Saturday, one could say, was a little rainy. It was perfect rain, the kind that is only possible on a Saturday when there are no plans, except, perhaps, that one must find sustenance at some point. And I had a sick roommate, a “maybe-coming-down-with-something” boyfriend, and an 846-page novel. All was quiet, sleepy, and well, until my thoughts drifted to the cabbage in the crisper.
I hadn’t been planning to buy cabbage during an earlier shopping run, but luck of the Irish was with me: I saw it marked down to 33 cents/pound at Whole Foods in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s day, and figured 33 cents/pound was a price worth paying for cabbage. Into my basket it went, and rang up at a grand total of $0.94.
So as I turned to vague thoughts of dinner, I looked for cabbage recipes. And of course Martha Rose had done a cabbage week in 2008, and of course one of her ideas looked delicious and substantial, and of course it called for one head of cabbage, which is just what I had. Greek Cabbage Pie it would be.
Of course, it also called for a couple of things I didn’t have: dill, a red onion, phyllo dough, feta cheese. No matter. It was just raining. And a bit windy. 43mph winds, actually. But I had a fancy umbrella, guaranteed to not flip out in the wind. I hadn’t actually tested it, but…
Lorne and I embarked on the nine-block walk to Whole Foods, me wrestling my umbrella, Lorne deciding he’d rather just get drenched. The umbrella was impressive, staying strong and upright; Lorne was just starting to say that maybe I should go find the inventor of the umbrella and marry the guy—he was obviously a genius. And then, so close to safety, a wind gust swept my umbrella hard. I held on tight. The umbrella held on tight. And suddenly I was left staring at my knuckles, clenching a foot of umbrella handle, which had snapped off completely from the umbrella itself. I could only watch in disbelief as my red umbrella danced away. It had failed me! This Greek Pie thing was already turning out to be a bit more trouble than I had expected.
After that adventure, we weren’t surprised to find that Whole Foods was a bit eerie—empty save for a few soaking souls. Which gave us plenty of space to debate the fresh feta options: Cow’s milk feta, Bulgarian feta (sheep’s milk), Greek feta (sheep and goat’s milk). Lorne was sure that feta wasn’t cow’s milk, so we passed on that. The Greek feta looked good, but was twice as much as the Bulgarian. Feta’s feta, right? I picked up a tub of the Bulgarian stuff. How bad could it be?
It wasn’t until I had chopped the vegetables, blanched the cabbage, and was happily sauteing everything (including some spinach for extra oomph) that I opened the feta. Whoa whoa whoa! A strong whiff of something that could only be described as “barnyard” pervaded the room. When wine connoisseurs say that a wine has “hints of barnyard,” they don’t mean anything like this cheese. This was like sitting in the middle of a sheep pen, surrounded by nuzzling animals.
But after a long debate, and convincing Lorne that no, the bacteria used in the making of the cheese did not come from manure (a fact that we had to google, and no, there was no google auto-fill for the question, “Is cheese made with manure bacteria?”), we whisked the cheese and some eggs into the cabbage mixture. Then we pulled the phyllo dough out of the freezer.
Hmmm. It was supposed to thaw overnight, then sit at room temperature for two hours. I looked at my cellphone. Already 7:30, and the night before the time change, so theoretically, it was 8:30. Double hmmm. A quick defrost round in the microwave, verboten per the package instructions, and our phyllo dough, only slightly worse for its carousel ride, was ready to layer.
And 40 minutes later, voila!
It still smelled slightly of barnyard, but more of the “lightly scented whiff of countryside barnyard.” Once we added salt and pepper, it worked. Enough to eat straight for a week? Eh… it surprisingly just tasted better on day three than on day one. I’d try it again with cow’s milk feta, more garlic, and something with a bit more bite—olives, perhaps, or capers.
But when making this pie and debating barnyard cheese are the hardest parts of your day? That’s when you know it’s a good Saturday.
Greek Cabbage Pie, adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s version. I just added a bag of frozen spinach in with the blanched cabbage.