Spinach and feta cheese turnovers
Crisp dough triangles with a piquant spinach filling inside.
I’m a spinach fan. When it’s fresh and leafy and beautiful, I could eat it every day. Spinach soup, spinach cooked with onions and stuffed into twice-baked potatoes. Rice and spinach. Or just plain, cooked in its own juices, with a little butter. There are many, many recipes that include, or feature, Popeye’s favorite, but this is a particularly Israeli way to cook it.
It’s hard to resist fried turnovers. But if you prefer to eat them baked, it’s easy enough: preheat the oven to 300° F (150° C). Brush the turnovers with a beaten egg and bake 15 minutes.
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 1 cup fresh, clean spinach leaves, chopped fine
- 2 teaspoons powdered edible sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled, or another firm, moist, salty white cheese, chopped
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil
- 1 cup room-temperature water
- Oil for frying
For the spinach filling
For the dough
Place onion, spinach, sumac and salt in a medium bowl and mix them together with your hands. Rub them together to release the vegetable juices. Put the vegetables into a colander to drain 30 minutes. If you’re using a moist cheese, chop it and set it aside to drain at the same time, in another colander or sieve.
After 30 minutes, mix the olive oil into the vegetables. Mix in the cheese.
While the spinach is marinating, prepare the dough. You can use a food processor or standing mixer.
Blend (or mix) the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the oil and water. Blend until the dough forms a ball.
Leave the dough in the food processor or mixer, covered, for 30 minutes. It will rise some, but not double in size.
Scatter flour over your work surface. Knead the dough lightly 3 or 4 times.
Cut the dough into quarters and place one quarter on your work surface. Place the other three quarters back in the bowl where it was mixed (and saves washing another bowl).
Roll the dough out into a very thin square. Don’t be afraid to roll it out as thinly as you can. It shouldn’t be tacky, but if it sticks, flour it a little as you roll. Keep rolling until you think it can’t get any thinner, then roll some more. It should be a very thin, flexible sheet that you can almost see through.
Trim away any rough edges. The trimmings can be rolled up together afterward to make new turnovers. Or if you don’t mind rustic-looking turnovers, simply cut the dough sheet into fourths.
For large turnovers about 4x5”, cut the dough into fourths. For smaller, appetizer-sized turnovers, cut each fourth in half.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture onto the center of each square. Top with 1/2 tablespoon cheese. If making smaller ones, fill with only 1 tablespoon of spinach and a little more than 1 teaspoon of cheese.
Fold the filled squares into triangles, enclosing the filling. Push any filling that escapes back in. Press the edges down with your fingertips, then press the edges down again with the tines of a fork.
Heat oil in a large skillet until a drop of water skips off the surface and crackles. Carefully place the first turnover in. If the oil covers the edges of the turnover, there’s enough oil in the skillet. Fry for 2 minutes on each side, keeping the heat high. Proceed with the rest of the turnovers the same way. Don’t crowd them.
Place fried turnovers in a baking sheet covered with paper towels to drain. Serve warm.
Tips and notes:
Edible sumac (Rhus coriaria, or elm-leaved sumach) is a mildly lemony, wine-red spice that grows wild all over the Mediterranean and is related to the cashew family. It shouldn’t be confused with poison sumac. Israelis flavor almost any dish with edible sumac, from onions to chicken to cheese. You can find it in Mediterranean grocery stores and online. Lacking sumac, substitute 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
The turnovers take 2 minutes to fry on each side whether they’re large or small. You can therefore cut the cooking time in half by making them large.
The traditional triangle shape is convenient for eating out of hand. If your dough didn’t cut out into regular squares, you won’t be able to make triangles. But who says everything has to be perfect? Press the three loose sides together to make rectangles or squares. They’ll still be delicious, I promise.