Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So I had a Saturday afternoon and some spinach in the fridge and phyllo dough in the freezer. Time and ingredients are about 80% of the equation when it comes to cooking. I decided this time to make spinach pie. I am not a Greek grandmother so I won't say this is exactly spanakopita but it's a lot like it (only lazier).
This is a good one if you're not used to working with phyllo but always wanted to try. Or if you just love Greek flavours.
If you're going to make this, here are some suggestions:
You're going to need phyllo dough, spinach, garlic and onions, feta, an egg, and butter.
First brew yourself some coffee because it's going to be a long ride. It's not a hard dish to make but it does take some time to put together.
Then chop some garlic and a little onion, and soften it in some olive oil over medium heat. Add lots of spinach (I used two 10 oz bags of pre-washed stuff). Add it gradually to the pan until it starts to wilt, then add more, let that wilt, repeat...you get the idea. Like magic (or more like an easily explained chemical reaction) the spinach will wilt down to a tenth of its original size. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and some oregano. Once wilted, let the mixture cool while you tend to the other parts of this dish.
Drink some coffee...
Melt about 1/4 cup butter and grease a 9x13 dish (like a lasagna pan) with some of it. Carefully unroll the thawed phyllo dough and ready a damp towel to cover the dough when you're not working with it. Take out one sheet and lay it in the pan, butter it and keep working in layers like this until you have about 8 layers. Cover the unused dough.
Go back to your now-cooled spinach mixture. You need to drain the heck out of it so there's as little water as possible in there. Water = soggy pie. Use a sieve, kitchen towels, cheesecloth, whatever you have on hand (I'll never tell).
Once your mixture is as dry as possible, put it back into mixing bowl. Add a bunch of feta (1-2 cups depending on how much you like. I've also seen this made with a mixture of feta and ricotta) and add an egg. Mix all that together until it's uniform.
If you have any coffee left, take a swig now...
Then spoon your mixture onto the 8 layers of phyllo dough in your 9x13 pan. Level it out to the sides and corners. Then, working with the dough and butter again, layer 8 more sheets on top of the spinach mixture. The butter is necessary to keep the paper-thin dough from drying it while simultaneously allowing it to crisp in the oven.
Once you have it all assembled, it's best to pre-cut the dish into servings before baking. Part of this dish's charm is the excellent crunch of the baked phyllo dough. This, however, is not so great for presentation purposes. A 9x13 dish can make 6 big dinner size servings or more smaller lunch servings, or even more appetizer-size servings.
Once you've figured out how you want to eat/present the dish, bake at 350F for about 20 mins. Keep you eye on it though because the phyllo dough will burn. If you suspect burning before the middle is heated through you can cover it with foil. Like lasanga, let it cook about 10-15 minutes before serving.
And voila...spinach pie just like at your favorite Greek restaurant. This is a tasty dinner and great to bring to a pot luck as you can enjoy it just as well at room temp.