Spanakopita is a savory Greek pastry. It is traditionally made with filo (phyllo) dough folded into triangles. Some say this tasty dish originated over 400 years ago. It is served in most Greek restaurants outside of Greece, as well as in virtually all restaurants in Greece. Spanakopita may have risen in popularity in part because of the Lenten calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The consumption of meat is not permitted on any day during Lent so Greek cooks had to look for vegetarian alternatives. Meals prepared with eggs or dairy could be sustaining without breaking the commands of the Church. When served during Lent, spanakopita is invariably made with the addition of feta cheese to spinach and onions to make the pastry heartier.
I celebrate this simple yet elegant Greek dish by serving it as a pie. It is a hit every time. Serve with a Greek salad and homemade Retsina wine (if you dare) for a complete meal.
2 6-ounce bags fresh spinach
16 ounces filo dough (thawed)
8 ounces Feta cheese
1 onion (diced fine)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup butter (melted)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Pinch of oregano
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a pie dish by coating it with cooking spray. Set aside.
Separate the leaves from the stems and put the leaves into a large bowl. Sprinkle heavily with salt and then rub it into the leaves with your hands as you tear them into small pieces. After a few minutes of this, the spinach will be reduced to a quarter of its former bulk. Rinse the salt off thoroughly and drain.
Beat the eggs, crumble the Feta cheese, and mix together. Add to the spinach. Set aside.
Sauté the onion in olive oil until it turns transparent. Add this to the spinach mixture. Season the mixture with lots of fresh-ground black pepper and a pinch of oregano.
Stack the filo dough on a flat surface. Brush the top sheet with the melted butter and fit it into the pie dish, with the edges hanging over the sides. The pastry sheets are very large and should extend quite a bit over the edges of the pie dish, even after being fitted against the sides. Continue in this fashion brushing each sheet with butter and fitting it into the pan on top of the others. Do this until you have three pastry sheets left.
Pour the filling in to the pie dish on top of the filo. Butter the remaining sheets and place them on top of the whole thing, making a crust where the top and bottoms meet. You should have a strange looking, wrinkled crust on top when you finish.
With a sharp knife, cut through the top layers to the filling in six equal places. Brush the top with butter. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.