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Lebanese Spinach Puffs

I stumbled across a Lebanese cookbook on the "new arrivals" shelf at our library, and as I started flipping through it I realized that all my life I'd been craving Lebanese food, and I'd never even known it! Most of this recipe is just copied straight from that cookbook, however I have added a couple of notes of my own as well.
These are a bit labor-intensive, but they are fun, and they are yummy.
If you're not into spinach, try stuffing them with cheese, sausage or other spiced meat, or a combination.

Preparation time:
Dough--5 min, plus 1 hr 15 min rising
Filling--10 min (do it while the dough is rising)
Putting it together--an hour
Bake time--18-20 min
They are time and labor-intensive, however they keep well in the fridge or freezer, are good cool or cold, and reheat well too.

BASIC DOUGH
1 cup + 1 Tbs lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Mix well. Set aside for several minutes, allowing the yeast to proof (foam). Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, followed by the olive oil. Using one hand, quickly mix and knead the ingredients to form the dough. (If the dough seems sticky, which it probably will, sprinkle in a little more flour.)
Use both hands to lift the dough out of the bowl and tuck and shape it into a ball. Sprinkle flour around the sides and bottom of the bowl, then set the ball back in. Sprinkle the top of the dough with some more flour. Cover the bowl with a dish and set it aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour 15 min.



FILLING
2 lbs frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry) (I use 3 10oz boxes, but you can also fill it out with some shredded zucchini or other mild vegetable)
1-1 1/2 cups chopped onion (chopped little)
1 Tbs salt (yes that's a tablespoon)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/3-1/2 c olive oil
1/3-3/4 c lemon juice
1 Tbs lemon zest if available

Squeeze the thawed spinach over a colander with small perforations. It is very important to make sure that all the moisture has been hand-squeezed out of the spinach, otherwise the filling will be wet and the pastries may open while baking.

In a bowl, combine the spinach and onion. Just before you are ready to fill the pastries, add the salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, and mix well. (Mixing the salt with the onions at the last minute prevents the onions from producing additional moisture in the filling.) [The original recipe calls for 1/3 c olive oil and 3/4 c lemon juice, however I find that is a little tangier than I like. So I prefer to make it closer to 1/2c of each. It's still tangy.]

Once the dough has risen, roll out half the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8" thickness. [It will be around 16" across. If you make it thinner/bigger, it still works, however you will end up with more dough than filling...when that happens to me I grab a little cheese or whatever to fill up the leftovers. Also, use as little flour as you can to do the job. If you get too much flour, the dough will not stick closed very well.] Gently hold the rolled-out dough by the edges and lift it about 2 inches off the counter (this will allow any contraction in the dough to occur before cutting). Cut the dough into 3 inch rounds with a cookie cutter; make one cut directly next to another to maximize the number of rounds.

Preheat the oven to 450*F. Foil-line a baking sheet, lightly brush it with olive oil, set it within reach.

Pick up one dough circle at a time and hold it stickier-side up in your hand. Put about 2 Tbs of filling into the middle of the round (this will probably seem like too much filling, but you want it stuffed so they will be plump once they are baked). Use a fork [or one of your fingers] to push the filling inside as you close up the dough. Be sure to keep all the edges free of filling, or they will not stick together. Form a triangle by raising three sides of the dough up and over the filling until they meet in the center. Press them closed.

[this video is made by the guy who wrote the cookbook, showing how he stuffs and closes the puffs]


Pinch each seam closed, securing the filling inside the triangle. Remember to keep the seams free of filling. Repinch the seams so that the pastry will not open while baking. Reshape the pastry into a triangle as needed, and place it on the greased foil-lined baking sheet. Fill and close the remaining dough rounds in the same manner, and place them on the baking sheet about 1/4 inch apart. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Dip a pastry brush in a few tablespoons of olive oil and generously dab the tops and sides of each triangle puff. Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.



Traditionally, spinach puffs are served at room temperature. Our family likes them a little warmer than that, but as I said before, they are also pretty good straight from the fridge.

* To prepare ahead, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a few weeks. Freeze uncovered on a baking sheet, then transfer to an air-tight bag or container. Reheat thawed puffs at 350* for 5-7 minutes.

2 comments:

Margaret said...

Thanks for this! My husband is going to love you forever for pointing me in the direction of this cookbook. :)

Jessica said...

My husband's family is Lebanese and they make a version of these called Fataya, which are filled with ground beef and onions. The original recipe used lamb, but ground beef is more accessible and the family likes it better. His grandpa likes them without the onions, and my husband likes them with a touch of cinnamon (true Lebanese style). I learned to make them from my husband's grandmother. She just uses her favorite roll recipe and pinches off a bit of dough from her mixing bowl, flattens it in her hand, and puts the (raw) beef in the center. Then she wraps the edges of the dough around it to make a triangle like the pictures you posted. His Grandma only makes them about once a year anymore just because they disappear so quickly after the work of making them!
One thing I like about making Fataya is that I can do several different fillings in one batch. The spinach looks delicious and I can't wait to try it!

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