Oriental Spinach Tart

This recipe is inspired by two of my favorite things to eat and prepare: Lebanese Spinach Fatayer and Tarts.
Lebanese Fatayers are small cute little “dough pockets” filled with spinach. All food cultures and regions have a version of this type of finger food; the filling can be sweet or savory and the dough can be fried, baked or raw with endless possibilities. I tried to convert the fatayer filling into a quiche and it worked! 

The creaminess of the tart’s custard and Feta cheese is balanced by the sumac, allspice, lemon zest and scallions. The flavors work well together and give this dish delicious and sunny oriental notes.

Bon Appétit!



Oriental Spinach Tart

Recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 6 to 8

Crust Ingredients*
1 ⅓ cup (220 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (125 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoon (60 ml) ice water, or more as needed

Filling Ingredients
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup onion, finely chopped
10 ½ oz (300g) fresh baby spinach
2 Tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground sumac
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon lemon zest, very (very!) finely grated**
3 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground sumac
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream
¾ cup (180 ml) milk
1 cup (155 g) crumbled Feta cheese
½ cup pine nuts

You will need a tart dish (with removable bottom) or individual small tart pans, a food processor with the blade attachment, parchment paper, pie weight (you can use dried beans), a medium pan and a medium bowl. 
Scale and prep all the ingredients.

Heat the oven to 200 C.

Crust Directions
To make the crust, in a food processor with the blade attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the cold butter and pulse a few times (around 8). Add the 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse about 10 times. If the dough crumbles, add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and pulse just until the dough holds together. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, shape into a 6-inch (15 cm) disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Roll out the store-bought pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to the tart pan and press the dough around the rim to form a homogenous and pretty edge.

Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake until the crust is dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift out the weights and parchment paper.

Tart Directions
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and let it cook until lightly caramelized. Lower the heat to medium, add the spinach and let cook down until all the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the scallions, parsley, sumac, allspice and lemon zest. Mix well, taste to correct seasoning and set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C.

Arrange the spinach mixture evenly in the pre-baked crust, sprinkle with the crumbled Feta cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of each ground sumac and allspice, the cream and milk until well blended. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the spinach in the crust. Dot the top pine nuts.
Bake until the top is lightly browned and the filling is just barely set, around 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes.
Serve warm.

*One of the secrets for a nice pie crust is to “work the dough” as little as possible. The more you work/mix/pulse the dough, the harder the end result will be… So count the pulses, until you reach the right (described) consistency… you can always pulse a few times more if needed, but you can never reverse your work… so be patient and attentive. :)
One store-bought pie crust will be enough for one standard tart pan. If you wish to make small individual ones, you might need two ready made pie crusts. You won’t need to double the recipe; the filling quantity in this recipe will be enough for 8 individual servings.

**Lemon Zest tip: When grating the lemon and extracting the zest, try not to push hard on the fruit and avoid the “white” section of the peel because it is bitter. The small pockets of intense flavor are in the yellow part of the skin. I personally use a super fine microplane grater. I hold the lemon in one hand and with the other I lightly pass the microplane grater on the top of the lemon peel. The zest I end up with is light and dissolves when mixed or cooked. You get the flavors but not the thick curly residue. Your patience will be rewarded!

Recipe published in Taste & Flavors Magazine. Winter 2015.