Sunday, July 12, 2009

Certain Key Qualities

Every once in a while, you may get it into your head that you want to do something with phyllo dough. You'll think of flaky pastry stuffed with savory meat and cheese. You'll think of layers of phyllo and honey and nuts in baklava. You'll think of Greek themed meals with olives and flaming cheese doused in lemon, leading up to a large pan of spanikopita. Your ambition will get ahead of you and you'll buy not one but multiple boxes of phyllo dough, carefully follow the thawing instructions, and roll it out onto the table.

Think very carefully before you get to this point, because it takes cerain key qualities to work well with phyllo. Can you be patient, or do you skip the resting stage and cut right into your meat? Are you persistent, or did you give up making falafel because they disintegrated in the hot oil? Can you be graceful or do you constantly bump your knee against the table leg – the same knee and the same table leg every time you sit down for dinner? Maybe you can be. Maybe your patience is solid as a cheesy spinach filling. Maybe you have endless layers of persistence. Maybe your grace shines like an egg wash.

Or maybe you’re like me.

I can barely persist through this blog entry. I eat appetizers while making dinner. I bump my knee on the table leg – the same knee and the same table leg – every single day. And I struggle with phyllo dough.

But I must have some quality that takes me back to phyllo every now and then. Is it optimism, in believing that this time the process will go more smoothly? No, not even close. You see, no matter the messiness, no matter the trouble, at the end of the day phyllo wrapped packages with their tasty and varied fillings always receive praise and admiration. It's my ego that takes me back to phyllo again and again. Trying to impress by appearing cool and collected while presenting a platter of spinach and feta stuffed phyllo triangles to my guests, I anticipate their oohs and aahs. In reality, they must be thinking how crazy I am to work with phyllo when I could have just as easily impressed them with chips and dip.

Already, the dried out sheets crumbling to pieces and the sticky layers that wouldn't come apart are forgotten because the ego is satisfied. Phyllo, it muses, why that's nothing. But you'll notice, I never make such things when I'm eating alone.


2 pounds washed spinach, wilted
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped scallions
1½ cup finely chopped onion, browned
½ pound crumbled feta
2 T olive oil
1 package phyllo dough
5 beaten eggs
1 T dill weed
1 tsp oregano
1 T garlic
1 T lemon juice
½ cup salted butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Mix all ingredients except for phyllo dough. Grease a 9X12X3 inch baking pan. Layer phyllo dough then mixture, in twelve layers. Cut into squares. Bake at 350° F for 1 hour.

To make this spanikopita into phyllo triangles:
Brush a sheet of phyllo with melted butter and place a second sheet on top of it. Use a sharp knife to cut the sheets lengthwise into thirds. Place a mound of filling at one end of each strip. Fold dough over filling, forming a triangle. Continue folding, like a flag, until you come to the end of each strip. Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes.

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