Posts Tagged ‘freezer food’

Hi. It’s been a while. My professional life has been incredibly busy and has sucked up so much of my recipe creativity, leaving little left for other things. I’ve been running on empty and leaning heavily on cooking tried and true favorites, generally just trying to get through the days. Aren’t we all? It’s full on survival mode. But I came up with something a few weekends ago and thought I’d share.

It all stems from my spare freezer, the one friends call my ‘magical freezer’. It is a bottomless pit of stuff, a giant magical mystery box full of things I buy with a purpose and forget. Leftovers from various projects. The overwhelming abundance that my little garden plot produces late in the season that I can’t deal with in the moment. Gifts from generous friends. Client samples. Oh so many client samples. Every once in a while, it needs an aggressive purge and that time had come.

I made a cherry pie for a holiday BBQ and knocked out 8 cups of frozen sour cherries. Boom. In digging out the cherries, I found a box of frozen spinach and a thick round of cream cheese dough. Couldn’t remember their original purpose and it didn’t really matter anymore. I could turn this into something. Rifling through the fridge, I unearthed some fresh dill and mint, a half container of feta and a jalapeno; all leftovers from an earlier recipe project. Hmmm. Some sort of spanakopita-ish hand pie thing was starting to come to mind.

And then there were the beans. Oh lord, the beans. I have a bit of a problem, thanks to the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. Every quarter, six pounds arrive and while I really enjoy receiving them, I’ve acquired quite a back stock. It’s just this side of alarming. (Is bean hoarding a thing? Lordy.) One look at that shelf and I made a vow to kick up my bean eating immediately. (In fact, I cooked up 1 ½ pounds this morning. No time like the present.) So anyway, while I was digging around in the freezer, I found a small bag of cassoulet beans, cooked with big ideas and no time to execute. Story of my life. Could I put beans in a hand pie? Why not? Use those suckers up. So that’s what I did: made a spinach/herb/feta/white bean filling and stuffed it into thin rounds of tender, cream cheese dough. Baked until golden and crispy, they were delicious. Even better with the leftover tzatziki I happened to have. The magical freezer delivers yet again.

Now I realize with this god damn heat, turning on the oven seems like the worst idea in the world. If, unlike me, you have A/C it’s probably not an issue but maybe bake in the morning before things get too fiery. Or freeze them unbaked and finish off later. Not that I’m advocating for re-stuffing the freezer but they are awful nice to have on hand for a quick snack.

STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: OH THE SATISFACTION. Taking seeming random things found in the depths of the freezer/fridge and turning them into something wonderful is a great feeling. Making space in my damn freezer feels even better.

thirteen years ago: Cajun Ginger Cookies

twelve years ago: Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

eleven years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie; Lard Crust

ten years agoRicotta Cheesecake

nine years ago: Greek Meatballs

eight years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise

seven years ago: Eton Mess

six years ago: Julia’s Braised Cucumbers

five years ago: Cream Soda Sherbet

four years ago: Lemon Sour Cream Pie

three years ago: Strawberry Mascarpone Galette

two years ago: Chorizo & Cornbread Strada (Savory Bread Pudding)

last year: Refried Beans


Makes about 1 ½ dozen with a 4 ¼” round cutter

If you don’t feel like making a dough, purchased pie crust, puff pastry or phyllo work too. Look for one without palm oil, and preferably all butter or olive oil. Trader Joe’s usually stocks good stuff at reasonable prices.

for the cream cheese pastry dough:

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

¼ cup whole milk

1 ½ cups + 2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 

½ teaspoon kosher salt

egg wash: 1 egg well beaten

for the filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño, about ½ of a large pepper

2 large garlic cloves, minced 

1 10oz box frozen spinach, defrosted

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

½ cup cooked white beans (cannellini, northern, tarbais)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¾ cup crumbled feta

  1. for the pastry dough: In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and cream cheese until smooth and well combined.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium until crumbly and the butter/cream cheese is distributed throughout the flour.
  3. Add the milk and mix on medium until the dough comes together.  
  4. Divide the dough in half, lightly sprinkle with flour and roll between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a smooth, even layer about 1/8” thick. Repeat with the other piece of dough and refrigerate until firm, at least ½ hour. The dough can rest in the refrigerator up to one day or freeze up to 3 months and defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Cut rounds with a 4 ¼” cutter and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. 
  6. Continue rolling and cutting, rerolling the scraps. Place the rounds in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  7. For the filling: heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium and slowly sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until very soft and lightly golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Add the jalapeño and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  9. Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible then spread out on a double layer of paper towels (or a tea towel) and squeeze out some more. Remove as much liquid as you can.
  10. Roughly chop the spinach, and place in a mixing bowl with the sautéed onions/jalapeño/garlic, dill, mint, beans, salt and pepper. Once completely cool, stir in the feta, taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. The filling can be made 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated until needed.
  11. To shape/fill: Preheat the oven to 375°F if baking immediately. Beat an egg to make the egg wash.
  12. Working with 3-4 pastry rounds at a time (keep the remaining pastry rounds in the refrigerator until needed), brush the edges of one half with the egg wash.
  13. Place about a heaping mound of the filling in the center of each round (about 2 tablespoons). 
  14. Fold dough over filling and press to close. 
  15. Either crimp the edge with a fork to seal, or turn the edges of the dough over itself to form a sort of rolling crimp. (The hand pies can be frozen on a sheet pan until solid then transferred to a Ziploc bag for up to 2 months. Egg wash and bake directly from the freezer adding a few minutes to the baking time. Write the baking instructions on the bag with a sharpie to make things easier.)
  16. Place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan, brush with egg wash.  Continue with the remaining rounds and filling. 
  17. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Cool on a wire rack.
  18. Serve hot or room temperature with a complementary sauce if desired, like tzatziki or a roasted red pepper pesto.

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