Monday, September 26, 2011

Moosewood's Spanakopita

Spanakopita: spinach, cheese, and filo dough flakiness. I love it. It's the kind of thing I could eat for lunch and dinner- on the very same day. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, spinach pie would be in the running. I think you get the picture. I'm pretty serious about this dish. I've made spanakopita  (Greek spinach pie) many times before and I thought my go-to recipe was really good. That is, before I tasted this Moosewood recipe, which is pretty much perfect.
The first time I had this Moosewood version was at a going-away party some friends threw for us right before we left Brooklyn. The gathering took place in a penthouse apartment overlooking Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park. The views were spectacular and you could see the city skyline and the harbor from the roof deck. There were lots of friends sharing stories and yes, I shed a few tears that night. It was a wonderful way to spend the evening- and it was bittersweet to be leaving such great people, but also really exciting to be relocating and trying something new in Denver, Colorado.

The food at the party was incredible. There was pasta, cheese plates, salads and our friend Beth made this spinach pie. The meal was capped off with an amazing devil's food cake soaked with salted caramel, layered with whipped chocolate ganache and frosted with a classic French buttercream (holy delicious!) made by friend Kathryn of Cooking Inside the Box. But I'm not really a baker so I knew there was no way I was going to be able to replicate the perfection of the aforementioned cake.  I was confident, however, that I could make the spinach pie, so I asked for the recipe.

This pie is not hard to make, but chopping 2 1/2 pounds of spinach does take some time. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I now routinely use frozen organic spinach in this recipe.

You can buy good quality frozen filo dough (phyllo dough) at most supermarkets in the frozen section near the pastry shells- just don't forget to take it out of the freezer when you start prepping. It must be completely thawed otherwise it will break and flake and, well, just become a mess. You want the sheets to be malleable and intact.  

This dish can be made a day or two in advance. Keep it uncooked, covered and refrigerated until you want to serve it. Then put it in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 45 minutes.

Enjoy this recipe. And trust me, this spanakopita is worthy of the (Greek) Gods...

(Courtesy of The Moosewood Cookbook, adapted ever-so-slightly)
Yields: About 8 servings
2 Tbs olive oil 
2 cups minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2.5 lbs fresh spinach, stemmed and finely chopped (or 2.5 lbs frozen organic spinach)
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs flour
2 to 3 cups (packed) crumbled feta cheese (about 1 lb)
1 1/4 cup cottage or pot cheese
Black pepper, to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil, for the filo
1 lb filo pastry leaves (approx. 20 leaves) -- thoroughly defrosted 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, salt, and herbs, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion softens. Add spinach, turn up the heat, and cook, stirring, until the spinach wilts (5 to 8 minutes). Stir in the garlic.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook over medium heat 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix in the cheeses. Taste to correct seasonings, adding lots of black pepper (and some salt).

Place a sheet of filo in the oiled pan, letting the pastry edges climb up the sides. Brush lightly with oil, and add another sheet. Keep going until you have a pile of 8 oiled sheets. Add half the filling, spreading it to the edges, then repeat with 8 more sheets of oiled filo, followed by the remaining filling. Layer the rest of the filo over the filling, brushing oil in between. Oil the top, tuck in the edges, and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until golden and crispy (sometimes it's been closer to an hour). Cut into squares and serve hot or warm. 

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  1. Spanakopita is one of my favourite things! I love making a whole batch and keeping them in the freezer for lunches or picnics :)

    1. Right?! I love spanakopita. It's the best! I just saw a Middle-Eastern version in a new cookbook I got...I will definitely be trying that in 2013!

  2. Alissa, this really is the best one I've made. Moosewood knows Spanakopita! Happy cooking.

  3. This really is the best spanakopita out there, and it doesn't have dill- so many do have the dill and as far as I can recollect, tha herb should only be in tzatziki sauce served on the side. Thanks for posting this recipe! I'll be making it again and again.

    1. So glad you liked it Valia. True about the dill :)

  4. My sister and I still talk about Moosewood's Spanikopita. We also could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For another winning Moosewood recipe in the same book, go to Mushroom Moussaka (sp?) .... more Greek soulfood. I highly suggest you try it. Joan

    1. Thanks for the comment, Joan. I will be sure to check out the Mushroom Moussaka (I spell it that way too). Sounds delicious. Greek soulfood is the best! And it's hard to go wrong with Moosewood anything. Happy New Year!

  5. I googled 'spanakopita' and your post came up. I was able to tell on the spot that it was very close to the authentic dish my mother-in-law made. I made it this past weekend and it was FABULOUS! DELICIOUS! I agree with Joan-- the mushroom moussaka recipe from Moosewood is equally worth of the Greek Gods.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Paulina. It looks like I'm about 4 months late in responding. Isn't this the greatest recipe. Thank you for suggesting the mushroom moussaka. I'm going to be making it for a post I am doing about the Greek Festival in Denver which takes place next month. Opa!

  6. Thank You for posting, but it's not the original Mousewood recipe.

  7. I use this recipe, except I use melted butter instead of oil (tastes WAY better) and I put a couple eggs in the spinach and cheese mixture. Also, score the top of the phyllo after you've assembled it and before baking. Make cutting portions so much easier.

    1. Ooh, scoring the top is a great idea. I will try the recipe with butter and eggs too. Thanks for your comment :)

  8. This is quite different from the original Moosewood recipe, which brushes with butter instead of oil and has 5 eggs. Maybe it's based in the reissued, lower fat Moosewood? I found this version to be underdone after 40 minutes of baking (in between the recipe's 45 minutes and the revised 35 minute suggestion). Worse, the filling was very runny, which after so much work was sad to see. Do allow at least 10 minutes for this to set before cutting. I would also add eggs to the filling to hold it together.

  9. Shannondodgesf -- You are so right! I haven't made this recipe in over 20 years. Went shopping and bought a dozen eggs thinking the recipe called for eggs. The butter and eggs would make it better. Also cooked for 55 minutes and still very runny. Big disappointment after all the work.

    1. you need to drain the spinach after it cooks down quite a bit. also, i always add a few pinches of flour to help soak up the moisture