Tag Archives: phyllo

Spanakopita – A Spinach Pie from Greece

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

SpanakopitaThis Spanakopita (pronounces span-ah- koh -pee-tah) is a traditional Greek filling with spinach, feta, green onions, and eggs. While the filling is traditionally used to fill a pie enclosed in phyllo, it is also familiar as a small appetizer folded into triangles.

For an in-depth discussion of phyllo and how to use it, please see my Baklava blog.

Cut into thin pieces, Spanakopita can be served as an appetizer or cut larger it can be used as a vegetable course or an entrée.  A Greek salad of lettuce, tomatoes, calamata olives, feta and green pepper alongside a slice of this Spanakopita will take you to Greece without going through an airport.  For a quick dressing,  take Italian dressing and add oregano and dill to taste.

Fresh or Frozen Spinach

The only difference I find between fresh spinach and chopped frozen spinach is that the frozen it much easier.  To thaw it quickly, remove the spinach from the packaging and place in a microwave-safe container.  It will take a bit of microwaving depending upon how it was packaged to thaw it.  It can be broken up with a fork after it has partially thawed to speed up the process. Make sure you let it cool before squeezing the water out.

Sizes of Phyllo

There are a couple of different sizes of phyllo.  One package has two smaller rolls in one box.  I prefer the 13×18 inch size and use it when I can find it.  It makes shaping much easier.Box of Phyllo for Spanakopita

Box of phyllo for Spanakopita

Brush the phyllo lightly with butter and don’t be concerned if some of it isn’t buttered.  If you drown it in butter the leaves will not separate when baked as this one does.Flaky phyllo

SpanakopitaSpanakopita ingredients

2 pounds fresh or frozen spinach
1/2 cup scallions
1 tablespoon butter (15 grams or 1/2 ounce)
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed or 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh or to taste
1/2 pound feta cheese (225 grams or 8 ounces)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt or to taste*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 2/3 cup butter, melted, approximately
8 phyllo leaves

*All feta cheese is highly salted.  So it is important to taste the mixture before putting it into the pie plate.  Add more salt if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9” pie plate lightly and set aside.  I prefer glass so I can see if the bottom is browning.Glass pie plate

Wash the spinach well; drain.  Remove the stems and chop finely.  Or, thaw frozen chopped spinach and squeeze dry.

Slice the scallions, including the green part.  Melt the butter and saute the scallions until soft but not browned.  If using fresh spinach add it and cook until the moisture has evaporated.   If there is moisture left in your squeezed frozen spinach, add it here. Otherwise, move to the next step.

Remove from the heat, add the parsley, dill, feta, eggs, salt, and pepper. Cool to use.Filling ingredients ready to mix

Place 2 phyllo leaves with the long edge horizontal in front of you. Cover the remaining phyllo with a towel until needed.   Two sheets of unbuttered phylloFold the left side of the dough over the right so the phyllo is in half. Phyllo folded in half Fold the top leaf to the left.  Lightly brush the half leaf with butter. Buttered phylloUnfold the top leaf so the two sheets are open again.  Do not butter.Two sheets of phyllo

Now fold the right side of the phyllo over the left side.  Right side of phyllo folded over left sideLay the top leaf down and butter it.  Lay the other leaf over the bottom so the phyllo is open again.   Place these two leaves in the pie plate. Lightly press them down into the pan. First two leaves in pie plate Continue buttering 2 leaves at a time and alternate how they are placed in the plate so the short side of the phyllo is not all on the same side until 8 leaves have been prepared and placed in the pie plate.Phyllo draped in pie plate

Place the filling in the pie plate and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Filling in phylloFold the overhanging phyllo on top of the filling.  Brush generously with butter.Assembled Spanakopita

Bake the Spanakopita for 45 to 50 minutes or until the phyllo is well browned  on the top and bottom. Cover the top with foil if browning too quickly.  Baked SpanakopitaLet the Spanakopita cool for about 10 minutes before serving or serve at room temperature.

Some recipes brush the Spanakopita with butter when it comes from the oven.  I prefer not to so it remains crisp.

Refrigerate any leftover Spanakopita.

Note:   The filling can be made and refrigerated the day ahead if desired.  Bring to room temperature before using.

Additional recipes using phyllo you may enjoy:

Phyllo at its Finest – Baklava
Traditional Apple Strudel
Greek Orange Yogurt Cake with Orange Syrup – Portokalopita

Traditional Apple Strudel

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Apple StrudelI grew up eating apple strudel.  My mother and grandmother, who came from Yugoslavia would make the strudel dough from scratch on Sundays’ and pull the dough out so thinly you could read a paper through it.

There was a round table covered with fresh white tablecloths on which it was pulled.  My job was to sweep up the thin shards that would flake off as it was folded.  The large single sheet extending over the edges of the table was folded over and over on top of itself, filled and baked.  Fortunately, these days phyllo can be found frozen and I honestly cannot see any advantage to trying to make my own.

Phyllo is the piecrust of Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine.  It can be used in sweet and savory dishes.  Many, many years ago when I first became interested in food writing, I wrote a book with every type of recipe imaginable using phyllo. Unfortunately, publishers were not much interested.  Phyllo is the correct spelling for this magical dough but it is also referred to as filo. Continue reading

Greek Orange Yogurt Cake with Orange Syrup (Portokalopita)

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Greek Orange Yogurt CakeGreek Orange Yogurt Cake or Portokalopita as it is known in Greece first came to my attention when reading a post by David Lebovitz writing about Tinos Greece.

Of course, I immediately started searching for the dessert and came up with what I thought to be the most authentic version of this Greek Orange Yogurt Cake based on the fact it was from Greece and its use of phyllo and a soaking syrup.  Many Greek desserts are finished with a soaking syrup that often contains cinnamon sticks and cloves.

The photograph of this cake, so moist you can almost taste it, made it a must try.  My love of phyllo is best expressed in my post on Baklava as my mother made it.  Watching my mother and grandmother make this thinnest of doughs has fascinated me all my life – and still does. Continue reading

Phyllo at its Finest – Baklava

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

BaklavaMy mother was a fantastic baker and cook.  She could take nothing and make something wonderful from it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate it when I was growing up.  They practically had to force feed me like those poor geese for foie gras.  But what I did love, was anything my mother baked and is why, in hindsight, I went into the baking business.

My mother and grandparents were immigrants from what was then, Yugoslavia.  Just as in this country, different parts of the country had different assets.  Mother lived in an area rich in dairy with butter, eggs and cream at their disposal.  I would watch my mother and grandmother on Sunday’s, spread a clean, white tablecloth over a large, round table over which freshly made phyllo would be stretched.  I could scarcely understand a word as they chatted away in Serbian.

My job was to sweep up the scraps after the thick edges were removed and some of the paper thin dough fell to the floor.  While most people can’t imagine a dough being stretched so thinly a newspaper could be read through it, I thought everybody made it.  After it had been stretched to transparency, a spoon would be dipped into melted butter and I can still see my mother and grandmother  holding it  high and waving it over and over  the transparent dough as the golden drops of liquid fell from the spoon dotting the surface.  It would then be folded upon itself and more butter would be drizzled. Continue reading