By Shannon Lowry
Killeen Daily Herald
Spanakopita sounds like a word meant to trip up a 12-year-old in the national spelling bee competition, but it''''s actually a favorite Greek dish made with phyllo pastry dough, spinach, feta cheese, and other ingredients and seasonings.
The word itself comes from the modern Greek words, spanaki (spinach) and pita (pie). Several layers of phyllo pastry are used as a two-crust shell, and the filling is not just delicious, but one of the few sure-fire ways to get kids to eat Popeye''''s favorite food.
Phyllo, when translated, literally means "leaf" and is aptly named, since the dough is made in tissue-thin layers. This pastry dough is used in a number of Greek and Near Eastern recipes, but the best known are baklava and spanakopita. Spanakopita is baked to a flaky, golden brown that is crispy on the outside and warm and inviting on the inside.
Frozen phyllo dough is readily available in grocery stores but you''''d have to find a Greek market for fresh phyllo.
Unopened, phyllo can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. Once opened, use within two to three days.
Frozen phyllo can be stored for up to one year. To use, simply thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Refreezing phyllo is not a good idea though, because it makes the dough brittle.
Much of Greece''''s culinary heritage harkens back to the 400 years of Turkish rule, such as tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt dip), souvlaki (skewered, grilled meat in pita bread), spanakopita, mousakas (eggplant baked with minced meat and bchamel sauce) and horiatiki salata ("country salad" of cucumber, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and olives).
Here are two recipes for this delicious spinach pie, one traditional yet using modern ingredients, and the other for the vegans among us.
This dish isn''''t all that hard to make but if you don''''t have the time and need a delicious appetizer, try Sam''''s Club Spanakopita (in the frozen food section at the Super Wal-Mart in Harker Heights) instead.
These frozen phyllo triangles come with their own aluminum pan you can bake them in, and they are ready to serve in about 40 minutes.
They disappear at a party quickly so, if you have a crowd, you might want to purchase multiple boxes and then space them out so they come out of the oven in intervals throughout your get-together.
3 packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and very well drained in a sieve
1/2 pound butter, melted
pinch of parsley
1/2 pound feta cheese
1/2 pound cottage cheese
salt to taste
minced onion for flavor
1 teaspoon dill
1/2 pound phyllo leaves
melted butter for phyllo
Mix first 8 ingredients together. Butter the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Place 4 phyllo leaves on the bottom, buttering after each.
Place 1/2 spinach mix on phyllo leaves, then place 4 more phyllo leaves on top, buttering each leaf.
Place remainder of spinach and place 4 more leaves on top, buttering each layer. Turn edges of phyllo under, toward the rim of the pan. Butter top layer. Bake 375° F. oven for 30 minutes or until golden.
— Food Network
large saucepan or Dutch oven
clean kitchen towel or paper towels
9x13-inch baking pan, oiled
½ cup olive oil
2½ pounds fresh spinach, cleaned and de-stemmed
6 green onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 pounds firm tofu
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
dash of nutmeg
¾ cup walnuts, ground
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound phyllo pastry
Preheat oven to 375º.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil, add spinach, green onion, garlic, and dill, and sauté, stirring frequently until spinach is limp and the liquid has boiled away. Set aside.
Drain tofu, wrap in towel(s), and press out excess liquid. Place in bowl and use whisk (or your hands) to mash it. Add spinach, lemon juice, oregano, nutmeg, walnuts, ¼ cup olive oil, yeast, salt, and pepper and mix well.
Lay out a sheet of phyllo in the baking dish (it will overlap the sides). Brush with oil, lay another on top, brush with oil, and repeat for a total of 8 sheets.
Spread half of the spinach mixture over the dough. Lay out another 8 sheets of phyllo as above. Spread the rest of the spinach on top, then lay out the rest of the phyllo. Brush the top with oil and tuck the edges of the phyllo sheets into the pan.
Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes, until golden-brown and crispy. Yields 8 servings.
Adapted from “Vegan With a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Contact Shannon Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7548