Archives for category: Herbs

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A couple of weeks ago I came across this article for hortopita, and being the cooking masochist/enthusiast that I am, decided that would be just the task to tackle this weekend. Or, more like, the idea of making a savory pie filled with greens and herbs in a semolina-olive oil crust sounded like perfection to me. I was not, I repeat not, intimidated by making my own phyllo dough. Without a stand mixer.

There’s a fun video you can watch of Diane Kochilas, the mostly Greece-based food writer and cooking instructor, showing Mark Bittman how one makes hortopita and rolls out the phyllo. Turns out it’s the same technique as for this Turkish walnut pastry I made back in the fall, whereby you use a dowel rather than a rolling pin, gently applying pressure along the dowel as you flatten the dough. (Don’t be intimidated though because a rolling pin works fine as well.)

After my coop shift on Friday—which consisted of 2 1/2 hours of packaging black mission figs, raw whole cashews, and organic dried mango—I stalked the produce aisle looking for the brightest greenest greens (sweet, not bitter, according to Kochilas) and wondering how it would all fit in my bicycle pannier without overflowing downhill onto Vanderbilt Avenue.

Below is the recipe of what I ended up making, adapted from the original. I think it came out rather well for my first try. (I politely devoured my first piece standing up in the kitchen.) You need neither the stand mixer the original recipe calls for (but by all means use it if you have one) nor the exact list of greens and herbs. For instance I had neither pumpkin nor butternut squash so I used shredded carrots. I think this would be a pretty forgiving recipe should you substitute one green for another or can’t quite manage to find the hartwort. Opa!

(As a bonus, this is one of those foods I find perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacking…)

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Hortopita

For the phyllo dough:

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 c semolina flour, finely ground, like Bob’s Red Mill
1 scant tsp salt
1 1/4 c water
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
1 tbsp lemon juice (or you can use red-wine vinegar)
Flour for rolling out the pastry

For the filling:

Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 c)
2 red onions, chopped
3 carrots, shredded
2 bunches Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c fresh dill, chopped
1 c fennel fronds, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1 small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped
Coarse sea salt
1/4 c feta cheese (optional)

To prepare the phyllo dough I followed these instructions except mixed the dough by hand rather than with a mixer, kneading it for about 10 minutes.

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To prepare the filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a bowl.

In the same skillet, heat an additional 2 tbsp olive oil, then wilt the chard and spinach and transfer to the bowl. (You may have to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your skillet.) Add the herbs to the bowl mixture, and salt this mixture generously. Transfer to a large colander and let drain for at least ten minutes, pressing lightly to get out any remaining liquid. Transfer back to the bowl. Add the feta and gently combine, if using.

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Assembling:

Lightly oil a 15-inch round pan or a shallow, rectangular roasting or sheet pan. Roll out the first dough ball (you will have 4) on a lightly-floured surface, so that it is slightly larger than your pan. Transfer to the pan, leaving about 2 inches hanging over the edges. Brush with olive oil. Roll out the second round of dough, transfer on top of the first layer of dough, and brush this with olive oil as well. Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo.

Repeat the process for the third and fourth sheets of phyllo, placing the layers on top and brushing with olive oil. Score the pie into serving pieces without cutting through to the bottom. Transfer to the oven and bake on the center rack for 40 to 50 minutes or until the pie is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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It’s no secret: I am possibly cooking my way through the entirety of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. I’ve blogged about a couple of the recipes here—Lentils with Broiled Eggplant and Preserved Lemons; and from his earlier book Plenty, Hummus & Ful, Caramelized Garlic Tart. This month’s Recipe Lab at the New York Times is even focusing on Jerusalem and soliciting fan favorites. I’ve been meaning to write in.

I was flipping through Jerusalem the other day before shopping at the food co-op. I had almost settled on the Helbeh—a honey-soaked, fenugreek-infused cake—when I remembered the outside temperature (97 F) and how much I have been avoiding the oven. I stumbled next on a recipe for Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad, a gorgeous mélange of crisp vegetables that are all currently in season, accompanied by chickpeas coated in spices then quickly fried in olive oil. Served with greek yogurt it seemed like the only other thing I’d like to eat in this heat other than cold watermelon. (Check out Bittman’s Watermelon All Day Long in this weekend’s Times’ Magazine.)

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You need to get a head start on this the night before by soaking 1/2 cup chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of baking soda. The next day, as the chickpeas are cooking, you can assemble the rest of the salad. I improvised and bought what looked best at both the co-op and the farmer’s market—crunch Kirby cucumbers, local radishes, an assortment of cherry tomatoes from Hepworth Farms, purple scallions, cilantro, and parsley. It’s that time of year in the Northeast when you can’t really go wrong in the produce department if you stick to buying locally.

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I’d love to serve the salad as brunch for friends, along with some good pita and homemade hummus. To the salad you could add a salty cheese like feta; or maybe even watermelon!

Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Salad

1/2 c dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
2 small cucumbers
2 medium or large tomatoes, or a small basket of cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound of radishes
1 red pepper, seeded, with white pith removed
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, peeled
1/2 cup scallions (green or purple), chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar (such as sherry, champagne, or combo white and balsmic)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
Yogurt (optional)
salt and black pepper

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water with a pinch of baking soda. (In this hot weather I put them in the fridge overnight.) When you’re ready to cook them the next day, drain and transfer to a large saucepan. Cover with water (about twice the amount, in volume, as the chickpeas) and bring to a boil, cooking on high for up to an hour. Mine were thoroughly cooked in 30 minutes. Skim off the white foam as needed during cooking. Drain and set aside.

Chop the cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and red pepper into small (roughly 1/2-inch chunks, and place in a bowl. Add the chopped scallions, parsley, and cucumber. Mix together.

To make the dressing, combine 5 tbsp of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, and sugar in a jar and shake well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Mix together the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread out over a plate, then toss the cooked chickpeas in the spice mixture. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan and add the chickpeas, cooking for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Divide the salad onto plates and serve with the warm chickpeas and a dollop of yogurt.

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Yoğurt Çorbası, or yogurt soup, has become one of my new favorite foods. Eaten hot or cold, the soup combines the creaminess of yogurt with chewy cooked wheat and dried mint. I’m guessing there are numerous variations of this recipe in Turkey–perhaps depending on region, or just a family’s particular preference–but whatever you do, you must constantly stir the yogurt as it comes to a boil (to prevent curdling) and, I’m told emphatically, do so in one direction only! I tried doing this task one-handed, while sipping a cold-brewed decaf coffee with the other and was chided by my Turkish cooking instructor: “focus!”

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Turkish Yogurt Soup with Mint

1 c uncooked hulled wheat
5 c cold water, divided in 3 c + 2 c
1 quart plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
1 egg
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 tbsp dried mint
salt, to taste

1. Cook the wheat: combine the wheat and 3 cups of cold water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the wheat is cooked. Let sit covered for an additional 10 minutes then transfer to a baking sheet to cool completely.

2. Place the yogurt in a large bowl; crack the egg into the yogurt and whisk to combine. Add the 2 cups of water and whisk together. Place the cooled wheat in a medium to large saucepan and add the yogurt-egg mixture and 2 c cold water. You’ll be gradually bringing the mixture to a boil and have to stir the mixture continuously in one direction until it boils. It’s very important not to stop stirring and to stir only in one direction so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Ideally you’d bring the mixture to a slow boil and this could take thirty minutes of stirring. Recently I started doing this a little sped up, on slightly higher heat, and it takes about twelve minutes of continuous stirring. Once the mixture is boiled turn the heat to a low simmer and cover.

3. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a small to medium saute pan on a medium flame. Add the onion and saute until it starts to turn golden, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mint and cook for one minute then take off the heat. Stir this into the yogurt mixture, take the yogurt off heat. Season with salt to taste and you’re ready to eat. The soup can be served hot or cold.

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