Originally published in quality newspapers the week of March 20, 2011
It is in our nature to love a good story and most of us got an early introduction to storytelling because of some adult in our lives who read to us or spun yarns of their own. Often our play took the form of story, imagining ourselves as the hero in some epic tale playing out in our backyards.
As adults, stories still play a prominent role in our lives. We learn about what’s going on in the world through stories reported by news outlets, we entertain ourselves with television and movies that makes us laugh, cry, and jump out of our seats. Friends tell each other stories, about our weekend adventures, what’s going on with our kids.
This week we find ourselves in the middle of what’s called March Madness and when it comes down to it, it’s the stories we’re mad for. Without stories there’s just a ball going through a hoop.
At its essence, a sporting event is a story that unfolds over the course of a couple hours and the NCAA tournament packs a lot of stories into just a few days. We’ll get caught up in the tales of heroes and villains, decades-old rivalries, emotional highs and lows, unexpected twists and turns, victories and defeats.
Like for the Super Bowl and other big sports events, many of us will be gathering with family and friends around our living-room big screens to experience together the thrills of victory and agonies of defeat and of course you can’t have a crowd without feeding them.
Food, sports, and great stories go back for centuries, even to the days of the Roman Coliseum. The Roman’s loved great drama and stories quickly spread about the feats of gladiator bravery. Like a Saturday in March, these tournaments were all-day affairs and the people got hungry. One crowd favorite was sold by Coliseum vendors was a savory Roman pastry similar to what we know now as spanakopita.
Fortunately our sporting amusements are less barbaric than they used to be and fights to the death don’t usually occur even among the greatest of rivals. Still, however, there is a great deal that is Roman-esque about March Madness. New heroes emerge, former victors fall, spectators demand sustenance, and great stories are born right before our eyes. Maybe a taste of ancient Rome will should find a place among our game-time snacks.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen spinach thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 eggs, beaten
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper
- 1 24-ounce package phyllo dough
- 3 sticks of butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a nonstick sauté pan to medium-high and add olive oil. Once the oil comes up to temperature sauté the onions until softened. Add the spinach, parsley, and flour and cook for ten minutes or until most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl combine the feta, eggs, and salt and pepper to taste then incorporate the spinach mix.
Unroll the phyllo on a flat surface and keep it covered with a damp towel so it doesn't dry out. Cut the phyllo lengthwise into 3-inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip with melted butter. Place a spoonful of filling an inch from one end of the pastry then fold the end over the filling to form a triangle. Continue folding up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Repeat using all the strips and filling keeping the triangles covered with a damp towel until all are ready to bake.
Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake on a parchment-lined baking pan for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serve hot. Makes about 60 triangles.