Known for its healthier ingredients and deep flavors, but also its laid-back preparation approach, it's no surprise Greek menus are a popular choice at dinner parties.
I recently had some friends over for a Friday night dinner to send my one friends off on her two week vacation. The menu consisted of classic Greek salad, chicken soulvaki and spinach pie, known more formally as Spanakopita.
While my friends had tried my salad and soulvaki prior to this little get together, the spinach pie was new - and boy, did it steal the show!
I'd never worked with fillo dough before, so I have to admit, I was intimidated by this recipe. Luckily, I worked up the confidence to try the dish and it actually turned out to be one of the simplest I've ever made.
If, like me, you're intimidated by fillo dough, consider these two things I learned from cooking with it.
Don't try to get the sheets perfect. The paper thin dough rips, tears, ripples and sets with a mind of its own. The best thing you can do is work with it and not aim for perfection.
Have whatever you need ready and prepped before you start. I've heard a thousand times on cooking shows how quickly you're required to work with fillo dough. Though you do have to work relatively fast with it, you needn't rush. So long as you've got whatever else you need ready, you'll be good to go. Take your time and work at your own pace.
Spinach Pie (Spanakopita) Recipe:
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 (10 ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 yellow onions, chopped and sauteed (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound crumbled Feta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
6 large eggs, beaten
12 sheets Fillo Pastry Dough, defrosted
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
Before you make this, be sure to place your Fillo dough into the refrigerator to thaw. Overnight is best.
Start by thawing and draining your frozen spinach. I did this overnight by placing the spinach in a colander, then squeezed the excess liquid from the spinach when I was ready to mix. Don't rid the spinach of all it's moisture - you want some in there for when it cooks.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Next, chop your onions and saute in olive oil on medium heat until they're translucent and lightly browned. Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool.
Mix your Feta, Parmesan and bread crumbs into your spinach with a fork until blended. Then, add your eggs and fold in with a wooden spatula. Set aside.
Melt your butter and break out a wooden cutting board. Take out your Fillo dough and unwrap. Brush the bottom and sides of an 8" - 10" oven safe pan and have nearby.
Place one layer of Fillo onto your cutting board, brush with butter and place a second sheet of Fillo on top of that one. Repeat another 5 times, taking care to brush butter between each layer evenly. You want 6 sheets layered.
Once ready, carefully transfer the butter laden dough into the round pan - you will only be able to cover half the pan with this round. Try to place so the sides overflow.
Repeat the layering process with another 6 sheets of Fillo and cover the other half of the pan with the second layered piece.
Fill the inside with your spinach mixture and fold the excess edges to the center to cover the filling. Brush the top with leftover butter and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour, allow to cool, then serve at room temperature.
8 - as a side to dinner, 16 - as an appetizer