Mike IsabellaIn March 2007, Chef Mike Isabella was appointed as head chef of the popular Penn Quarter restaurant Zaytinya, located at 701 9th Street, NW. THINKfoodGROUP’s José Andrés and Rob Wilder were pleased to welcome Chef Isabella who came to Washington with an extensive list of restaurant experience. Mike earned an associates degree in culinary arts at the New York Restaurant School and has several years of industry experience including three years working for Stephen Starr's Philadelphia restaurants. He worked as executive sous chef with James Beard Award-winning Chef Marcus Samuelsson at Washington Square, and as a sous chef at El Vez and Alma de Cuba, the modern Latin restaurant which received accolades from Conde’ Nast Traveler as one of the “Top 50 Restaurants.” Most recently Mike was chef de cuisine at Kyma, the award-winning Greek seafood restaurant in the exclusive Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Zaytinya serves an extensive array of various hot and cold mezze “little dishes” reflecting the rich regional diversity of classical and contemporary Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine. Open seven days a week. Zaytinya is located at 701 9th St., NW, in the heart of the Penn Quarter. For additional information call (202) 638-0800.
Mike Isabella: How are you doing? My name is Mike Isabella; I am the Chef at Zaytinya restaurant in Washington DC. Today, we will be showing you how to make spanakopita, a traditional Greek pie made with spinach, feta cheese, wrapped in Phyllo dough and now were going to show you how to put together the spanakopita.
After, we have all the ingredients ready from all of our previous steps, were pretty much now just going to mix everything together and roll it up in the phyllo dough, brush it with little clarified butter and then chill them down, bake them off and show you what the final product is. So, heres the original one pound of spinach that we blanched and shocked, squeezed down and chopped up and heres the leeks, we have one large leek, sauted up, with really barely any colors, nice and green a and translucent and then we have the scallions, that we sauted up. So, about two tablespoons of parsley, two tablespoons of chopped dill and then we have this beautiful feta cheese; we get our feta cheese, as I was saying, imported from Greece called Dodoni, topnotch nice cream a little bit of saltiness and were going to put that in and now it looks like a lot of cheese, it looks like almost equal parts of the spinach, but its really not. Were going to mix all this up, throw in an egg in here, mix everything up, so it all combines, some of the feta cheese, and we get it emulsified in and melt it down. Once we mix everything up, this is what the final product is and you sew all your nice spinach with leeks and scallions and dill and parsley and all this beautiful feta cheese. This is the heart and soul of the pie.
So, now we have our spanakopita filling. Were going to put the butter that we clarified earlier, make sure we have a pastry brush. You can use something like this, if you have a small one, a small one will work also and again the butter is nice at room temperature. So, we have our dough, we have our butter and our brush and then now were going to pull out our phyllo dough.
We originally cut it into strips and now, were going to open those strips up. I put them on to one, but originally the recipe calls for have them in four different sections which we can do and we line them up evenly and basically what Im going to do is, Im just going to get my clarified butter, brush it on. Now, you can do one at a time, just want to put enough just to coat it, keep it nice and moist, so it doesnt get cracky and dry up. Were going to do that to all of these, just going to brush them all, as we continue to go down and then were going to add the phyllo dough. Now, basically the recipe calls for basically about a tablespoon of filling, you want to kind of put it away about like a half an inch away from the bottom and were going to fold them up like triangles, like how you fold a flag, an American flag. So, you could buy a little scoopers, you can do with a spoon, you can do with your hands, I kind of scared a little bit, some of these little bit different shapes, some of them a little bit narrow, some of them little bit bigger, kind of put about a tablespoon right here, kind of flat it out, its about a half inch away from the bottom and then basically we want to push it down so we have a triangle. Once we have a triangle, you can see all the fillings, the feta cheese, the spinach, the leeks, everything and were just going to continue to fold this over, just like a flag and then once we get towards the end, Im going to hit it one more time with a little bit more clarified butter, kind of right on top of the pie, all the way up on to the top, and then were going to fold it over, so it seals nice and tightly right over, and we have little left and we kind of fold over. That is your spanakopita, your nice little triangles. And I have a fee made for you over here, which are pre done.
Once its done, you kind of just want to put it on a tray and add a little bit of layer of parchment paper, youre going to put it down. What I do is, I tend to just brush a little bit of a clarified butter right on top of it, so it kind of seals it, gives a nice little butter and then were going to pop this right to the refrigerator as were going to seal, so it gets nice and cool and tight. You want to keep them in there for at least for an hour, till the clarified butter tightens up on top and also you can keep them overnight. You could be able to hold for a couple of days. I dont like to keep it more than two days because sometimes the spinach might get a little bit of brown and you want to serve it as fresh as possible, but minimum one-anda-half hour and maximum two days and then once its ready you can pop it in the oven.
Were going to cook them in the oven at 350 degrees for six minutes. Were going to open it up after six minutes; were going to flip them over, and cook it for another two minutes till golden-brown on both sides. Once we have gotten that far with the phyllo dough, this is your final product. You have a beautiful, nice, flaky and crispy warm phyllo and I sometimes tend to brush a little bit also, just to shine it up for the customer, or also for the friends that youre having coming over, or the family, just brush it with a little clarified butter, use a little flavor, makes them nice and shiny and then basically I was going to take one of these nice spanakopita that you can see the nice golden- brown all the way around. And get the knife and were just going to cut it open and then you have it. We have a spinach and feta cheese spanakopitas that are rolled in the country phyllo and thats how you make spanakopita, a traditional Greek pie.