Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spinach and Matzoh Pie

The beginning of Passover kind of reminds me of the start of school. Every year it sort of creeps up on us, its commencement marked by the requisite shopping trip. The obligatory matzoh pick-up at the supermarket is like going to Staples for school supplies.

Opening the first box is reminiscent of a reunion with a long-lost friend. Its so good to see you again! Has it really been a whole year? But after we excitedly make our first matzoh PB & J and enthusiastically assemble some matzoh pizza, we start to get a bit bored of our square, unleavened friend. Maybe there's a a matzoh brei thrown in there as well to mix it up (although I've never been a huge fan.) Serious Eats does offer a great guide of 3-ingredient matzoh sandwiches kosher for Passover here. But by day 5, its the texture variety from other grains like a toasted bagel or slippery bowl of pasta that I miss the most.

Luckily, our friends in the Mediterranean come to the rescue with this Spinach Matzoh Pie. Yep, its all Greek to me! This recipe swaps the paper-thin phyllo dough found in Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) with soaked matzoh sheets; creating a succulent, layered casserole with a distinct texture to relieve you of the mundaneness of consuming matzoh plain.  And while a lot of classic Jewish savory mains like blintzes and kugels can be calorie-laden thanks to butter and margarine; the healthiness of this recipe is completely up to you: use fat-free milk, low-fat cottage cheese & reduced feta for a low-cal dish; or full-fat dairy if you desire a richer treat.
The two ingredients that really elevate this dish above and beyond your standard spinach & feta combo is the dill and nutmeg. Chopped dill adds an enlivening burst of freshness to each bite, while nutmeg contributes a nutty sweetness that pairs beautifully with the creamy cottage cheese.  The matzoh textures are varied throughout too: while the top layer of matzoh is golden and crisp, the inner layers are incredibly soft, blending seamlessly with the pie's delicious filling. 
I have one strongly-opiniated piece of advice: Do NOT add extra salt to this recipe! Between the cottage cheese and feta, there is plenty of sodium to go around. I wasn't really thinking and reflexively added a dash of salt & pepper to the spinach/onion mixture and cottage cheese blend; and my pie verged on overly salty. Next time I will definitely omit the salt.
Spinach and Matzoh Pie (adopted from Epicurious)
Serves 8

  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/3 cup chopped dill
  • 1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups), divided
  • 6 matzos (about 6 inches square)

  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
    2. Cook onion in oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, put spinach in a sieve and press out as much liquid as possible. (Or cook with the skillet top off so liquid evaporates.) Add spinach to onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup dill and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
    3. Purée cottage cheese in a blender with milk, eggs, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Reserve 2 cups in a bowl and stir remainder into spinach with 1 cup feta.
    4. Stack matzos in a deep dish and pour reserved cottage-cheese mixture over them. Let stand 15 minutes to soften.
    5. Arrange 2 soaked matzos side by side in a generously oiled 13- by 9- by 2-inch (3-quart shallow) baking dish. Pour in half of spinach filling. Cover with 2 more matzos, then pour in remaining filling. Put remaining 2 matzos on top and pour any remaining cottage-cheese mixture over them. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup feta.
    6. Bake, uncovered, until golden and set, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, and serve warm. 

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Dinosaur Dill Crunch Salad with Salt & Vinegar Chickpeas

    In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, the delightful fact that spring is right around the corner, and my return from a seafood & bread binge after a week in Iceland (post to follow!), I'd like to give a little love to all veggies green. My craving for a monster salad featuring all these wonderful ingredients was in full force when I landed back in New York, where I headed to Gingersnap's Organic for their borecole salad. (Yes, my brief hiatus from kale is officially over—phew!)

    I'm so used to cooking my kale in the winter, that I forgot just how lovely a raw marinated kale salad can taste: a lightly tossed dressing wilts the leaves just-so, preserving their signature crunch but adding a vanishing, vinegary air to slightly soften each bite. It tasted so fresh and so right, I immediately set out to make my own marinated kale salad, settling on this Dinosaur Dill Crunch Salad with Salt & Vinegar Chickpeas. 
    Of course, what immediately intrigued me was the salt & vinegar chickpeas.  Angela describes these roasted legumes as tasting just like salt & vinegar chips, "minus the deep frying and unhealthy ingredients." Sold! Although a bit time consuming from start to end (but very little prep time), they are so crispy and delicious I would definitely make these plain to just eat as a snack. The vinegar contrasts beautifully to the earthy tones of the kale.

    But I didn't just stop at kale. Determined to make this the ultimate green salad, I added spinach leaves, cucumbers, and shredded zucchini to my (largest) mixing bowl. You're going to want as many ingredients as you can find to soak up this amazing dill tahini dressing! Light, flavorful and refreshing, the tahini adds a delicate creaminess to the sprightly vinaigrette. It encompasses every fresh flavor in preparation for spring.
    The intricate layers of flavor in this salad make it a robust option for a main meal. Earthy crunchy vegetables, velvety tahini dressing, and the little chickpea crisps—almost like popcorn—promise a taste and texture variety that definitely won't leave you bored, as some salads can do. Also, this salad is so aesthetically beautiful with its mix of green hues, purple onions, and rich brown garbanzos that you can't help but be enthralled. For a little extra protein I added hard-boiled egg to my salad too. I omitted the sesame seeds only because I didn't have any, but I think any crunchy seed, like pumpkin or sunflower, would work nicely too. My other edits to the original recipe are below.
    Dinosaur Dill Crunch Salad with Salt & Vinegar Chickpeas (from Oh She Glows)
    Serves 4


      For the S & V chickpeas
      • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
      • 2 cups white vinegar
      • few pinches of kosher salt
      • extra virgin olive oil, to lightly coat (I used my olive oil spritzer)
      For the dressing: (makes just over 1 cup)
      • 2 garlic cloves (I used just 1)
      • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
      • 1/4 cup tahini
      • 2 tbsp water
      • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      • 1.5 tbsp nutritional yeast
      • 1.5 cups packed dill, stems removed and roughly chopped
      • 1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
      For the salad
      • 2 small bunches Dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato or Tuscan kale) OR 1 large bunch curly kale
      • other greens if desired (collared greens, spinach, shredded zucchini, avocado, etc)
      • 1 English cucumber, chopped small
      • 1/2 red onion, chopped
      • 1 batch of Lemon Dill Tahini dressing (below)
      • few tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted if preferred (can use pepitas or sunflower seeds)
      • 1/2 batch of Salt & Vinegar chickpeas
      • Optional: chopped hard-boiled egg
      1. Salt and vinegar chickpeas: Preheat oven to 425F and line baking sheet. In a pot, bring 2 cups white vinegar to a boil and add pinch of salt. Add in drained and rinsed chickpeas and bring to a boil for 1 minute (no longer). Turn off heat and let the chickpeas sit in the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain the chickpeas, place into pot, and light coat with a tiny bit of oil (optional) and a few sprinkles of kosher salt. Place on pan and roast for 35-40 minutes at 425F, until golden and crispy. Halfway through baking, give the pan a shake to rotate the peas. Keep an eye on them to avoid burning. Leave on pan until ready to eat. They are best served fresh as they get soft when stored.
      2. Dill dressing: In a mini chopper or food processor, mince the garlic. Now add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the dill, and process until smooth. Give the dill a rough chop and add into processor and process until smooth. Should keep in an air-tight container for 5-8 days in the fridge.
      3. Salad: Prep all salad ingredients and add into a large bowl. Massage your desired amount of the dressing into the leaves and let it “marinate” until ready to serve. Add roasted chickpeas on top along with a drizzle of more dressing and sesame seeds.

      Thursday, March 7, 2013

      Breakfast Muesli

      I've thought about writing a post on Breakfast Muesli many times. What holds me back is that I don't have the exact recipe to replicate the Bircher Yogurt Muesli from Melonhead in Coogee, Australia that this concoction is modeled after. I hold their muesli in such high esteem—and with such fond memories— that compromising it's greatness by producing a subpar imitation would be absolutely tragic. So for four years, I've made it, and never wrote about it. It was my own little tribute to my time abroad in Australia.

      But then I realized, you know what? This is REALLY good. And every time I make it, it's always really good. So even if it isn't just like the one from Melonhead (which it's not, because their yogurt is magical), it's definitely worth sharing.

      Muesli is a popular European breakfast meal comprised of rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruit. In Australia, they eat it like Americans eat cereal. While dry muesli is consumed in similar fashion to granola, fresh muesli is more like oatmeal; the oats are soaked in water or fruit-juice and then mixed with a dairy like yogurt or cottage cheese.

      This breakfast muesli encompasses every awesome breakfast meal in one. Fresh fruit & yogurt, oatmeal, and dried fruit & nut granola are all stewed together to create a creamy, delicious breakfast bowl sprinkled with crunchy bites of fruit and nuts. Because it is packed with so much energy—whole grain oats, protein-full yogurt, and filling nuts & fruit make a great start to the day—this amazing bowl of yumminess is also totally refreshing for a mid-afternoon power snack. I have to confess, sometimes when my sweet tooth is acting up, I even make it for dinner!

      As I said before, this recipe is by no means perfect, so feel free to take liberties with ingredient proportions and substitutions. Don’t love almonds? Try pecans or walnuts instead. Not into raisins? Swap for dried apricots or dates. 

      There are a few ways to combine the orange juice and oats. One is to soak the oats in OJ for at least an hour (or overnight). For an added crunch, lightly toast the oats and nuts pre-soak. If you want a smoother muesli, more like a porridge, you can cook the oats in the orange juice: add half a cup of water, and microwave on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Because this recipe is really sweet, feel free to eliminate the honey, dilute the orange juice, or half the dried fruit to cut down on sugar. I hope you enjoy this treat from down under as much as I do!

      Breakfast Muesli
      Makes 2 servings

      ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
      ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
      ½ cup orange juice
      1 red apple, diced (I like gala or Jonagold)
      ¼ cup raisins
      ¼ cup slivered almonds
      2 tablespoons honey
      Generous sprinkling of cinnamon & nutmeg

      1. Prepare oats (soak in orange juice for 1 hour, or cook in microwave per instructions above).
      2. In a large bowl, combine diced apple, raisins, yogurt , honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add oats. Mix thoroughly, and adjust ingredients per taste-test.
      3. Sprinkle mixture with almonds, and enjoy!