August is running fast towards September, the light has changed, the rain has and the weather is far from that heat wave we had just a couple of days ago. It’s been raining today, there was some lightning and thunder and then just a minute later there was this blind rain as we call it in Russia – it just ignores the sun and pours down anyway :)
This mid-August post is dedicated to a couple of Greek vegetarian recipes, so please welcome the first of them, bringing the Mediterranean flavours to your table wherever you are:
A year ago – tasty sourdough mini rolls in Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls
Two years ago – baked potatoes the Greek way and a creamy apple tart starring in Pommes. Pommes de Terre too
It’s a pity there’s no recipe for this first dish available online anymore as the author, Ivy, has removed it from her blog, kopiaste.org. I do respect and support Ivy’s idea of inciting people to purchase her recipe book instead cause they are really nice! I’ve tried quite a number of them and some of them I shared with you on this blog – check these Πατάτες Λεμονάτες (Patates Lemonates or Lemony Potatoes) and Gigantes Plaki sto Fourno (Giant Baked Beans).
Mediterranean Vegetable and (Mint) Pesto Millefeuille adapted from kopiaste.org will make a pie-like dish with an unusual double salty cheese crust and spicy garlic-y ‘pesto’ and vegetable filling. I will not reproduce the recipe here, will just share with you the way I did the recipe:
As with several other Greek recipes made recently (here and here and here) I omitted potatoes and add 0.5 kg aubergines instead which went well with the courgettes. As for the mint pesto which is placed in between the veggie layers I blended fresh coriander + onions + garlic + spring onions + pumpkin seed oil – so no mint but still good! Instead of 2 peeled tomatoes I used tomato sauce which anyway needed using.
The batter which will then become the double crust of this vegetable pie is made of various types of Greek soft white cheese. I had none so I had to ‘borrow’ some white brine cheese from the Greek neighbours (Serbia) which also gave me some whey (to substitute milk). To this I added the usual Adygea cheese, which seem to have become the multi-purpose cheese destined to substitute everything from mozzarella to Feta in Russia!
Remarks: From my experience I would suggest adding salt to the veggies as well, probably rub them with some salt, cause if you do not get the pesto with your bite, the veggies seem a bit bland.
Result: Something different, I should say! I mean, this cheese crust which has just a couple of tablespoons of flour in it is quite a find! The pie will eventually fall apart when you try to cut it in smaller pieces but with every bite you’ll get cheese, veggies and garlicky pesto. No juices from veggies hanging around at the bottom of the dish thanks to sautéing.
You can see the layers of the ‘pie’ clearer in this photo:
And there’s more! Enjoy the Mediterranean / Greek flavours with this enormous spinach pie, so very traditional in the rich Greek cuisine, a true treasure for the vegetarians! Greece was the place I actually tried spinach for the first time – and they do know how to make it ‘play’ with the other ingredients transforming it from a bland greenish plant into the chewy comforting food.
The trick of this pie’s pastry is the added orange juice (and flesh from the orange, if you’re more lucky with fresh oranges than I was), you will certainly feel it when you take the pie out of the oven! The Greeks always eat spinach with some lemon juice, so I guess this addition of a citric acid is somewhat typical. And of course giant dark black olives from the Halkidiki region in Greece (where Thessaloniki is) is a must for this pie!
This pie is huge, really. Very Greek : ) So please invite your friends and make a Greek party! Also check another spinach pie recipe from the same source, Hortopita me Spanaki (Greek Spinach Pie) which I made back in February.
Σπανακόπιτα (Spanakopita) or Greek Spinach Pie with Whole Wheat Pastry adapted and translated from www.toarkoudi.gr will make a large pie with salty green-y filling wrapped in the pastry with tangy orange flavour. See my remarks in italics.
for the pastry:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose glour
- juice and flesh from 3-5 oranges – I used plain orange juice
- 2 Tbs salt
- baking powder
- olive oil – Greek, please!
for the filling:
- ½ kg fresh spinach – I used 400g frozen spinach + added some wheat bran to suck in the juices
- olive oil
- 4-5 fresh onions – I used 2 big onions
- ½ bunch of fresh coriander
- ½ bunch of fresh dill – I used fresh basil + dried lemon balm (aka balm mint or Melissa)
- ½ bunch of fresh parsley
- 2-3 eggs - I used 2
- 2 leeks – I used sorrel
- milk – didn’t find the use in the recipe, probably to brush the crust?
extra, if you want to add some cheese:
- 50 g low-fat Feta – I used Adygea cheese, for the lack of both
- 50 g grated hard myzithra
Mix the whole wheat flour with the all purpose flour, add some salt, a bit of olive oil and the baking powder. Add freshly squeezed orange juice, making sure that you add the flesh too. Knead with one hand, adding either extra flour or water with the other, as needed. You should get elastic homogenous dough. Leave the dough covered for one hour in the fridge.
Sauté onions in a little bit of oil, add the leeks (I opted for the fresh sorrel from our dacha), spinach (I didn’t defrost the spinach), parsley and half of the coriander leaves. Leave the greens to cool and drain them (that was tricky, but I guess I got rid of most of the juices by sautéing already). Transfer to a bowl, add the rest of the coriander, the eggs, dill, nutmeg (Greeks do love adding nutmeg or how about cinnamon to meat, which is very weird for the Russian cuisine), salt and pepper and, optionally (but really great!) the soft white cheese.
Roll half of the dough out and place it on a greased oven-proof dish. Add the filling and cover it with the second half of the dough (also rolled out to match the size of the pan – I used a round pan lined with parchment paper). Bake at 180 C’ for 45 minutes to 1 hour (it took my oven 45 minutes to get the top crust golden brown).
Remarks: Although this recipes also uses sautéing to take away the juices, the pastry gets soggy and less crunchy after keeping the pie in the fridge. At the same time, the spinach filling really gets so infused with its own juices that the pie becomes even more … spinach-y!
Result: An impressive large Greek-size pie with lots of spinach in each portion! Do add some white cheese, I think this pie gets even better with it.
Even more Greek recipes can be found under ‘Greece’ on this page.
P.S. Just tried an Italian recipe using aubergines – will share it with you if I get the chance to take a photo! : )