@myvmission, experiments in cooking

Virtual Greece + Holiday Prep

In which I make the Spanikopita for the holiday party, in sync with my virtual Greece challenge (Marathon to Athens from The Conqueror)

I will spare you all the 10 paragraphs of filler before the recipe, as is Internet tradition, but I do need to pause here for some notes specific to the recipe:

The Spinach

The spinach needs to be dry.

  • If you are starting from fresh spinach, you need to cook it down and then drain it well to cook out the liquid in it.
  • If you are starting from frozen spinach, as I do, you need to thaw it and then squeeze all the liquid out of it. I usually plan ahead, let it thaw in the fridge for a few days, and then squeeze as close to all the liquid out as I can. (The microwave can help jumpstart the thaw if needed). Then I let it sit in a colander in the fridge for a little while (longer if there was still ice crystals in it) to let the rest of the liquid drain. And then, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Don’t use canned spinach if you can help it. It will be far too salty. Unless that’s your thing, I guess. Then go for it. But still drain it and dry it, first.
Spinach, in a colander, over a deep dish. Next stop: the fridge to continue draining.

The Flaky Crust

Authentic spanikopita is made with filo (phyllo) sheets, brushed in layers with melted butter and wrapped around the spinach (or used as a top and bottom crust in a larger dish). I’ll make it that way sometimes, but despite my best efforts it always comes out a little greasy. If you’re not picky about authenticity and need to err on the side of ease, not to mention butter regulation, you can also make them with puff pastry. Which is what I’m going to do below.

Again, that’s not the authentic Greek way to make them but they are still delicious (enough to make you fall in love with this Greek dish and maybe make it “the right way” another time).

If you do want to make them with phyllo dough, basically you’ll lightly brush 2-3 sheets together with butter, cut the assembled sheets into strips, and then fold the strips over the spinach in much the same way as folding a note in school. (Did you not pass notes in school? Here’s a video that shows phyllo triangles being created for something else. Same principle applies!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdgc88Zt81E

Again, I’m going to use puff pastry for mine; I like the ratios better that way. So with that background, here we go.

The Recipe – Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry (see note above about using fresh instead)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled from block (note: pre-crumbled is not recommended because will have starch on it to keep it from clumping in the package)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed (or one package of phyllo dough)
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp of water

Instructions

Prepare the oven and pan

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F)
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (preferably) or with aluminum foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil

Cook the aromatics

Onions all cut up
  • In a skillet, melt the butter and cook the onions for a few minutes, until soft
  • Add the garlic and cook another minute; do not burn
Onion and garlic sautéed.

Prep the filling

  • In a large bowl, add the cooked onions and garlic, spinach, Parmesan, ricotta, salt, white pepper and nutmeg
  • Crumble in the block of feta cheese
  • Stir together with a fork until well incorporated
Getting prepped to become filling

Prep the puff pastry (single pie for slicing version)

  • Place one unfolded sheet of puff pastry on the parchment or sprayed aluminum foil
  • Roll the other sheet out to be about 1 inch larger than the first.

Note that for a party, versus a sit-down dinner where I’d just cut pieces as servings, I roll both out, cut them into 9 squares each, and then fill the squares. That’s what I’m doing today:

Partially assembled: about to be folded and crimped

Assemble for cooking (single pie for slicing version)

  • Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the first (unrolled) pastry, leaving a border of 1/2 inch to 1 inch around all the edges.
  • Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  • Place the rolled out pastry over the first. Press the edges with fingertips or a fork to crimp them together.
  • Brush just the top with egg wash
  • Cut a few slits in the top to let moisture vent while it’s in the oven.

Again, for the individual serving version, I would take the separate squares I cut above, and fill each one, folding the square into a triangle and then sealing each one with the egg wash. Super messy, delicious results.

Now I just need to poke a steam hole in the top of each, brush them with egg wash, and they can go into the oven!

Bake

  • Place on the prepped baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. (For triangles, it will be more like 20-30 minutes.)
  • Can be served hot or at room temperature

Enjoy!

22 minutes later – Success!

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