Do you remember spinach? You know, that green superfood that kinda got pushed to the sidelines when foods like kale and chard started taking center stage as the new trendy superfood? Lucky for you I’m here to remind you how tasty spinach can be, that it’s still packed with a wealth of health benefits, and that there is a popular Greek dish called Spanakopita, or spinach pie, that will make you fall in love with spinach all over again.
I still remember the first time I tried spanakopita. It was in a charming Greek restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago called The Athenian Room. My college girlfriend (who happened to be Greek) worked there on the weekends, and it wasn’t long before the rest of us became frequent diners. The Athenian Room is famous for their Kalamata Greek Chicken, their signature dish, but for me it was their Spanakopita that had me going back.
Spanakopita is a very popular savory pastry pie in Greek cuisine. It’s made with very thin layers of phyllo dough that is filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions and fresh herbs, all perfectly baked to a lightly brown crust. It’s traditionally made in a large pan and eventually cut into square pie pieces, but I like to prepare mine in small individual triangle-shaped servings so that I can serve them either as a snack, an appetizer or a vegetarian meal.
My girlfriends, Nadja and Esmee, joined me for my next MNSDK Cooking With Friends post. I met both Nadja and Esmee in a small yet charismatic village just outside of Eindhoven, my first hometown since moving to the Netherlands in 2010. But 2 years ago I moved a few miles away from Nadja and Esmee, a distance which in American standards is still considered very near. But you should know that in the Netherlands if you can’t bike it then it’s considered ‘too far’.
Need not worry though because these new friends of mine have fortunately become my old friends. Funny enough, it seems that distance also makes friendships grow fonder because I now see Nadja and Esmee a lot more frequently than ever before. Last week they came by to make delicious spanakopita with me, and as we always do the three of us had a great time together.
The next time you are at the grocery store, don’t forget about the spinach. Why not add in some Greek feta cheese , onions and fresh herbs to your cart too. You’ll be on your way to making some unforgettable Spanakopita.
Tip: You can make Spanakopita triangles in advance because they freeze incredibly well. It’s really handy for parties or just to have available for a quick and delicious meal you can just throw in the oven.
Recipe adapted from a combination of many, eventually coming up with my own version.
Spanakopita (spinach pie)
The key ingredients, spinach and feta cheese, are baked to perfection in this traditional Greek savory pastry favorite.
- 3 pounds (1400g) fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
- 4-5 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 450g Greek feta,(3 x 150g), approx. 2 cups
- 500g Ricotta, (2 x 250g), approx. 2 cups
- 235g Parmesan, finely grated, approx. 1 cup
- 15g fresh dill, approx. 1 cup chopped
- 7g fresh parsley, approx. 1/3 cup chopped
- 7g fresh mint, approx. 1/3 cup chopped
- 4 eggs, mixed
- Phyllo Sheets, (see note below)
- Butter, 1 cup, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- NOTE: You can find phyllo in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Since I live in the NL I buy mine here and they are sold in boxes (225g per box). One box is enough for 5 spanakopita triangles, so for this recipe you will need to buy at least 6 bpxes. The phyllo sheet size sold in your area may differ from what is available near me so please keep this in mind.
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees Celsius).
- Step 2 PREPARE THE SPINACH: In a large pot of boiling water add your pre-washed spinach leaves. Blanch the leaves for approximately 1 minute or just until they soften and turn vibrant green. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to stop cooking. With a handful at a time squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach with your hands. Do this at least 3-4 times. It’s very important to get as much liquid out as possible. Once dry put the spinach on a cutting board and give it a few chops. Set aside.
- Step 3 PREPARE THE HERBS: Finely chop all the fresh dill, parsley and mint. The parsley and mint are flexible in this recipe. You can alter the portions, but it is the fresh dill that gives this recipe that special flavor so don’t alter the dill.
- Step 4 PREPARE THE CHEESE: Add the feta, ricotta and parmesan in a large bowl and mix. Set aside.
- Step 5 In a large cooking pan add in 1/4 cup olive oil, spring onions, white onion. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute longer. If the mixture is dry add in a bit more olive oil.
- Step 6 Turn heat to low and add in the chopped herbs. Cook for 1 minute.
- Step 7 Add in the spinach. Cook for 1 minute.
- Step 8 Turn off heat and add in the cheese mixture. Mix.
- Step 9 Add the eggs. Mix.
- Step 10 Season with nutmeg (optional) and black pepper.
- Step 11 Melt butter (this will be used during assembly).
- Step 12 SEE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW FOR ASSEMBLY.
- Step 13 After you have made your triangles you can bake them immediately or freeze them and enjoy at a later date. To soften the phyllo (as it can get very crispy after baked) brush ever so lightly the top surface of the triangles with some milk.
- Step 14 Bake for about 30 minutes or until light-medium brown.
SPANAKOPITA TRIANGLES – ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS:
You will need to trim your phyllo dough sheets to measure approximately 4 inches x 10 inches (10.15cm x 25cm). Place one trimmed sheet of phyllo dough on a clean work surface. Brush surface very lightly with melted butter.
Lay a second sheet right on top of the first sheet. Brush surface with melted butter. Repeat until you have 4 stacked phyllo sheets. On the 4th sheet do not butter surface.
Scoop out a large spoonful of filling and place it at the end closest to you.
Grap the lower right corner and fold upwards and over to the opposite side (left side), forming a triangle.
With a light hold of your filled triangle hold the 2 side ends and fold it forward (away from you), keeping the triangle form.
Continue this folding pattern (like you would fold a flag). When you reach the near end, brush the edges with butter to act as a final seal.
Fold the excess phyllo dough around the triangle.
Touch up with more melted butter, if necessary, to get those last few ends.