So when I finished working for Master Chef Canada season 4, we were able to take some of the leftover food products home, in my goodie bag I had a couple of packages of phyllo dough. Growing up, my mom used to make a spectacular apple cake using this product, and I considered making that, but I am more of a savoury guy so looking at different applications, I bumped into the very famous Greek savoury pastry.
Spanakopita, or spinach pie, is traditionally filled with chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions, scallions (or green onions) and seasoning. The filling is wrapped or layered in phyllo pastry and with olive oil or butter and baked until golden and crispy. They are very versatile as they can be served hot or at room temperature and can be made as small or big as you desire.
The challenge I was facing though, was making it with someone Greek who was going to be comparing them to mamma's recipe and I did not want to disappoint. The results were great, the challenge was taken and passed. I added some little things to make them my own, but trying to keep with the tradition that this pie has.
Make them, enjoy them and let me know what you think! And one last warning: they are addictive!
Yield: 18-20 triangles (more or less depending on how big or small you cut them)
1 each Large white onion, diced small
3 Tbsp Garlic, minced
400 g Baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 bunch Fresh dill, chopped
1 bunch Green onions or scallions, sliced
1 bunch Flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 each Large eggs
1 1/4 cups Feta cheese, crumbled
150 g Goats cheese
To taste Kosher Salt
To taste Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Zest
1/4 cup Grape seed or canola oil + 2 Tbsp for sautéing
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 package Phyllo
Preheat oven to 350F.
Start by prepping all the ingredients, that way the process will be much quicker and productive, especially because everything will cook quickly. Dice the white onion, roughly chop the spinach, mince the garlic, chop the dill and parsley, slice the green onions and crumble the feta and goats cheese.
Heat a pan to medium, when hot add 2 Tbsp grape seed or canola oil. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for around one minute.
Add the spinach and continue sautéing until it wilts. If the spinach doesn't fit all at once, add half, wilt and add the rest. Make sure to season with salt and pepper.
When spinach is wilted add all the herbs (dill, parsley and green onions) and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Place a colander in the sink. Move the spinach mixture from the hot pan to the colander in the sink to remove the excess liquid. Let cool for a few minutes.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs, combine the feta cheese, the goats cheese and the lemon zest. Add the cooled down spinach mixture. Make sure it is not too hot or it will cook the eggs. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the two oils and set aside.
When you work with phyllo, you need to place one sheet at a time and you need to prevent the rest of the sheets from drying up. I recommend having a sheet of wax or parchment paper put on top of the sheets that are not being used and then a lightly damp towel on top of that. If the sheets dry too much, they will be hard to work with, but also if they get too wet. So be careful with the moisture.
If you can cut on your countertop, work directly on it, otherwise work on a large cutting board. Place the first sheet of phyllo and brush very lightly with the oil. Place a second sheet and repeat until you have 3 sheets in total. You can use a brush or your hand.
Cut the sheets lengthwise into 4 long strips. Place around 1 Tbsp of the spinach filling at the end of each strip and in a triangular fashion fold to cover the filling. The best way I can describe this is: place the bottom-left corner of the strip on the top-right side of the filling, then fold to the left and keep folding from side to side until you reach the end.
Repeat this, until you have used up all the phyllo. This is really fun to do with other people, your kids, your partner, your friends. And it's kind of therapeutic.
When you are finish folding them, arrange them on a baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown and crispy. This should take between 20-25 minutes, but I recommend checking them after the first 15 minutes every couple of minutes as the ovens may vary.
Serve hot or enjoy at room temperature. These are great to serve as an appetizer or with a salad or a soup as a light meal.
You can also add a bunch of mint to substitute any of the herbs above or in addition to them.
I tried using other ingredients instead of spinach and they turned out great. Try with spaghetti squash, leeks, or mushrooms. Just don't call them Spanakopita because that term refers to a "spinach pie".