Monthly Archives: June 2014

In Search for Umami: Salt Cod & Tuna Fish Cakes


I made these savory crispy fish cakes during holidays and served them as tapas on Quebec National Day along with three sauces. Later, on Canada day, I made another batch from frozen leftovers and toted them as fish tacos to the ‘Potluck with Style’ party along with tortillas, assortment of fresh garden veggies, Aioli sauce and lime avocado mayo. They were a huge hit on both occasions and everyone kept asking me for the recipe. Bring a box of these babies to your next potluck party and you can easily come off as a promising young chef from l’Academie, because, I can guarantee, they WILL upstage any food party. 

Salt cod is one the most under appreciated and underused foods in our country.  Despite its magical flavor powers that can bring most of the dishes with this ingredient to a whole new level, and its availability in almost every grocery; a dirty looking piece of something-dried, covered with gray salt is not very visually appealing.  That, plus a very little knowledge of how handle it and/or lack of publicity, keep this valuable commodity in the ‘underdog’ category of foods reserved for the limited consumption by Natives and/or just a few high-end French, Portuguese or Spanish restaurants. Nobody is serving accrass de morue or pasteis de bacalhau in the fast food joints, like they do it in Carribean or in Portugal although, technically, Canada has been one of the major producers of salt cod for the last 500 years. The Old World, however, has been enjoying salt cod for centuries. The famous epicureans like Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne, for example, used to stash the recipes with this precious ingredient in their diaries as their best kept culinary secrets to impress each other.

Dishes with salt cod are in the category of an acquired taste and people usually love or hate them. Here’s the thing: if you like Parmesan, cured meats, anchovies, oysters, soya sauce asparagus, tomatoes, etc. chances are you are going to like these fish cakes big time because of the umami factor apparent in all these foods. The naturally occurring amino acid in salt cod (called umami) is what makes it so tasty and unique. And if you have a hard time with umami, you can always swap the salt cod for canned tuna or salmon and still have very palatable cakes, although with not much umami in them.

A quick, but useful trivia: about a century ago Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered chemical root behind the fifth sensory taste (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter, sour) and called it umami (which translates from Japanese into ‘deliciousness’). The common component producing the flavor of meat, seaweed and tomatoes was glutamate, which gives the sensation of umami. Not surprisingly, Ikeda further patented the manufacture of an arguably infamous Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) food flavor enhancer.

Back to our fish cakes. Once you’ve tripped over the initial shock of actually buying this ‘thing’ (salt cod) and had it rinsed from salt and soaked for 24-48 hours, you are just a few steps away from making this mouth-watering treat. Mashed potatoes, milk, egg, chives, garlic, thyme, cornmeal and frying oil are basically all you need to add to prestidigitate the ‘thing’ into something amazing. It’s completely optional, but this time I added a can of tuna to the mix to make it exactly one pound in fish ingredient without altering the taste. Feel free to make it half & half (salt cod & canned tuna or salmon) and it will still be equally delicious. I also added 1/3 teaspoon of smoked paprika to deepen the flavor depth even further with the touch of heat and smokiness. Finally, I figured that umamiwith umami can only work out for good, so I added 2 tablespoons of fresh Parmesan crumbs to the mix.

Voila, now you can savor the best thing that can ever happen to salt cod. Enjoy them as tapas with variety of sauces like:  classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, even Herb Lentil Avocado Spread.

My latest favorite is to dress them in tacos, laced with one of the above sauces and garnished with a mountain of thinly sliced summer bounty, including: cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc. Just have a bunch of corn (for gluten-free) or whole wheat flour tortillas, warm up wrapped in foil for 15 minutes at 375F and serve immediately with some refreshing drinks. Fish tacos allow the cakes to shine with their intriguing umami taste combined with textures and captivating colors of artfully embedded crunchy veggies and tangy sauce. Simply out of this world!

And if you want something absolutely lean and/or diet-healthy (from Paleo to Gluten-free to Carb, Sugar or Elimination diet) go for the lettuce wrap option and the dish will never trigger any guilt alarms – just pure joy and pleasure.

All good to the last bite, hot or cold!

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SALT COD & CANNED TUNA FISH CAKES
Serves: 8 to 10 people.
Ingredients:
1 lb skinned & boned salt cod (or half & half of 1 lb of salt cod and canned tuna)
1 cup of milk
1 bay leaf
3 big Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup 10% cream for mashing potatoes
4 tbsp butter at room temperature for mashing potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of fresh chives or scallions, minced
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (optional)
1/3 tsp smoked hot paprika (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
oil for frying (sunflower, canola, peanut or grape seed oil)
4 tbsp butter or ghee for frying (optional)
2 cups corn meal for coating
Lemon or lime wedges for serving
Instructions:
Soak the salt cod in cold water to cover in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours changing the water occasionally.
Drain the salt cod and place it in a saucepan, cover with milk, add bay leaf. Add water if necessary to cover the fish. Bring to boil and simmer over the low heat for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes with fork easily. Do not overcook. Transfer the fish to a plate and let cool.
In a separate saucepan bring potatoes to boil and simmer until tender for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, mash them with cream and butter. Let cool.
Using your fingers or a fork flake the cod (check for the occasional bones, although most of the time it’s bones-free).
Combine the cod, drained tuna, mashed potato, garlic, chives, egg, Parmesan, thyme, smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix it with masher or hands.
Use 1 full tablespoon of the mixture to form a ball, press and coat well with corn meal. Set aside while making remaining cakes. Refrigerate fish cakes until chilled for 10-30 minutes*.  
Preheat the skillet to medium high. Add 2 tablespoons of frying oil and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch. Pan-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Check the seasoning. Serve with lemon or lime wedges, classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, Herb Lentil Avocado Spread or other sauce of your choice. You can also serve them in fish tacos wrapped in warmed up corn/whole wheat tortillas, laced with one of the above sauces and dressed with thinly sliced vegetables, such as:cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc.
*Freeze them on the cutting board if making the dish in advance. When frozen, transfer cakes to Ziploc bag or plastic container and keep in a freezer for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before frying. Re-coat in cornmeal if necessary for the crispy crust.

10 Ways to Enjoy Poutine with One Big Campfire Special

Honestly, I wish we had the weather like today back on Tuesday, June 24th, so our Saint Jean Baptiste celebration wouldn’t got screwed. It was nerve-wrecking watching all that rain pouring cats and dogs on those masterfully constructed bonfire-to-be structures that finally never took off – a real bummer… A comforting traditional supper was the only way to save the holiday. Fortunately, in the food-haven city of Montreal there’s always plenty to choose from to celebrate. We opted for a home-made good old Poutine among others, one of the great French Canadian creations that put Canada on the world’s culinary map.  A mountain of freshly cooked French fries smothered in gravy and cheese, which you can top with unlimited number of your own favorites, from Italian sausage, to magret de canard, to umami anchovies to make that simply irresistible caloric bomb and save the day…
Poutine is a true culinary oxymoron: a greasy, salty, heavenly-tasting convict of the premeditated gluttony, it is a real fast food junk on one side – but a valuable haute cuisine material on the other. Take the glorious creations of Poutine Foie Gras by Chef Martin Picard or Lobster Poutine by Chef Chuck Hughes, for example: each made an instant hit at their restaurants, respectively, long time ago each doesn’t seem to slide off the menu any time soon.  Since the time of its inception in the 50s, Poutine has been a subject of a lot of grotesque stories and anecdotes that don’t seem to end, but all that jazz only reinforces its popularity.
Everybody likes crispy fries and squeaky curd cheese. Almost everybody likes gravy. Combined together in Poutine, they make a one huge memorable feast you won’t forget soon.  My recently discovered trick was to use other kind of cheese in the absence of the curd cheese that is not always available. Guess what, apart from the missing squeakiness the dish works quite well with simple Mozzarella or Cheddar, or even Feta, and, especially well, with savory cheeses like Gouda or Gruyere. Of course if you are by-the-book rigid with recipes chef, I suggest you stick to the curd cheese and disregard this post completely.
Another affordable adjustment is using the store-bought Poutine gravy, or make it from the store-bought organic beef stock (in the absence of one) by adding some flour (or corn meal in gluten free cases), Worcester sauce, butter.
 For the camping purposes, feel free to use the non-perishable cubed or powdered beef stock.
 As you can see from the images, making fries at home and turning them into Poutine is a no brainer. One big killer app for successful and faster cooked pan-fried or roasted potatoes I’ve been using for years: boiling potatoes in the water for exactly 4 minutes uncovered (for the rustic chunks), 3 minutes for French cuts, 2 minutes for shoestrings; draining them and shaking carefully with canola or sunflower oil before pan-frying or roasting. Always delivers the best results! Another good tip: always use baking potatoes, such as Idaho or Yukon for fries or roasted potatoes; they are the highest in starch and therefore deliver the best results for the crispy on top, light and fluffy inside fries.
OK, this little fresh oregano leaf might be the only healthy thing on the plate, but Poutine takes no prisoners: there won’t be a drop left within a few minutes. And here is a fun fact: no matter how full of salt and fat Poutine is, Monsieur Putin is still much more dangerous.
There are many ways to enjoy Poutine at home or elsewhere in Montreal or Quebec in general.
Image via Wikimedia
 Here are my 10 WAYS TO ENJOY POUTINE in Montreal, or Quebec in general.
1. Go to one of the Poutine specialized placesserving the authentic Poutine, like La Banquise, Poutineville, Smoke’s Poutinerie in Montreal or Chez Ashton in Quebec City.
2. Upscale yourself to one of those haute Poutine places like Au Pied de Cochon or Garde Manger.

3. Go North for the world’s best poutine experience at  the hidden gem, little bistro Chez Perron in the Saint-Prime town in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, where they top their poutine with the mountain of their own produced squeaky cheese and lace it with variety of savory gravies at Fromagerie Perron poutine buffet.

4. If in a hurry and/or on a strict budget, try no frills places like La Belle Province, Valentine or similar local fast-food corners for a soggy to my taste, but an acceptable alternative.When desperate, pressed with time or transport constraints, try the convenience store (depanneur), McDonald or Burger King variety for an ersatz of Poutine.
5. Buy some ready-made French fries, curd cheese and gravy and assemble the dish yourself at home for a quick TV dinner. 
6. DIY your own Poutine at home from scratch(see the above paragraphs).
7. In winter or fall (and for weird people like me), enjoy the Poutine served in the movie theater in the comfort of the darkness, big screen and loud noises. Don’t take me wrong though, I would never have it offered in a blind restaurant for the fear of any organic extra added to the dish (roaches, rodents, spit, etc.) no matter how attractive the idea of enhancing your senses in the dark is.
8. My summertime favorite: hit the road and explore the casse-croûtes spots in Quebec countryside, the real place of Poutine origin. 
Go North, South or East of Montreal during summer and stop here and there at the tiny casse-croûtes along the road while enjoying the breathtaking landscapes, farms, and nature. For me it’s like time traveling to a long forgotten past and going to the places that were just called a ‘Bar’ or a ‘Restaurant’, like these ones, so locals or hungry travelers can navigate themselves in with ease.
French workers having casse-croûte lunch via Wikimedia

In case you don’t know what the casse-croûtes is, the word itself in French literally means breaking the crust or (in some dictionaries) a crust-cracker tool used to crush the crust of bread for (here goes an interesting trivia) the old people who would have lost their teeth. Eventually, around the end of the 18th century, the casse-croûte began to signify a quick lunch the workers or travelers had and generally started to represent a simple meal or a sandwich. In Quebec, this French term got used to signify the fast food places around 50-s and coincided with the Poutine creation.

9. Enjoy the Poutine take out from one of the above places in the great outdoors, like on a picnic in the park, fishing or biking trip. 
10. Finally, my all-time favorite – the CAMPSITE POUTINE! What a wonderful experience – nobody can pass on it. After a long day of hiking in a murky deep forest, there is nothing better than sitting around the fire telling stories and making Poutine with friends.
Once you heat those charcoals and put the frying pan on with a bunch of sizzling potatoes, the whole process becomes a life of a party. The wood coal fire infuses the fries with that one of a kind smokiness you can especially appreciate in the fresh and cool forest air. Use the store-bought frozen fries or the above described technique for making fries from scratch.  
Nothing is left in the bowls no matter how hard you try to leave some – the ooey-gooey camping Poutine will conquer your heart fast and easy. For some reason it never gives me the heartburn either, even the one made with store-bought fries and canned gravy (non-perishables are always better for the camping trips). And did I mention to you that it’s gluten free? Awesome…
Wow, that’s a longest post I’ve written so far – thank you for your patience and I hope you will find some of the above useful and practical.
Lots of sunshine and happy long week-end celebration, cooking, hiking, fishing and paddling to all the lucky campers and others!
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One year ago: La Vie En Rose Moment;
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CAMPSITE POUTINE (which you can also make at home)
For 2 people (for more, increase the amount accordingly)
Ingredients:
2 big Idaho or Yukon potatoes cut in rustic chunks, parboiled, or store-bought frozen
½ cup (3.5 oz or 100g) curd (or other cubed) cheese
2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
Pinch of dried rosemary
For Gravy: use the store bought canned Poutine Gravy, or DIY (follows)
1 cup organic beef stock (or re-constituted beef stock from powder for the fast version)
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp flour (or corn meal for gluten free version)
1 tsp Worcester sauce
Instructions:
Parboil the potatoes for 4 minutes uncovered (skip this step if using frozen potatoes). Drain the potatoes, add 2 tablespoons of oil, pinch of dried rosemary and give it a gentle shake to cover the potatoes with oil evenly.
While potatoes are boiling, prepare the gravy by mixing butter and flour (or corn meal) in a hot saucepan and whisking in the stock and Worcester sauce 2 minutes on a low-heat until it thickens.
Keep hot.
Prepare the grill for a high heat or the skillet for the stove high heat.
Prepare the curd or other cheese and set aside.
Heat oil in a large cast iron camping skillet set directly on grate. Add potatoes. Cook turning carefully until browned, for about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet from the grill/stove and distribute the potatoes in two plates. Top with cheese and cover with the hot gravy. Serve immediately with or without your favorite topping.

No Ordinary French Toast Strawberry Rhubarb Bake

If you love French toast in its many varieties like I do, you probably know already that a baked version of a French toast with some fresh fruit in it is a Rolls Royce of the toasts. Crunchy and nutty on top, aromatic, tangy, sweet and runny inside, relatively benign in sugar: a real old school culinary gem revisited. And, it’s actually a snap to construct. The most difficult part is to allow the flavours to macerate overnight in the fridge.

Next morning you can cough it up within 45 minutes of baking. And don’t limit yourself to just fresh strawberries and rhubarb. This baked toast will be as delicious with the combinations of blueberries, blackberries and lemon; quince, pear and passion fruit; apples and cranberries, etc. We made it last week-end for the Father’s day.
It’s not unusual for me to be lost in the dish choices when preparing for the event and this time was no different. How I came up with this idea was a bit weird but worked out for good. I wanted to make something special, a one of a kind dish (preferably for breakfast). Driven by a nostalgic desire for simplicity, I tried to reach my inner Escoffier for a quick advice.
The great chef must have been on a sick leave though ‘cause the only answer was: ‘Make a Layer Cake’. That was obviously clueless: ‘Layer Cake? Really? In the middle of summer? For the Father’s Day? Are you kidding me?’ Pause. ‘OK, then bring him to a diner dive’, clearly, Chef Fieri just took the mind shift. ‘Are you serious? Not even a Melba Peach or something for breakfast?’ Then either legendary Monsieur Auguste or the years of legal reasoning kicked in: Melba – Toast – French Toast- Specialty French Toast – Specialty French Toast for a French (Canadian) Father…and Oh, he loves bread…now we are talking… My inner dialogue was interrupted by the patriarch himself: ‘Hey, did you see how much rhubrarb we got this year? And I think it’s ready…’
BINGO, this is gonna be a FRENCH TOAST-RHUBARB-STRAWBERRY-BAKE for breakfast and I can smell it already in my mind. The other day I made crumbs to finish the gluten free rice flour loaf (excellent for topping mixed with nuts, butter and maple syrup or brown sugar) and we always have a baguette or two (feel free to use white gluten free bread if you’re gluten intolerant), eggs and milk in our fridge. Plus locally grown strawberries from a farmers market, and now freshly picked rhubarb – it will be a yummy.
Please note again that this is an overnight dish. But other than that is a real easy-peasy. Rip the one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Chop-chop-chop: strawberries, rhubarb (I always peel the rhubarb stems before chopping them, but apparently it is not a must anymore). Macerate the fruits with sugar and a bit of water – done. 
Next, beat the egg & milk (or substitute) mixture with a bit of sugar, a pinch of ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour half of it over the bread chunks. Spread the macerated fruit mix over. Cover with the egg-milk mix and slide the baking into the fridge overnight covered with film to let the flavours marry.
Note: Although totally optional, if you happen to have some Grand Marnier or brandy in your bar, add a splash to the egg-milk mixture for that special French touch of it.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F, spread the nuts-butter- crumble topping to cover the toast dish and pop into the oven for 45-55 minutes (3 last images in the collage). When the house is filled with the caramelized fruit aroma, the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling – it’s ready. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.
Our French (Canadian) father was smiling mischievously when he stepped into the kitchen next morning … and then the wide grin at the breakfast said it all. The no ordinary French Toast was a huge success.  If you happen to have any leftovers, reheat them in the individual ramekins next morning and they will still taste amazing.

And what do you think happened after this amazing breakfast? Well, may be somewhere around the Beltway fathers go play baseball with their kids all day long, but here in Canada – nah-nah-nah – think more of a ‘Canadian Bacon’ or ‘The Great Outdoors’…

Our father went to fell a tree with a chainsaw. Yep, that’s what he did last week-end. One of the gorgeous fir trees in our backyard has dangerously grown into the foundation of the house threatening that one day (or sooner) it will be either us or the tree residing in the dwelling, so, sadly, we had to let it go. And it was a hell of a job…
The prospect to go fishing next week-end helped to keep the spirits up and the BBQ family dinner with Bourbon Glazed Ribs, roasted new potatoes and chopped salad washed down by copious amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon wrapped the day quite successfully… not without an idea to make the whole next week a Father’s day week.
Cheers to all the great Fathers and I hope some of you will actually try this worthy dish! 
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RHUBARB STRAWBERRY FRENCH TOAST BAKE
Yields: 6-8 portions
Ingredients:
1 baguette or French loaf, day old*
2 cups milk (or mix of yogurt and milk, or 5% or 10% cream, or almond milk depending on your diet)
7 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Splash of brandy or orange liquor (optional)
Pinch of salt
For Macerated Fruit Coulis
2 cups rhubarb, chopped in ½ inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, chopped in ½ inch pieces
½ cup of sugar, or maple syrup
2 tbsp water
For Nutty Topping Crumble
1 cup white fresh crumbs* (baguette, loaf, white gluten free bread or Panko crumbs)
½ cup melted butter or ghee
¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
½ cup slivered almonds or other chopped nuts
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Note* Use gluten free loaf and crumbs if you have gluten intolerance
Instructions:
Please note: this is an overnight dish.
Tear one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking greased dish. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar or maple syrup, add 2 tablespoons of water and put over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mix the eggs, milk (or substitute), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar or maple syrup, salt and liquor (if using) with the whisk until well combined. Pour half of the egg mixture over the bread chunks.  Spread the macerated fruit mixture over the bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top. Cover with film and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the crumbs, butter, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Spread the nuts-butter-crumble topping to cover the toast dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling in the center. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.

Spinach Pie Spanakopita and Fun in the Sun

Oh, summer, how I longed for you! And finally, you came to Eastern Canada with all your colors, welcoming breeze, humming sounds, camping, wilderness and millions of the itsy-bitsy things.

Summer is the season I can live through with no bigger ambition than my next BBQ or a pool party and it’s been like that for years. Which is why, the timing could not have been any better than the last real week-end of sun when we had our first BBQ-pool party. First real hot, long due sunny day, after prolonged raining and pouring. With almost overwhelming number of ideas and inspirations for a nice alfresco getaway – I was almost lost in choices.
The BBQ party is usually all about grilled meat, which we’ve had plenty of: assortment of kebabs, rack of pork, chicken tzatziki drums – they were all good. But when I caught my breath to pause and see which dish was the biggest success, it happened that an oven baked homemade spinach pie, Spanakopita, stole the show. Once again, Chef Redzepi’s prophecy about 2014 being all about the veggies and packing on greens turned out to be true – and, yes, it was a humble freshly baked spinach pie stuffed with hot aromatic puree of greens, herbs and cheese that was a star of our soiree.
 When those are real Greek people giving you kudos about your spinach pie, you better take a note and a good picture, because they do know a thing or two about Spanakopita. After all, this traditional savory pastry dish made of spinach, feta cheese and eggs wrapped in crusty dough, has been a Greek soul food for centuries. I must admit, it does taste great on a hot summer day and not only in the Greek islands. 
Another party winner was a perfectly fluffy marble cake (Gâteau surprise) Diane brought for the dessert – it was simply amazing so light and decadent at the same time. Thank you, Diane, I’ve savored the last sliver of it this morning with coffee – it was a super-delicious party reminder.
Saturday was really the first most beautiful summer day with plenty of sun; clear sky; cool summer wind; roses, daisies, poppies, irises, lupine, peonies – all opening at the same time; the bees buzzing and birds humming. This is our Canadian summer: everything in the nature suddenly rushes to bloom and seed almost screaming to complete the life circle in the short few months before going back into the long months of slumber. 
We did a fair amount of hammocking, swimming and splashing. Our doggy joined the water ball play in urge to bust the damn ball, which she did eventually. (No biggie, Michael, I will get you a new one.)
And of course the food: nothing tastes better than a good food eaten outside in a great company! It was so nice and so deservedly relaxing, it now feels it might have been other people from a great summer outdoors sketch… But it was us and the fun was ours and the Greek savory pie did exist, although for no longer than 20 minutes. This gave me an idea to write this post and share some apps about the successful Spanakopita making. 
Here are my tips for a great homemade Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita:
– A freshly chopped spinach would deliver the best results, but most of the time (I won’t lie) I use freshly frozen (thawed and drained) spinach to save time and effort. As long as you don’t let a pack of frozen spinach sitting in your freezer for months, I see no reason why not to go for this little convenience.
– Savory herbs add an amazing kick to the taste: freshly minced chives/scallions, oregano, dill, parsley slightly cooked in ghee or olive oil with the dash of nutmeg before mixing them with chopped spinach do make wonders to the taste of the pie. Feel free to use any extra of your favorite herbs like fresh thyme, basil or mint just to experiment for the taste you’d like to attain.
– The feta cheese I use most of the time is less salty than a standard feta cheese (I soak it in a milk or water overnight to drain out the excess salt. Sometimes, I use the mix of feta and ricotta or cottage cheese instead.
– Finally, I always use store bought puff pastry dough instead of phyllo dough, which, again, saves a lot of time and cuts on the amount of butter.
Quite often, I also use puff pastry dough making spinach puffs or turnovers with the same spinach filling – a superb companion to a bowl of soup or a cup of tea, not to mention the array of grilled things you can have them with.
And that’s basically it about my Spanakopita pie. I hope you, your guests or family will enjoy it like we did. Cheers to the happy summer times y’all!
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SPINACH PIE SPANAKOPITA IN PUFF PASTRY
Ingredients:
4 tbsp olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
3 tbsp ghee or butter at room temperature for greasing the pan and brushing the top
¼ cup chives or scallions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (optional) or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small pinch nutmeg
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen, thawed and well-pressed/drained spinach or 2 ½ – 3 lbs of fresh spinach, chopped
1 ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I also drain the excess salt in advance by soaking feta in milk or water)
4 eggs, lightly beaten (plus 1 egg for egg wash to brush the top)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (397 g) pack frozen puff pastry dough, thawed in the fridge overnight
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the ghee or butter, or olive oil in the frying pan and add chives or scallions. Cook for 2 minutes until soft and add parsley, dill, oregano and nutmeg. Add spinach, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Add crumbled feta and eggs, mix well.
Brush the bottom of 8 by 8 (for the thicker crust) or 9 by 13 inches (for thinner crust) baking pan with melted ghee or butter. Roll out ¾ of the puff pastry to cover the bottom and sides of the dish. Brush with ghee or butter. Add the spinach filling and spread evenly to be flat. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with the second dough sheet ½-inch thicker than the bottom sheet. Press the edges together with fork or fingers to seal. Brush with the rest of melted ghee or butter. Finish brushing the top with egg wash. Cut a few slits on top with the paring knife for the steam to get out. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit for about 10 minutes before cutting in pieces. Serve warm or at the room temperature.