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 youre doing? My name is Mike Isabella; I am the Chef of the Zaytinya restaurant in Washington DC. Today, we will be making spanakopita, a traditional Greek pie, made with spinach and feta cheese, wrapped with Phyllo dough and baked off. Right now, I am going start you off by showing you how blanch and chop the spinach to get it ready for the pie.
Here is some spinach that I got for us today. This is a regular spinach, so you can buy at the store. I buy mine prewashed and cleaned. Sometimes if you get spinach, its going to be a little bit dirty and gritty and have stems on it, so what I do is I usually like to kind of go through the spinach and pick off some of the stems on the spinach leaves and also go through to see if there is any bruise leaves that are in fresh and ripe and well then Ill take those out, discard those leaves, when they are all torn up, but beside that we are going to go pretty much as pick through these leaves. Once we are done picking through the leaves, we are going to wash and rinse the spinach leaves off in some cold water. Once we pick through the leaves and rinse everything off, we can blanch and chop our spinach. Now, today for the blanching part we are going to get a pot of boiling water with a little salt in it. Bring it to a boil and drop the spinach leaves in it for about 10-15 seconds, so they wilt and they hold their nice, strong, rich green color, basically a thing that I would like to tell a customer is that you want to ever cover a pot that has -- that you are cooking a vegetable because what it does is, it takes the oxygen away and it makes it brown. So, we are going to keep it open. Slowly cooking, should be almost there. See the bubble still coming up, so there is small boil going, and thats it. Then were going to pull them out with a spider. Pull them out, well dip them right into iced water, which is called shocking it, we are going to shock the vegetables to stop the cooking process. Once we get to that point, we will pull the spinach out of the cold iced water. So, we dont take too much flavor, extract any flavor from the spinach and then we are going to squeeze it out.
Now, obviously this is a big -- this is a lot of spinach, but its one pound of spinach and after we blanch and shock the spinach, one pound of spinach is going to be -- this small little amount right over here, after we squeeze it out from the iced water. After we have the spinach blanched, shocked and squeezed out, we are going to put it on our cutting board and we are going to chop it up, so well be ready to go right into our bowl and wait for all the products to be cooked off and ready. Basically the reason why I am chopping the spinach up is that when you make a spanakopita and you take a bite out of it, its not going to all come out -- all the filling that going to come out of the spanakopita in one bite. Were going little bites and you will be able to enjoy the spanakopita, instead of just one bite, multiple bites.
Thats how we prepare the blanching and shocking of the spinach today. Next, well be showing you how to get ready on the leeks and scallions.