Gold-medal winner: Spinach and Feta Turnovers
If you're planning to curl up on the couch in front of the TV to watch the summer Olympic Games, you won't be using much energy, but you will need sustenance. Something that can be eaten out of hand would be good. Easy, make-ahead and fabulous-tasting could result in a score of 9.9.
Puffy and tender Spinach and Feta Turnovers are just the right size to fit into your hand. A meatless filling of spinach, fresh herbs and cheeses with a spatter of toasted pine nuts is enveloped in a flakey crust of puff pastry.
Puff pastry is a versatile and time-saving wonder that is found in your grocer's freezer case. You'll find two sheets of puff pastry in one box, each one folded into thirds and wrapped individually. For this recipe, I like to put the box of dough in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. I take it out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before rolling it, allowing it to warm up just a bit. Leaving the dough at room temperature for too long can result in warm, sticky dough that is difficult to work with.
The Spinach and Feta filling takes advantage of the ease of frozen spinach and the powerful flavor of fresh herbs that are so plentiful this time of year. The salty yet subtle taste of the feta, along with basil and parsley and onions and spinach, creates a superb and balanced combination of flavors.
I've discovered my potato ricer works well for squeezing the moisture from the thawed spinach. A 10-ounce package will be dry in no time when you divide it into three or four batches. If you don't have a potato ricer, just drain the spinach and then roll it up in a couple layers of paper towels and squeeze the moisture out. The filling can be prepared a day or two before making the turnovers and stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.
The turnovers can be prepared and stored in the freezer for a month. Baked from their frozen state, they will take a little longer to bake than freshly prepared turnovers. The compact hand-sized triangles can also be refrigerated for up to a day before baking. They're best when served still warm from the oven.
So curl up on the couch and honor the original hosts of the Olympic Games with gold-medal Spinach and Feta Turnovers.
Spinach and Feta Turnovers
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 (17.3-ounce) box frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
Drain thawed spinach. Use a potato ricer to squeeze all the moisture from the drained spinach or roll up spinach in layers of paper towels and squeeze dry.
Heat oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion. Sauté until chopped onion just begins to turn brown, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add spinach and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in basil, parsley and wine. Cook until wine has evaporated. Transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
When spinach mixture has reached room temperature, add feta, Parmesan and pine nuts and stir to mix. Add egg and blend well.
Lightly oil two large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. Place 1 sheet of puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough out to form a 12-inch square. Cut the 12-inch square into quarters. Brush each small square with melted butter, avoiding the very edges. Place about 1/4 cup of filling on each square. Fold one corner of each square over filling, forming a triangle. Seal edges with the tines of a fork.
Transfer triangles to prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter.
Repeat this procedure with remaining sheet of puff pastry. (Turnovers can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush each triangle with egg white and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Makes 8 turnovers.
Tips from the cook
--Make a double batch of filling. It's delicious folded into an omelet. Or make an easy pizza with a tube of refrigerated pizza dough, a jar of alfredo sauce and lots of spinach and feta filling all topped with more cheese. Perfect to eat in front of the TV.
--Toast pine nuts by stirring them in a large skillet over medium heat until brown. Immediately transfer from hot pan onto a plate to cool.