This dish is an entry for the Nom Yourself Birthday Challenge. Mary Matten is the amazing chef behind the creative dishes at Nom Yourself. To celebrate her first year blogaversary, she is holding a contest with amazing prizes to be won, including a Vitamix and Nom Yourself cookbook! All you have to do is to recreate any dish from the Nom Yourself instagram account (@nomyourself), but to put your own creative spin on it. You can read more about the contest description and rules here.
The dish that I chose to recreate was Crispy Spinach Puffs with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce. Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes, typically rectangular slices or triangular parcels. Yet another fun way to pack in those delicious creamy spinach fillings would be in the form of money-bag-shaped dumplings. I borrowed this idea from the classic Chinese wanton money-bags, a perennial dim sum favourite. To make the money-bags from phyllo, simply cut the pastry into circles then fold inwards to form a pouch.
To make it a more wholesome and satisfying meal, the filling comes with lentils in addition to the staple spinach and “ricotta” cheese, which is based on a cashew/tofu blend. Plump phyllo pockets loaded with lentils, tofu, cashews and spinach – now, you’ve got a balanced mix of carbo, protein, greens and healthy fat. I’ve seen versions of spanakopitas that come with chickpeas and black beans; it’s pretty versatile so you may use whatever you have on hand.
As for the accompanying sauce, the original Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce was given full-blown upgrade to a rich and hearty tomato sauce, with lots of garlic and just a hint of sweetish balsamic dancing in the background. It is certainly the tomato sauce that made this dish so nom-worthy!
So that’s my take on Crispy Spinach Puffs. In case you were wondering about the pun with money, that’s because NomYouself has a way with words and the name of her dishes always tell a story. So this is my amateur attempt at word play. I hope you enjoy!
- About 18 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
- Bunch of spring onions
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup chopped onion
- One box (150 g) fresh spinach
- ¾ cup cooked green lentils (prepared from ¼ cup or 50 g dry)
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours
- ¾ cup crumbled firm silken or pressed tofu
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Chopped fresh Italian parsley
- The night before making the dish, defrost phyllo pastry in the refrigerator and soak cashews in water.
- The next day. If preparing lentils from dry, place the lentils into a saucepan and fill with water to cover the lentils. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but not mushy. Set aside. If using canned lentils, measure out about ¾ cup and set aside.
- In a medium frying pan, saute onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion turns translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Then add in garlic and saute 1 minute, followed by the spinach. Cook the mixture until the spinach is just wilted.
- Next, prepare the cashew tofu ricotta. In a medium sized bowl, mash about ⅔ block of tofu with a fork until it fall aparts. Take about ¾ cup of your crumbled tofu and put it in the food processor with the soaked cashews and the remaining seasonings. Process on high until the mixture is smooth. Then add in the cooked spinach mixture and pulse a few times until the spinach is just chopped up.
- Remove the spinach/ricotta mixture and place into a large bowl. Add the cooked lentils and fold in to incorporate. This will be the filling for the money-bags.
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Cut out phyllo circles for the money bags. Take a stack of phyllo pastry and place on a flat surface. Place a 7-inch dish or cake tin over and using the knife, trace around the dish/tin to make an indentation. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut out the circles fully. Altogether you should get 36 circles to make 12 money-bags (3 circles per money bag).
- To make each money-bag, brush each circle generously with olive oil. Lay another circle on top. Brush again with olive oil. Lay one more circle on top. Place about 3 tablespoons of the filling into the center of the circle and fold to create a bag. Secure with spring onion stalk. Repeat the same for the other money-bags. Finally, brush each money-bag with olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes until the outsides are browned and crispy.
- Meanwhile as the spanakopitas are baking, prepare the tomato balsamic sauce. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, wine, and basil. Simmer 15 minutes.
- To serve, ladle tomato balsamic sauce onto a plate and place about 3 money-bags on top. Garnish with chopped parsley.