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Spanakopita
May 17th, 2005

I've been reading a good Greek cookbook lately called The Olive and the Caper. Jim's parents were in town and I had volunteered to bring dinner over to their condo in exchange for taking Jay off our hands for a Sunday afternoon. We came home and put Ian in bed and I had several hours to putter around the kitchen. I was reading the section on savory pies and tarts and decided the classic Spanakopita (Spinach and Cheese Pie) would be the least scary for Jim's parents - who are less than adventurous eaters.

This was my first time using phyllo dough, and it went just fine. Just be sure to factor in the time it takes for the dough to defrost if you're using frozen dough (about an hour), and tuck the corner eges down into the pan as you go. The recipe says to tuck the corners in at the end, but if you've left all the layers curling up a bit as I had, it's too late by that point.

This is a very tasty and impressive looking dish that really doesn't require a whole lot of time to put together.


Spanakopita

2 pounds (about 2 bunches) fresh spinach, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped, well rinsed, and drained [washing the spinach is the most time consuming part, bagged spinach would help here]
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
8 scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
12 to 16 sheets filo dough
olive oil or melted butter, for oiling the filo
2 to 3 tbsp milk, or 1 egg yolk beaten with 1/2 tbsp water (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly oil the bottom of a 13x19-inch baking dish or equivalent round pan.

Place the moist spinach in a large nonreactive pot or skillet over medium heat, and stir until wilted but still bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, pressing down lightly to extract most of the water.

Place the 2 1/2 tbsp oil and the scallions in the same pot and stir over medium heat until the scallions begin to wilt, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the spinach, mix well, and then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the parsley, dill, cheese, eggs, and salt to the bowl and mix well.

Cut the filo sheets to size [I didn't need to cut mine at all]. Oil and layer 6 to 8 sheets in the bottom of the baking dish [brush olive oil over the top of each sheet with a pastry brush - keep a moist towel over the unused sheets of filo as you work]. Spread the spinach filling over the filo, and top with the remaining layers of oiled filo. Oil the top sheet. Tuck the filo in around the edges, and score the pastry to make 12 pieces. Brush the top with the milk or egg wash if using.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the top is golden and crisp, 45 minutes. Serve right away, or keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Reheat or serve at room temperature.

-Susanna Hoffman, The Olive and the Caper
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Comments

I like spinach, but I don't like biting on dirt. I noticed the guys in the restaurant had a particularly effective way of washing the spinach. They fill a clean sink full of cool water and dump the spinach in. If you let everything soak for a few minutes and slowly swish pieces as you pull them out of the water and place on a towel to dry a bit you get really clean crisp spinach.

Maybe everybody else knows this trick, but it made cooking with spinach much easier and conistent for me.

-posted by Stephanie on May 18th, 2005
© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com