Monday, March 12, 2012

Spinach Cigars with Tzaziki

Last weekend my sister was in town for a visit, aka a 3-day food fest. She loves food nearly as much as I do, so I relish any chance I get to show her the amazing dining Chicago has to offer. But after two days of eating around the city (reviews to come), we were ready for a night in, and ended up preparing an array of appetizers for some friends. Enter spinach cigars with tzaziki.

A spinach and feta cheese filling is wrapped in phyllo dough, brushed with butter and baked to make the spinach 'cigars,' which are then topped with a cool Greek yogurt sauce. The result is a yummy dish bursting with clean and refreshing flavors.

These little guys possess three qualities which I consider vital for any successful cocktail/dinner party app:
1. They're tasty.
2. They're attractive (particularly if, unlike me, you take the time to properly defrost your phyllo).
3. You can easily eat them with your hands.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly long list of ingredients. This is not a super complicated recipe (although it's a few steps above the one-two step dump and mix dip recipes). For the most part, it consists of a whole lot of mixing, and chopping. Tzaziki= chopping and mixing. Filling= boiling water, chopping and mixing. The only possible snag is wrapping up the cigars, and even that isn't too tricky. So if you're looking for an appetizer to impress the next time you have company, give these a try.

Bon appetit!

Spinach Cigars with Tzaziki
Makes 8
1 1/2 tbsp finely diced seedless cucumber
1/2 tsp fresh garlic paste (from about 2 cloves garlic)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dill fronds (about 2), finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped yellow onion (about quarter of a small onion), finely diced, rinsed and drained
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
3/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tbsp finely chopped shallots (about 1/2 medium shallot)
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic (about 1 clove)
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh dill
2 tsp ground sumac (available at spice shops, if you can't find it, just sub some lemon juice and zest)
Fresh lemon juice
4 sheets phyllo
4 tbsp clarified butter

To make the tzatziki, fold the cucumber, garlic paste, cumin, dill, onion, olive oil and lemon juice into the yogurt in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Next, make the filling. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Blanch the spinach for 10 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Remove the spinach and place in a clean towel, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Roughly chop the spinach and place in a medium bowl. Add the feta, shallots, garlic, dill, sumac and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper and fold to combine. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F and warm the clarified butter in a small saucepan over low heat (for info on making clarified butter, see here).
Cut the phyllo sheets into 6½-inch-wide strips. (Keep the sheets covered with damp towels until ready to use.) Place a sheet of phyllo on a cutting board and brush lightly with clarified butter. Place a second sheet on top and brush with butter. Place 1 1/2 tbsp of the reserved filling on one end, keeping 1/2 inch bare on each side. Carefully roll the filling in the phyllo about one-third of the way. Fold the sides inward and roll the rest of the way. Brush the cigar lightly with clarified butter. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling.

Place the cigars on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the sheet and bake for 6 minutes longer or until the cigars are golden brown. Serve warm with tzatziki.

Source: Tasting Table

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