Archives for category: Mint


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…)



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.



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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Let’s face it. It’s hot here in New York City. Especially if you’re biking around Brooklyn with a helmet and backpack mid-afternoon, like I’ve been doing this weekend. It’s that glorious New York summer brew of humidity and high temperatures and smog and concrete. The only relief is a cold movie theater, a public pool (McCarren Park anyone?), the Rockaways, your shower.

But don’t get me wrong. I love it. I wait all year for these two months of hot sleepless nights and it’s a reason I could never live in San Francisco.

And what do I like to indulge in on these hot summer days? Ice cream. The hard kind, the soft kind, the Italian kind, the Taiwenese ice kind, the kind dispensed from pale yellow food trucks. But one thing I actually hadn’t tried before was making my own. I always wanted to but who could bother. Especially when you can get pints of the best this city offers for around $5. Make your own and you spend that much on just the pint of heavy cream needed to make the custard.

Often, homemade versions of any dish are more expensive than buying it. But I guess that’s not the point. Not for me anyway. I like to make things with my hands, I like to pick things from a garden and eat it twenty minutes later in a dish, and I enjoy the magic of creating something I’ve only ever bought before and then poof make it myself.

I was at my local farmer’s market yesterday morning looking for ice cream inspiration. I considered rhubarb, peach, plum, any number of varieties. But on a hot day I really like mint ice cream. Mint chocolate chip. And then I remembered the large patch of mint growing like a weed in my front yard which I’ve hardly made use of yet this season. So I picked up some milk, some cream, eggs, and then picked two packed cups worth of mint from beyond my stoop. And got down to business. (My mint, and bike, below, and celosia flowers I got from the market.)

One of the things I love about this recipe is it uses only fresh mint, not mint extract. You infuse the milk and cream with just-picked mint and before freezing add chopped bits of chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz

1 c (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 c (150 g) sugar
2 c (500 ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 c (80 g) packed fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks
3/4 c chopped dark chocolate pieces

1. In a medium saucepan warm the milk, sugar, 1 c of cream, salt, and mint. Let it get hot and steamy, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour so the mint infuses the liquid.

2. After an hour, remove the mint with a strainer, pushing down on it with a spatula to extract as much flavor from it as possible, then discard the mint.

3. Pour the remaining 1 c of cream into a large bowl and set aside. Set your strainer on top of it.

4. Rewarm the infused milk, and in a separate bowl start whisking together the egg yolks. Slowly pour some of the warm mint mixture into the yolks (about 1/2 c or so), whisking constantly. Then add this egg mixture to the rest of the mint mixture in the saucepan.

5. Then you’re going to cook the custard, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and sticks to the spoon or whisk, about 170 degrees F (77 C). Immediately strain this mixture into the cream, then stir the mixture over an ice bath until it cools down.

6. Refrigerate the mixture for a minimum of two hours, but preferably overnight. Then add the mixture to your ice cream maker – for mine, this meant a half hour in the machine mixing until it got that nice thick ice creamy texture.

7. Transfer the ice cream to the container you will store/freeze it in, add the chocolate chips and stir. Cover and freeze until firm.

Did you hear that winter’s over…Last year’s miracles will soon be forgotten. New creatures whirl in from non-existence, galaxies scattered around their feet. Have you met them? -Rumi

One day this week—I think it was Thursday—I stepped outside of my apartment and noticed that each and every tree on my block had blossomed overnight. I was in Manhattan later that same day and sure enough, the trees there too were exploding with color, especially the pink magnolia blossoms, and white Callery pear flowers. There’s something about spring that takes the edge off of New York. Everything softens: the light, the colors, the clothing, the people. Suddenly there’s pink on the concrete, bare feet in sandals, and rainbow sprinkles dripping down ice cream cones.

Once again I was in the mood for the kind of spring dish that strikes the right balance for March: in like a lion, out like a lamb. Nothing too heavy, but nothing too summery crisp either. Something with color, but also a little bit of warmth. Warm salads tend to do the trick. I was flipping through my cookbooks for inspiration and this here is a riff on another Ottolenghi dish. A combination of chickpeas, sautéed carrots, caraway seeds, chard, mint, and cilantro, served with greek yogurt, olive oil, and pickled shallots.

And because tonight’s the season 5 Mad Men premiere, I leave you with one of my favorite Joan quotes: “But that’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawnmower.”

Chickpea Sauté with greek yogurt and pickled shallots
Serves 4

1 shallot, cut in slivers
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 bunch of Swiss chard (300 g), stems and leaves separated
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 c (250 g) cooked chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: mint and cilantro work well, or chervil, chives, flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and black pepper

6 oz (100 g) greek yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil

You want to do a quick pickle of your shallot: place the shallot slivers in a small jar and cover with the vinegar and water, and add the salt and sugar. (I also threw in some fresh thyme I had lying around.) Let sit at least 30 minutes.

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and add the chard stems, cook for 2 minutes, then add the leaves, cooking everything for an additional 3 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the chard (stems and leaves) in very cold water. Squeeze dry and do a rough chop.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the carrots and caraway seeds and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the chard and chickpeas and continue cooking for an additional 6 minutes. Then add the garlic, herbs, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat, adjust the seasoning.

To serve, combine the greek yogurt and olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper. Pile the vegetables onto serving dishes and spoon the yogurt mixture on top, drizzling with additional olive oil and scattering some pickled shallots on top.

Here are some photos of spring, from my neck of the woods…including: Long Island beach; Occupy Wall Street @ Union Square; @ Jay St.-MetroTech subway station; a friend’s little one, born on my birthday; more beauty on my block.

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