A Garden Roulade – Kypo Pita

It all happens so quickly–rain, sun and warmth spawning explosions of green in the garden.  Finnochio begins to form tender bulbs as the deep green fronds of fennel weed thicken-up. Swiss chard leaves seem to double in size after one good rain and young leeks become perfectly tender.  A Midwestern garden in June can be a treasure trove of delicacies–one of the late spring joys which makes winter seem long ago.

This recipe is inspired by Michigan and San Diego gardens–not to mention my Cretan grandmother (Yia Yia).  Kypo (kee-poh) is the Greek word for garden.  I have fond memories of Yia Yia picking fennel and other herbs, which she used liberally.  She made several dishes using phyllo, often rolled by hand and devoid of the buttery residue, commonly found with most phyllo recipes.  My Kypo-pita follows this tradition–there is no butter and the phyllo is lightly oiled–the secret to our delicious phyllo dishes at Inn Season Cafe.

Recently, I was asked to demonstrate a Greek-style dish at the Opa Fest in Troy, Michigan. It was exciting for me to share my language of food with my fellow Greeks and discuss its history and my Cretan roots. Particularly gratifying was to reminisce about my father, Spyros, and his passion for our Greek heritage.

When making this recipe, keep in mind that other leafy vegetables from the garden, such as spinach, beet greens, purslane and sorrel, can be incorporated or substituted.

Once you try this technique with phyllo, you will say, as the Greeks do,  “Bravo!”

Please don’t hesitate to write, comment and ask questions below this post, through email, Twitter or my Facebook page.

Garden Roulades (Kypo-Pita)

Serves 8 to 10

Fennel

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup leeks, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups fennel root (finocchio), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup blanched almond flour
3/4 cup fresh fennel weed, stemmed and finely chopped

In a small saucepan on medium heat, cook the oil, leeks and garlic until the leeks begin to turn clear on the edges.  Add the fennel root, lemon and water, cover and simmer until the fennel root is soft.  Stir-in the sea salt, almond flour and fennel weed and turn off the heat. Reserve.

Greens

6 cups Swiss chard leaves, stemmed and chopped (2 cups cooked)
4 cups Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (1 cup cooked)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, preferably Cretan

Steam Swiss chard and kale for 2 to 3 minutes until well wilted.  In a medium size bowl, mix together all ingredients. Reserve.

Caramelized Onion

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sweet onions (Vidalia-style), thinly sliced
1/2 cup water

Simmer all ingredients at low heat in a covered sauce pan until the onions caramelize in their own juices.  Reserve.

Maple Oil

1 cup organic expeller-pressed canola oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Cretan
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together all ingredients, reserve.

Assembly

1 package organic phyllo dough (preferably whole wheat)
1 cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips

Create a clear workspace for working with the phyllo dough.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Set up a parchment lined baking sheet.  Stir the oil mixture well and, using a pastry brush, lightly brush oil mixture on the parchment, add one sheet of phyllo and lightly brush the phyllo, continually stirring the oil mixture. Repeat until 6 layers have been laid out.

Place a string of red pepper strips along the edge of the long side of the phyllo. Place a ½ inch wide strip of caramelized onion next to the red peppers. Then, lay a 2 inch wide strip of the cooked greens evenly next to the caramelized onion.  Lastly, spread a 3 inch wide strip of the fennel-almond mixture evenly next to the greens.  Roll the phyllo roulade-style and, with a serrated knife, slice the top half of the roulade every inch or so.  Repeat to make a second roulade. Arrange them both on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.  Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes and slice into individual pieces.  Serve warm.  If refrigerated, they should be re-baked at 300 degrees for 15 minutes before serving to bring back the crispness of the phyllo.

After The Flood

After the Flood Video

I never would have believed that the devastating San Diego floods in December could actually have a positive effect on a farm, but I was wrong.  On the north banks of the scenic Tijuana River Park in San Diego is Wild Willow Farm. The community farm and education center for San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project was caught in the once-in-a-decade rain which flooded out the area.  I decided to head down to the farm to see what had happened with my own eyes.

Mel Lions, one of the founding members, explained that what could have been a disaster was instead a windfall in many ways.  The flood waters washed the salt from the nearby ocean out of the soil and when the water receded, a 1/4 inch layer of nutrient-rich silt was left in the fields and the planted seeds sprouted after two days of being under water.   Numerous colonies of bees living on the farm were the biggest loss. Ironically, they were brought there by beekeepers for safe, temporary housing until a better home was found.

Mel believes the most significant benefit was learning how the floods and currents work with the river.  He said ancient cultures modeled their lives around the flood cycles of the alluvial plains they settled on. Now, Wild Willow Farm will work the land to take advantage of future floods as the native peoples had done over thousands of years.

Farmer Misha Johnson of Wild Willow Farm said they will grow potatoes this year without having to water with a dry-farming method.  They plan to use the limited rainfall of San Diego and layer with various forms of water-preserving organic mulch–he compares it to making a lasagna with the different kinds of mulch retaining the moisture.

Before leaving, I helped Mel remove some windows from a recently donated office trailer.  While driving home, I pondered the significant role this farm will play in the local community.  Not only will it supply food for locals, but will help to educate by showing how to connect to the land with food that can be produced so abundantly, organically and sustainably.  Each time I pay the farm a visit, whether it be for events or just to help out, I learn a tremendous amount; the dedication of the volunteers is infectious and it makes me feel one step closer to the earth.

In the future, Wild Willow Farm plans to work with local chefs, schools, budding farmers and local markets to bring awareness and demonstrate the amazing qualities of sustainably grown and local organic produce.  Exciting days ahead!







Making Every Day Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, I chose a collection of previous blog posts as a tribute to the connection we all have with the planet.  A small reminder that everything we do can be a celebration of the earth.

 

How to Shop at the Farmers Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locavores Do It Fresher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topsoil Tales …or Nourishing From the Ground Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Victory Garden