Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spanakopita from Scratch

I was chatting last night with my brother's girlfriend, and she was wondering what to do with her days off now that all the holiday stuff was done. I suggested she take some time to stock the freezer to make her life a little easier once she was back at work. I figured that along those lines, I would post one of my favorite freezer recipes. As I have mentioned in the past, I really like making and eating Greek food. Ages and ages ago when Tyler Florence was hosting Food 911 on the Food Network, he featured the following spanakopita recipe, that I have been accepting compliments on ever since. They are a bit labour intensive (it'll take an hour or a bit more), but the results are so good that I keep making them anyway. You can make about 40 small ones, but I like to make dinner sized ones instead, as they take less time and feel more worth the effort.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh baby spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
12 ounces crumbled feta
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1 pound phyllo pastry sheets
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 3 minutes until soft. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and continue to saute until the spinach is limp. Add lemon juice, remove from heat and place in a colander, and squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside to cool. The filling needs to be cool and dry to prevent the phyllo from becoming soggy. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with feta, coriander, and nutmeg. Season, then fold in the cooled spinach mixture until well blended.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, brush 2 baking sheets with some melted butter. Unroll the phyllo dough and lay a sheet flat on a work surface. Take care to keep the phyllo covered with a damp, not wet, towel as you work to prevent drying out and becoming brittle. Brush the sheet with melted butter, and repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo, stacking on top of each other. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the sheets lengthwise into halves to form 2 3-inch strips.Place a heaping teaspoon of filling near 1 corner of the layered phyllo strip. Fold the end at an angle over the filling to form a triangle. Continue to fold the triangle along the strip until you reach the end, like folding up a flag. Brush the top with butter and dust with Parmesan, place on prepared baking sheet, and cover while preparing the remaining pastries. Repeat until all the filling and phyllo strips are used up. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the triangles are crisp and golden.

Alternately, you can freeze the uncooked triangles, and cook the same way from freezing (may take 5 extra minutes). They freeze so well I love to keep some in my freezer for days when I don't have time to cook, but still want to eat real food.

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