I think of my friend R, her husband A, and their nuclear unit as my chosen family. Not that I don’t love my own, of course, but sometimes a girl just needs people who get her, you know?
A did all the driving on this trip. He calmly got us through monsoon-like conditions with no road rage, and was patient and generous all week long. He worked so hard to make this a lovely holiday for everyone, I thought I’d make something especially for him to let him know his efforts were appreciated.
I happen to know A really likes spanakopita, and they are fairly simple to make, though a bit labor-intensive, with no exotic ingredients: spinach, ricotta or cottage cheese, feta, eggs, dill, onions, scallions, butter, oil, phyllo, and spices. Their daughter G was a great helper and is excellent at brushing olive oil/butter onto phyllo sheets.
We took the pies with us to the beach and shared with A’s family (parents, brother and sister-in-law) who raved about them. They know how to stroke a person’s vanity! I think the ratio of phyllo to filling was too great and vow to increase the filling next time!
- 2 10-oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 bunch green onions, minced
- ¼ cup parsley, minced
- ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ lb. feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ lb. ricotta or cottage cheese
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ lb. phyllo (aka fillo) pastry sheets, thawed in fridge
Thaw spinach completely and squeeze out excess water. Spinach should be damp, not sopping. You can use a potato ricer (looks like a big garlic press) to do this or if you don’t have a lot of hand strength, you can place the spinach in a large colander, put a thick layer of paper towels on top, and place a bowl filled with water or rocks in the colander to squeeze the excess liquid out.
Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan or large Dutch oven. When the oil starts to shimmer, throw in the onions and green onions until tender. Add the spinach, parsley, and dill and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the spinach is heated through. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and set the spinach aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the feta, eggs, and ricotta (cottage) cheese. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix until combined.
Brush each sheet with the olive oil and butter mixture, lay two on top of one another, then fold it over lengthwise. The short ends of the dough should be on your left and right and the long edges should be directly in front of you.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling on the right end. Bring the bottom right corner up and over so that that corner now meets the upper edge of the dough strip. It will look as if a triangle was cut out of the lower right side. Now bring the pointy end on the far right side straight over to the left. Take the upper right corner and bring it down to meet the lower left edge. Continue until you run out of dough and you have a little triangle. Repeat with remaining ingredients and phyllo.
Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid, then store in an airtight container. You can bake as many as you like whenever you want (at 350 for 40 minutes or until it’s golden and heated through).
To make one big spinach pie:
If you prefer to make a large pan of spinach pie, prepare the filling as directed and brush the butter-oil mixture all over the inside of a 9×13 pan.
Carefully remove the phyllo roll from one of the two plastic sleeves. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheets in half crosswise to make two stacks of 9×12 inch sheets. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.
Brush the butter/olive oil mixture onto each sheet of phyllo, lay in bottom of pan, and repeat until you have 10 sheets in the pan. Spread the filling on top, then top with remaining phyllo, brushing with butter and olive oil mixture in between each sheet of dough. Brush the top with the butter/oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the phyllo is golden. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting with a very sharp serrated knife.