When I lived in Boston, I used to buy Fatayer bi Sabanekh, (fa-TYE-year bee sa-BEN-ikh) Lebanese* spinach pies, at Bob’s Pita Droubi Bakery in Roslindale, MA. One bite of this pastry transported me to an ancient exotic place. I could taste lemon and something else: a tart, slightly bitter, lemony spice I later discovered was sumac. I have only found this spice, made from ground berries, in Middle Eastern markets.
I scoured cookbooks and recipe websites in a quest to recreate that sublime taste. In the end I had to figure it out on my own, finding the right balance of lemon, sumac, onion and spinach.
I invented this cross-cultural recipe using the sour cream dough my mom used to make for Vatrushka, a Russian dumpling filled with farmer’s cheese. I filled this with the spinach mixture called Sabanekh. I like how the rich dough compliments the spinach filling. If you don’t want such rich dough, or if you want a vegan dish, you can make these with olive oil pizza dough.
*Also claimed by Syrian, Palestinian, Turkish and Jordanian cuisineSour Cream Dough 1/2 cube butter (1/4 cup) , softened to room temperature 1 1/2 Tb sour cream 1 large egg 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/4 tsp salt
I’ve used both an electric mixer and a food processor to make the dough. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and egg and beat well. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Knead about 12 times on a floured board until it is not sticky.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Chop onion finely with the blade in a food processor, and then add to oil. Stir in salt and sumac, and cook on medium low about 10 minutes until onion is translucent.
While onion is cooking, pulse spinach in batches in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer the cooked onion to a medium bowl.
Let spinach cool, then place in a sieve over a bowl for 20 minutes to drain the excess liquid from the spinach. Press on it from time to time with the back of a large spoon. You will get about 2/3 cup of spinach water. You can use this in soups.
While spinach is draining, roll out the dough and cut with a round biscuit cutter. You can make larger pies by cutting with a top of a soup bowl, or by forming the dough into a ball and rolling it out into a circle shape. It won’t matter if the circle’s not perfect as long as you can fold it into a tricorner shape.
Add drained spinach mixture to the onion mixture. Stir in lemon juice.
Fold in a tricorner shape:
Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦ until the dough is a light brown.