I met Lisa Vihos when David and I visited Lakeland College in Wisconsin last October. We were in a workshop together and I loved her poems. Later we talked about food and cooking and I was thrilled when she agreed to contribute a recipe. Lisa's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Free Verse, Lakefire, Wisconson People and Ideas, Seems, and Big Muddy. She loves to cook for family and friends (see how happy she is in the photo above, with her sister and dad?). Lisa maintains a weekly poetry blog here. And here's what she has to say about this week's recipe for spinach pie:
It helps immensely to properly follow the thawing instructions as written on the box. Take it out of the freezer two hours before you will use it, just like it says. Do not try putting the phyllo in direct sunlight for a 20-minute speed thaw. Plan ahead!
Have all the ingredients mixed and ready before you open the phyllo package. Don’t be leaving your phyllo exposed to the air while you are melting butter or mixing spinach or anything like that. If you must leave your phyllo unattended to go to the bathroom, answer the phone, or help a child tie a shoe, make sure to cover the sheets with a clean, dry dish towel to protect them from the air.
Work quickly and stay calm. A few sheets may stick together. A few sheets may end up in shreds. No matter. If you keep your wits about you and just keep pushing on, you will end up with a spinach pie. I have made a whole pie from shreds and a few well-placed sheets that kept their shape! Remember, butter is your friend and can be used to glue everything together if need be.
In the making of spinach pie, as in life, there are no mistakes! Only reminders to pay closer attention to detail next time. Be quick, but not sloppy. Mend when mending is required. Do not skimp on butter. Stay calm. Be kind and gentle. Do not tear into fragile things. Share. Spinach pie tastes best when eaten with friends. Yasoo!Lisa’s Yaya’s Spinach Pie
1 lb. package frozen phyllo dough
3 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
24 oz.. container small curd cottage cheese (sometimes, I only use ¾ of it and I eat the rest for lunch)
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1.5 sticks of butter, melted (approximately - if anything you will need more)
3 Tbls chopped fresh dill (optional)
Remove phyllo from freezer at least two hours before you will be making your spinach pie and leave it on the kitchen counter to thaw. (Read the instructions on the box. They know what they are talking about! See “A Note About Phyllo” above.) Preheat the oven to 375. Melt 1.5 sticks of butter on low heat and keep it melted but watch so it doesn’t burn.
Put the frozen spinach bricks into a large sauté pan on low heat. You are not really cooking it, just getting it to thaw. Once thawed, drain off every bit of water so that your pie won’t be soggy. Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl, and add crumbled feta, cottage cheese, eggs, and dill (if you wish). Mix thoroughly and set aside.
Brush a shallow cookie pan (something with low sides) with a
layer of butter. Now is the time to
unwrap and unroll your phyllo. Cover it with a dishtowel if you have to
stop for any amount of time. Three
With the bottom layers in, apply one more swath of melted butter. Sprinkle with half the parmesan. Layer in the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with the other half of the parmesan. Then assemble the top layers of phyllo just like the bottom ones, always applying a liberal coating of butter to each sheet of phyllo.
When all the phyllo is laid on, carefully roll up the overhanging edges inward toward the center of the pie and tuck them in and under themselves. You are essentially scrolling up the edges and turning them under to make a nice buttery seal. The phyllo along these edges will be dry and crumbly at this point, like an old book that has been left in the sun for a couple millenia. Don’t panic. Just keep your cool and keep rolling and tucking (see “A Note About Phyllo” above). Plaster down these flaking edges with large dabs of melted butter.
Bake the pie at 375 for 40 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and cook for another 10-15 minutes. It should be a nice sandy brown; browner than cookies, let’s say, but not dark brown. You’ll know. Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Unless you really can’t wait, then go ahead and try it, but you will probably burn your mouth on the filling and that really hurts.
(Photo by Stephan Mazurek)