Growing up as a kid, both my brother and I were the typical anti-greens children. If we knew that there were vegetables we would wrinkle our noses and refuse to eat a full serving. My mom had always made it a point though that we had to have at least 3 bites of whatever was on our plate before we could be excused from the table. However, if we didn't know what was in the food (or that it was healthy for us) we would gladly gobble it right up. One such favorite of ours that has been passed down from generation to generation on my mom's side was Spanakopita. A greek spinach pie.
My mom could always count on me and my brother both eating our fill of these delicious crispy triangles (and we were nonethewiser that there was spinach inside! How mortified we were when we found out until we took a bite and realized we still loved them!) My mom usually makes the Spanakopita in folded triangle forms (like seen above), though my aunt has experimented and makes really delicious bite sized versions of the dish. Either way its a simple, mostly healthy dish that I just can't get enough of!
Pastry Brush (though you can improvise with a paper towel if need be)
2/3 a bag of fresh baby spinach stemmed (can also use 1 package of frozen spinach if you are in a hurry)
4 oz feta cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup onions (diced)
1 stick butter (melted)
(equal part olive oil, so about 1/2 cup, can be substituted for the melted butter if desired...but who doesn't love melted butter?!
1 roll phyllo dough (room temp)
I generally set up my work station before I even start to mix any of the ingredients. For the work station simply lay out tin foil on the area you are going to work on allowing room for the phyllo dough, the bowl with the mixture, your cookie sheet, and your melted butter (or olive oil). The set up allows for a quicker clean up at the end. My set-up usually looks like this (see below) you can modify it however you'd like I just find this works best for me.
|P=phyllo dough; M=mixture; C=cookie sheet; T=tin foil; B=butter|
Preheat oven 350-375 (depending on your oven). If using frozen spinach, thaw out the spinach and drain it throughly, squeezing as much excess water from it as you can then add it to the bowl. If using fresh baby spinach, rinse and stem the spinach then drain it well (I generally pat it down with some paper towel). Chop the spinach into smaller pieces (or tear it) and add it to a medium bowl. Dice up about 1/2 cup of onion (usually it's about a half onion to a full one depending on size) and add to bowl. Add your feta cheese and cottage cheese (you can modify the amount depending on how you like your spanakopita), and finally add the beaten eggs. Mix the ingredients together until well blended. Add the bowl with the mixture to your work station and melt the butter into a small dish.
Using the pasty brush or paper towel, spread a layer of melted butter on the cookie sheet. Using a single sheet of phyllo dough, butter the surface of the sheet and fold it in half. You should now have a strip. Butter the surface of the strip again and then spoon out the mixture into one of the corners of the strip. Fold the corner like you are folding a paper football and then set the spanakopita on the buttered cookie sheet and butter the top. Repeat process until cookie sheet is full. If there is excess butter coat the tops once more and then stick the cookie sheet into the oven for about 20 mins. Check the spanakopita around 15 mins to make sure it is cooking well. It is finished when the phyllo dough has a nice crispness to it and is a golden brown color.
Some of the ingredients you can eyeball depending on your tastes (lord knows both my mom and I do that since we know the recipe so well!). Also it is very important when working with the phyllo dough that it is at room temperature when you try to work with it, otherwise it can be hard to manipulate. Some people will also recommend that you keep the phyllo dough covered with a damp towel or cloth so that it doesn't dry out. I tend to keep it uncovered but I work fast. Also, phyllo dough usually comes in a small box of two, and the second roll is great for making another Greek dish...Baklava! =D a great dessert to go with the Spanakopita! And again if you don't like the idea of using butter, you can substitute the butter with olive oil...but I think it gets a better crisp with butter! mmmm. If there are left overs, that's fine just cover them and put it in the fridge, and when you reheat to keep the crispness of the phyllo dough preheat the oven and cook them on a cookie sheet until reheated through.
Spanakopita is a great spinach dish that tastes amazing! You can have it as a side dish or as a meal itself, and everywhere I've been it's been a favorite dish! People always ask me for the recipe, so I'm happy to share! Whenever my brother or I am home it's the first thing my mom makes for us, and we happily gobble it up. Nothing tastes better than mom's home cooking! Hope you enjoy it! Happy eats! =D