Spanakopita

I think pretty much anything tastes good when wrapped in phyllo, but my homemade feta tasted especially delicious in this classic recipe.  Store-bought feta would be fine, of course.  Even with all the cheese, this recipe is packed with nutrition given all the spinach that goes into it.  It’s pretty easy, give it a try!

I resisted my normal temptation to tweak recipes, trusting in the proportions here.  Trust me, it pained me to put a whole 1/3 cup parsley in.  I HATE parsley.  But I was glad I did because this filling recipe was written perfectly.  My poor phyllo execution aside, this was the best spanakopita I’ve ever had.

Yeah.  About that phyllo.  I’ve only worked with it once before and it is ever so delicate and tear-prone!  Furthermore, I was using leftover dough that had been left, opened, in my freezer, a big mistake.  Once phyllo is exposed to air, it becomes very brittle.

Hence, as you can see from the photos, I failed to keep the dough in nice, clean sheets and had to just sort of pile the crumbs on top into “layers,” which gives it a, er, “rustic” appearance.  Next time I’ll know to be more careful.

I followed this recipe from fine cooking and will definitely make it again.

For the filling:
1 lb bag frozen spinach, thawed with excess water squeezed out
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions (about 3 oz. or 10 small), white and light-green parts only, trimmed and finely chopped
2 cups crumbled feta cheese (10 oz.)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt

For the assembly:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil for brushing; more as needed
Eighteen 9×14-inch sheets frozen phyllo dough (I use Athens brand), thawed and at room temperature
2 tsp. whole milk

Method

Position oven rack to center and preheat to 375°.

To make the filling, saute the scallions for a few minutes, until soft and fragrant.  Toss in the spinach and stir thoroughly.  Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes before mixing in the remaining filling ingredients.

For the assembly, you will layer 9 sheets of phyllo on both the top and bottom, each one coated with olive oil on top.  I found it much easier to use olive oil spray, as recommended in the reviews.

As mentioned above, phyllo dries out very quickly and will become brittle.  Unroll it from the box and keep it covered in wax paper, with a damp towel on top of that.  Work quickly with one sheet at a time, recovering the rest.

Spray oil on the bottom of the pan.  The first six sheets will be layered off-center, to cover the long edges of the pan.  Lay your first sheet down so that it covers about half of one long edge, and spray or brush with oil.  Repeat with the second layer on the opposite long edge.  Continue this pattern four more times so that you’ll have six layers total, three covering each side.

Center the last three sheets in the pan on top of the first six.

Spread the filling evenly, then repeat the same pattern above for the 9 phyllo sheets that go on top.

Score the top 9 layers of phyllo carefully into small rectangles and brush milk on the score marks, which prevents flaking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown.

I served with a side of lentils — it was delicious and, once you get the hang of phyllo, easy!

Now.  What to do with the remaining feta I still have leftover?

-R

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