I get inspiration from recipes I read or I hear from my friends and relatives. I also get inspired from my food idols whom I follow on instagram, some I know personally, like dear Karima Moyer whom I had the pleasure of meeting during this year’s Dublin Gastronomy Symposium. I have been closely following her pasta challenge, 50 pasta posts in 2020, and it really got interesting to towards the end. When I saw rotolo di spinaci I knew I had to make it. But the being the kind of person I am, trying to use whatever I have on hand and not really following any recipe to the book, I made my adjustments to this classic recipe and accidentally sort of given it a fusion touch.
I did not have any potatoes at home, so decided to replace the dough with su böreği dough. Su böreği is a type of flaky pastry filed with cheese and chopped parsley. The ‘su’ in the name means water because the layers of this type of börek is boiled before layered in a dish to form the final product. I used my anneanne’s (maternal grandma) recipe for that. And for the filling, I had recently found out from my favorite aunt Gül (actually one of my mom’s best friends but close to me like an aunt) about a type of spinach filling they use in Adana, where she is from. This filling requires spinach to be chopped and rubbed with salt until wilted and then it gets mixed with tahini and sesame seeds. As for the technique I followed everything Karima did on her instagram post. The result: a superb tasting spinach rolls, easily can be made before hand and sautéed in butter just before service. Perfect for a dinner party, whenever those may be in the future…..
By the way if you want to learn a whole lot about real Italian food please visit Karima’s website The Eternal Table.
The Spinach, Onion and Tahini Roll
Makes 10 slices
For the dough (actually this is very similar to a pasta dough):
2 cups all purpose flour
2 egg yolks
2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp water (if the dough does not come together)
For the filling:
1 lbs ( ½kg) spinach, roughly chooped
1 medium size onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. white sesame, plus more for decorating
¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg yolks. Start mixing the flour with egg yolks to form the dough. If the dough is dry add a little bit of water slowly until the dough comes together to form a ball. Let it rest covered for 15 minutes. Then stretch the dough into a rectangle (While stretching, using corn or wheat starch, makes it much easier to roll than flour). The short side of the rectangle should be as long as the diameter of the pot you’re going to boil the roll in. Lay damp towel over the stretched dough and let it rest for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the spinach. Mix it with 2 tsp. of salt and start rubbing the salt into the spinach until wilted. Leave it for 5 minutes, then squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible* (you can do this step with your hands or with a kitchen towel). In a separate bowl add ½ tsp. salt to the sliced onions and rub it until the onions are softened and release its bitter juice. Squeeze the onion juices as well then add it to the spinach together with tahini and sesame (I didn’t add it but I think chopped walnuts would be great here for extra flavor and texture).
Take a clean piece of cheesecloth that is bigger than your rectangle dough. Dust with flour all over. Spread the spinach mixture over the dough. Make sure that the filling is about 1 cm (about half inch) away from all the edges. Then start from one of the short sides and roll quite tightly but not pressing hard. Once the dough is completely rolled close both ends by pinching the dough. Place on the dusted cheesecloth and roll the cloth to cover the spinach roll completely. Tie both ends tightly with kitchen twine. Tie a couple strings in the middle as well to keep the cloth tight. Place in a large pot with boiling water and boil for 20 minutes. Take out from the water and let it rest for about 15 minutes until it’s cooled.
Then remove the cheesecloth and slice the roll into 10 equal pieces (or as many as you want, mine was about 1 cm thick each).
Take a sauté pan and melt 2 tbsp. of butter. Add the slices and cook until browned on both sides and then serve immediately with some sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
*I usually keep both the spinach juice and onions juice to use in other dishes. For example I whisk the spinach juice with eggs and make green scrambled eggs. I add the onion juice to my köfte mix and it gives it that great onion flavor without the bits of onion. Beats using the powdered stuff.