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Monday, February 18, 2008

Spinach Fatayer

Not with filo dough, with pizza dough. Think calzone, not spanakopita.

Ohh…making these guys made me ache for my grandmother. She lived with us for several years, and the language barrier was such that food was essentially our only means of communication…she cooked, we ate, all was right with the world. She didn’t make fatayer often, mostly only if my cousins were in town and she had my Aunt Sana to help her. They are pretty labor intensive and bang out much quicker when you working with your daughter.

My dad's house had had a massive oak dining room table, so big that it didn’t really fit in the living room. My tata would spend an entire Sunday rolling out homemade pizza dough, cutting enough circles out with the base of a glass cup to cover the entire humongous table, filling them quickly with spinach or lamb and folding them neatly and quickly into adorable pies. The whole house would smell yeasty and warm, and we would eat them hot, several at a time, while we were playing Nintendo. This is when my dads house still had wood paneling and times were simpler.

Of course, mine didn’t turn out as well as my grandmas. I wished I had used entirely white flour, at least for the first time. I used mostly wheat, and the density of dough took away from the pillowy comfort food texture I was craving.

The real bonus is that I had some sumac in my freezer from my trip to Lebanon in 2006…I’m presuming its still good cause it was frozen, but it did remind me that I want to try and acquire some more next time I have a buddy in the Middle East. Sumac, IMHO, gives life to spinach fatayer. Nothing else would substitute.

I got this recipe from an adorable cookbook, which I actually think is one of my most prized possessions. It was my mom’s, from when she was living in Oman. There are little notes next to some of the recipes that indicate whether or not my dad liked the dish or not…touching in that it is probably the only evidence that my mom actually loved my father at one point. It’s a very cute cookbook and the recipes are like, perfect. I don’t think you can buy this puppy on amazon, or at least I’d like to think that you can’t.

Spinach Fatayer
Apparently, fatayer make great gifts. I was able to pass some along to a friend who is recovering from surgery and a friend who has intensive nutritional needs and may be struggling to keep them met. That, and they go nicely in my freezer, ready for a day when I wake up too late to make my lunch and I don't want to drop six bucks at the friggin' Green Village deli across the street from my work.

2 pounds fresh spinach
1 finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, browned
2 tbsp Sumac, where available

Basic Savory Pie Dough (Aajeen)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups lukewarm water or milk
1/4 cup olive oil

(makes 25 four inch or 40 three inch pies)

Combine flour and salt in large bowl. In another bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir yeast mixture into remaining water, or milk and add to flour mixture. Mix well with wooden spoon and turn onto floured board. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, until dough is very elastic and smooth. Place in greased bowl and cover with dry towel. Set dough in warm spot until it has doubled. Punch down and form into a ball. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into 25 or 40 pieces. Coat hands with oil and form each piece into a ball. Cover dough with dry towel and let rise 30 minutes. Roll balls into circles 1/4 inch thick for fatayer or fill and form into meat or spinach pies.

Divide pie dough into 12-15 balls and roll into 4 inch circles about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

Wash, Drain and chop fresh spinach drain and chop. Lightly squeeze out moisture and place in large bowl. Add onion, salt and pepper to spinach. Mix well and let stand a few minutes. Stir in lemon juice and oil. Add browned pine nuts if desired. It should taste like a good salad.

Place a small amount of spinach mixture in center of each round of dough. Form a triangular pie by drawing two sides of dough to the center and pinching shut a seam from center to the corner. Then draw up the remaining flap of dough and pinch shut the remaining seams, leaving a small opening to vent the pie in the center. Or make vertical pleats of dough around the filling to form a round open tart. (The former method is more traditional). Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 375 to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes , until brown on top and bottom. Serve warm or cool with lemon wedges.

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