Tonawanda News

February 11, 2013

YANKEE CHEF: Spanakopita a great, Greek classic

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I adore Greek cuisine and I have a lifelong ambition to someday visit that great nation. The ancient culture has intrigued me since I was a child, the language has grabbed my attention ever since I learned the Greek alphabet as a teen and the food makes me want to fly there just to taste authentic spanakopita. 

But if I can’t jump on my jet (yet), at least I can give you a recipe for this dish that is both easy to prepare and delightful to enjoy.

I really shouldn’t even classify this dish as a meal because in Greece, it is mainly eaten as a snack, much like we enjoying chicken wings here in the United States. But I find that by adding a fresh, crisp salad and some crusty bread, it does satisfy, especially when you don’t want to feel bloated after a meal. (Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone?). 

For a great change of pace, you don’t have to stick with spinach. Cook up some other leafy greens such as sorrel, Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens, collard greens or kohlrabi. As for the cheese, I wouldn’t substitute anything for this fine Greek staple.

Crispy and smooth spanakopita

1 pound fresh spinach leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small bunch green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons dried dill

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 pound ricotta cheese

Nonstick cooking spray

1 17-ounce package of frozen phyllo sheets, thawed in refrigerator

Rinse and drain the spinach very, very well. 

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. 

Saute onions 2 minutes. Add spinach and dill and continue cooking for 4 minutes, or until the spinach is just barely wilted. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Spinach mixture should be on the dry side. Remove from heat and set the spinach aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the feta and eggs until just mixed. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix until just combined. 

Spray a 9-by-12-inch oven pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Spray two phyllo sheets with cooking spray. Cut each sheet into 4-by-4-inch squares. 

Place half of the squares onto prepared sheet pan and add two tablespoons spinach mixture onto each square. Whip ricotta cheese in a bowl to smooth. Dollop a tablespoon or two onto the center of each spinach mound and cover with the remainder of the spinach mixture so each square has an even amount. Press with a spatula to flatten. 

Layer the remainder of the squares over the spinach mixture, making sure to spray the top of each with cooking spray.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the pita turns a deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 individual servings, with two squares per person.

Jim Bailey is the author of "The Yankee Chef" cookbook, and writes from his home kitchen in Bangor, Maine. He can be reached at theyankeechef@aol.com.