Monday, December 14, 2009

An easy recipe for my 5th food group: Spanakopita

You've been warned. I am obsessed with spanakopita, Greek for spinach pie.

The year I spent living in Greece was a constant struggle with my food obsessed Aunt Mary. She constantly warned me about tummy aches from eating "off the streets" and the more she warned and threatened me, the more I disobeyed her. There was fresh spanakopita popping out of every bakery on the corner and I wanted to try them all. She warned me of the poor quality ingredients some of those bakeries or fast food chains would use and I'd better just eat hers because she makes the best and uses the best ingredients.

Aunt Mary made me a tray of spanakopita every week for almost an entire year.

I would merely save it for dinner or maybe a savory breakfast snack and relinquish in my spinach pie street snacking habits during the day. There were so many types: spanakopita coiled up like a snail shell, spanakopita in large trays that were hacked into squares (Thessaloniki style), Fasting spanakopita without cheese or butter - heavy on the olive oil and wild greens, Spanakopita from the gas station (!), from Greek Starbucks, Spanakopita from the mountain villages with homemade phyllo, you name it. Aunt Mary would taunt me that I'd have spankopita coming out my nose I ate it so much.

My Greek relatives would ask me: 
"Where is the best place in Athens for spanakopita?"

I had spanakopita rapport even with local Athenians. I don't get sick of it and never will. I love it and yeah, there is no such thing as normal.

When my friend Evangelos, a Greek from Greece, asked me to teach him how to make Spanakopita, I was a little flattered. Every Greek thinks his mom's spanakopita is the best. I used to think my mom's spanakopita was the best until I found a large bug -wings in-tact- while biting into her version made with swiss chard from the back yard.

"Eeeeextra protein!!!!" She'd shriek back with a grin, like I'd just won the magical protein cracker jack's prize she's strategically placed in the casserole.

The version I made with Evangelos has pre-washed baby spinach and frozen phyllo dough. It's super easy to make and you can totally impress your friends with your Hellenic culinary skills and make Aunt Mary proud.

1 1/2 lbs fresh baby spinach
1 leek
1 lb Greek feta
2 eggs
1 package frozen phyllo dough (thawed out overnight in the refrigerator or left at room temperature for several hours)
1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Rough chop leeks and place into hot skillet with olive oil. Cook until slightly pale, then add spinach until just wilted (spinach will cook more in the oven) and remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, add eggs to the feta and mash up just enough to break up all large chunks.

Grease a 13" X 9" X 2" casserole dish with some olive oil and begin layering the sheets of phyllo, sprinkling oil between each layer until half the stack of the phyllo is used. Combine spinach mixture with cheese mixture (at this point, the spinach be cooled enough as to not make scrambled eggs with the egg mixture) and pour onto phyllo layers, spreading mixture evenly. Fold excess sides over into the middle.

Finish layering with the rest of the phyllo and olive oil. Pour rest of olive oil on top and score the top.

Bake in over for 45 minutes, or until brown.

And of course, it's always better with krasi (wine) in hand. Greek style. Do it for the motherland and for Aunt Mary.


lydia said...

i still have to make this!!! and now i have an awesome pictorial to follow. spana-BOOM!

iamerica said...

Oh, I'm doin' it. That's all there is to say. I'm effin' doin' it.

Peter M said...

Anna, great job on the Spanakopita. Evangelos just wanted so "close time" with you as you showed him how to make it. Think the movie "Ghost"! ;)

Gastronomer said...

Aw, what a great post! I enjoyed scaring my relatives in Vietnam by eating on the streets too ;-) Mmm! The locals are so weak sometimes!

Banana Wonder said...

Lydia, YES! Time for you to make it and tell me how it goes.

Erica! Welcome! And yes please do it. Represent for MVHS!

Peter, yeah, just basic ol spanakopita. Still haven't gotten around to the homemade phyllo. I need a tutor for that ;)

Gastronomer, Amen sista to the local weak sauce! What's up with that?

Maria said...

I was just talking about bugs in horta the other day with a friend! There is a great Greek place my family orders food from maybe 3 or 4 times a year and my poor dad has gotten a mouthful of BUG two different times when eating a forkful of their boiled horta!!

The spanakopita looks great ... and I for one can understand your obsession ... ;)

Unknown said...

I am a spanakopita fan too and was very pleased the last time I made it when my son pronounced it 'just like Yiayia's'. Yours looks wonderful.

Banana Wonder said...

Maria, Thanks =) Your dad must need extra protein or something!?

Cupcakes, Thanks =) Spanakopita making must be a mother-daughter rights of passage!

Emily Katz said...

so amazing. spanakopita is also my 5th food group. It's what I would take on a desert island.