Well, it’s time to dip back into my mother’s secret recipe file and share more Greek deliciousness with you. Today, you’re going to learn how to make Spanakopita. Like all of my mom’s Greek recipes, the classic blend of spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo brings me right back to her kitchen. I remember my friends remarking on how lucky I was to get Greek food year around (instead of just at the Greek food festivals). I was lucky, but as highly as I think of my mother’s cooking, there’s no magic involved. Just the demystification of this stuff called phyllo that even experienced cooks are afraid to work with. Well today, you will see that phyllo is easy as spinach pie.
Alright, to get started, this is what you need:
10 oz. of frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
1/2 lb. of feta cheese
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 package of phyllo dough
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp. dried dill
1 Tbs. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Yeah, that’s it. First, saute your onion in a bit of olive oil. (I think like 78% of my recipes start with this step.) I go ahead and add the dill and parsley at this point. Oh, and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Next, add your drained spinach into a bowl. The best way to get your spinach completely wrung out is to put the thawed spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Then, twist the towel until you can’t twist it anymore.
Now, we’re going to add in our feta cheese. When I was in Tallahassee, I would get the feta from a specialty shop, but really, this stuff is fine for this recipe. Just make sure that you get a solid block of it (not crumbled) and make sure that it doesn’t already have any herbs added to it.
Just crumble it up with your fingers and add it to your bowl. If the feta is really salty, I won’t add any more salt to the mixture, but if it isn’t very briny, this is where I would add additional salt and feta to taste.
Crack your egg into a bowl and beat it gently before adding that to your bowl as well.
Now, throw in the sauted onions and add a dash of nutmeg.
Finally, add your lemon juice…
and stir it up until everything is incorporated.
Ok, now we’re ready to assemble. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a bowl (about 1/2 a cup or so). Have a basting brush at the ready as well. I like to work on a large cookie sheet, so I usually have the filling to the left of me, the cookie sheet in front of me and the unrolled phyllo to the right. Finally, I have a second cookie sheet with wax paper on it waiting for the finished Spanakopita and that’s the cookie sheet I’ll pop into the oven.
Speaking of the phyllo dough, there are only a couple of things to be aware of for a successful experience. 1) Make sure that the phyllo is thawed. I usually just put the package on the counter about an hour or two before I get started on the Spanakopita. 2) Phyllo generally only tears when it’s dried out, so you’ll want to keep a damp kitchen towel or paper towel on top of the stack of unused phyllo in between usage. If this made zero sense, hopefully these pictures will help.
First, I unroll the phyllo (there are actually two packages of phyllo in a box and you only need one for this recipe).
Then, I take a single sheet of phyllo and put it on my cookie sheet.
Dip your brush in the olive oil and gently baste your phyllo. (if you want to get totally sinful, you can melt a stick of butter and use that instead).
Add a second sheet of phyllo…
…and baste that one as well. It doesn’t have to be dripping or covered, but try to dab it on there evenly. Now, take a pizza wheel or a sharp knife and cut the 2 sheets of phyllo into thirds (lengthwise).
So, you should have three long strips at this point.
By the way, don’t forget to cover the rest of your phyllo with your damp towel while you’re working.
You still with me? Good. Now, let’s put about 1-2 Tablespoons of our filling onto one of the strips.
From here, we’re just going to fold it like a flag. Start by folding over one corner to make a triangle…
…then fold the triangle up.
Then fold it to the right and then up again. Keep going in this pattern of over and up until you have one neat little bundle, which you’ll put on your “finished” cookie sheet.
Keep spooning and folding with the rest of your phyllo until you’ve used it all and you have a full tray of Spanakopita.
**By the way, you can freeze it at this point if you want. Sometimes, I make a double batch and freeze half for later.***
I like to brush the tops with a little bit of olive oil and then sprinkle a little bit of salt to add another layer of flavor.
Just pop these little guys into the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden on top.
They’ve puffed up nicely and you can see the spinach and feta bursting at the seams.
If I’m being completely honest, I usually eat six at this point. You know, just to make sure they’re done. If I lived alone, I’d probably eat the entire tray before they even made it onto a plate, but as it is, Parker and the Irishman are usually pacing and waiting for me to bring them out.
Now please, go and make these immediately. The entire assembly process usually takes me less than 20 minutes, so it really isn’t cumbersome and I promise you, your friends and loved one will weep at your feet with joy that they can eat these year-round.