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24

Oct 2017

Elegant Spanakopita

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

My mother used to make flaky little phyllo triangles filled with spinach, scallion and feta for her cocktail parties back in the early 70’s. Although the filling came together quickly, it was a fairly laborious activity to make these treats and mother would devote the better part of a Sunday afternoon chopping defrosted spinach and oiling and folding delicate phyllo leaves. Eventually, Mom would place the stuffed triangles into zip lock bags and freeze them. When special guests were due to arrive, their hostess would pop the frozen appetizers into the oven and then present them on silver platters. I always thought the crispy treats were delightful. But until I visited Kea, Greece, I never tasted a truly authentic Spanakopita.

According to Aglaia Kremezi, Greek cookbook writer, owner and master teacher at Kea Artisanal Cooking School where I recently went for a cooking vacation, young Greek girls often learned from their mothers how to roll out phyllo dough made from scratch and after a few years of practice, the technique was second nature to them.

To prove her point to me and my fellow travelers, Aglaia and her two helpers using long, slender hand-made dowels, deftly rolled out three layers of homemade dough until they were all exceedingly round and thin. Each layer was drizzled and smoothed by hand with Greek olive oil, then gently placed in a shallow copper pan. Crumbs of toasted phyllo were crumbled over the third layer of dough.The crumbs were meant to sop up any water exuded from the greens as they cooked and to keep the bottom of the pie crispy. Next, a mountain of raw, torn, seasoned and massaged mixed greens were tossed with crumbled local cheeses and herbs from Aglaia’s garden and poured into the phyllo lined pan. After a gentle pat down, another thin layer of dough was added and the pie was sealed, scored and placed in the oven for over an hour. When the phyllo crust was golden brown, Aglaia removed the pan from the oven and proudly presented it to us.

No-one wanted to wait for the pie to cool down, and when we were finally allowed a slice, I was amazed at how different this Spanakopita seemed. It smelled so good since it was sprinkled with dill and fennel fronds, parsley and mint. The crust was rustic and crisp and thicker than the ones I had tasted in the past. It was a hearty piece of savory pie and although no one in the cooking class needed comforting, we all felt soothed and so much happier.

Rolling out homemade phyllo dough is not something that most of us have the time to do, especially since very few of us have been practicing the technique since we were twelve. Even folding defrosted phyllo leaves into triangles is more than some people are up to and for those not used to working with fast drying phyllo dough, this is a bit scary. Fortunately, in February, Bon Appetit Magazine came up with a novel recipe for Spanakopita that is  easy, quick and surprisingly elegant. All you need is 9 inch springform pan and a 16 oz box  of Apollo Fillo #7 pastry sheets, a damp cloth, a pastry brush and some melted butter. I did adapt this recipe slightly, stealing the best ideas from both Aglaia and Bon Appetit. During our recent Woodfired Mediterranean Workshop, I demonstrated this recipe. My students were delighted with the finished product and posted pictures of it on their Facebook pages.  I’ll also be sharing the technique on WCSH6’s 207 since the dish is such a show stopper.

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Elegant Spanakopita
Serves 8
An elegant and easy spinach and feta pie
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 16 ounce packages fresh organic spinach, steamed for 3-4 minutes, cooled and drained
  2. 1/4 cup Greek olive oil
  3. 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  4. 1 small onion, chopped
  5. 5 medium scallions, white and pale-green parts only, sliced
  6. 1 garlic clove, minced
  7. coarse sea salt
  8. Aleppo pepper (or ground pink peppercorns)
  9. 1 large egg
  10. 1 large egg yolk
  11. 8 ounces feta, crumbled (I love the Israeli sheep's milk feta from Trader Joe's.)
  12. 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (or half Pecorino and half Parmesan)
  13. 1/3 cup chopped basil
  14. 1/3 cup chopped dill
  15. 1/3 cup chopped mint
  16. 1/3 cup chopped fennel fronds
  17. 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  18. 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  19. 6 14x18 inch sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed, room temp (preferably #7 phyllo dough made by Apollo)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place spinach in the center of a clean towel, gather corners together and twist towel to wring excess liquid out of spinach. (It's good to get as much water out of the spinach as possible. Wet spinach will create soggy pie.) Transfer spinach to a large bowl and break up into small pieces.
  3. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium and cook leek and onion stirring until just beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes. Add scallions and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender, 4-6 minutes more. Season lightly with salt. Scrape into bowl with spinach.
  4. Whisk egg and egg yolk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ground pink peppercorns. Add feta, Parmesan, basil, dill, fennel fronds, mint, parsley and lemon zest and mix until evenly distributed. (I tend to hold back a little on salt seasoning since Feta is salty.)
  5. Lightly brush bottom and sides of springform pan with butter. Remove phyllo from packaging and cover with damp kitchen towel to prevent drying out. Working quickly, brush butter on one side of one phyllo sheet. Transfer phyllo butter side up to prepared pan, covering bottom of pan. Gently press and tuck sides of sheet into bottom edges of pan. Fold and ripple phyllo as needed to cover bottom of pan. Repeat with one more phyllo sheet.
  6. Working quickly, brush melted butter on one side of another phyllo sheet. Transfer to pan and slightly off center so long side of dough comes up and over side of pan. (You'll have a lot of overhang. Don't worry.) Rotate pan slightly and repeat with another sheet so overhang covers another section of the pan. Continue with remaining two more sheets rotating pan so there is overhang around entire pan.
  7. Scrape spinach mixture into pan, pressing down gently and smoothing top. Gently fold phyllo overhang over spinach mixture and continue to press until phyllo goes just beneath rim of pan. Don't worry if phyllo breaks or tears.
  8. You want the phyllo to look draped over the top with lots of waves and folds. But I like to leave a circle of the topping uncovered.
  9. Brush melted butter over folded edges. Bake pie until phyllo is golden brown and slightly darker around the edges, 50-60 minutes. Place hot pan on rack and allow to cool for one hour. Unmold and serve.
Notes
  1. You will need a sturdy 9 inch spring form pan, a pastry brush, a damp cloth. Phyllo dough comes in different levels of thickness. This recipe calls for phyllo that is not to thin, not too thick. I use #7 Apollo Fillo.
  2. Make sure that once you open the phyllo dough, you cover it with a damp cloth and are ready to gently paint it with cool melted butter. Spanakopita is best served warm (an hour after it comes out of the oven). You can make it 1 day ahead and chill it. Reheat in 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, Aglaia Kremezi
Adapted from Bon Appetit, Aglaia Kremezi
Jillyanna's Cooking School http://www.jillyannas.com/

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06

Aug 2017

Glazed Maine Blueberry Pie

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

One of my students recently told me he never eats cooked fruit and therefore has no interest in fruit pies. I tried to persuade him that my blueberry pie did not really include cooked berries. The buttery crust is cooked separately and then filled with fresh low bush and high bush blueberries that are covered in a warm purple glaze. Other people in my cooking class devoured the pie, and raved about the concentrated blueberry flavor. Still, I could not convince my funny phobic friend to take even one bite.

Making an all butter crust, particularly in the summer can be challenging. If you are doing this in air conditioning and you work quickly with cool hands, and very cold ingredients, you should be successful. Blueberries go best with an all butter crust. The flavor is also heightened by lemon, which is why there’s some lemon juice in the glaze and lemon rind in the crust.

When you can find them and they are really ripe and fresh, wild  blueberries are intense and sweet and  preferable to big, blander cultivated  berries. I once went blueberry picking in the hot sun and I can testify that bending down and raking wild blueberries is backbreaking work. No wonder people prefer to stand straight up and pluck high bush berries. I recently found both at the farmer’s market and the wild ones had been in the refrigerator truck for quite a while and were starting to wrinkle up. So I say, get the best berries available.

Do plan to blind bake the crust and let it cool. Then pour the glazed blueberries into the golden buttery piecrust and refrigerate the pie overnight so that the berries have time to set up. Take the pie out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve it.

If you want to learn how to make a delicious pie crust, join us for our upcoming Thanksgiving Sweet & Savory pies class.

WATCH JILLYANNA’S APPEARANCE ON WCSH6 BELOW OR CLICK HERE
WATCH JILLYANNA’S APPEARANCE ON WCSH6 BELOW OR CLICK HERE

Glazed Maine Blueberry Pie
Serves 6
This buttery pie is bursting with fresh Maine high bush and low bush blueberries.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pint Maine freshly washed high bush blueberries
  2. 1 1/2 pints freshly washed Maine low bush blueberries
  3. 3/4 cup water
  4. 3/4 cup sugar
  5. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  7. 1 tablespoon butter
  8. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  9. 2 tablespoons of water
  10. 1 9-inch prebaked all butter crust (preferably in a glass pie plate or pie tin)
Instructions
  1. Bring sugar, salt, one cup low bush blueberries and 3/4 cup water to boil, then let simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water and pour slurry into simmering berry mixture. Stir constantly till mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove glaze from heat and add lemon juice and butter. Continue stirring until butter is completely incorporated. Set aside.
  4. Fill one bowl with high bush blueberries and another bowl with low bush blueberries. Put a strainer over both bowls.
  5. Pour half of hot glaze over strainer in bowl of high bush blueberries.
  6. Pour the other half of hot glaze over strainer in bowl of low bush blueberries.
  7. Gently mix the blueberries in both bowls so that all berries are glazed.
  8. Fill crust first with glazed high bush berries and then top with glazed low bush berries.
  9. Allow to set in refrigerator, preferably overnight. Serve with whipped cream.
Notes
  1. I like a combination of high bush and low bush blueberries for this pie since both berries offer different flavor profiles. I do like to place them in a particular order: big high bush blueberries go into the pie first. Then I top that layer with the wild low bush berries since they are so pretty and fill up all the crevices. Make sure you allow the pie to sit in the refrigerator. Ideally, this pie should be made the night before you plan to eat it.
Jillyanna's Cooking School http://www.jillyannas.com/

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11

Jun 2017

There’s fire and then there’s smoke!

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

Most people know that I love fire. I am so happy to watch the flames dance in my handsome wood-fired oven and I adore the sounds of snap, crackle and pop. Eventually, the brilliant drama subsides and the floor of my wood-fired oven registers 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The interior is white, the coals are glowing and a flame from the dry hardwood logs licks the ceiling of the oven. This is when the heat saturated bricks are ready to receive our beautiful Neapolitan doughs. Because I am so passionate about fire and pizza, people sometimes don’t realize that I also have a great fascination with smoke. Slow burning fruitwood, especially cherry or applewood produce a sweet smell that enhances most slow cooked meats and vegetables.  Last year, Val and I decided to follow the call of many great barbecue enthusiasts and go to Barbecue University at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs to study with live fire master cook and author Steven Raichlen.

For three fantastically hot and smokey June days we barbecued whole pigs, pork loins, bacon, prime ribs, short ribs, brisket, whole chickens, chicken wings, chicken thighs, lamb bellies, salmon and eggs. We grilled lobsters, lettuce, peppers, pound cake and potatoes. We cooked almost everything over live fire using the most expensive grills and “set it and forget it” smokers. The only thing we didn’t smoke was meatloaf…which is why I worked so hard once I got back to Maine to develop this porky meatloaf. It is amazing when slathered with a rich homemade barbecue sauce and allowed to cook slowly in a smokey environment.

Meatloaf, composed of ground meats, and assorted binders and fillers, takes more time to prepare than a huge chunk of meat, but meatloaf can be prepared in advance, it cooks relatively quickly, it’s wonderful reheated and some say it’s best when cold, sliced and slapped between two pieces of toasted bread. The meatloaf recipe I’m demonstrating on 207 is especially luscious because of the fatty burger blend (70% meat, 30% fat, most of which comes from smoked bacon that has been ground into the beef) and because of the chicken stock which adds flavor and moisture.

Southern Maine has a few great butchers who know their craft and who use only the finest, humanely raised meats from Maine farms. I must give a special shout out to the great Jarrod Spangler in Kittery, Maine. Jarrod’s store “Maine Meats” is filled with the most gorgeous cuts of grass-fed pork, beef and chicken. Carnivores will swoon when they see the display counter. Thank you, Jarrod, for turning me on to your bacon burger blend. It’s so smokey and delicious that there is no need to add strips of bacon on top of the loaf. If you don’t have access to this type of burger blend, do try to find a blend that is at least 80% meat and 20% fat and then go ahead and layer a few strips of bacon over the top of your meatloaf.

You don’t have to make your own barbecue sauce from scratch, but it is so worth it. Steven Raichlen borrowed this tangy sauce recipe from the Kansas City Barbecue Society. I tweaked it a little, but not much. The sauce is enhanced with dark rum and is perfect with this meatloaf, but of course, you could use it on ribs or brisket or pork shoulder. If it’s not smokey enough for your taste, add more liquid smoke, if it’s not hot enough, toss in a few dashes of tabasco. I like to serve this meatloaf with twice baked potatoes and a rainbow slaw dressed with creamy chipotle dressing.

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Smoked Beef and Bacon Meatloaf with Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Serves 6
Bacon and beef and homemade chicken stock keeps this meatloaf juicy. Cooking it in the smoker makes it even more irresistible.
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Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 onion grated on large holes of box grater
  3. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  4. 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  5. 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  6. 1/8 cup Mike's Hot Honey
  7. 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1-2 tablespoons dark rum
  9. 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  10. 2 teaspoons chili powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  12. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  14. 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  15. 2 cups Ketchup
  16. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  17. 3/4 cup chicken stock
  18. 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  19. 2 large eggs
  20. 2/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
  21. 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  22. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  23. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  24. 2 pound beef burger blend (70% meat 30% bacon)
Instructions
  1. Preheat smoker or oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil over medium in a small skillet. Cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft, and most of liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  3. Meanwhile make barbecue sauce by bringing dark brown sugar, cider vinegar, molasses, hot honey, Worcestershire sauce, dark rum, yellow mustard chili powder, liquid smoke black pepper, granulated garlic, ground allspice, ketchup and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce to blender; add chicken stock and cilantro and blend until smooth. Set remaining barbecue sauce aside.
  5. Add green broth mixture, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper to onion and garlic; mix to combine.
  6. Add beef and mix well with your hands to combine. Transfer meatloaf mixture to 14 x10 oval casserole pan and form into a long log (about 12 x 5), smoothing surface. Spread some of reserved barbecue sauce over top. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 165 degrees, about 75 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Notes
  1. I cook this recipe in my Memphis Grill smoker and use applewood pellets. But if you don't have a smoker, never fear. This dish can be cooked in the home oven at 350 degrees for 75 minutes and it will not be quite as smokey tasting, but it will still be absolutely delicious.
Adapted from Bon Appétit (Jessie Damuck)
Adapted from Bon Appétit (Jessie Damuck)
Jillyanna's Cooking School http://www.jillyannas.com/

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