Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you!

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you! It’s a night shot so please excuse the flash.

Here’s a little tart that’s free-formed, which in my case resulted in a rectangle. You could actually make it rounded, I suppose, if your phyllo happens to come in a different shape than that which we get here. But this rectangle format was a no-brainer using locally purchased phyllo from the freezer, and also seemed to give the tart a proper amount of phyllo-to-filling ratio in each slice. It makes for a pretty presentation and is not too difficult to make, once you get over what I like to call “Fear of Phyllo.”

Perhaps I should digress enough to say that I’ve suffered from “fear of phyllo” in the past, afraid that it would dry out before I could have my way with it, so to speak. But I find it well worth the minimal effort it takes to work with phyllo. Just keep the portion you plan working with unrolled on plastic cling film, wax or butcher paper and under a damp cloth, covering the remaining sheets each time with the damp cloth as you are working on the others, and you should be just fine. I’m sure there will be instructions to that effect on the package.

This recipe makes a fantastically full-flavored tart that is good for lunch all by itself, or for dinner served with a side or a salad such as the Mediterranean one in the last post. I would definitely make this for company and will also be modifying it soon, using smaller pieces of the phyllo pressed into mini muffin tins to make appetizer tarts.

And on another note, and I hope an interesting one for you, this week has been about some new beginnings for me…or rather a return to some creative endeavors from my past. Stay tuned for a little departure post, hopefully by the time of my next one, to share what’s going on. Meanwhile, enjoy this recipe, have a great weekend and here’s a little teaser photo to whet your interest!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*****

Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart
Serves 6

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Two 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of as much liquid as possible
2 eggs, whisked to combine
1/2 cup slivered, blanched and toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 Tablespoon Panko breadcrumbs
Eight 9″ x 14″ unbaked phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen (mine was frozen)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Brush some of the melted butter on a large baking sheet or flat pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, stirring until the onion is softened and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the onion and garlic, and cook a minute or two longer, stirring, until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, feta, cottage cheese, almonds, Panko bread crumbs and the spinach mixture stir until well mixed.

Working on the flat surface of your buttered baking sheet, lay down 1 sheet of the phyllo dough and, using a pastry brush, brush it lightly with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the parmesan cheese over the butter, then top with another sheet of phyllo, repeating the butter, parmesan and phyllo sheets until all eight sheets are stacked on top of each other. Spoon the spinach filling down the center of your phyllo sheet, spreading it evenly and leaving about two inches of the phyllo uncovered all the way around it. Fold up the two long sides of the phyllo to just come up and over the top edge of the filling and brush the edges of the phyllo with some melted butter. Fold the two short ends of the phyllo just up and over the short edges of the filling and the ends of the long sides to make an evenly folded “package” and brush those ends with butter to seal it. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top of the spinach filling, and bake the tart in the oven until the tart is lightly browned on the top and the phyllo is golden brown (see photo below.) Remove from the oven and allow the tart to sit for about 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into six even slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tart2

If there are leftovers, they keep well completely cooled, placed in the fridge and reheated gently in the microwave the next day. The phyllo stays amazingly crisp!

*****

Chickpea, Feta and Basil Salad with a side of Gratitude

An easy little salad for all seasons…packed full of healthy and hearty goodness.

No matter the time of year, I love eating salad, and this particular one is a favorite. Featuring chickpeas, feta, red onion and fresh basil lightly dressed with a flavor-packed vinaigrette, this salad makes a great vegetarian meal by itself, or a tasty accompaniment to another veggie or meat dish. It’s hearty and comforting, and yes…healthy. And it’s so easy to make, what’s not to like about it?

I first tasted this salad years ago at a neighborhood health food restaurant and deli. For many years I’d go in and buy a little carton of this salad for my lunch, all the while thinking that I should just make some myself…but then seemed to never get around to it. Then one day I had a craving for this salad, had all the ingredients on hand and I finally constructed my own version of it which I not only love, but I think it’s even better than the restaurant’s version. I’ll let you be the judge!

But before we move on to the recipe, I need to take a moment to say some heartfelt thank you’s to a few of my fellow blogging friends who have bestowed their most kind words and honors on me lately. I don’t really participate in these awards anymore, but when someone is so kind as to think of me or mention me or my blog, it is such an honor that I feel I must take the time to show my appreciation, and I hope you’ll go and visit these folks and see why I think they are so very special, too.

First up is Chocolate Chip Uru from Go Bake Yourself—a quite brilliant and talented Aussie teenage (17!) baking wunderkind who epitomizes versatility by juggling school, family life, baking and blogging very successfully. She recently gave me the Versatile Blogger award, and if you’d like to see my answers to this award’s challenges you can check that out in a post from last fall right here. Thank you again, Uru, for your support and kind words and for all the truly scrumptious and decadent sweet treats you post! And to my readers…if you like sweets or baking at all…you ain’t seen nuthin’ until you go and check out this amazing gal’s site. You won’t be disappointed, in fact, you’ll be salivating all over your keyboard.

Next I need to thank the very creative Sawsan of Chef in Disguise for awarding me both the Versatile Blogger award and the Very Inspiring Blogger award. I just discovered Sawsan’s blog this past spring, and could only think to myself…where has she been all my blogging life? Talk about inspiring, she’s a most talented chef—disguised or otherwise—and an equally talented photographer who documents the process of making her lovely and delicious dishes in a very approachable and educational way. Hailing from Jordan, the food she makes is not only based on family and traditional middle eastern, Levantine and arabic recipes, but her dishes represent cultures from around the world. I’ve never seen anything on her blog that I wouldn’t want to eat, and that’s the highest praise I can give! Do please go and check her out for yourself.

And lastly, but not the least for sure, is a big thank you to the beautiful Karista from Karista’s Kitchen, who so kindly nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger award. Karista is a professional personal chef and teacher whose every plate of food makes me not only want it, but feel like I can make it, too. In fact I’ve made a few of her recipes and they are always delicious and, well…beautiful! Her colors and flavors are so lively and perfectly balanced, and I can’t tell you how many recipes I have bookmarked to make. She lives on the west coast of the U.S. with her Ranger husband, and shares some of their ranging experiences from time to time as well. She’s also spent some time in my current home territory of Georgia, so she often can relate to some of my own ranging experiences, which is quite fun for me! But don’t just take my word for it, go and see her lovely food and site for yourself.

Applause please, and thanks again to all three of you for your kindness! You can also find these good folks…and me, of course, on Facebook and follow us there!

And now for today’s recipe:

A B C, it’s easy as 1 2 3, it’s simple as Do Re Me…

Chickpea, Feta and Basil Salad
(Makes about 6-8 servings)

2-15 oz. cans of chickpeas, low or no salt, drained and rinsed well
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin slices (chiffonade)
5 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tamari
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, red onion and basil, then gently stir in the feta cheese. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, dijon mustard, tamari, lemon juice, salt and pepper, until well blended and emulsified. Pour the dressing over the chickpea, onion, basil and feta mixture and toss gently to coat all of the ingredients. You can serve immediately or place in the fridge for an hour to allow the flavors to blend. This keeps well for several days in the fridge.

A Mahvelously Mediterranean Salad with Garlic and Cumin Roasted Chickpeas

One of the main reasons that I’ve come to enjoy blogging so much is the incredible range and variety of ideas that get shared and exchanged via comments here, and in reading and commenting on other blogger’s posts as well. Honestly, there are so many terrific sounding recipes out there that I want to try, and I know I will never get to them all. But each and every one informs and inspires me in some way…informs my thought processes in planning meals, in buying and growing food, and inspires my creative efforts in the kitchen. As I rapidly approach my first year of blogging, I realize that this process has become an integral part now of who I am and how I operate.

And here’s a perfect example of this process in action. Continue reading