Easy Spanikopita

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

There are a few things in life that are just perfect. For me, one of those things is phyllo dough. It's flaky, it's buttery, it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. It can be an appetizer, a main or a dessert. The possibilities are quite literally endless.
One of my favorite things to make with phyllo dough, however, is spanikopita. Greek for "spinach pie," it is traditionally made in a pie form, but can also be made in these easy-to-eat triangle shapes using phyllo dough as well.
This is my super simple and quick recipe for a perfect appetizer or cocktail party munchie.
Easy Spanikopita
1 box frozen chopped spinach - thawed completely
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 package phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refridgerator
1 stick butter melted, plus 1 tbsp - divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
Using a fine strainer, press out all the water from the defrosted spinach. Gather into a ball and using a couple of sheets of paper towel or a kitchen towel, pat out any more remaining water. It is crucial to take out as much moister from the spinach so you do not make the spanikopita soggy. Once drained, place spinach in a mixing bowl.
Heat a pan and melt the tablespoon of butter. On low heat, saute the onions until just beginning to become transulence and tender - about 5-8 minutes. Do not caramelize! Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds until fragrant. Poor onto spinach and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the salt and pepper to taste**, thyme, oregano, eggs and feta cheese. Mix well, making sure all ingredients are incorporated.
Open one package of phyllo dough. Very carefully roll out the gentle sheets, making sure not to rip any of them. Cover the top sheet lightly with a damp towel or paper towel to keep the sheets from drying. On an appropriate working surface (cutting board, marble board or clean kitchen counter top), gently place one sheet of phyllo dough and very carefully but quickly brush it with the melted butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top of that, and brush the top of that layer with melted butter. Add a third layer of phyllo and brush once more with butter. Cut the phyllo in half, length-wise, creating two strips to work with.
Take about a full teaspoon of the spinach mixture and place it in the bottom-left corner of the phyllo strip. Repeat with the other strip. Don't forget to cover the rest of the phyllo dough pile with the damn towel so it doesn't dry out! Then very gently, fold the bottom left corner to meet the other side of the strip, creating a triangle shape. Then take the bottom right corner of the triangle and meet it directly up to the side of the phyllo, making another trianlge. This process is exactly the same as folding a flag. Continue doing this until you reach the end of the the phyllo dough. You should have an even triangle. If you do not, trim off any exess phyllo to make a clean, uniform triangle. Brush the bottom of the triangle with butter where you "seal" it with the final fold to ensure it won't open during cooking. Set aside on your baking sheet.
Repeat this process with the other strip, then remaining phyllo dough.
Once your triangles are made, brush the tops with more melted butter. At this point, if you choose you can freeze them. To do this, place them in a ziploc freezer bag, gently and trying not to overlap them. You may need to use several bags to ensure the dough doesn't stick together or break after you freeze them. They can stay frozen for up to 6 months.***
If making now, place in oven and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature.
*I use Valbreso feta cheese (French) because it has a milder flavor.
**The amount of salt used will depend on what feta cheese you use, as some can be quite salty. Taste your cheese before you add it in the mixture and adjust salt accordingly.
***If using previously frozen spanikopitas, take out of freezer bag and place directly on baking sheet. No need to defrost before baking, but may have to increase cooking time depending on your oven!

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