In two days, we (read: Americans) will be engorging ourselves on a feast that only comes round once a year: Thanksgiving dinner. I’m talking sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, stuffing/dressing/whatever you prefer to call it, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, ham (at least at my house) and, of course, spanikopita! Uhh, you mean…turkey? No, actually I mean spanikopita, a classic spinach pie with Greek roots. I discovered this magical meal early on in my turn towards vegetarianism, and it became something of a holiday-only thing because of the limited availability of phyllo dough. Back then, the only time I could find phyllo dough was in November and December. Now, that quirky pastry dough is easily findable year-round, but I still tend to only make spanikopita during the holidays. Putting aside the difficulties of working with phyllo dough, spanikopita is a delicious, savory, and satisfying dish that can be equally enjoyed by all. (Seriously, and I’m not much of a fan of spinach!) Yes, you have to be a little easy on the papery phyllo, but the results are worth ten times the effort.
The recipe below serves 6-8 people and can easily be doubled or tripled (which might require 2 packages of phyllo dough). It’s made in an 8- or 9-inch pie plate, but you can also use a similarly sized square baking dish. Or, if you’re feeling brave and creative, you can also cut the dough and fold the filling into triangular “packets.” (Place them on a greased baking sheet and cook at the same temp and time.) But you’ll have to venture elsewhere online to find out how to do that — I just don’t have the skills and patience.
3 tablespoons olive oil olive oil
1 lb spinach washed and drained, or 10-16 ounces. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
6-7 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper
6-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed (if obtained frozen)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with a little cooking spray.
2. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and add spinach. Let it wilt fully and then remove from the pan. Place on paper or cloth towels to cool and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Note: If using frozen spinach, simply thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
3. In same pan sauté scallions in remaining oil until soft. Add spinach back in along with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well until spinach is warmed through. Remove mixture from pan to cool at least to room temperature.
Note: Spinach mixture can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
4. Once spinach has cooled, stir in feta cheese and egg.
5. Unwrap and unroll thawed phyllo dough and place all the dough between sheets of damp paper towel. Basting each sheet carefully with butter, layer six sheets crossways — alternating between placing them left to right and top to bottom — in bottom of pie plate. (Some of the dough may hang over the edges and that’s okay.)
6. Place spinach and cheese mixture into pie plate and spread evenly. If your phyllo dough hangs over the edges of the plate, wrap it over the top.
7. Again basting each sheet carefully with butter, arranged 6 more sheets of dough on top of the spinach. (You can wrap or fold the dough in whatever manner you like to cover the pie, but none should hang over the edges of the plate, otherwise it’ll burn.)
8. Baste top layer with butter and cook for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned and filling is set.
9. Once done, cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into wedges.
Because of phyllo dough’s tendency to become soggy, spanikopita is best enjoyed the day it’s cooked. Leftovers reheat well enough, but the dough will not become as crispy as when it’s first cooked.
Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.