It's 2012 and the first blog-oversary of She Bakes Here, so I thought I would come clean - I have a weird food confession. Despite everything I bake, I've discovered that spinach is one of my favourite foods. Ever. I would eat it for every meal if I could. I throw it in my pasta, lasagna and on pizza. Spinach salads are delicious and are often eaten in favour of other mixed greens. In fact, if there is someway to make spinach delicious in baked goods like cookies, I would be golden.
Instead there is spanakopita, which I'm honestly convinced is heaven sent because besides spinach, it also incorporates feta cheese, green onion, butter and phyllo pastry. Could there really be an more perfect food in this world?
No, I don't think so.
Pre-made spanakopita is almost always found in the frozen food section of every grocery stores. My mom is a big fan of M&M Meats frozen appetizers, so there is usually a collection of boxes stashed away in the freezer to enjoy (this past Christmas was no different). I've also spotted boxes in Costco and Walmart too.
This holiday though, I craved a challenge. My last three posts were cookie recipes, so I knew homemade spanakopita was right up my alley. The night I planned on making it, Trevor was armed with his lactose intolerant pills and I was trying to calm my phyllo pastry handling nerves by watching youtube videos on how to handle the stuff without going insane.
I did everything was told to do, I thawed the package properly and well in advance, my phyllo pastry was covered in plastic wrap AND a damp tea-towel. I worked at the speed of light, only stopping to take the odd photo or two to document my excursion.
But no matter what measures I took, I learned that phyllo pastry is not my friend. I pleaded, cursed and pulled out my hair, but I still struggled with separating the sheets and keeping them intact. I've heard rumours that you can buy special sized phyllo pastry sheets somewhere and I really hope that's true for next time.
Despite most of the sheets shredding, I was able to salvage it. As you can see above, there was a large hole along the side of the top sheet, but I knew this wouldn't matter since I would be slicing and folding them into neat little triangle.
If you have a pizza cutter, use it to slice your phyllo sheets, like I did above. Believe me, this will be a life-saver during crunch, pulling out your hair time.
Folding the triangles was probably the best part in making these. You get to hide all the little imperfections in the phyllo pastry. I swear, your guests won't notice them. :)
If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to make sure that you have everything assembled and within arms reach before you open the phyllo pastry package, because once you've opened it, there is no going back.
Also, make sure that you completely strain your thawed spinach. Moisture is not your friend, so I recommend doing it by hand.
Here's the recipe:
(adapted from Jo Cooks)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 green onion heads, chopped
1 package (300g) frozen spinach, thawed and strained of any excess water (I do this by hand)
salt and pepper
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter
1 package phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onion and green onion until translucent. Add the thawed/strained spinach and mix well, adding salt and pepper as needed. Remove from stove and let cool completely.
Crumble feta into a large bowl and add beaten eggs. Mix well and add the cooled spinach mixture.
Melt your butter in a bowl with a pastry brush. Assemble your station for unrolling the phyllo pastry sheets. This must be done quickly as to avoid the sheets from drying out and tearing. Unroll the sheets and separate two at a time. I found a thickness of two sheets was thick enough, but you are welcome to use three.
Store all unused phyllo sheets while not in use. Wrap in plastic wrap and cover with a warm damp tea towel.
Separate the two sheets and spread butter over the first. Gently lay the second sheet overtop. Using a pizza cutter, gently slice the sheets long-wise into 4 long strips. Spoon the spinach mixture by the tablespoon at one end of the strips and fold at an angle over the mixture to create a triangle, working upwards up the strip as you go. The picture below explains it better (don't worry if your sheets tear a little, it happens and try not to fret, no one will notice once they are rolled up).
Assemble on an ungreased baking sheet, brush the tops with butter/maragine and bake in the oven at 350*F for 20 minutes (check after 10).
Despite my struggles with the phyllo pastry, I would make these again in a heartbeat. In fact, looking at these photos makes me want them again. Badly. Someone point me towards the pre-cut phyllo sheets in the freezer section, I may want to save my hair the second time around.