THE PERSNICKETY ONE EATS
I had one of each. Our first son, Clem, was a mother’s dream: he ate everything. From the moment our pediatrician gave us the nod, allowing us to feed him petits pots, puréed baby food, we offered him tastes of everything. Propped up on my lap or in his high chair, husband would push a fingertip smeared with fresh goat cheese, chocolate pudding, soufflé both savory and sweet, gravy, dips and sauces and everything and anything we adults happened to be eating at the moment.
As soon as Clem graduated to more complex foods, we handed him lemon wedges, garlic cloves, thin slices of spicy merguez and he happily tasted, sucked and gobbled it all up.
As he grew, Clem was truly a happy eater. He may not have been drawn to fruit, sticking to banana and strawberries with the occasional pear, and may have turned up his nose at fish and seafood, but everything else was a go, no matter how exotic, no matter the ingredients. He adored vegetables, whether raw, sautéed, roasted, baked or simmered. Ratatouille, baba ganoush, couscous heady with carrots, zucchini and pumpkin, stews, gratins, salads, well…anything. What a joy to cook for this boy! What a pleasure to accompany him to a restaurant. A happy, adventurous, generous eater.
And then there was Simon. Yes, I had one of each.
I remember the day that Simon stopped eating. Clamped those 2-year-old rosebud lips shut and that was that. White rice, pasta “in bianco” or with a plain red sauce, swordfish quickly grilled pfshhh pfshhh and placed in front of him with the merest drizzle of olive oil. Oh, fried he would eat and pizza received a nod of the head, even fruit of any color was accepted, but vegetables were henceforth relegated to the back burner and someone else’s plate. From there on out, one had to be very creative indeed to get this sweet little boy with the angel’s face to eat. He was incredibly wary, picking apart each dish with the patience, concentration and skill of a surgeon. He noticed the microscopic specks of carrots in my carrot cake; he spied and questioned the flecks of green in my zucchini cupcakes. To this day, young adult that he is, he stares at whatever food I place on his plate, whether savory or sweet, with suspicion. He eyes me with cynicism and distrust, finally asking, eyes narrow slits, lips pressed together, “what did you put in it?” My “Nothing!” does nothing to reassure him and often he simply responds with “I’m sure you put something I don’t eat in there….”
* sigh * It breaks a mother’s heart.
Yet…. Yet… I have succeeded twice or thrice, patting myself proudly on the back for pulling one over…. um, making my child eat a vegetable. A generous grating of freshly Parmesan over steamed broccoli was the first surprise. But shhhhhh don’t breath, don’t make a noise, don’t point anything out or make a stink or the spell might be broken. Do not under any circumstance make him think that you won! Just bite your tongue and carry on, mom.
And spinach. Well, feta works wonders, like magic it is! Spanikopita, Spinach-Feta Triangles in their crunchy phyllo shell. And this.
Assyrian Spinach Pies are more than just spinach in a marvellous, tender yeast dough triangle. Plenty of feta cheese gives it that salty, tangy kick; pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries sweeten it up. Chopped nuts, lemon juice and bits of caramelized onion make for a flavorful hand pie. And every boy – and their mother – quite happy. Serve with a salad, a glass of wine and dinner is served.
Assyrian Spinach Pies are the February Bread Baking Babes’ challenge. Our Babe and Kitchen of the Month Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups had us bake these marvelous savory Syrian Sabanrhiyat pies. I followed the recipe, only changing the pomegranate seeds with chopped dried cranberries, the walnuts for pecans (I had planned to use pine nuts but the cupboard was bare) and cardamom for the mahleb. I changed the procedure just a little and it turned out a great dough, easy to work with even when rolled out very thin, light and fluffy when baked. It is a little fiddly and fussy to form the triangles around the slippery dough as bits of spinach, feta and berry try to escape between your fingers, but it is easier than you can imagine. And the results are worth the time and one I’ll make again. Even your finicky eater will eat his spinach.
Visit all the Babes and see how their Assyrian Spinach Pies turned out! If you would like to bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy, visit Tanna’s post and find out how!
Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
Paulchens Foodblog – Astrid
Provecho Peru – Gretchen
Happy 5 year anniversary, Bread Baking Babes!
I will be sharing the Assyrian Spinach Pies with Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting!
Assyrian Spinach Pies
Adapted from the original recipe from A Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes From America's Rich Immigrant Heritage by Greg Patent
For the dough:
2 1/4 tsps (8 g) active dry yeast
2 cups (500 ml) warm water (105° to 115°F)
1/2 tsp ground mahlab or cardamom
5 cups (675 – 700 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 Tbs granulated sugar or granulated light brown sugar
2 tsps salt
1/3 cup (85 ml) olive oil
For the filling:
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound (500 g) cleaned baby spinach, squeezed dry and coarsely chopped
1 cup (4 oz, 110 – 115 g) chopped walnuts or pecans coarsely chopped or pine nuts
1/3 – 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried craneberries
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces/110 g) or fresh goat cheese
1/3 cup (85 ml) lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for brushing
Plain yogurt or dip for serving
Prepare the dough:
In a small bowl, measure out 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar and add the dry yeast. Add ¼ cup (60 – 65 ml) of the warm water and let rest for about 10 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and the liquid foamy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, the salt and the ground mahleb or cardamom and stir just to combine. Once the yeast is frothy add it to the flour mixture. Add the remaining 1 ¾ cup (about 435 ml) warm water and the olive oil to the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough gathers into a mass. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously for 6 minutes until soft and elastic, flouring the work surface as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. This is a very soft dough and will still be slightly sticky at the end of the 6 minutes kneading.
Place the kneaded dough in a large, clean and oiled (olive oil) mixing bowl, turning the ball of dough to coat with oil. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, from 1 to 1 ½ hours. When the dough is pressed with a finger, the depression will remain once the finger is removed.
Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 24 pieces (a scant 2 ounces/ 56 g). Shape into balls, arrange on the floured work surface and cover loosely with the plastic and the kitchen towel. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling:
While the balls of dough are resting, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Put the chopped spinach into a large mixing bowl. Add the nuts, the chopped dried cranberries, the crumbled feta, the lemon juice and drizzle with 1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss. Pepper to taste and toss again. Taste again and salt as needed, keeping in mind that the cheese is salty.
Prepare the pies:
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and place the oven rack in the center position of the oven. Line 2 large cookie or baking sheets with cooking parchment. Have extra parchment ready for more cookie sheets if needed.
Shape the pies: roll each ball of dough into a thin 6-inch (15 cm) circle, flouring the dough and work surface lightly as necessary to prevent sticking. Pile about ¼ - 1/3 cup of the filling, loosely measured, onto the center of each circle, leaving about 1 inch of dough exposed all around. Brush the exposed dough lightly with water. Shape each into a triangle (think Hamentaschen): imagining the circle to be a clock, lift up the edges of dough at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions to cover the top part of the filling and pinch firmly to seal, going all the way to 12 o’clock. Lift the 6 o’clock position of dough to meet in the center and pinch the two edges firmly to seal, using one finger to push the spinach and filling back inside. The seams will look like an inverted Y. Set the pie on one of the prepared sheets. Working quickly, form 7 more pies, placing them on the cookie sheet with a little space between them.
Line up the pies on the lined baking sheets; brush each pie lightly with olive oil or half olive oil-half melted butter. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden top and bottom.
Remove from the oven to cooling racks.
Serve warm or at room temperature (or take on a picnic!) with Greek yogurt, red or green salsa, or your favorite avocado dip.
Leftover pies can be easily frozen. Place the try in the freezer until the pies are frozen and then transfer to heavy-duty, resealable plastic freezer bags for up to one month. To reheat, thaw the pies and then place on a lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 minutes.