JetSet and KimmieKef recommended the sort-of-new cookbook Smashing Plates. I got it last week, and pretty much every page is already dog-eared for future cooking. I hope you’re all looking forward to some new Greek Easter dishes this year… or at least being conscripted into taste-testing the recipes I try.
Our recipe for today actually comes from the author’s web site, which is equally replete with new takes on traditional Greek fare. It also answers the question JetSet has been wondering for the last 7 years or so: how can we make vegetables dessert? The answer, it turns out, is to combine caramelized onions cooked down with cinnamon, tomatoes, feta, almonds, dill, and dates, and then to layer them with phyllo and butter.
Yeah, she went a little crazy with the filter– sue me. At least I’m trying.
It’s important you know that this pie is neither sweet nor savory–it’s the best of both. MrKef and some non-Greek, normal eaters gave the swavory thing big thumbs up, and I would definitely recommend this pie for a brunch–because who the hell knows which meal or flavor we’re supposed to be eating at 11:30am with a bottomless carafe of mimosa, anyway?
Tomato, feta, almond and date baklava
- 1/3 c olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium white onions, finely sliced or minced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of granulated sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 1 bunch dill, finely chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried)
- 10 vine plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped (keep half of the juice)
- 3 TBS tomato purée
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 packet phyllo pastry (9 sheets)
- about 1/2 stick butter, melted (sub olive oil- this is just for spreading on the phyllo)
- 3/4 c sliveredalmonds, ground down to a crumble (either by food processor or just by banging them)
- 7-8 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely sliced
- 2 c feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 tablespoons clear honey (optional)
- Lightly butter or oil the bottom and sides of your longest pyrex pan or rectangular aluminium baking dish (I used a 13×9 pyrex). Preheat oven to 375F.
- Heat olive oil in a large-bottomed pan. Gently fry the onions over a low heat, add the garlic, cinnamon and sugar, then increase the heat. Fry for about 12 minutes, until caramelized. Add the dill, tomatoes and half of their juices and the tomato puree and cook for another 10 minutes, until reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove outer bag from phyllo, and gently roll out the dough. If you are new at phyllo, lightly dampen a paper towel and cover the dough with it, as it dries out if you are moving slowly. Place one sheet of phyllo in the greased baking dish, then gently brush it with melted butter or olive oil, being very generous. Be sure to get all the corners and ends. Repeat 3 more times, for a total of 4 layers. Don’t worry too much if these layers rip, as they will be covered by deliciousness in a minute anyway.
- Spread half the onion mixture over the pastry, top with half the almonds, the dates and half the feta. Repeat butter/phyllo layers for another 4 layers, and top with the remaining onions, almonds and feta. Do another 4-5 layers of phyllo/butter, making sure that the last one is as pretty and untorn as possible.
- Lightly score the top, cutting diamonds or squares, brush with butter and splash with a little water. Place on a baking tray and cook for 30–35 minutes until golden.To get maximum flakiness, turn up the heat to 400F for the last 5 minutes of baking, keeping a close eye to avoid burning.
At our staff end-of-year party, a coworker made the best thing ever: a cauliflower mash with the taste of stuffing and the texture of mashed potatoes. It is as easy as roasting two heads of cauliflower and whirling it with some other delicious ingredients in a food processor. For the love of all things holy, go whip this up for your next meal.
Rosemary Cauliflower Mash
- 6.5 TBS olive oil
- 2 heads of cauliflower, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1 head garlic
- about 1/4 c whole milk or half and half
- half stick of butter
- ancho chili powder (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Toss cauliflower in 4-5 TBS olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the head of garlic across the top so all the cloves are exposed. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the garlic and wrap loosely in tinfoil. Roast the cauliflower until tender and garlic until fragrant and soft, about 40 minutes. While those roast, saute the onion with the remaining olive oil until soft and fragrant.
- Place the roasted cauliflower in food processor. Squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves into the food processor. Add remaining ingredients and grind to desired texture, adding milk if necessary.
When I first moved to DC a million years ago, the winters were pretty mild–I don’t think I even had a real winter coat down here during college (though I did have a wool scarf named Pinky…long story). But, sadly, times and climates change, and DC living now requires me to own an ice scraper and a pair of warm, waterproof boots. Blech.
I’ve also accumulated a well-curated (if I do say so myself) winter running wardrobe– I may not need to outrun the law in Fargo, but I do need basic staples that will hold up to ~20 mph wind, RealFeel temps in the single digits, and the occasional frozen precipitate. Here are some tried-and-true favorites that keep me feeling like this til April:
Thermal running tights that actually do their job
You get what you pay for with these guys– it takes a feat of textile engineering to keep someone warm and dry for a 90-minute workout in 20-degree weather. A lot of cheaper tights just pile on the fleece so you feel all warm and toasty for about a mile, after which you realize that your sweat has frozen the tights to your skin. (Let me tell you, that is a post-run recovery I wish on no one.) After six years with my first pair of Sugoi Subzero Tights, I just bought my second pair and they are worth every penny–warm, wicking, and wind resistant.
Layers for weather from chilly to friggin’ freezing
“Dress in layers” is probably the most oft-given piece of winter running advice. My addition to the canon is that all layers are not created equal–you’ll need a base layer, a cold layer, a pretty cold layer, a friggin’ freezing layer, and a vest. My general rules go like this:
— 37-44F : a tank top, a thermal long-sleeve, and a running vest
— 22-36F, all the above +a thicker running pullover.
–anything under 22 means I pull out the big guns and swap the pullover for this UnderArmour sweatshirt that I’ve had for years and years
The great news is that TJMaxx and Marshall’s are always chock full of Nike and Under Armour layers–2 of my 3 long-sleeve thermals and both thicker pullovers I own came at big discounts from pilfering through those “active wear” racks. My personal preference is a lower neckline or a quarter-zip so I can cool down without peeling all the layers off–but I know a lot of people shudder at the idea of an exposed neck in the winter. Whatever floats your boat.
Something-anything- to keep your ears warm
Mary has been chronicling the great beanie vs. ear warmer debate this season– I am squarely Team Ear Warmer. I have never owned a fancy one (though I would really, really, really love this one), and have found whatever piece of fleece is in the bargain bin at Modell’s to be perfectly adequate.
For awhile I thought the $0.99 CVS cotton gloves were reasonable hand protection… and then I found these amazing Lux gloves, which totally changed the game. I wear them when it’s under 40F, and they are wonderful. For colder days (under 30F), I think these waterproof, windresistant gloves are great (another incredible piece of advice from Mary!).
Buttpaste to protect what your mama gave you
Alright y’all, it’s time for real talk– there is not a warm, wicking fabric in the world that can spare your tucous a serious chapping if you go into the sweat+wind+cold triple threat tundra without some buttpaste. For a longer discussion on the topic, read this my thoughts on half marathon training through the winter. Alternatives include vaseline, chamois butter, and body glide, but I stay on some damn buttpaste if I’m gonna be braving the elements longer than an hour or so.
While the rest of the blogosphere is writing about goals and resolutions for the coming year, your girl Kef is just trying to keep her head above water. School, work, and self care are each their own full-time job, and I’ve been working overtime at each of them for the last year or so. I’m grateful to have a job I love, to be in the LAST SIX MONTHS of my NP program (#praiseHim!), and to be injury-free enough to run… but none of those wonderful truths make me want to rip my hair out any less on those days when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels (and not in the kicking-ass-on-a-seated-climb-to-your-college-playlist kind of way).
Since my life is chock full milestones this year–finally being done with grad school, running my first full marathon, transitioning to a new role at work– I’m not stressing about goals set arbitrarily to the new calendar year. I love the idea some people have to choose a word and pursue it as the theme for the year, but we allllllll know I am a woman of many words and could never choose just ONE. So, instead, I’m choosing two phrases to get me through the tough 6 months I have ahead of me:
1) Goals are often simple, but never easy.
The tremendous Kelly Roberts wrote these words earlier this week on the Oiselle blog. I love this mostly because it is an elegant way to state the obvious: the difficult part isn’t figuring out what needs to be done, it’s actually breaking inertia and doing the work. The path to our desired result is pretty clear, if only we get out of our own way and do what we already know is required. Simple to say, never easy to do.
2) There is no secret. Keep going.
This is a tried-and-true Oiselle maxim I have always loved. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has a vat of the magic sauce that makes everything fall into place effortlessly–especially when they only post the clean-house/best-lighting/perfect-pace picture on social media. This phrase is a reminder that there is, actually, no secret, and that everybody else is in the same boat. As the good witch said, “you’ve had the power all along, my dear”–you just have to keep going.
So that’s my story for the next little while, and I’m sticking to it, whether I like it or not. What are your goals/resolutions/words/phrases for 2017?
Another year has come and gone. I don’t have a lot of deep reflections on 2016, but I do have this delicious pie to share today. And that’s got to count for something, right?
Like every year, 2016 brought some great times and some not-so-great times. I worried lot, ate a lot, studied a lot, and missed my grandmother a lot… but I also laughed a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot, so it’s all probably a net gain once the counting’s done. Bring it on, 2017.
Back to the pie. My dear friend FlailKef turned 31 on 31 December, which means it was a GOLDEN birthday. She loves the chocolate cream pie from Waffle House, so I doctored up my own little version of the classic diner pie because she is wonderful and a GOLDEN birthday deserves a special treat. In what will probably be my only culinary achievement in this life, my pie was gone before the one from the inimitable MOM’S was–which I will take to mean this is an out-of-the-park homerun of a recipe.
I made very minimal changes to this pie recipe and followed Martha’s vanilla bean whipped cream recipe to a “T”. Complete recipes with my small tweaks reposted below because I hate having to have two different windows open for one recipe–but, as always, you just do whatever your little heart and personal code of internet-recipe ethics would lead you to.
FlailKef is clearly winning at life– she got golden goblets for her birthday AND has friends like these:
Chocolate Cream Pie
For the crust
For the filling
- 2/3 c sugar
- 1/4 c cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 c whole milk
- 5 oz dark chocolate, melted
- 2 oz milk chocolate, melted
- 2 TBS unsalted butter, softened
- 1.25 tsp vanilla extract
For the whipped cream
- 2 c heavy cream, cold
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 c sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. If you are making and serving this pie on the same day, see step 6 and be sure to chill the cream about an hour before you want to make it.
- Crush cookies into a fine crumb using a food processor (or, throw ’em in a ziploc bag and pound ’em with a wine bottle). Add sugar, and pulse to combine cookie crumbs and sugar. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in butter until mixture is moist and sticky, but not wet. Press into the bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will thicken).
- Strain filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (I used my mesh colander), then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely (on the counter, not in the fridge), about 2 hours.
- Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.
- Pour heavy cream into metal bowl of stand mixer. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape seeds into cream and whisk to combine. Throw the bean pod in the cream, cover bowl, and chill cream in fridge for about an hour.
- Once cream and bowl are thoroughly chilled, remove bean pod and discard. Using the whisk attachment, beat at medium speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, sprinkle in sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Chill for 1-2 hours, then spread over top of pie and serve.