Wednesday, June 10, 2009

spanakopita triangles + then some

spanakopita triangles

Apparently, making marshmallows at home isn’t as “normal” as I would have thought, but then again, I am the last person one should be using a yardstick of kitchen normality, or not as long as I am pickling grapes or making wedding cakes with a mini-oven and a single, eensy counter.

green onionssauteeing spinachsauteed spinachfeta

Of course, it doesn’t mean that my brand of crazy will match yours, however. I mean, someone actually asked if was going to make my own phyllo next. Are they mad? I hate working with phyllo. Who invented this stuff? It’s fragile and fussy and requires a ludicrous amount of manual labor, and then it leaves papery flakes of pastry everywhere, but mostly on this abdomen shelf I’m growing (sorry, kid. One day you’ll be more than just a crumb catcher! Just not today.)

mixed mushroomsmushrooms choppedmushrooms, green onion and garlicstilton

So go ahead, ask me why I was up to my elbows in phyllo all day yesterday, my dress dusted with flour and spattered with butter? And my answer is that I’m blaming pregnesia (again, sorry kid — but it’s true) for the fact that I simply forgot how much I hate working with this flaky madness, and signed myself up to wrap hundreds of triangles of appetizers in it.

buttering the phyllomore butter, more phyllomounding the fillingtriangles, ready to be froze

You see, we’ve decided to act like grownups for once in our life (you know, before someone else makes their appearance and all but assumes that we are) and have a little housewarming party this weekend, which gives me the perfect excuse to dust off my “Cook This” list, subcategory “Cheese”. Yes, I have an entire list of recipes that include cheese that I have yet to make. Obviously, my priorities are completely whack.

phyllo triangles

In this case, Spanakopita Triangles with some Wild Mushroom and Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Triangles throw in for good measure. Because who doesn’t love buttery pastry stuffed with various cheese vehicles? Certainly nobody I want to party with. I’ll hand phyllo this, at least, it sure does bake up pretty. And it freezes great, so I can get a head start on all of the cockamany things I’ve been dreaming up. Like a mocktail and a nap. Did I mention I’m six months pregnant? Make that a long nap.

mushroom blue cheese triangle

One year ago: Breakfast Apricot Crisp
Two years ago: Gâteau de Crêpes

Spanakopita Triangles
Adapted liberally from Gourmet

Makes about 30 pastries

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound fresh spinach (coarse stems removed if ‘grown-up’ spinach; baby spinach can be used in full)
3/4 pound feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt one tablespoon butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, add onions and garlic and saute for a minute, then cook spinach, stirring, until wilted and tender, an additional 4 to 8 minutes (less for baby spinach, more for grown-up spinach). Remove from heat and cool, about 10 minutes. Press mixture in mesh colander (or wring in cheesecloth) to remove as much liquid as possible (I find this more necessary with baby spinach than the heartier stuff, which left almost no excess liquid), then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and stir in feta and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let filling cool and follow instructions for phyllo triangles (below).

Wild Mushroom and Blue Cheese Triangles
Inspired by this galette

Makes about 30 pastries

1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini or shiitakes
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini and shiitakes, brushed clean and chopped small
1/2 pound fresh button mushrooms, brushed clean and chopped small
5 ounces blue cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes until softened. Drain and mince the mushrooms. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and continue to cook, stirring, for one minute more. Increase the heat to high, add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms, and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid they released has completely evaporated, six to eight minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool, then stir in blue cheese, adjust seasoning to taste, and follow directions for phyllo triangles (below).

Caramelized Onion Goat Cheese Triangles
Inspired by this tart

Makes about 30 pastries

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 large yellow onions, chopped small
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature

Heat oill 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté fennel seeds until a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Stir in onions, teaspoon salt, and pepper, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and lightly golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Let onions cool. Stir in mustard and goat cheese and follow instructions for phyllo triangles (below).

Phyllo Triangles
To make 30 pastries

Filling of choice
10 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan, then cool. Cover phyllo stack with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and then a dampened kitchen towel. [I won’t lie, as I got more confident with the phyllo I sorta skipped this part, opting instead to work quickly. Proceed at your own risk, however!]

Take one phyllo sheet from stack and arrange on a work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered) and brush with some butter. Top with another phyllo sheet and brush with more butter. Cut buttered phyllo stack crosswise into 6 (roughly 12- by 2 3/4-inch) strips.

Put a heaping teaspoon of filling near one corner of a strip on end nearest you, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding strip (like a flag), maintaining triangle shape. Put triangle, seam side down, on a large baking sheet and brush top with butter. Make more triangles in same manner, using all of phyllo.

Bake triangles in middle of oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool slightly.

Do ahead: Pastry triangles can be formed, but not baked, three days ahead. Arrange in one layer in heavy-duty sealed plastic bags, then freeze. Bake frozen pastries (do not thaw) in same manner as above.


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