Monday, July 26, 2010

greek diner dinner

I remember once that a friend was visiting from a faraway state and was unfamiliar with the NY-style diner. It's really 24 hours? This huge thing is the menu? You can really get ANY of this stuff at ANY time? What's with all the Greek food? I don't know diners any other way. Everywhere else I've been in the states, a "diner" is not remotely a diner. I think the word "diner" in most of the country suggests simple comfort grub, like burgers and fries and eggs and pancakes. To me, the quintessential diner dinner is spinach pie with a Greek salad.

Spanakopita is probably more commonly known as an hors d'oeuvres at weddings, wrapped as little crispy triangles. Diner style spanakopita is pie-style, a huge square cut from a huge tray. It is certainly easier to make that way, though perhaps not easier to eat. And it's a very simple dish, just a little time-consuming and perhaps a little frustrating, depending on how you feel about phyllo. Phyllo is a pain in the ass, but at least for this dish you're putting on so many layers that no one will care if there's a tear or two. Serve this with a big salad piled with crumbled feta, kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, chopped cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion for the complete diner experience. Recipe after the jump:


2 lbs fresh spinach, washed well and spun dry
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1/4 cup fresh dill
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 lb greek feta
1 egg, beaten
1 lb phyllo leaves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat 2 tbsps olive oil. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Remove the spinach to a large bowl and allow to cool. Add the remaining oil to the same pot and saute the onions until translucent. Set aside to cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid, then chop well. Add the onions, dill, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the feta into the spinach mixture, then add the beaten egg and stir well to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small pan. Using a pastry brush, butter the sides and bottom of a 9/13 baking pan. Place 10 layers of phyllo dough in the bottom of the dish, buttering each layer (you may need to cut down the sheets to the correct size of the dish, but it is not a big deal if it is slightly large and the sides go up the sides of the pan slightly). Be sure to keep the phyllo damp by covering the unused sheets with a damp towel until you use them. After 10 layers of phyllo, spoon the spinach mixture evenly over the pie. Top with another 10 layers of phyllo, again buttering every layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crispy. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing into large squares.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

milk & honey

Okay, it's been awhile. It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that all I want to make is mint chip ice cream. That's not very exciting for all of you readers, but it is very exciting for me.

To give you something to chew on, I decided to take a very brief break from mintiness this week and instead make this Honey Vanilla Goat's Milk Ice Cream. Why goat's milk? Mostly, I was just curious. And the answer is that it really doesn't taste any different from cow's milk, especially when made into an ice cream. Actually this is more like a gelato because it is only milk, no cream. And the choice of honey was simply due to a lovely gift of some wonderful Blueberry Blossom Honey from Red Bee Artisanal Honeys, who came and did a truly fascinating honey tasting with us the other day.

How to describe the result? I know it doesn't look exciting, but it was fairly exciting nonetheless. It was a little less creamy than a full on ice cream, as expected, but the texture was still very lovely. And the flavor of wonderful honey with vanilla bean was, to put it simply, Honeycomb Cereal-esque. Sort of like how you might expect Honeycomb Cereal Ice Cream to taste in the best way you could imagine. I hope that reads as a big positive, because I do love Honeycomb Cereal. Recipe after the jump:


3 cups goat milk
1/2 cup honey
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the milk. Heat until steaming, being careful not to boil or scorch. Add the honey and stir well to dissolve. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add a ladleful of the hot milk to the egg yolks, whisking briskly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Return the egg/milk mixture to the pot of milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl over an ice bath and stir to cool down. Transfer to the fridge and allow to chill thoroughly for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions.

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