On Sunday morning I hosted a celebratory birthday brunch for Ian with 4 Ontario expat friends, continuing what I hope is fast becoming a brunch hosting tradition. Over somewhat dangerously alcoholic peach sangria we ate an intensely piquant roasted root vegetable salad (the leftovers of which I am eating as I type), pancetta and red potato hash, a spinach and dill phyllo tart, fruit salad and a richly dense chocolate cake adorned with whipped cream and berries. It’s so much fun having a potluck, not only culinary diversity but practically as well, you can take more time to do important things like changing out of your pyjamas before your guests arrive and ironing the table cloth. This Spinach and Dill Phyllo Tart is ideal for multitasking, you can sweep the floor and sample the sangria at the same time. The flavour balance in this tart is delicate, the dill is bright and green without being grassy and the earthy cumin works quietly in the eggy background. Make sure that your phyllo pastry is given ample time to defrost in the fridge, mine needed 24 hours in the fridge before I could use it. When working with phyllo be as patient as you can, don’t worry about small tears in the sheets or pressing each piece smoothly together – this should have a rustic and haphazard look to it.
spinach and dill phyllo tart:
10 oz. bag of spinach, washed and roughly torn
1 white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh dill, snipped into small strands with scissors
1/4 cup flat-leafed parsley, again with the scissors
4 whole large eggs
1 cup of creamy ricotta cheese
1 cup of Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, grated into fine shreds
1/4 tsp. dried cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
8 sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed from frozen
Unsalted butter, about a 1/4 cup melted to brush over the phyllo pastry
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic together for about 8 minutes or until soft. Add the spinach and allow to cook down until wilted and soft. Take the mixture off of the heat and press into a fine mesh colander and allow to drain until cool over the sink.
3. In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the ricotta until fluffy. Stir in the cooled down spinach mixture, fresh dill, parsley, cumin, parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper.
4. Prepare a clean surface to assemble the phyllo tart crust. Dampen 2 clean tea towels and place the unwrapped stack of phyllo pastry flat between the 2 clothes. Working quickly as to prevent drying out the pastry, press one sheet of phyllo into a 9-inch baking dish and brush with melted butter, placing a new sheet of phyllo on top and repeating to form 8 layers of pastry. Using scissors cut the overhang to fit the dish, brush the outside with a final coat of butter (this will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy as it cooks).
5. Spread the egg and spinach mixture into the pastry-lined baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Check periodically that the crust isn’t browning too much around the edges, if it looks like it’s getting too dark fold some aluminum foil around the sides of the baking dish to cover. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes to set before serving or allow to cool to room temperature.
We listened to new Cat Power; I love super depressed Cat Power the most but she’s also pretty great when she does less-melancholic pop music.
Cat Power – Manhattan