Not long before The Second Unconfidential Cooks’ Dinner, Melissa Clark wrote about a no-fear phyllo torte in her column in The New York Times. I cut it out, and read it over and over considering the amount of butter the recipe called for, wondering whether I could rationalize making it. Well, what better time than a party!
When it comes to eating, I’m totally black and white…no gray, not even a smidgen. You either go for it, or you don’t–I can’t abide by people who castigate themselves for every bite of something that isn’t boiled tofu; or spend every waking minute trying NOT to eat something that isn’t boiled tofu; or pick at something that isn’t boiled tofu. You get the picture.
A long while back, Bruce and I had a dessert-and-champagne party on Valentine’s Day. We all went all-out since it was the first big party we were having in our new place. Emma was two, and stood by the door in her long white linen dress handing out Valentines she proudly punched out of giant cards you can buy at the grocery store. Of course, in our house dessert means chocolate, and I spent two solid weeks making the most elaborate chocolate desserts I had in my repetoire—I think there were 14 of them when all was said and done. I actually bought that 25-pound piece of Belgian chocolate at TJs because it made good economic sense when I put all the recipes together and calculated the total amount of chocolate I’d need. I baked from morning ’til night, every free moment I had. Then…are you ready?…one by one guests entered our home, saw the 12-foot-long dining table laden with chocolate desserts and announced, “I’m on a diet.” I swear to god. There must have been a dozen such pronouncements. (A few people kept their words—and eating plans—to themselves but just never went within two feet of the table as if proximity alone would put on pounds.) When the last guest left we were horrified to see all of my UNTOUCHED masterpieces. If I hadn’t been so pooped I would have cried. Bruce insisted we would never do that again, and wondered aloud why we were thinner than most of those dieters: secret eaters one and all?
So…back to the Phyllo-Feta Torte. It was impressive to look at, and quite good…but not quite good enough to really recommend strongly. Maybe it was because there was so much food at The Second U-C Dinner and this torte is rich, rich enough that it didn’t quite fit in. Having said that, I bet it would be perfect with simple grilled lamb chops and a green salad. And, I know one person who’d lovelovelove it: Paula?
Serves 10 to 12
1 lb. Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 cups cottage cheese
3 large eggs
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 1-lb. box phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks!!!) unsalted butter, melted
Greek honey, for serving (0ptional…did not do here)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, combine feta, cottage cheese, eggs, dill, 2 tablespoons Romano, the nutmeg and pepper, and pulse just to combine (I got by with a fork). Mixture should be well combined, but still chunky, not smooth.
Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Romano into a Bundt pan. Drape a sheet of phyllo on top of the Bundt pan, poke a hole into phyllo where the center tube is and push phyllo into pan to line it. Do this with another phyllo sheet, but place it perpendicular to first sheet. Continue adding phyllo sheets in this crisscross manner untill all sheets are used. Edges of phyllo should hang over edges of pan.
Scrape cheese filling into pan, and fold edges of phyllo over filling. Using a sharp knife, poke many holes (at least 20) in dough that reach all the way to bottom of pan. Slowly pour melted butter over torte. Some butter will seep through holes and some will remain on top of dough.
Place Bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until torte is puffy and golden brown. Allow torte to cool in pan for 1 to 2 hours before inverting onto a plate and slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature, with honey if desired.