Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mediterranean Herb White Cheddar Spanakopita with Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Creme










     There are plenty of traditional spanakopita recipes on the internet already.  I like a good traditional Grecian spanakopita and I still remember a great one that I had in Philadelphia about 30 years ago.  Spanakopita is usually made with phyllo pastry dough, feta cheese and spinach.  The pastry is kind of made like a turnover and it can be a triangle or rectangular shape.
     Toady's recipe features a spanakopita that is made with a nice white cheddar cheese that is flavored with mediterranean herbs.  Flavored cheese has always been popular, but often the cheese quality was not that great.  Bulk mass produced cheese was usually the choice for making flavored cheese.  
     In recent years, flavored cheese has once again become en vogue.  Finer quality cheese is now featured in flavored cheese products.  Small local farms now offer nicely crafted artisan cheeses that are flavored with nice tasting ingredients like herbs, fruit and fine wine.  Higher quality international cheese makers also offer nice gourmet flavored cheese products.  One of the most popular kinds of cheese  that is selected for adding aromatic flavors is white cheddar.  Mediterranean herbs really taste nice in a good white cheddar.  The flavor is tasty in a spanakopita! 

     Spinach Preparation:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. 
     Add 2 minced cloves of garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Saute till the onions turns clear in color.
     Add 5 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of fenugreek.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir till the spinach wilts.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the wilted spinach on a dish and let it cool to room temperature.
     Drain any excess liquid off of the spinach.      

     Mediterranean Herb White Cheddar Spanakopita:
     Frozen pre-made phyllo dough sheets are a nice convenience.  It can take hours to make phyllo dough from scratch.  Most pastry chefs use a commercial grade dough laminating machine to make fresh phyllo dough.  
     Phyllo dough is paper thin and it becomes dry quickly.  The phyllo dough sheets must be kept covered with a dry towel at all times.  The phyllo sheets are brushed with butter one at a time and it takes several layers to create a crust. 
     Cut 10 sheets of phyllo dough into 11"x11" square shapes.  
     Brush a 12"x12" sheet of parchment paper with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the parchment paper on a large sheet pan.
     Brush one side of each sheet of phyllo dough with melted unsalted butter, one at a time, and stack them evenly on top of each other.
     Place the prepared spinach on  the center of the stack of buttered phyllo dough.
     Spread the spinach out, so there is a 2" border of bare phyllo.
     Sprinkle 1/3 cup of grated mediterranean herb flavored white cheddar cheese over the spinach.
     Fold the phyllo pastry in half to create a large triangle shape.
     Press the open edges flat. 
     Tuck the pressed edges underneath the pastry to create a sealed even triangle shape.
     Place the sheet pan and spanakopita in a 350º oven.
     Bake till the phyllo becomes a crisp golden brown color.
     The sauce can be made while the spanakopita bakes.

     Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Cream:
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to make a roux.
     Cook the roux to a white color.
     Add 1 cup of milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 small pinch of paprika.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a very thin cream sauce consistency.
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce become a thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Mediterranean Herb White Cheddar Spanakopita with Roasted Red Pepper Lemon Creme:
     Spread a thin layer of the roasted red pepper lemon creme sauce on a plate.
     Use a spatula to place the mediterranean herb white cheddar spanakopita on the sauce.
     Garnish with Italian parsley sprigs. 

     This spanakopita takes a little bit of time to assemble, but it is not difficult to make.  As you can see in the pictures above, the phyllo pastry becomes light, airy and flaky.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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