There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.
First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.
6-7 sheets phyllo dough
4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)
1 zucchini, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, sliced
1/3 cup baby spinach
1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms
fresh mozzarella, sliced
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.
The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.
On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday. It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.
I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:
1 nectarine, chopped
2 apricots, chopped
4 dates, chopped
small handful pecans, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.
When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.
Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product: