Spanakopita

Popeye, and other health enthusiasts the world over would be proud to learn  the amount of spinach I’ve nestled into these triangles of phyllo. Everyone else will be excited to hear how much cheese I’ve added. And believe me, there is a large amount of both. “Go big or go home” is what this came down to, so I decided to go big.

That was the only possible route with this recipe, because I had enormous shoes to fill on the Mediterranean Cooking front. Working in a shop that is neighbours with Cosmos Greek Taverna, Koutouki AND Hellas Greek Superstore is like living next door to Taylor Lautner and a Chocolate Factory– supergreat. But when the time came to make my own slice of spinach pie, I had a lot to live up to.

So I took to the interwebs and pieced together a sort-of recipe for Spanakopita. I was wary of using so much spinach (a whole tub, which was about 284g, or 1/2 a pound, roughly), but after the blanching and the shocking and the squeezing, it was really not so much. I was a lot less concerned about using a ton of cheese. Ricotta, cottage, feta, the whole 9 yards. I may have spent more money on food than clothes in the past 3 months, and somehow, thats okay with me.

Spanakopita adapted from many recipes, namley Mike Isabella’s from Zatinya Restaurant

1 tub of baby spinach

1 leek, white part only

1 bunch of green onions

2 tbsp fresh dill and parsley; 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (optional)

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled; 2-3 tbsps each ricotta and cottage cheese (optional)

Oil and 3/4 cups Butter

1 package phyllo dough (there may be a few sheets leftover, depending on how you fill)

Begin with a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water (it is sometimes helpful to remove the ice just beforehand, to avoid a messy spinach-stuck-to-icecube situation). Put the spinach into the boiling water for 10-15 seconds. Remove it from the pot with a strainer and plop it into the ice water to stop the cooking process. Stir the cooked spinach around for a few seconds then remove it from the bowl with your hands, gently squeezing all the water out. Set aside.

Make a slit lengthwise down the centre of your leek (using the white part only). Place it in a bowl of water to allow the grit to be washed out. While waiting for the leek to clean, chop the bunch of green onions. You will be using the green top part mostly, discard or save the bottoms for another recipe. By the time you have finished chopping the green onions the leek should be clean. Remove it from the water and cut it lengthwise, though the slit.  Chop it thinly and throw it in a hot frying pan with a drizzle of olive or vegetable oil. Allow it to cook on medium until slightly translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the green onions for another 2 minutes before transferring the mixture to a large bowl.

Combine the leeks and onions with the spinach and cheese(s) and chopped herbs. You may also add an egg to this mixture, but it will taste heavenly even if you forget (and yes, I did forget).

Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it in half. Set the one half aside, covered in a damp towel so it will not dry out. Cut the other half in half again so you have 2 stacks of dough. Choose one stack to work with. Lay the top sheet of dough from that stack by itself on the counter. Coat it in a thin layer of melted butter using a pastry brush. Place another layer of dough on  top of the first and coat it as well.

Some recipes I looked at encouraged the use of clarified butter. I had to study for my Physics exam, and lacked the time and desire to go through the whole process. Thus, melted butter was substituted in. If you wish to use clarified butter,

simply bring the 3/4 cups of butter to a boil on the stove, skimming off the whitish foam that develops. When the butter reaches a boil, reduce the heat for a moment and the milk fats will settle. Pour the butter through a strainer and voila! Clarified Butter. Melted butter does just as well, but clarified might have been easier to work with.

Scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the phyllo and fold it into a triangle shape: bring the right corner to the left side, fold it over, bring the left corner to the right side, fold it over, etc. At the top, dip your finger in the butter and rub it over the lip to seal. Continue

the routine of two sheets of phyllo, butter, a scoop of filling and folds until you’ve used all the filling and/or all the dough. Refrigerate on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper overnight and bake the next day at 350 for 6 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 2 minutes.

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