves were stuffed with rice which we’d par cooked with some of the Syrian pepper and Za’atar for a vegetarian version of the Stuffed Grape Leaves, so if you have a vegetarian around, you can safely serve them some grape leaves as well.

Once we got all the meat and rice rolled into nice little rolls, it was time to cook them.   As they were rolled we placed them into a large pot (and I neglected to get a picture of that, but hey, I was busy rolling), and covered them with water with about a cup or so of lemon juice and some garlic cloves. This was left to simmer for about an hour or until the rice was cooked.  Debi said she could tell when they were done by the way they smelled, but I caught her taking a taste test.   We then turned off the pot and let it sit while the rest of the meal was prepared.

While I was busy grinding the meat, Debi was making a Syrian Salad, isn’t it gorgeous looking?   as well as the Lebhan, which is a yoghurt sauce.

In the salad was Spinach, Red Onions, Beets, Cucumbers and Feta Cheese.   She finished it off with some Za’ tar seasoning, roasted pine nuts and olive oil and lemon juice for the dressing.

Also along the way, I did take a few pictures of the Baklava as it was being built, which is another post entirely.

However, some phyllo dough was left over and there was still some feta cheese as well as pine nuts and so Debi made some Spinach Pies.  After Robin lined the muffin tin with some phyllo dough brushed with butter.   These were baked off and wow, now I know how to make a version of Spanakoppita or I’ll just call them Spinach Pies, giggle.  They may not have looked real purty, but they sure tasted good.

Stuffed Grape Leaves, Spinach Pie, Leban Salad and Yoghurt sauce.  A really great meal.

We finished off the meal with some Cherry Tarts that I’d thrown together earlier in the day, as the Baklava needed to age before we could eat that.

And Robin was right about that.  I snuck a piece the next day, but it is now covered and waiting out of temptations way, I hope.   I’ll eat some in a few days.

SYRIAN PEPPER:
3 ounces whole allspice
1 ounce whole black peppercorn
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Directions:
1
Grind the allspice, pepper, and cloves in a food processor, coffee grinder or blender.
2

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and pulse briefly to combine

So there you have part of my cooking adventures, I so love it when someone asks if they can come over to my house and cook, especially when I get introduced to a cuisine I’m not familiar with.    We had some laughs, I learned how to roll a grape leaf and now I have a supply of Za’atar in my cupboard.