My mother stopped by the other day with a slice of spinach pie that was both too delicious and beautiful not to share. Growing up, my first exposure to Greek spanikopita came from my sister when she prepared the bite-size appetizers for a Mediterranean potluck spread. Despite being a huge fan of the cartoon Popeye, as a child I still wasn’t enamored with many food items packed to the brim with spinach. I must have been fooled by the flaky, golden-brown puff-pastry crust that afternoon, because before I knew it, I was reaching for one of the delicate triangles cooling on the counter. To this day, I can remember my surprise at how flavorful the moist, tender filling was beneath what seemed like hundreds of layers of brittle, buttery pastry. Somehow, someway the tart feta cheese and subtle hint of nutmeg had transformed the spinach into something not only palatable to my young taste-buds, but infinitely more appetizing. Looking back, it was perhaps that first bite that ushered in what would become a personal mantra with my adventures in eating: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
The version my mother brought by incorporates all the same authentic flavors of the original, only it’s delivered in a more substantial pie slice sized serving. Perfect as a main course, this riff on the original two-bite version eliminates the guilt associated with being the person that devours six to ten at a time.
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten
Most often when you are planning on cooking with frozen spinach, it’s imperative to remove as much water as possible from the defrosted package before cooking. One of the best ways to do this is in an old, clean dish towel. Place the thawed spinach in the center of the towel and bring the corners together to create a tight bundle. Squeeze and twist the spinach with everything you’ve got until it no longer releases any juice.
- 3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted
- 6 extra-large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons plain dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 pound good feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 pound salted butter, melted
- 6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a medium sauté pan on medium heat, sauté the onions with the olive oil until translucent and slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly.
- Squeeze out and discard as much of the liquid from the spinach as possible. Put the spinach into a bowl and then gently mix in the onions, eggs, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and feta.
- Butter an ovenproof, nonstick, 8-inch sauté pan and line it with 6 stacked sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with melted butter and letting the edges hang over the pan. Pour the spinach mixture into the middle of the phyllo and neatly fold the edges up and over the top to seal in the filling. Brush the top with melted butter.
- Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8