Butter and unexpected sweetness

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IMG_3796phyllo-cheese torte is like a good party, built with real elements and generosity with a little bit of crazy.  In the case of the phyllo-cheese torte, the crazy comes in the form of three sticks of butter, melted and poured over the whole thing.

Phyllo is decidedly not Korean; neither is butter.  But it was time for a break, our Mediterranean summer solstice party, and I wanted to let loose with cumin, lemon, olives, and cheese, the flavors I love but haven’t cooked with in so long.  I planned a full-on, pan-Mediterranean spread, including dishes I can’t pronounce, like kibbeh bil sanieh, which translates into an awesome cinnamon-scented meat and bulgur pie in a tray.  The tiramisu was made from an authentic Italian hand-me-down recipe, with ingredients like, “five heaping dinner spoons of sugar.”  We made a mountain of kebabs, lamb and chicken and a few lonely tofu skewers, and filled the spaces in between the plates with dips, olives, almonds, and a giant bowl of sangria.  And of course, the phyllo-cheese torte.

IMG_3789Phyllo doesn’t look like a party, at least not when you first defrost it and take it out of the box.  It looks like a roll of grey wrapping paper, the kind they have at IKEA for you to wrap your glasses and plates.  The sheets didn’t come apart so cleanly, but since I was layering them into a bundt pan, it didn’t really matter.  Into this shell went a filling of pure cheese, a pound of feta, three cups of cottage cheese, a good amount of grated Romano, and a lot of dill.  (I forgot the nutmeg–it still worked.)  The recipe exhorts you to buy high-quality Greek feta, the kind that tastes of more than salt, but I used the creamy Bulgarian feta I love from Sahadi’s.  It could have used a rinse or two in cold water, but that also worked.

Next, you fold over the edges to seal in the abundant cheese, and then you take a knife and poke holes all over the top.  And then, you pour one and a half cups of melted butter over the torte.  The holes supposedly let some of the butter soak into the cheese, but really, all you can see is a glistening pool of yellow butter-gold.

The whole thing goes in the oven, and one hour and 15 minutes later, comes out looking like this.

IMG_3795

We served the torte right side up with a bowl of clover honey.  The recipe says the honey is optional, but it isn’t really.  I think it’s what every party needs, the unexpected as well as that bit of butter craziness.  Salt is saltier and fat is fattier, everything is more, with a little bit of sweetness.

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One Response to “Butter and unexpected sweetness”

  1. lina Says:

    this was delicious (as was everything else)~!

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