Friday, June 7, 2019

Spinach and Feta Torte a la Plaza Athenee in Paris

The battle to clear out the house to sell it goes on, with a fair share of unexpected discoveries (including a number of things which never were unpacked after the last moves in 1987 and 2003). I’m beginning to think that attics are like black holes.

This week’s find: a box with assorted significant documents (like an truly important paper I wrote for Honors Biology in high school, titled "Compost Fertilizer and Beans," which is about making compost from garbage). But the first thing I found in that box was an issue of Gourmet Magazine from 1983. I recognized the cover photo immediately: the Plaza Athénée courtyard restaurant in Paris. Why? Because I had lunch there with my godmother (whose husband was in Paris for a business meeting and she tagged along and was staying at the very posh hotel and invited me to lunch there) in 1976, two weeks before I got married (I was in France doing some last-minute thesis research.)

It was a lovely place in the heart of the city. I blush to admit that I don’t remember what I ate there, but what I do remember is the bottle of red wine that my godmother ordered to go with the meal. She was a thrifty woman, and when we didn’t finish it, she asked the wait-person if she could take it back to her room. The answer was no, so she told me I had to finish it. I did (I was young then), and then retrieved my car (parked under Nôtre Dame, if you can believe that) and navigated my way out of Paris under the influence of more than half a bottle of good French wine. I survived; the car survived; and I’ve never tried anything like that again.

I decided to take the unexpected emergence of that copy of Gourmet as a sign, and checked out the recipes from the Plaza Athenee that were included in the magazine. I landed upon one for Spinach and Feta Torte, which actually sounded fairly simple. Of course I changed a few details (and I’m still puzzling about why the recipe called for frozen spinach rather than fresh).

Spinach and Feta Torte à la Plaza Athénée in Paris


1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1-3/4 sticks butter
4 10-ounce packages frozen spinach
2 large eggs
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled fine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
10 sheets phyllo pastry
3 large eggs, hard-boiled


First, thaw, drain and squeeze the frozen spinach and chop finely if needed.

In a skillet, melt 3/4 stick of the butter and “sweat” the onion and garlic (in other words, cook over low heat, covered) for 8-10 minutes.

Add the spinach. Raise the heat slightly and cook for about 3 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Place the spinach and eggs in a food processor and puree coarsely. Place the puree in a bowl and add the two cheeses, the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

(Now you’re going to line the pan to cook this in.) Thaw the phyllo pastry but keep it damp so it stays flexible.

A note about phyllo pastry: it is very hard to manage. The stuff is fragile and insists on falling apart if you look cross-eyed at it. Maybe next time I’ll try using frozen puff pastry for this dish.

Melt one stick of butter and let cool. One sheet at a time, brush the phyllo sheets with the butter. And another layer of phyllo and repeat until you have a stack of 8 buttered sheets.

Butter a loaf pan (9” x 5” x 3”) and lay the phyllo stack in it crosswise, letting the edges hang over the long side of the pan.

Cut the remaining two sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise, and repeat the buttering and layering. Then fit this stack into the loaf pan lengthwise, so that the edges hang over the short sides.

Spread half the spinach mixture in the pan and pack it down. Arrange the hard-boiled eggs lengthwise down the center. Spread the rest of the spinach filling on top of the eggs, pack it down, then lay the phyllo over the whole (pretend you’re wrapping a package). Brush the remaining butter over the top.

In a preheated 375 degree oven, bake the torte in the middle of the oven for 1 hour 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then lay a platter over the top and turn it upside down to release the torte. Let it cool until it’s room temperature.

Serve the torte sliced (to show off those eggs inside!), with or without a sauce.

By the way, the hotel is still said to have some of the best restaurants in the world.

The restaurant as it looks today.
Coming July 9th!


  1. That looks delicious, Sheila! We stayed at the Plaza Athenee once a very long time ago. We ordered the "chocolat" for breakfast and it was as far from the usual hot chocolate as you could get. You got a pot of melted chocolate that you mixed with warm cream! Oh, to be young again and able to have things like that and not worry about gaining weight!

  2. It is yummy, as well as beautiful! Thanks for letting me try this!

  3. How very elegant! The phyllo turned out out beautifully.
    Perhaps a bit of creme fraiche with a little nutmeg (or paprika) to nap over the slices?