This dish is a fun, modern twist on two classic Greek mezze: spanakopitta and taramasalata. Spanakopitta means "spinach pie" in Greek, and instead of phyllo filled with the traditional spinach and feta cheese, I like to fill rainbow trout with a creamy spinach mixture, seasoned with plenty of fresh dill. Crisping the trout skin as much as possible mimics the crisp and flaky pastry used in traditional spanakopitta.
Taramasalata is a potato purée with carp roe that is smeared on pita bread and eaten before a meal. I like to make the purée with avocado and stud it with little pink salmon eggs. Each one bursts a little sea salt into a mouthful of creamy, rich avocado.
Gamay is perfect for this dish, with its fruity notes of cherries and black pepper spices. The tannins are low and the high acidity complements the richness of the trout. Look for a Beaujolais (see page 264 of the book) from the villages of Julienas, Chenas, Morgan, or Moulin a Vent. These provide the deepest, most aromatic red.
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds spinach, large stems removed and washed
1 bulb fennel
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (about 2 large cloves)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon ouzo or raki (optional)
1/2 cup feta
1/2 cup Greek-style or plain whole-milk yogurt
6 rainbow trout, boned but left whole (6 to 8 ounces each)
2 avocados, peeled, halved, and scooped out
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 cup flour
5 tablespoons brown butter (page 108 of the book)
4 teaspoons salmon roe or caviar
1. Prepare a medium mixing bowl with ice water.
2. In a large saucepan, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt. Add the spinach and cook until wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the spinach into a colander and then set it in a bowl of ice water to shock and cool it quickly.
3. Drain the spinach into the colander again and squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands. Squeezing small amounts at a time works best. Roughly chop the spinach and set aside.
4. Trim off the long fennel fronds and remove the tough outer layer. Cut the fennel into quarters and remove the core. Slice the fennel lengthwise and then chop it into to a fine dice.
5. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onion and fennel. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes on medium-low heat, until the onion is translucent. Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons of the garlic and all of the spinach and cook for 5 minutes more.
6. Place this mixture in a medium mixing bowl and stir in the dill, scallions, and ouzo (if using).
7. Using a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée the feta, egg, and 1/4 cup of the yogurt. Stir this into the spinach mixture and season with salt and pepper.
8. Remove the heads from the trout and lay them open with the tails toward you, on a work surface. Season each fillet with salt and pepper.
9. On the top half of each fillet, spread 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture. Fold the fillets in half the short way, forming rectangles. Set aside.
10. Using a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée the avocados with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic and 1/4 cup yogurt, the lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
12. In a medium skillet, over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly dredge the trout fillets in flour and shake off any excess. Brown the trout in the skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. You can probably fit 2 fillets at a time in the skillet. After both sides are brown, place them on a heavy baking sheet and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Repeat the browning process until you've browned all the trout.
13. Place the trout in the oven. Bake the trout for another 5 to 6 minutes to cook it through and to assure that the spinach mixture is hot. The trout should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
14. Drizzle the trout with brown butter and serve each piece alongside a few heaping spoonfuls of avocado purée dotted with salmon roe.
Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean
by Ana Sortun
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created September 2006
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