I adore hugs. When I was younger, I hugged everyone to the point where it was probably a tad bit obnoxious. I have outgrown my, I-need-to-hug-you-even-if-I-don’t-know-you-stage. Can you imagine walking into a business meeting and hugging your client? Well I can, but the thought makes me laugh. This need to hug has become grown up. Now it’s the I-need-to-hug-you-because-you-matter-to-me.
Bringing people into my kitchen feels like I am giving them a huge hug. I like to envelope them with food. Even though Jujus is far away, we still hug each other on a regular basis. It’s an important part of any friendship. (If you haven’t hugged those you love lately, please do.)
How do two people hug when they are in different cities? Jujus and I cook together. We each make the same recipe and compare notes. It’s really quite fun. These Arab Spinach Hand Pies from my cooking class at Dish it up! were a wonderful thing to make with Jujus.
We both agree the dough cuts down on the actual flavor of the stuffing, so don’t be afraid to add extra spice. This is the perfect chance to experiment and try whatever sounds good or use whatever you have on hand. Plus, pastry dough is not budget-busting. It gives you an incredible amount of flexibility to use fresh ingredients and leftovers alike.
These are a great hands-on thing to make with a friend. There’s plenty to do as you talk and gossip about life.
Arab Spinach Hand Pies
By Chef Jason Vickers
I am going to give you the recipe as Chef Vickers wrote it and also examples of variations Jujus and I have tried.
About the puff pastry: You certainly can make your own puff pastry, but the puff pastry sold in the freezer section is just fine. Just make sure you give it ample time to defrost. Typically they are sold in quantities of 15 – 18 ounces and they will have two sheets per box. You’ll want to use the whole box, because these won’t stick around long.
1 sheet puff pastry
3 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1½ lbs spinach
¼ cup pine nuts
1½ TBS sumac (Note: This spice is not in your normal grocery store. You’d need to
go to a spice store or a Middle Eastern market. There’s no true replacement for sumac, but I used turmeric and cumin as a substitute.)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 TBS fresh lemon juice
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium/high heat. Cook onion and scallions until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach in handfuls and cook until wilted, adding more spinach as it wilts and makes room in the pan. Add the pine nuts, sumac, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasonings and adjust as needed. Leave pan to cool until contents are a manageable heat (5-10 minutes). Scoop onto a cutting board and chop coarsely.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough ¼” thick and cut as many 4” rounds as possible. Set aside.
Place 1 TBS of the spinach filling in the center of a round and bring up the sides at 3 points to form a triangle. Press edges firmly together to seal. Make sure none of the spinach juice gets onto the edges.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the pies on a greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
Alternate Fillings Ideas:
These are simply ideas. You are only limited by how creative you can be. Please note, you can use frozen spinach, but it needs to be thoroughly defrosted and well drained (complete with squeezing out all the excess liquid).
Onions, spinach, cayenne, cumin, almonds, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon.
Onions, garlic, asparagus, turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper, and lemon.
Onions, garlic, asparagus, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Onions, garlic, 1 egg (per hand pie), tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese.
Note: If you are going to try something like this, it’s best to arrange the dough in a shallow cup, and then add the runnier contents. This will allow you to pinch close most of the edges before picking up the hand pie.
Blueberries tossed in sugar.
Lightly sautéed apples.