Authentic Greek Spanakopita ~ Greens & Feta Pie from the Land of Plato
So here's why you pay me the big bucks.
It's to bring all those itty bitty techniques in making a dish that takes from the realm of ouchie to easy.
We're talking Phyllo here.
Ask anyone who is non-Greek and they'll tell you just how scary it is working with Phyllo because the sheets tear or because they can't get it all smooth and perfect. On the whole, the idea of working with Phyllo is a nerve wrecking affair. Enter Xanax.
And then talk to a Greek person (one who cooks that is) and they'll tell you just how little time they spend worrying about the Phyllo.
Hardly any actually!
The top sheets out of the packet are sticking together?
So what? Just peel them apart gently.
Sheets tearing in the process?
No worries! Hide those at the bottom! As long as your top 3 sheets are pretty, it's all good.
In short, stop worrying about the Phyllo!
Plus, I have a technique that makes it even easier. And that's 'stacking'. Stop fooling around with one sheet at a time. It's inefficient and takes twice as long. Instead stack the sheets, plonk them all together onto your dish and you'll be done in no time.
Without the Xanax.
For details on all that, you'll just have to read along, scroll down, look at pics and follow what you see.
Meanwhile, lets talk filling for a minute. I love the filling that goes into this. Sauteed onions of at least 3 varieties is my favorite; green, yellow and red. To which is added, loads of spinach and chopped parsley. And a touch of nutmeg to keep it real. And finally, lovely, creamy feta with a bit of cottage cheese but never ricotta.
When I speak of feta, I'm talking about the stuff that comes in big blocks from the Middle Eastern store of Turkish or Greek variety. None of that dried up crumbled stuff from your regular grocery store, folks.
Considering that you should buy your phyllo from such store to begin with - #4 phyllo, Athena or Apollo brands please, it's worth the trip to buy both.
Needless to say, when layers of Phyllo, smothered in your love and butter come together, nestle that delicious filling, few things in life are more delicious or more comforting.
Truth be told, I could eat this every single day and never be tired of it. Warm or room temperature no matter. If only my hiney and expanding waistline would heed, I'd be so good.
But never mind me. The more important thing here is that I took a batch into work and my very Greek boss who is the Queen of Spanakopita gave it her nod of approval saying it's just the way to she makes it.
Spanakopita ~Spinach Pie from Greece
1-1/4 lbs. spinach, frozen (thawed)
1/3 cup olive oil
yellow onions (to yield 1-1/2 cups diced)
red onions (to yield 1-1/2 cups diced)
2 bunches green onions, diced (incl. 4 inches green portions)
½ cup parsley, to yield ½ cup chopped
fresh dill, to yield ½ cup chopped
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 lb. cottage cheese, drained
For the pastry:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb #4 style phyllo pastry sheets, preferably purchased at the Middle Eastern store
Also a 9” x 12” rectangular Pyrex baking pan.
Preparation:Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
Spinach: Wash and drain the chopped spinach very well. If using frozen spinach, thaw completely and squeeze out excess water in a sieve by pressing down. Spinach should be dry.
Onions: Peel, discard skin & root ends. Finely chop set aside.
Green onions: Cut away the root tips and chop including 4-5 inches of the green portions.
Parsley & dill: Separate the leaves from the stems. Finely chop and set aside.
Eggs: In a bowl, beat with a fork and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan on over medium high heat. Sauté all the onions until softened with ½ tsp salt.
Add the spinach, parsley and dill for 5 to 10 minutes until all the excess moisture evaporates from the greens. Spinach mixture should be on the dry side.
Add the nutmeg, salt & pepper.
Remove from heat and set the spinach aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the feta and cottage cheese. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Now add the beaten eggs and thoroughly combined.
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add the olive oil. Keep a pastry brush in the pan ready to go.
Using a pastry brush, lightly grease the 9 x 12 rectangular pan.
Unwrap the Phyllo sheets:
Carefully remove the Phyllo roll from the plastic sleeve.
Most packages come in 12 x 18 inch sheets when opened fully. Using a sharp knife & metal scale, cut the sheets in half to make two stacks of 9x12 inch sheets.
To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towels while working with the other.
Prepare the Phyllo sheets:
Using PAM spray, ‘glue’ a large sheet on wax paper on the working surface.
Working, 1 sheet at a time, brushing each sheet with the butter/olive oil mixture, layer about 10 sheets on the wax paper.
Once done, pick up the entire stack with both hands and position centrally and evenly in the pyrex dish allowing the excess to overhang.
Add half of the spinach mixture in an even layer and press with a spatula to flatten.
Place 2 phyllo sheets folded over the spinach to absorb any additional moisture from the greens while baking.
Once again, on the same or a fresh piece of wax paper, layer another 10 sheets brushing well with butter/olive oil mixture. Place the phyllo stack atop the spinach mixture.
Use a serrated knife to score the top layers of phyllo(making sure not to puncture filling layer) into serving squares to enable easier cutting of pieces later.
Bake in the preheated oven until the phyllo turns a deep golden brown approx 1 hour-30 minutes.
Allow to cool for approx 10 minutes or so before cutting into the scored lines. Spanakopita can be served warm or at room temperature.