We’re dusting off the blog, cooking and photographing delicious things, writing, and working together again. Covid-19 has erased everything that formerly monopolized our professional lives – restaurants, client photography, mapping out bicycle trips and safaris.
Porto, Trade and the Saloniki restaurants are closed, with the exception of the Fenway Saloniki, which is serving take-out only. Many of our staff have limited resources and are frightened about the future. Jody’s way of coping with this is to clean, to organize, to compile and edit a growing list of Boston resources where people may find meals for their children and for themselves. She’s also working with other restaurant leaders lobbying for government support for the long term and short-term emergency assistance for an industry that employs so many people a financial heartbeat away from disaster. Numerous people have contacted us, asking of there’s a way they can help. I’ll have a link in our next post if you’d like to make a donation.
Jody is also back to cooking. “We’re doing the blog again,” she told me. I set down my copy of Samuel Pepys Diary. How could I object?
And our personal lives? Well, it’s not as though someone has nailed our door shut, painted a splashy red cross on the outside and posted a guard to make sure that neither Jody nor I escape for 40 days (a common response to “plague houses” in 17th century London). But our kids are marooned in Brooklyn, a short walk from each other in Bushwick and – no surprise – cooking up a storm to keep the boogieman away. We’re trying to stay as connected as possible, bending technology to our will – Zoom telephone calls and a friend of our son’s trying to set up a Minecraft server so we can play in the same realms.
What form should the blog take? Do you want recipes from a survival larder, e.g. How to make a wedding cake from three cans of brown bread and packet of matches? Or would you like long braises, comfort food in times of stress? We’re thinking a bit of both at the moment. Let us know.
Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie; hortopita is the same thing, but made with other greens, traditionally wild ones, but you for this recipe you can either go with straight ahead spinach, or with a mix like we did. In either event, only a few ingredients, but lots of steps.
Whoa! THIS is what you choose for your first post??!! There’s a million fucking steps! What were you thinking??!! Give me something I can make while I’m fighting for kitchen table space with dueling laptops, a glitter-gun project and a pile of legos.
We made it because that’s what we had on hand – flour, feta, lots of greens, a leek and some garlic. The greens and the feta were leftover after Jody and her partners had given away everything else in their larders to their staff after closing the doors of their restaurants. Future recipes with less steps are in the pipeline.
Everything will resume at some point, probably changed in form, just as the work that you used to do before social distancing became de rigeur will rise up again in your life. In the meantime, we stay connected by any means possible and we place one foot in front of the other, at least six feet away from the person in front of you.
One of the first Garum Factory posts talked about how cooking and photography enables us to put the world aside, to quell the chatter in our heads. That’s even more important now than it was when we created The Garum Factory. And whether you’re a cook who recreates what you see here, or a reader whose greatest pleasure is to glide through the recipe visuals, we hope that our posts give you a mental kitchen break as well.
P.S. Quite a bit of the editing controls and commands of WordPress have changed in the three-and-a-half years since our last post. Some of our pages are badly out of date as well. I’m crossing my fingers that this piece doesn’t come out looking like a crafting on acid. I’ll get it together as time goes on.
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour + additional for rolling
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + additional for brushing the dough
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
- 12 ounces fresh spinach, or other soft greens, washed and trimmed of tough stems
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
- Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5.5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
MAKE THE DOUGH
- Put the dough ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer.
- Mix, on medium speed, with the dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal portions, about 1.7 ounces, and roll into balls.
- Let rest, covered with plastic, about 30 minutes.
COOK THE GREENS
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt.
- Add the garlic and scallions and cook 1 minute.
- Add the spinach, cover, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes
- Add the herbs, salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes.
- If the greens are wet, drain or they will make the pita pie soggy.
- Mix greens and cheese together. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Separate into 8 even portions.
MAKE THE PIES
- Using a pasta machine, and extra flour, roll each dough ball into a very thin oval, about 6 x 10 inches. On my KitchenAid pasta roller, I went to setting #6. Sprinkle with flour.
- Repeat with the remaining dough balls, making 2 stacks of 4 with plenty of flour between them. Any more and they may stick together.
- Lay out on the counter and stretch the dough until it is paper thin, about 7 X 13. Don’t worry if it tears a little here and there.
- Brush with extra virgin olive oil.
- Spoon about 2 ounces of the filling in a line evenly along the length (long edge) of the dough sheet, leaving 1½ inches uncovered on either end.
- Roll up like a jellyroll. Brush with oil.
- Roll into coil—not too tight–and tuck the end underneath.
- Brush with more olive oil.
- Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
- Rest 5 minutes before serving.
The day after we closed Trade and Porto, we shared the contents of the walk-in with employees. Staff were invited to take everything home, from meatballs to kumquats (hmmm, not a big seller). Another neglected item was a giant container of mixed greens—arugula, baby kale, lettuce, mint–so I filled a bag with them. I also picked up some neglected diced feta. It seems that even in times of uncertainty about the next meal, for many people there’s a limit to how heavily they want to depend on greens and feta.
Not me! I was destined to make Greek pies. The greens were a little stemmy, but the flavor was great! (In Ken’s photos you seem me chopping through them with a bench scraper and – my favorite – kitchen scissors.)
My knowledge of spanakopita has been a work in progress. Ever since working for a catering company in college I’d thought spanakopita were little frozen triangles of phyllo filled with spinach and feta, destined to be thawed and reheated at Waspy cocktail parties. My opinion changed when I began going to Greece to research food for our first Saloniki restaurant in 2015. In Thessaloniki and Athens we tasted exquisite phyllo hand pies with all kinds of fillings. Once I’d experienced the real thing, the mother and yiayia (grandmother) of my Greek-American business partner Eric Papachristos taught me to make phyllo dough by hand, to roll it with a dowel and form it into a multilayered 12-inch labor of lovely flakiness. Our Greek Saloniki chef Pantazis Deligiannis showed me a less labor-intensive route to spanakopita happiness, using a pasta machine to roll the dough, and then forming it into these beautiful snail-shaped spirals.
Pantazis also taught me that spanakopita means “spinach pie” in Greek – spinach is the only green in the filling. If you use other greens – Swiss Chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, kale, arugula – then it’s called hortopita. Horta can means “weeds” or “wild greens,” depending on you’re gardening or foraging. Those of us who are in the city have limited access to truly wild greens, but we can still make hortopita by using a mixture of greens. (Heartier greens have to be blanched in boiling salt water first, then drained dry.)
I love love making these pies. Working my way through the steps fills me with happiness. With no end in sight of days in the house, you have nothing but time – use it to put a smile on your face and happiness in the stomachs of those at your table.