06 November 2012

Sandy.... and a comforting Spinach Pie

As Hurricane Sandy approached just a week ago, in anticipation of potential power cuts and otherwise stuck indoors for the duration, I spent some time on Sunday in the kitchen. We ended up being lucky and weathered the storm relatively unscathed.
This was the view from our window Tuesday morning looking out over Prospect Park.  Walking around that day after the storm had passed, we saw uprooted 100 year old trees, damaged cars, branches breaking through taped up windows.  But the damage seemed not that much worse than last year's Hurricane Irene, or even the year before when a freak Tornado hit the City.
Then as images and news began to pour in from friends and the media, the extent of the damage and loss became more pressing.  One friend in Lower Manhattan, who evacuated during Irene and decided to wait it out this time, posted photos of the West Side Highway which looked like a river. She's still not back in her apartment and won't be for the foreseeable future. In Jersey, Staten Island, and the Rockaways flooding and winds have destroyed businesses and many are still going without power, running water, cell phone coverage.... which all is more than a bit weird considering the locale. The financial district, and my old offices at UNICEF, a place normally bustling with activity, 24-hour illumination, people glued to their smartphones, was desolate and deserted as of Friday.  On Sunday we went to Coney Island and Brighton Beach and saw first hand a hint of the damage. Along the boardwalk stones were lifted up out sections of the pavement, bulldozers and volunteers had begun piling up the sand like snow after a blizzard. Over in Brighton shop owners and residents were wearily cleaning up from flooding, sorting through the salvageable and the destroyed of their belongings.  

Next year will mark my 12th since moving to New York. Sandy's caused me to think back on those years in terms of disasters and disruptions, blackouts and blizzards.  The destruction of the World Trade Towers happened six-months after I made New York my home, and immediately thereafter concerned friends and family living in other parts of the country began asking me if I would stay in New York. The question has been repeated so many times, it occurs to me that many wouldn't conceive of New York as someplace sustainable, a home, a place where people actually live.  In times of trouble the City seems to pull together more than when everything is humming along as normal.  Neighbors all begin to treat one another with a bit more goodwill and care.  Generosity pours out from all corners of the City and in places unexpected. Even the scores of children in our neighborhood pitch in with mom-organized "bake sales for Sandy".  In a weird way disaster cements me to this place as my home, and lucky to call it that.    

Spinach Pie
Spinach Pie
This pie sustained us over Monday afternoon-evening and the next day for lunch.  We only had one package of spinach in the freezer, but if I make this again I'd add a second so the recipe reflects that.  

3 large leeks, white and light green parts only
2 packages 10 ounce frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
a handful of chives, chopped
1 teaspoon, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
7 sheets Phyllo Dough, thawed completely
1/3 cup Feta Cheese
1 heaping tablespoon parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F. 

Slice leeks into thin circles and place in a large bowl of cold water to remove all grit.  Once immersed, remove with a skimmer (or clean hands) to a large clean towel to dry thoroughly.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large pan over medium heat and add leeks.  Cook for 10 minutes until wilted, stirring occasionally and lowering heat if necessary to keep from getting overcooked.  Add spinach and mix thoroughly, until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Add chives and turn off heat to cool slightly. 

Melt butter and combine with remaining olive oil in small bowl. Carefully unroll phyllo dough.  Using a 9 inch cake pan or cast iron pan, brush a bit of oil on the bottom and layer 2 pieces of phyllo, letting edges hang over sides of the pan and brushing each with butter before adding in additional layer.  Fold one piece in half and lay across the bottom of the pan and then repeat.  Add leek-spinach mixture, then feta and parmesan cheese.  Cover with two more folded pieces of phyllo, being sure to brush each lightly with butter-oil mix.  fold over the edges  of the first pieces of dough and butter top of pie.  

Place in hot oven and cook for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.  

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