my pastry overfloweth with cheese ::::
In seventh grade, we studied a watered down version of the the Russian Revolution, complete with Bolsheviks, a mention of Karl Marx, and various battles. Even though I had pretty much solidified my grade with a lengthy term paper on Catherine the Great earlier in the semester, complete with a family genealogy that distantly linked me to her, I still jumped at the chance to do extra credit. I don’t know if I came up with the idea or if it was the passively chauvinistic male teacher who did, but one option was to cook a Russian meal at home, document the preparation with photos, and submit those photos with recipes to him for some extra points. I remember one dish in particular, flaky and salty: the Russian cheese pastries. I doubt my mother and I found an authentic Russian cheese in our town at that time; I’m pretty sure we substituted with domestic feta. The Chicken Kiev I made from scratch was good, but now I realize disappointingly not authentic whatsoever. My teacher didn’t know the difference, lucky for me.
I don’t know why I thought of those pastries recently. They weren’t remarkable. They were extremely salty (did I oversalt? Or was it the amount of cheese I used?). They weren’t all that pretty. But some reason, I have a craving for them, those once-made pastries, for which I am probably elevating in taste in my cloudy memory. Chalk it up to pregnancy. And need for protein.
So what of the recipe? Likely it may be that my mother has it somewhere, I still searched through some Russian cookbooks to find a similar match. It was actually the LA Times recipe online for Georgian cheese pie, or khachapuri, that seemed the most similar, but with a few shortcuts. The pastry dough is flaky with the use of pre-made puff pastry in this recipe. The khachapuri cheese choices are often chosen per what is locally available; by example, I did the same. This version is a Imeretian khachapuri, a large cheese pie akin to its boisterous cousin the pizza. Often the Adjaran khachapuris are highlighted, the little boat-shaped, open-faced pastries, often topped with an egg and butter. The Ossetian version sounds even better, a filling made with potatoes and cheese.
While I am all about authenticity, reinvention is acceptable here. Experiment with cheese options. Make your pastries round, square, boat-shaped, big, or small. You may just get some extra credit.
One year ago: chawanmushi
Two years ago: crispy potato roast
- ½ pound regular mozzarella, grated
- ½ pound feta, in small crumbles*
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 2 sheets good-quality frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mozzarella, feta, egg, and dill and mix well. Set aside.
- On a piece of parchment, roll out one sheet of the puff pastry into a rectangle (it should be about 12x12 inches). Place it on a baking sheet. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a thin border. Roll out the second sheet of puff pastry to the same size and lay it over the cheese, using the egg wash as glue to bind and pressing the edges to seal them. Brush the top with the egg wash. Chill 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the pie until crisp and golden brown, about 30 minutes (mine looked golden brown and puffed like a pillow in the oven). Cool slightly before cutting into 3-inch squares or triangles. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- Each serving: 114 calories; 6 grams protein; 4 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 50 mg. cholesterol; 273 mg. sodium. Not too carby -- perfect for gestational diabetes!
Secondly, the amount of feta here makes this dish very salty. Serve with a less salty fish to balance it. You can also use more mozzarella and less feta for overall less salt content.