For years spanakopita has been my favorite food. The flaky phyllo encrusted spinach and feta pie is standard fare at Greek restaurants, served as an appetizer or main course. It used to be a special occasion dish, one I feasted on only when out to eat in Chicago’s Greektown, or after trips to a far away grocery store whose bakery sold the little square-shaped delicacies by the platter.
But then I learned to make it. I realized that the recipe was not difficult, and furthermore, that my own homemade spanakopita came out less greasy and more flavorful than the pies I’d been eating out. Though I’m sure Greek grandmothers everywhere will shudder to read this, the traditional recipe is perfect for tweaking.
Below is my base recipe for a standard homemade spinach pie. When I’m feeling decadent, I use more cheese and garlic. For a nuttier flavor and more fibrous texture, I substitute the parsley with a cup or so of arugula. Mushrooms incorporate well into the original filling, as do leeks. Sometimes I toss in a can of chickpeas for added protein. And I’m always open to suggestions.
For the crust:
12 sheets of phyllo dough (available in freezer section of most grocery stores)
Olive oil for brushing
For the filling:
2 10-ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 gloves garlic, grated
1 small red onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces feta, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Defrost phyllo for 90 minutes. Defrost spinach in a warm water bath strainer. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
De-water the spinach completely by squeezing. Mix onion, oil, eggs, lemon juice and garlic together in large mixing bowl. Add spinach, parsley, and feta, and blend by hand.
Oil a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Lay 1 piece of phyllo across dish. Brush top with oil and repeat for 5 layers. Add filling and spread evenly. For top crust, add 6 more dough/oil layers. Cut several slits on top of pie diagonally. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and flaky.
Nora Dunne is a Monitor contributor.
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