I use spinach in recipes all the time. I have it raw in salads, stir-steam it with garlic and olive oil in the Italian tradition, mix it up in ratatouille, add it to soups, even use it instead of lettuce in sandwiches. But my all time favorite spinach recipe (which, of course, I added to my own family recipe cookbook) is for Spanakopita or Greek Spinach Pie.
A family spinach tale
Much as I love spinach recipes, whenever I think of them, I start to giggle. Yes, I know. How could spinach be funny?
Well, consider this scenario: We were in a chain “pie-type” restaurant for breakfast and she ordered a Florentine omelet. (With “florentine” you know you are getting spinach, just like “Veronique” means green seedless grapes are in the dish, right?)
The perfectly done 3-egg omelet came glistening to the table promising a heady blend of Swiss cheese, spinach, and mushrooms. Astonished at the presentation and taste, my sister said “Wow, they used fresh spinach in this recipe.” A few minutes later she said “Wow, they used fresh spinach.” Half-way finished with her breakfast, she said “Wow, they used fresh spinach.” (Well, maybe you had to be there.)
Now, whenever we see any fresh spinach in a recipe, we giggle “Wow, fresh spinach!” to one another, much to most eavesdroppers’ utter confusion.
Really, I’m surprised at my sister’s ignorance when it comes to spinach dishes, given that this Greek spinach pie recipe is now a staple in our family recipe book. It’s perfect as a snack, entree, or for party nosh.
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) Recipe from our family cookbook
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pound fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons grated Kefalotiri (Greek grating cheese) or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dry mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (more if you like the filling tart)
- 1 pound of phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
- 1 stick of butter/margarine, melted
Wash spinach thoroughly; chop fine and let drain for several hours (so it drains completely).
Saute onions in the olive oil until tender.
Add garlic and fry for a few minutes.
Add spinach to onion-garlic mixture and steam down until limp. Set aside to cool.
Beat eggs and mix in green onion, parsley, feta cheese and kefalotiri / parmesean. Add mint, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice. Stir into spinach mixture to make filling.
Grease a 15 x 11 x 2 inch pan. Line the bottom with 7-10 layers of phyllo pastry sheets, brushing each sheet layer with melted butter (including edges).
Spoon spinach mixture over phyllo (almost to the pan’s edge). Then cover with remaining phyllo pastry sheets, always brushing each layer with melted butter.
Finish the top by rolling and tucking the edges down into the pie all around the pan. Score the top layer into squares.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour (or until golden brown).
Let stand for 5-10 minutes to set before cutting into pre-scored squares.
Spick and span spinach!
By the way, don’t you just love those triple-washed bags of spinach? It really doesn’t cost that much to wash your own three times, but it is so convenient when it’s already cleaned and ready. But, of course, you pay for that!
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