Monday, May 10, 2010

The Season for Spinach Pie

When I harvest food from my yard, I want to be able to use as much of it as possible in our meals while it is fresh and wonderful. Some crops are overplanted on purpose so we have enough for preserving, too, but I prefer to keep growing food all year, eating what’s in season, rather than spending too much time with my pressure canner on a hot summer day.

Using my yard’s produce when it is in season requires that I have good recipes that don’t depend on a lot of mixing and matching from across the seasons. Since out-of-season foods are now brought from around the world to even ordinary grocery stores, many modern cookbooks are written with the assumption that all ingredients are available at all times. These books don’t really suit my needs.

There have been some seasonal cookbooks published recently for people like me (one good one is Simply in Season, published by the Mennonite Central Committee), but those are not our only choices. Besides just surfing the net, two other great places to look are in older cookbooks and in international cookbooks that focus on traditional recipes and foods of a particular country or region.

About a month ago, I found a cookbook at the public library called The Food and Wine of Greece, by Diane Kochilis, that has a great recipe for spinach pie (spanakopitta). The book was published in 1990, but it contains a high percentage of family recipes that have been handed down, so the ingredients in any particular recipe tend to be in season at the same time.

Even better, it turns out that gardens and farms in Greece can grow a lot of the same crops as the Southern U.S. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that, but the book contains recipes for both okra and black-eyed peas, foods that I think of as Southern.

The recipe for spinach pie in Kochilis’ book was easy to follow and not too complicated, even though there was dough for a crust that had to be rolled out. However, the first time I made it, I had to buy most of the ingredients, which made the pie a pretty expensive meal.

On Mother’s Day I made it again (with help from a handsome assistant) using spinach, parsley, scallions, dill, and an immature red onion that stood in for the leek, all from the garden. The only special shopping that needed to be done was for feta cheese. This is the right season for Greek spinach pie.

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