As promised, I will be sharing some recipes from my big fat Greek Easter. First up? Spanakopita. I don't know too many people who don't love spanakopita. Greek or not, it's a delicious combination of spinach, onions, feta cheese and flaky, buttery, phyllo dough. I put my own spin on it by adding a little bit of cream cheese in the mixture to give it a creamier consistency, as well as a bit of parmesan cheese for extra sharpness. I'm not going to lie to you, it's a time consuming process, but one that is well worth it in the end – it's always a crowd pleaser. You can also do what I did and make it a day ahead, then freeze it until you're ready to bake it.
4 packages chopped frozen spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 package of Philadelphia cream cheese (4 oz)
1/2 pound of feta cheese, crumbled into large chunks
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil (for sauteeing onions)
2 tbsp butter (for sauteeing onions)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 stick unsalted butter (for phyllo)
1 package frozen phyllo sheets, thawed in the refirgerator for a few hours (I used approx 10 sheets phyllo)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the frozen spinach according to the directions on the package. When fully cooked, drain all of the water out. There's a fair amount of spinach, so I worked in bundles and squeezed the spinach in a bunch of paper towels. Some people use a kitchen towel but why ruin a good towel?
Saute the onions and scallions in the butter and olive oil over med-low heat until translucent. Do not brown them. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and spinach.
In a separate bowl beat the egg lightly, then add in the crumbled feta and nutmeg. Mix together lightly but try not to break the chunks of feta too much.
Add the egg/feta to the spinach and onion mixture in the pan. Make sure the spinach/onion mixture is just warm, because when you add the egg mixture the last thing you want is to scramble the eggs.
Fold in the cream cheese and grated parmesan cheese. I say fold because you don't want the feta to melt completely. It should be creamy, but you should be able to see chunks in there. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you prepare the phyllo.
Phyllo time! This stuff never ceases to amaze me at how delicate it is. If it weren't so delicious (and omnipresent in Greek cooking) I'd hate it. If you don't work quickly and keep it covered with a damp towel, you're screwed. That said, it's not difficult – it just takes a minute or two to get into a rhythm with it.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Unroll the phyllo from the package and cover with a damp towel. This you DEFINITELY want to use a kitchen towel for. I actually cover the phyllo with a piece of wax paper and a damp towel on top of that so the dampness is distributed more evenly.
Take a 9×12 inch baking pan and start by layering a piece of phyllo dough - half inside the pan and half hanging over one edge. Butter with a pastry brush all over, especially where it hangs over the edge because if you don't, it will crack. Repeat this process with the other side of the pan, buttering in between each layer.
I did 3 sheets on either side of the pan, then 2 more each on the top and bottom (totaling 10) in the same way so it would wrap up like a nice package. Hard to explain but if you look at the pics you'll see what I mean..
Almost done! Take the spinach mixture and spread evenly in the pan. I measured and it was about 5 cups.
Fold the sides of the phyllo over one by one, and when it's all wrapped up, butter the top just a little to ensure there are no dry spots. There is already a significant amount of butter, but with phyllo it can't hurt.
Take a sharp knife and cut through the top layer to make spinach pie into squares. Don't cut through to the bottom of the pan, this is just so when it's done baking you can cut pretty little squares out and not ruin it. As you know, phyllo is very flaky and breaks easily when cut. Shards of phyllo everywhere? Not good.
Now you can wrap it up in plastic wrap and freeze it until ready for baking, or pop in the oven at 375 for 45 mins – hour. The top should be golden brown.
Congrats! You made spanakopita. Take a shot of ouzo. You deserve it.