A Spanikopita Tutorial

Welcome to my first tutorial. I'm going to teach you how to make spanikopita, or Greek spinach pie.
Why am I doing this in a quilting blog? Heck, I don't know. I have always loved the entries in my uncle Tom's cooking blog, and I was making it today and thought, "why don't I take some pictures?" so here goes.

First, the recipe:
I came about this recipe through some trial and error with Vefa's cookbook, by speaking with lots of Greek women (and one American woman married to a Greek guy), and by eating lots and lots of spanikopita. As an American married to a Greek, this works for me. I don't make it often, and never just for Costas, but it goes over very well at parties and any other occasion when you want it to look like you spent hours in the kitchen, because you do.

Makes about 24 triangles. Two triangles make a nice side dish or a small lunch.
Prep time: 2 hours. This includes mixing the mix and folding the triangles. It always takes me over an hour to get all the triangles folded.
Bake time: 1-2 hours. I don't have this part down yet, and I've never made them in the same oven twice. Bake for atleast one hour, then check and see that all the edges are brown and flakey. Sometimes the ones on the outside cook up faster so I'll take them out and let the middle ones stay in a while longer.
*Costas' note: they taste better not straight from the oven, so bake ahead and let them sit for an hour or so before serving.

You'll need:
2 lbs frozen spinach
1 pack Apollo Fillo #4 pastry sheets (about 24 sheets per pack)

Lots of Greek olive oil (the darker the better)

1 lb feta cheese, crumbled (I use imported Greek feta, "vareli," from the barrel)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream (or half & half, or light cream)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped dill
1 med-large sweet vidalia onion, chopped
a large baking pan, brushed with olive oil
a pastry/basting brush
a clean damp kitchen towel

Start by thawing the spinach and squeezing out the excess water. Squeeze small handfulls really well between your palms and place the spinach in a large mixing bowl with the chopped onion. Add the feta and crumble as you mix. Add the cream eggs, parsley, dill, salt & pepper. Mix well.
It should look like this:

Set the bowl aside and prepare your work surface. Don't open the fillo dough until you're ready to begin making the triangles. Wet a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess water. This will be used to cover the fillo sheets to keep them from drying out should you need to stop or take a break during the preparations. Have a cup of oil and pastry brush to one side, close to the bowl of spinach mixture. On the other side, lay out a paper towel to catch drips of oil, and place your baking pan on top. Are you ready?
Open the fillo and unroll the sheets. There will be a plastic sheet at the bottom, leave the fillo dough on the plastic sheet and place it vertically at the center of your work surface. Carefully spread out the stack to smooth out any wrinkles. Dip your brush in the oil and paint a large line down the center of the first fillo sheet.

Paint the entire sheet, edge to edge, with a soft stroke, taking care not to rip the fillo. Add as much oil as necessary, but it should just be glossy, not wet.

Next, fold the fillo sheet onto itself, oil side down, in thirds.
Paint the thin strip again with olive oil. Take a spoonful of the spinach mixture and place it at the bottom of the strip.

Fold up the bottom left corner to form a triangle.

Continue to fold up the packet of spinach until the entire fillo sheet has been used.

Place the triangle on the baking tray and brush liberally with olive oil.

How'd you do? are you ready for the next one? Repeat about 23 more times. If you need to stop (to wash your hands, answer the phone, anything), remember to lay the damp kitchen towel lightly over the stack of fillo sheets, they will dry out very quickly if you don't. When you resume the triangle-making process, the first fillo sheet (which was touching the towel) may seem a little damp and tough to work with, but spread it with oil as usual and it should be fine. Once all the triangles have been folded, you can either bake immediately in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour (or more, watch til they get brown and flakey) or wrap in clingwrap and store in the refridgerator overnight, or in the freezer for longer. If you freeze them, there is no need to defrost before baking, just pop them right into the preheated oven.

Voila! Enjoy!

(*note* This post has been three days in the making, forgive me. Blogger just doesn't want to upload my photos into a draft entry, any advice?)


Alex said...

This looks so delicious, Jessica!!!
Thanks for the tutorial.

TommyJ said...

Wow! Fantabulous! Can't believe it's taken me this long to get here and read this, but I'm sure glad I did. Now I've got to go and try it . . . Thanks, Jessica!

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