Thursday, June 13, 2013


I've been craving this dish for a while, and was actually having some trouble finding a recipe that I wanted to try. Most were spanakopita pockets, triangles, or used kale or collards instead of spinach. Although I didn't look too hard, I didn't come across the traditional recipe I was looking for. So I ended up just using the flavors that were in some of my favorite spanakopitas I've had in the past.
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, I've been to my fair share of Greek restaurants, and have had many, many versions of this dish. To no surprise, there wasn't much variation, which I never had any problems with. I did mix things up slightly by using 2 kinds of feta, which added a little diversity in flavor and texture, while keeping it from being too salty, since the French style feta is creamier and not as salty as the Greek. Lots of lemon zest and fresh dill kept this dish from tasting too heavy or one note. This is very easy to make, yet a bit on the labor intensive side. Definitely a weekend thing, but it makes so much you'll get to enjoy it for the rest of the week. It does taste the best the first day, when the phyllo is crisp and crackly. The best way to reheat this is in a toaster oven, since that freshens up the integrity of the crust. But if you don't mind not having a crunchy crust, nuking it is just fine. There is lots of butter used, so even if the texture isn't there, the flavor was so good I didn't mind giving up the crispness.


2 lbs frozen organic spinach, thawed and with most 
   of the moisture squeezed out
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
~6-8 oz Greek feta
~6-8 oz French sheep's milk feta
1 egg, lightly beaten
zest of 1 organic lemon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup lightly chopped fresh dill, or 2 Tbsp dry
salt and pepper
1 16 oz package frozen phyllo dough, thawed    
   overnight in fridge
12 Tbsp melted and cooled butter or extra-virgin   
   olive oil spray (I prefer the taste and richness
   that butter provides, but I've also used a 
   combination of the two in the same dish)

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring often till translucent; about 6 - 8 minutes. Add the squeezed out spinach and cook for another 6 - 8 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the cooked spinach to a large bowl to cool.

Melt the butter. Add the garlic, nutmeg, lemon zest, and dill to the beaten egg and mix well. Once the spinach is cooled down to nearly room temp, add the egg to it and mix very well. Crumble in the 2 fetas and mix well. 

Preheat oven to 350*. Generously butter (or spray) a 9 - 13 (or there about) dish. Open one of the packages of phyllo, leaving the other in the fridge. Lay down a sheet of wax or parchment paper and unroll the phyllo onto it, immediately covering it with a clean kitchen towel. Lay down one sheet of phyllo and spatter the butter over it with a pastry brush, then gently brush the butter evenly over the bottom and edges (or spray evenly with oil). After each sheet of phyllo is removed from the stack, immediately cover with the towel. Repeat this process till you have 12-15 layers of phyllo*. If the dough splits or cracks as you work, pay no mind. There are so many layers that it doesn't make a difference.

 Add 1/3 of the spinach mixture, then top with 5 more layers of phyllo, ensuring to butter/oil in between each layer of dough. If you've used up your first roll of dough by this point, remove the other roll of phyllo from the fridge and lay it out in the same manner, ensuring it is covered after every sheet you use. Repeat this till all the spinach is layered. Top the last of the spinach with 15 sheets of phyllo*, with butter or oil spread evenly between each sheet. Top with the remaining butter/oil, then score the top with a very sharp knife into the size of slices you will want, ensuring you go through nearly all the top layers of phyllo. Do not skip this step - I forgot to do this the first round of making it, and when I cut into it the phyllo cracked apart so badly the top crust was almost completely shattered.

Ensure an oven rack is placed in the center of the oven, and pop in your beautiful spinach pie that you worked so hard on. Bake for ~60 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

*By the time I hit about 10 sheets of phyllo, I started to get a bit ornery. If you have the gusto, by all means, use 15; it really makes for a flavorful and crackly crunchy crust. But if you don't have it in you, and don't mind tossing some of the leftover phyllo, layering the minimum 10 works great too.

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