Saturday, April 16, 2011

Green and Greek and Oh So Delicious

 I love spinach. While I don't find it to have any "popeye" effect (!!), the taste and texture is a bit heftier and heartier than lettuce. When I can't find a crisp and tender heat of Boston (aka Bibb) lettuce, this is my go-to green. And what could be better than sauteing spinach with salty feta?

In terms of Greek cuisine, I have also always liked spanakopita. Not sure where this love of the crispy appetizer (often laded with butter-smeared layers of phyllo...), but there has never been a spanakopita I've turned down. Call me crazy, but I justify indulging in the treat partly because it's filled with greens (and cheese. And butter. But don't remind me of that). 

Needless to say, this classic Greek dish, also known as spinach pie, is a perfect cocktail party appetizer or, when made in larger triangles, a comforting lunch or dinner dish that always satisfies my craving for something rich without doing too much caloric damage (phyllo is relatively light when compared to puff pastry or pie dough. Healthy? No, but it's a wiser choice).

While some will prepare spanakopita in a pie dish or casserole pan, to create a pie, you can also make free-form triangles of different sizes, depending on your needs. I wanted to make an entrée-sized portion that could be served with a salad, so I made my triangles larger. If you wanted to make mini-spanakopitas for a cocktail party, trim the phyllo sheets into three tall and skinny pieces and make the triangles that way.

Serve with a side salad of mâche or another tender lettuce, or a warm soup for a complete meal.

As published on The Daily Meal

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, finely sliced
12 ounces baby spinach
Freshly ground pepper
8 ounces feta cheese, small dice
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 egg, beaten
One 12-ounce package phyllo dough
Butter, melted, for brushing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté until fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until well wilted.

Remove the spinach from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cool slightly (and drain if liquid collects in the bowl), then chop with a knife until in small chunks. In a bowl, combine the spinach with the feta, nutmeg to taste, and beaten egg. Combine well and set aside.

Unroll the filo dough, position with the long side at the top and bottom, and remove 1 leaf. Brush very well with butter and layer a second leaf on top. Brush with butter again. Scoop a 1/3 cup of filling about 3 inches in from top and 2 inches in from left. Carefully fold top half over filling, then bottom half. Fold lower right hand corner of the end near the filling over the filling, creating a triangle. Continue to fold the triangle like a flag. Place triangle on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining filo and filling (you’ll have about 10 spanakopitas).

Brush with more melted butter and bake in the oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

Yields 10 entrée-sized spanakopita
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

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