Monday, February 3, 2014

Spanakopita



Funny how, a couple posts ago, I was lamenting the fact that's it's so much more expensive to make spanakopita from scratch than buy it pre-made. Well, I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, because I went ahead and made it from scratch a few days later. Truth be told, I had never actually done so before. Trader Joe's fandom has always prevailed (their $4 per box version is delicious). Still, I had this whole package of phyllo dough sitting in my freezer from when I chickened out and didn't use it in a recipe for our Christmas party and had been wanting to try spanakopita homemade. What to do, what to do... Phyllo seemed like such a tricky thing to work with--so flaky and fine, like you'd need the precision of one of those new, high-tech surgical robots to keep everything from falling apart into a crumbly, Greek mess (not unlike the Greek government in recent years--badum ching!). Then again, it's not like I wanted to throw it out. "That's $2.99 worth of phyllo dough in the trash!" (spoken as Chris Rock's penny-pinching dad in Everybody Hates Chris.) So I watched some Youtube tutorials on how to use it and decided to bite the bullet. As my mom always says, "If it's bad, we can just order pizza."

Well, we didn't have to order pizza. It turns out, in spanakopita at least, phyllo dough is fairly forgiving. I am no surgical robot and the phyllo on top came out less like the glutenous bad hair day I was afraid of and more like golden brown tousled pastry tresses. It's the Jennifer Aniston of crusts! (And hey, she's Greek, so that metaphor really makes sense--right?)

Interestingly--and, I guess, obviously--the word "spanakopita" comes from the Greek spanáki (meaning spinach) and pita (meaning pie). What I definitely didn't know is that spanakopita falls within the "family of pastries" known in the Mediterranean as börek.* Basically, börek dishes are pastries phylled--I mean filled--with savory ingredients like cheese, vegetables, and even meat. Yum! Having tried my hand at spanakopita with tasty results, I'd be curious to attempt other börek...though it sounds like something that would end up on the police blotter. "Woman arrested for attempted börek in a domestic kitchen." I'll leave the delicious details to your imagination. 


 *Ummmm, family of pastries? How do I join? Or can I just show up at the reunion and eat everyone? 

Spanakopita
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
25 oz. frozen chopped spinach (2.5 10-ounce packages)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 3 1/2 Tbsp. dried)
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
15 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 c. olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7 x 11 inch baking dish.

2. In a large skillet, heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions, and garlic until soft and lightly browned. Add frozen spinach and parsley and continue to cook until spinach is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Drain spinach mixture (my favorite method is to place about 1/3 of the mixture at a time on a dinner plate, then top with another dinner plate right-side-up, then squeeze over the sink).

3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. 

4. Working carefully, lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the baking dish and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat until you have 5 sheets stacked. (If the sheets overlap the pan, that's okay--keep them that way for now.)

5. Spread half the spinach-ricotta filling evenly over the phyllo. Tuck any overhanging dough over the filling and repeat the layering process with 5 more sheets of phyllo. Spread remaining 1/2 of spinach-ricotta filling on top, then repeat the layering once again with 5 more sheets of phyllo to complete the pie, brushing the top layer with olive oil. Again, tuck any extra/overhanging dough into the dish.

6. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

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