VICTORIA'S ZELNIK (MACEDONIAN SPINACH PIE)
600 to 700 grams white flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
A few drops of vinegar
1 cup of water
250 grams melted butter, margarine, or lard, divided
Combine all ingredients except butter. Mix and knead until dough has a springy consistency. Add more water or flour if necessary. If texture is too spongy, get out excess air by whacking dough against tabletop a few times. (This is highly therapeutic when you are having a bad day.)
Let dough rest for 20 to 50 minutes. Divide into two, brush each half with melted butter, and cut in a pattern of a circle and rays; here’s how this is done. (Unfortunately I was at the market shopping for greens while Victoria did this, so it’s not part of the video.) Place dough in a bowl and put in refrigerator.
300 grams of fresh white cheese, not very salty
½ kilo of spinach, blitva, or other greens
Salt to taste
Wash spinach and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Combine with eggs and cheese.
Making the Pie
Set oven to 250 degrees Celsius (480 Fahrenheit) and grease large pan. Round is more traditional, but use what you have.
Using very long, thin rolling pin, roll out first piece of dough. Use the rolling pin to pick up the dough and lay it in the pan. Spread it evenly, covering the sides. Drizzle with melted butter. Resist the impulse to add the filling now; if it sits too long, the bottom dough gets soggy.
Roll out second piece of dough, making it as thin as possible; pull and stretch it with your fingers. You should be able to see through it in places; don’t worry about holes. When second piece of dough is ready, add the filling to the pan. Pick up the top dough with the rolling pin and drape it over the filling, making plenty of ripples. Adjust to make sure everything is covered. Drizzle with butter. Turn down the edges with a slight twisting motion to create a braided look.
Bake 30 minutes. Check in 15 or 20; when top is brown, add a sheet of parchment paper to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Remove and cover with a damp cloth. When it’s cool enough, cut and serve.
For details, see my post Bitola, The Best-Kept Secret in the Balkans
I’m constantly collecting recipes as part of Our Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour. I take extensive notes, film every bit of the process I can, and review the details with the chef. I strive for accuracy, but as you can see from the videos, measurements are usually by eye, and the ingredients may be subtly different than what we find at home. Since I’m on the road, I have not had the opportunity to test any of these recipes in my own kitchen. If you do try a recipe and have comments or suggestions for refining it, please let me know.