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Monday, April 14, 2014

Getting over my fear of phyllo dough

I missed Potluck with Judy last night, and I can only plead a lovely evening with guests, the late hour and a tad too much wine. I served spanakopita, a longtime challenge for me. I’ve been intimidated by using phyllo dough for years but decided this weekend I was going to have an adventure. Saturday I made the spinach filling, along with a cucumber salad, so that Sunday all I had to do was work with the phyllo—a thought which hung over me like a challenge all day long.

When it drew close to time for my guests to arrive—an hour—I was in a quandary. I didn’t know how much time it would take to layer the phyllo. Didn’t want to do it too early, because I’d heard all those warnings about not letting it dry out. On the other hand I didn’t want them to arrive and find me up to my elbows in transparently thin sheets of dough and a pot of melted butter. I finally went ahead and fixed it, baked it, and left it in a warm oven. It was done about the time they rang the doorbell.

Working with phyllo was not nearly as complicated as I expected—in fact it went more smoothly than I expected. I layered the pie plate with nine sheets, carefully brushing butter on each one. I have a small paintbrush that I use for a pastry brush, and it worked great. Put the spinach mixture in and then folded the excess dough over. Topped it all with six more sheets of phyllo (they really are thin) and cut off excess. I admit I did not make pretty edges, but they sufficed.

When this masterpiece came out of the oven it was a lovely deep golden brown, puffy and wonderful.

I have no recipe for you because I stole it from a website and I didn’t like the filling that much. Too many spices, and honest, I think frozen chopped spinach might have a better texture, though you’d have to work hard to get it dry enough. So I’m on a hunt for another recipe, and I will try again.

But here’s a recipe that was successful as a side dish:

 Cucumber salad

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin

½ large red onion, sliced thin

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin or chunked

Mix together:

1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt

¼ tsp. Dijon mustard

 1 Tbsp. white vinegar (I always have it on hand for cleaning solutions)

2 Tbsp. milk

½ tsp. sugar

A bit of chopped parley

A bit more chopped dill

Pepper and salt to taste.

Stir dressing into vegetables and refrigerate at least half a day. I made it the night before and it was good. One guest said, “You know, you think cucumber salad—well, okay. But this is really good.”

For an appetizer, my guests brought a dip of avocado, cottage cheese, lime and I can’t remember what, but it was so good. I’ll get the recipe soon.

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