Ah, Spanikopita. There are no words to describe how much I love this dish. It's sister recipe, Tyropita, (or just plain "pita" as we call it in my family) is definitely our holiday indulgence. It's basically nothing but butter and cheese wrapped up in phyllo dough and baked to a delicious goodness. Ain't nothin' wrong with that people, ain't nothin' wrong with that!
We often get together, sometime in early November, and form a big assembly line. Grandmas, moms, cousins and nieces, all lined up folding lovely little triangles of cheesy goodness. I promise you, I'll share that recipe with you sometime near the holidays.
In the meantime, Spanikopita, is the healthier version of the two. Whip of a batch, serve it with a salad and you will feel like you had a decadent dish without all the guilt. Don't get me wrong, it's got cheese and butter in it too! But it's also got lots of spinach, so c'mon, it's good for you! Right? Say it with me now...riiiggghhht!
There are as many versions of Spanikopita recipes on the web as there are Greek cooks. This recipe was given to me by my Nana (through my Mom and Grandma) and I have tweaked it a bit. But I promise you, although it has a few more ingredients then some of the recipes you may have seen, it is worth it. I hope you like it. I know I did and Little Chef (my daughter) did too.
2 - 16 oz. bags of chopped spinach. Put the spinach in a colander and let it thaw completely, allow at least 2 hours for this.
1 large brown onion - diced
2 cloves of garlic - minced
16 oz. feta cheese. Please don't buy the pre-crumbled kind, it's too dried out. Buy the kind that comes packaged in brine so it's nice and creamy.
1 teaspoon each of allspice and nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 package of phyllo dough. Let it thaw out in the refrigerator overnight. Trust me, it's super delicate and if you just leave it out on the counter to thaw, it's going to make you pull your hair out later.
1 stick of butter - melted
1. After your spinach is thawed, squeeze as much excess water out of it as you can. I have found the easiest way to do this is to get a bunch of paper towels, scoop up the spinach and squeeze it out over the sink. It's a bit gross, but it works. Don't over think it, just get as much moisture out as you can. Then set the spinach in a large mixing bowl.
2. Saute your onions and garlic until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Once they have cooled add them to the spinach mixture along with the mint and the dill.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the feta, egg and seasonings. Mix well.
4. Then add the feta mixture to the spinach mixture and fold together. Set aside.
5. Prepare your phyllo dough. Begin by taking 4 paper towels, wetting them, and then squeezing as much water out of them as possible. You want them to be moist, but not dripping. Lay your phyllo dough, in the large stack, onto a cutting board and cover it gently with the damp paper towels.
6. Carefully take one sheet of phyllo and lay it on a separate cutting board. Brush the surface lightly (don't saturate the dough) with butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush that one with butter as well.
7. Cut the dough - width wise - into 6 strips. Then place a spoonful of the spinach mixture onto the bottom of each one. Roll the strips into triangles.
8. compete this process until you have used all the dough and all the spinach mixture.
Note: This gets easier with each roll. Little Chef and I had some really bad ones - here's an example of good and not so good:
If you want to cook the triangles immediately, heat the oven to 350, place them on a foil lined baking sheet, and bake until golden brown - 20 - 25 minutes. Otherwise, place the triangles in a single layers, divided by wax paper, into a container. You can freeze them for months. When you are ready to use them, simply take the desired amount out, and cook them the same as the others.