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Recipe #90: Fatayer Bi Sabanekh (Spinach Popovers)

Posted Mar 16 2010 4:01pm
Fatayer Bi Sabanekh (خنابسلأ رئاطف), or spinach popovers/triangles are one of my favorite mezze  to order at the local Lebanese restaurant a few blocks down from us. The only problem is that the dough is loaded with fat. This probably explains why I don't eat them that often. :) So of course, I'm going to give you a recipe for a much healthier version here. :)  As most of you already know, I believe that recipes have got to taste good no matter how healthy they are, so it follows that recipes here will also follow the same criterion! :) OK, on to the recipe!
Fatayer Bi Sabanekh (Spinach Popovers)

Dough Ingredients:
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp.  brown sugar
1/4 c. lukewarm water (110-115°F)
1/4 c. milk
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Filling Ingredients:
1 c. cooked & drained spinach, densely/tightly packed & finely chopped (NOTE: If using fresh vs. frozen, you'll need about 1 lb. spinach)
1 c. yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 an onion)
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 Tbsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried mint leaves
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
(1/4 tsp. salt, but only if the type of sumac you use doesn't already contain salt - Check sumac ingredients first before adding.)

Directions: Proof yeast with lukewarm water & sugar. It's very important that you use fresh yeast & lukewater warm (110-115°F), & follow the instructions for making the dough in the proper sequence as written; if water is boiling hot or if salt is added directly to the yeast, it will kill the yeast instantly. (Also, I don't use milk to proof, as it tends to create lumps.) If yeast mixture doesn't start bubbling within 5 minutes, it's usually dead. Start over with a new batch of yeast. ;) Let mixture proof for about 10-15 minutes. [If you've never done this before or need a refresher, please see  this website  for more useful & very important tips.]

While you're waiting for the yeast to proof, measure milk & allow it to reach room temperature. Set aside. Sift flour into a separate, large bowl, & then mix in salt. When yeast has finished proofing, add milk to yeast mixture & let sit for another few minutes. Then the add liquid mixture to flour mixture, & stir in olive oil. Form a dough ball & knead for several minutes until the dough is soft & pliable but not overly sticky or dry.  If necessary, add a touch more flour or water to reach proper consistency.  Place dough back into bowl & cover with plastic wrap; if you're using a plastic bowl, you'll probably want to place a large rubber band around bowl to secure. (You can also use a towel, but I find that the plastic wrap is the most effective method for keeping the dough moist.) Let dough rest for an hour or more.

While dough is rising, mix together filling ingredients in a separate bowl & then set aside. I cannot stress enough HOW important it is that you squeeze out ALL of the liquid from the spinach after cooking it. If you're using frozen, a good method is to let it thaw out & then cut open a small hole in the bottom of the bag for squeezing out the liquid. You can also use a strainer, but I find that squeezing the spinach towards the top of the bag & letting the water drain through the bottom works really well. :) Please note that if the mixture is to wet, the turnovers will be difficult to seal together & may also open up in the oven during baking.

Cut the dough in half and roll the first half onto a floured surface, until it reaches 1/16 of an inch. It's very important to roll out the dough as thin as humanly possible; otherwise the popovers will be heavy & dough-y, & no one wants that! :) If you have difficulty getting them paper-thin, try to at least get them to 1/8 of an inch or thinner.

Useful Tip: If you roll dough onto floured wax paper instead of directly onto your countertop, you can just wrap up the paper ends & discard when finished. It saves cleanup time -- one less thing to clean.  And I think we can all agree that that's a good thing. :)

Use round cookie cutter or large glass that's at least 4" in diameter. If you're using a glass, be sure to place the glass flush with the dough & then gently rotate/roll the glass's edge around in a circle to make dough cut-outs.

Keep rolling out the remaining dough in batches, reusing the unused cutouts & repeating the procedure until all of the dough has been used up.
When all the cut-outs have been finished, you can work each dough circle & stretch it out with your fingers a bit more before adding the filling, in order to make the popovers easier to close.

Next, place a spoonful of filling onto each dough circle; don't overfill or ends will get wet & will be difficult to seal. On that note, flour your hands really well after you complete this step. :) Then lift the popover ends & pinch 2 sides together & then the third side to form a pyramid shape. (Useful Tip: If ends should come apart during sealing process, just dust flour on the inside ends & reseal.)

(When finished, they should resemble  hamentaschen , if you've ever seen those before. Of course, the main difference is that popovers are completely sealed, whereas  hamentaschen  have poppy seed filling poking out of the top center. Samosas , while triangle-shaped, are configured & sealed a bit differently, so they don't really look the same. ;) )

Preheat over to 375°F. Place sealed popovers onto a greased baking sheet. [Useful Tip: Instead of greasing with butter or nonstick cooking spray, I use a Misto spray can filled with olive oil, which is much healthier. As many of you already know, Teflon pans & non-stick aerosol sprays (like PAM) contain a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA), which is potentially unhealthy, especially since it's been known to peel off & bond to food. Now while the verdict's still out on PFOA's long-term effects, it's probably best not to chance it. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't want that stuff in my stomach. In general, I try to steer away from ingesting chemical compounds whenever I can help it, whether they be found in food, the air, or household objects. ;-) ]

Place baking sheet into oven & bake for 25-30 minutes, or until popovers turn a golden brown color. (Please note, there's no need to flip them over; if you cook them long enough, both the tops & bottoms will brown.)

Bake in batches & let them cool a bit. Popovers should be slightly warm when eaten.


Yield: Makes about 25-30 popovers, depending on how thin you roll the doll. :)

Chef's Notes/Tips: Popovers can be frozen for a month or two, or even longer. Wait until they cool completely before placing them into ziploc bags. Also, after you thaw them out, be sure to poke holes in the top of the popovers to let the condensation escape, or you're going to have some rather soggy popovers. :)

To make this recipe even more low-fat, you could substitute walnuts & almonds for the pine nuts. If allergic to tree nuts, you can try substituting soy nuts. I haven't tried it before myself, but I bet they'd probably work.

Also, if you have any left-over spinach filling after you're done making the popovers, the mixture by itself tastes really good either raw or cooked; you can serve it along with rice or couscous as a side for lunch or dinner. If you're going to eat it raw, be sure that the mixture has had adequate time to marinate (i.e., 30-60 minutes), as the acid in the lemon juice needs time to "cold-cook" the onions. Otherwise, the mixture is going to be really strong, & so will your breath. ;-)


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