Tag Archives: vegetarian

Rustic Spanakopita-style Tart

Sometimes it seems as though some of my favorite recipes are either born out of impatience with an original recipe (I have to do allllll these steps? Really?) or sheer disaster that arises from an ingredient or process that blindsides me with its idiosyncrasies. A good example of this is phyllo– I’ve worked with it before, and knew, just knew that it required a lot of attention, adequate defrosting, the right level of moisture, etc. And yet! And yet, when I was getting ready to put together the Cook’s Illustrated version of a spanakopita pie, complete with authentic phyllo, I ignored everything that I knew. Who can say why this happened, but in the end I was left with a delicious filling…and disintegrating phyllo.

Here, though, is where my genius mother came to the rescue! “Why not just put a pie crust under it?” I tell you, the woman is a superhero. The following recipe is the closest thing to a perfected version of the spanakopita-style tart that resulted from her idea, with a few more tweaks to the original (already pretty perfect) Cook’s Illustrated recipe.


Rustic Spanakopita-style Tart
adapted from Entertaining from Cook’s Illustrated, Spring 2009

Ingredients
8 oz crumbled feta cheese
4 oz grated aged Myzithra cheese [If you can’t find it, sub a bit more feta.]
8-10 oz ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 tbs dried dill [I’ve always used dried, but I think that fresh dill would be nice as well– maybe even better! If using fresh dill, use about 1/3 cup.]
juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and dried [Really, really squeeze all the moisture that you can out of the spinach. You don’t want to end up with a sad, soggy little tart.]

For the crust, I have (shamefully, yes) used store-bought pie crust (I recommend Trader Joe’s all-butter), but I’ve also made and used a double-batch of Orangette’s pie crust (with delicious results). So, really, it’s up to you. All that filling has to have something to sit on!

Method
Mix all ingredients except spinach in a large bowl. Add spinach and stir until uniform.

Roll out the pie crust into a large rectangle (about the size of whatever sheet pan you’re using) and place it on an ungreased sheet pan.

Spread the filling over the crust– you can go pretty close to the edges, as there will be little to no spreading or leakage.

Bake in a 425-degree oven for about 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

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Zucchini fritters

Zucchini has been a recent obsession in our house– it began innocently enough, with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil under the broiler, but then quickly escalated to a zucchini pesto pasta dish and, yes, these fried little cakes. Who am I to resist the making of the cute little patties, the frying, and the cheese? Oh yes, the cheese. Funnily enough, the recipe that I decided to use as the basis for this little experiment comes from a blog called The Skinny Chef…

Zucchini Fritters
adapted from Skinny Chef
makes about 8 fritters

Ingredients
1 pound zucchini, stems removed (about 4 medium)
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp dried dill (optional)
1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper to taste

Method
Combine all of the ingredients except for the zucchini in a large bowl. Whisk to form a batter, removing large lumps, about 1-2 minutes. Grate the zucchini and add it to the bowl. The moisture from the zucchini will produce a thick batter as you stir [you may not believe this at first, but it’s true! Those zucchini are packed with moisture!]. Use the batter immediately [as in, before it becomes unmanageably soggy].

Heat olive or canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4-cup measure, pour out 3-4 cakes. [If you’re not incredibly, madly in love with your measuring cups, I highly recommend these. They’re hefty and truly wonderful for baking.]


Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Drain on paper towel.


These were pretty tasty as is, but here are two changes I might make in the future: first, maybe lessen the amount of Parmesan (this sounds insane, I know, but I think the zucchini flavor might shine a little more with a reduced amount of cheese). Also, I think some breadcrumbs might lend a crunch that was definitely missing, despite the nice browning that happened (also, I could see how someone called The Skinny Chef might shy away from adding any carbs to this dish). Given that the batter really was just that– batter– dredging with eggs, flour, and the lot would be a little challenging, but maybe there’s a way around this. Let me know if you find one!

Pasties! (Get your mind out of the gutter, food pervs)

As part of my Lenten Vegetarian Adventure, I was determined to try out some vegetarian recipes that I’d had bookmarked for quite some time. This one, from The Kitchn, is full of things that I love– yes, there’s a good amount of butter (I’m no Paula Deen, but clearly there is a reason for the current size of my ass), but these little hand pies are stuffed with butternut squash, one of my favorite fall/winter veggies. And for the carnivore in the house? Adjustments were made, and he ended up with the hand-pie version of a chicken pot pie (in short, some finagled bechamel, chicken, thyme, sage, peas, salt and pepper). I imagine that one of the best things about this recipe is that it presents so many variations within a single crust. The buttery, flaky crust is easily brought together in a food processor or with a pastry cutter (or, hell, even a couple of knives), and can house any manner of savory or sweet fillings.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties
Makes 2 large or 4 small pasties
Original recipe posted by The Kitchn, October 16, 2009

Ingredients
Dough
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Filling
8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 medium red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper (or black)
1 egg, beaten

Method
To make dough
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or knife, cut butter into flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, gently tossing between additions, until the dough just holds together. [All of this can be done with a food processor. Follow the same steps for adding ingredients, and pulse to combine and bring to the proper consistency.] Shape dough into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Before rolling out the dough, let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out two circles using a plate or bowl as a guide.

To make pasties
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

Spoon mixture over half of each dough round, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper.

Moisten the edges of the dough with beaten egg. With cool hands, fold the pastry over and crimp the edges. Cut a small slit in the top of each pasty. Brush all over with beaten egg.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Crispy, cheese-stuffed eggplant fritters

We had something similar to this at our wedding, so when I came across this recipe I knew I just had to make it. And really, what’s not to love? It’s a fried ball of eggplant with a chunk of cheese in the middle. DONE. The process is  bit more laborious than I would usually recommend for an appetizer, but these are worth the effort if you’re looking to be slightly more impressive than prosciutto-wrapped melon (always an awesome, low-effort standby). Oh, and don’t fear the frying! It’s much less scary than actual deep-fat cooking.

Crispy Eggplant Fritters with Smoked Mozzarella

Adapted from a recipe in the August 2007 issue of Bon Appetit

Ingredients

2 large eggplants (2 pounds total)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Olive oil (for brushing and frying)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups plain dry breadcrumbs, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 20 cubes) [You can also use Fontina, or another cheese that has a consistency similar to either of these two. See? Endless variety!]

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place on layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Brush 2 large baking sheets with oil.  Pat eggplant dry; arrange in single layer on prepared sheets. Brush lightly with oil. [This can get pretty oily– you can spray them with nonstick cooking spray if you like, or give them a spritz with olive oil rather than brushing. Eggplant is shockingly absorbent, really.] Bake until eggplant is tender and dry, about 1 hour. Cool slightly; chop coarsely.

Whisk 1 egg, grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in chopped eggplant (mixture will be soft). Spread 1 cup breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk 1 egg and flour in another bowl. Press and shape eggplant mixture into 1 1/4 -inch-diameter balls. Press 1 piece smoked mozzarella into center of each ball, making sure eggplant mixture covers cheese. Dip balls, 1 at a time, into egg batter; roll in breadcrumbs to coat. [This is discussed in cooking shows, I know, but try to have a “designated hand” for dipping in dry ingredients– crumbs, in this case– and another for dipping in wet ingredients. Things get pretty clumpy, otherwise.]

Pour enough oil into large skillet to reach depth of 1/4 inch; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add balls to skillet; sauté until browned, turning often, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve with slightly warmed marinara or tomato sauce of your choice.

P.S. Maybe it was recipes like this that contributed to my 6-pound weight gain over Lent, when I foolishly decided to give up meat. I lasted about 33 days, but then noticed I was wobblier than usual. Turns out I was filling the void with cheese and carbs–my favorites!