I love Greek food… and every time I visit my sister we always order from this little Greek restaurant next to her place. I loooove to order myself a Stuffed Pita Sandwich made with Greek Salad inside. It’s so delicious I even crave it as soon as I book my flight to FL.
For a while, my sister avoided dairy… and she loves to eat the spanakopita triangles at the Greek restaurant I mentioned above. So as the big sister, I decided to make her some spanakopitas she could actually enjoy without the side-effects dairy was bringing her for a while.
Here’s my take on cheese-free vegan spanakopitas…
DAIRY-FREE VEGAN SPANAKOPITAS
1 packet of whole wheat phyllo dough – 16 sheets
1 ½ packets frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 container Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese
½ container Tofutti Better than Sour Cream
½ container Tofutti Better than Ricotta
2 yellow lemons – zest and juice
1 sweet onion, chopped finely
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbs Kosher Salt
½ tbs Pepper
About ½ cup Olive Oil, divided
- In a large bowl combine the spinach, onions, cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta, parsley, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the zest of the 2 lemons and follow adding the juice, making sure you avoid getting lemon seeds in the mix. Season generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Combine well and set aside.
- To prepare working with phyllo dough I first gather 2 clean kitchen towels and I get them wet and squeeze them dry so now they’re thoroughly damp. One will be to cover the unused phyllo sheets and the other one to cover the spanakopita pockets after they’re aseembled but before we bake or pack them.
- Now that you have your damp cloths or towels, we gather our phyllo dough, olive oil and a teaspoon – the one you eat with, not the one you use to measure recipes. I work on a large cutting board… Place one sheet of phyllo dough on the board. Make sure you cover the unused phyllo sheets with one of the damp towels. These will maintain them pliable and ready to work with. If not, they’ll dry out and turn brittle and will be very difficult to work with in this recipe.
- Drizzle in a squiggly fashion a teaspoon of olive oil over the phyllo sheet. Using the teaspoon kinda spread the squiggle trail you made… Carefully, overlap a second sheet of phyllo right on top of the first one. Drizzle a very thin stream of olive oil in the same squiggly fashion but on the opposite direction. For example, the first squiggle you went from left to right. Now the second one, go top to bottom in front of you.
- Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the phyllo sheet stack you just created into 4 sections or strips. I cut halfway and then I cut each half in half again. This doesn’t have to be exact, although you can certainly use a ruler to measure this.
- Now, add about a tablespoon of spinach filling and place in the bottom section of one of the phyllo strips, leaving about 1 inch of phyllo below where you place the spinach. Fold this bottom part of phyllo over the spinach kinda like folding a letter.
- Now fold the sides of the phyllo strip inside, kinda like the way you fold in a burrito. Now, fold the section where the spinach is enclosed onto itself until a small rectangular package is formed.
- Place spinach pockets in a baking sheet and cover with damp cloth as you go preparing the rest of the spanakopita pockets. You should end up with about 32 pockets over all. You could also stack up 3 sheets of phyllo to make it even flakier. Use the same method, you’ll just end up with 20 finished spanakopita pockets overall.
Now… you can either bake them or freeze them. If you decide to freeze them, just place them in freezer zipper bags in layers separating each layer using parchment paper r even waxed paper. They will keep in the freezer for a while, and are very convenient.
- To bake them… just turn the oven to 375F and place the spanakopita pockets in a baking sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil spray. Place them in a single layer and spray once again over the top with a light spray of olive oil spray. Bake in oven for about 12-15 minutes until they turn golden brown. Sometimes, I just turn off the oven and leave them there to make sure the filling is nice and cooked when I take them out.
Wait a bit to bite into them because the filling will be H-O-T!!!!
These pockets are a tad larger that the triangles I am used to make. These are more fitting for a light lunch or even a light dinner. I bake myself 2-3 of these with a salad.
My sister thought they were delicious and she enjoyed the touch the lemon juice and zest provided. She did not believe these were dairy-free!!! The filling turned out creamy and delicious very similar to the original ones we enjoy so much.
Tabbouleh would be part of that fan list, however, the tabboulehs made usually in Middle-Eastern restaurants are too heavy on the parsley for my taste. And now that I am trying to avoid wheat sometimes, well I rather order the arab salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and skip the tabbouleh all together. Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with cracked wheat.
For the last time I cooked in the Yoga Center, I wanted to make a Middle-Eastern inspired menu and it all revolved around the fact I wanted to make this salad. We made hummus, a salad with mixed herbs including mint, rice with spinach, mushrooms and nuts, which is not like the rice pilafs I am used to having at middle-eastern restaurants, but it fit better for the Yoga appetites.
This recipe also makes use of the abundance of avocados we have right now in Puerto Rico… and what dish is not instantly improved by adding avocado to it??
QUINOA TABBOULEH with Avocado
2 cups of quinoa
1 vegetable bouillon cube
The zest and juice of 6 yellow lemons
2 bunches of scallions, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of fresh spearmint leaves, julienned
4 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 seedless cucumbers, unpeeled and diced
1 avocado, diced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- Cook the quinoa first… by adding 4 cups of water to a medium saucepan with the vegetable bouillon cube. When the water reaches a boiling point, add the quinoa. Add a drizzle of olive oil, just like you would when making rice. Cover and lower the heat to simmer until the quinoa cooks, about 15-20 minutes.
- After the quinoa is done, fluff it with a fork and season with ¼ cup of the olive oil and the zest and juice of 3 lemons. Set aside. If you are making this ahead of time, you can stop here and store the cooked quinoa in the refrigerator after it has had a chance to cool off a bit.
- In a large bowl, combine the scallions, onions, parsley, spearmint leaves, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Add the cooked quinoa and toss all the ingredients together. Season the whole salad with the additional ¼ cup of olive oil, the zest and juice of the remaining 3 lemons, salt and pepper to taste. Toss again well to combine. Let all the flavors combine about 30mins – 1 hour before serving.
When you’re about to serve, garnish with the pieces of avocado. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.
Avocado season is here… and even though a few slices of avocado is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, and with so many ripening all at the same time, I’ve had to find creative ways to eat them all by myself…
This Avocado Pasta has become the last few weeks in my go-to lunch… it’s easy to make, mainly an assembly of flavors, because all you are cooking is the pasta. Think of it like a pasta salad meets a guacamole and they decide to hang out together… It’s refreshing because of the addition of the spearmint leaves. Do not skip them… it’s partly what makes this dish special. Trust… and your taste buds will be rewarded.
2 cups uncooked pasta, I use gluten-free quinoa pasta
2 medium avocados, chopped
1 shallot, minced
15-20 grape tomatoes, halved
15 spearmint leaves and 5 extra ones, all julienned and separated
5-6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
The juice of 1 lime
3 large handfuls arugula
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
- Cook by boiling your desired pasta in salty water according to the package directions… I used quinoa pasta this time around. I buy it at Costco.
- While the water boils and past cooks, prepare the avocado mixture – in a bowl mix together the avocados, shallot, lime juice, tomatoes, parsley, 15 spearmint leaves. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well to combine the flavors.
3. When the pasta is fully cooked, drain it well and add to the bowl where the avocados and tomatoes have been marinating. Toss well to combine. Add the arugula leaves, a light sprinkle of garlic salt and extra spearmint leaves and toss one final time to combine and for the arugula to wilt a bit.
Lau Lau’s are leaves stuffed with sweet potatoes and steamed. This is a very typical luau dish in Hawaii. I have made plenty of times stuffed cabbage leaves (not to self… share these recipes on the blog), but I have never worked with collard greens, as the recipes I found on the internet called for. I was prepared to make this recipe with large kale leaves or even cabbage. I was so pleased to see collard greens in the supermarket. Yay!!!!
Again… this recipe is not difficult at all. It just has a few steps to it to ensure the end result looks and tastes as good as it can be.
I don’t know how large they make these in Hawaii… but I had to cook for at least 40 people, and we had 10+ dishes for people to choose from, so I made them small. I used half a collard green leaf for each lau lau packet. If the leaf was small, I used one whole leaf. You can certainly make them as large or as small as you wish.
The folding takes a little getting used to just until you figure out the best way to keep all the delicious sweet potato mash inside the green leaf.
10-12 collard greens leaves
2 medium-sized white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
10 cremini mushrooms – chopped
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 large onion, chopped small
1 red bell pepper, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 vegetable bouillon cube
About ½ cup coconut milk
Salt and Freshly cracked Black Pepper
- In a medium saucepan, add sweet potato pieces and salted water to a boil. Cook until they’re cooked and can be pierced easily with a fork. Set aside leaving them in the cooking water to maintain warm.
- Fill a large but shallow pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Salt water heavily, as if you’re cooking pasta. Place a few collard greens leaves at a time and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until slightly soft and color gets bright green. Transfer to a bowl filled with salted ice water for leaves to cool and stop cooking. This will also preserve the bright green color. When leaves are cool, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, drizzle a little olive oil and sauté onions, peppers, garlic with the vegetable bouillon cube. Add cremini mushrooms and cook until they get a little color. Add spinach and combine all the flavors together. Season with salt and pepper one last time and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the boiled sweet potatoes and mash them with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the cooked mushrooms, spinach and veggies to the sweet potatoes and mash it all together. Soften the mash by adding coconut milk. Go little by little to make a soft mash. Try not to add too much coconut milk or it might get soupy.
- Pat dry the collard greens leaves. Cut away the stem from each leaf. I then cut each leaf, which are generally pretty large in half, along the same line where the stem used to be.
- Place about ¼ cup of mash in the bottom part of the leaf, leaving about 1 inch border, and roll it like you would a burrito… fold bottom edge of collard green over filling, fold in sides and roll away from you, creating as tight roll as possible. Do this until you run out of leaves and/or filling mash.
At this point… you can save them to steam later or you can steam right away. For the Hawaiian Festival, we rolled them the night before and steamed them the morning of our lunch festival.
- Set up a steamer pot with boiling water. Transfer rolls to a steamer basket, cover pot and steam for 2-3 minutes. Increase steaming time to 5 minutes if you made these in advance and are coming cold out of the fridge. Transfer to serving platter carefully with tongs.
The collard greens are hearty, but are already tender enough that they cut easily. The filling is sweet and savory. This is great new way to enjoy cooked greens that still look vibrant green.