Kapsaliana Cooking: The Meal That Changed My Life

Kapsaliana Cooking: The Meal That Changed My Life

I hate soft cheese with a burning passion. Or at least, I did, until a cooking class in Crete changed my mind. I was walking down a small cobblestone path through the abandoned olive mill of Kapsaliana, enjoying the gardens as I went to the outdoor kitchen for my very first cooking class. I was super excited, and after I crested the final step, I ran eagerly into the kitchen to see the ingredients I would be working with. All of them looked great to me, until I saw the plate of soft, crumbly cheese (fresh Mizithra, to be specific). After I saw that, I thought “oh great, why, of all the ingredients they could have chosen, did it have to be soft cheese,” and I suddenly doubted why I was there at all. However, since I was determined to try new things on our trip, I pressed on and prepared to start cooking.

After fixing the cheese plate with a baleful glare, I grabbed the fresh dough from the pile and prepared to make a Sfakianopita, a traditional Cretan hand pie filled with cheese and coated with honey and sesame seeds. I grabbed the rolling pin and began rolling the Sfakianopita dough into a thin, flat circle. The dough seemed to sense my hesitation about the cheese, and was reluctant to turn into the right shape, giving me more time to dread the step when I would be forced to add the cheese. Then, after carefully attempting to grab the cheese plate without touching the cheese, I poured it into the middle of my dough. At first, I questioned myself, thinking ”what have I done?” Eventually, I sucked it up and moved on to the next step, folding the dough into a dumpling-like shape, carefully avoiding the cheese like it would give me the plague if I touched it. Then, I got to take my anger out on it by flattening it with a rolling pin. At that point, I put the Sfakianopita into the pan, which was coated with olive oil, and delighted with the glorious sound of the cheese being fried as I coated the pie with sesame seeds and honey, and hoped that the flavor of the honey would be strong enough to smother the flavor of the cheese. Once the seeds started to toast, the pie smelled so good that I was actually starting to get excited to try my Sfakianopita.

Before trying the cheese

When the pie was done, I pulled it out of the pan and put it on a plate, enjoying the satisfying sizzles and splatters coming from the beautiful, golden-brown pie. Then, fearing that all my work would be for nothing and that I would hate it, I took a bite. The flavors exploded in my mouth, a detonation of beautiful honey, sweet dough, toasted seeds, and, to top it off, a beautiful, fried, cheesy flavor.  It was incredible, and the mild, slightly earthy element the cheese added was eye-opening, and mouth-wateringly good. I found myself wishing that I had made another pie, so that I could savor the experience for longer. I would make this dish again at home in a heartbeat, but, ironically, the only ingredient I can’t find is the cheese.

After trying the cheese
Dakos Salad, another wonderful dish I made during this class, and homemade Tzatziki
Hortopita, roughly translating to grass pie, with extremely fresh herbs and more soft cheese