Monday, March 17, 2008

Spanakopita -- Cooking Class

Spring means Spinach. And Spinach means Spanakopita!! (aka: Greek Spinach Pie)

This is such a good dish! You can make it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can eat it hot, cold, room temperature or warmed up. You can put it together and bake it later. It is SO versatile! And, it’s vegetarian! So let’s get started!!

1 pkg. Fillo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight

2 lb. of fresh Spinach: washed, stemmed, steamed, dried and chopped

OR 3 boxes frozen Spinach: thawed, and squeezed through a towel until thoroughly dried

1 med. Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, minced

Olive Oil and Butter

Salt and Pepper

6 Eggs

½ lb. crumbled Feta Cheese

1 tsp. Oregano

1-2 sticks Butter, melted

First, the spinach. However you arrive at the destination described above, remember that you must-must-must put the spinach in a dish towel and twist it with all your might over the sink to dry it. Wet, soggy spinach will ruin this dish.

Bring a small frying pan up to medium high heat. Put in a Tb. of Butter and a Tb. of Olive Oil. Saute the onion and garlic. Add about 1/8 tsp. of salt and a nice grinding of fresh black pepper. When the onion is translucent, remove from heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the cheese, oregano and chopped spinach. Mix well. Stir in the cooled onion/garlic mixture. Now your filling is ready.

Melt a stick of butter and pour it into a large shallow bowl. Butter a 10” x 15” jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides). You can use a larger pan, it will just make a thinner Spanakopita, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

This is the part where things get hairy. Read through these instructions before attempting this next part. Also, the pictures included here are of a “half-sheet” size pan, not the one noted above. Instead, I made two smaller ones and gave one as a gift.

Fillo dough is so thin, that it will dry out in no time. The object of the game is to get this next part done as quickly as possible. So, first set out your shallow bowl of melted butter, your jelly roll pan. Open up the box of Fillo and unfold it to lay it flat on the counter. Have a dishtowel ready to lay over it to help keep it from drying out. Cover the Fillo with the towel whenever you have a pause in this next assembly step.

Take 2 sheets of Fillo and arrange them in the pan with the edges hanging over the sides. Depending on the brand of Fillo (some are half sheets, some are whole sheets), you might have to use 4 sheets to start so that you get a good overhang. Now put the palm of your hand right into the butter. Pat a palm print twice – once pat on each quarter of the pan. Butter your hand again and pat a palm print on the two remaining quarters of the pan. Cover this with two (or 4) more sheets of Fillo. Repeat. Cover with more Fillo, Repeat. And do it once more. The object of the game is to get about 8 sheets of Fillo (buttered between every 2 sheets) into the pan. The top layer does not have to be buttered.

Now, grab your bowl of filling and use your fingers to get it evenly spread over the entire bottom of the pan. Dip your fingers into the butter and fold all of the overhanging Fillo onto the top of the filling. Make sure the now-exposed underside of the formerly overhanging border is well-buttered.

Grab two pieces of Fillo and lay them on top of the filling. Dip your palm in the butter and proceed with the palm prints as above. Set two more pieces of Fillo on top again, and continue until you have used up all the Fillo. Then tuck the overhanging edges into the inside of the pan edge, and slather LOTS of butter all over the top.

Now, using a very sharp paring knife, cut the Spanakopita into the size slices you want. You just have to cut the top Fillo layers, not all the way through to the bottom.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50 minutes. It will be a beautiful golden brown. Allow it to cool somewhat, and then using the cut marks you made earlier as a guideline, cut all the way through and serve. MMMMMMMmmmmmmm !!

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