Once upon a time I catered international cuisines. I had an Israeli Chef then as a partner, so preparing Middle Eastern delights became a focus of our business. One of the dishes I learned then and have always enjoyed making and eating since is spanakopita, a Greek-based dish that includes spinach, feta, filo or puffed pastry. I have made small triangles or thin roll-ups for appetizers, larger versions for side dishes, or have layered a 9×13 pan with many sheets of buttered filo piled atop one another, added my filling, and then topped with more layers of filo.
Yesterday I was in the mood for using my hands other than to lift weights to strengthen my bone density. As I perused my refrigerator, pantry shelves, and freezer, it was as if all the ingredients for spanakopita yelled, “Pick me, pick me.”
Everything I needed was on hand. The amount of key ingredients like the spinach and feta determined how much I could make. In these days of Covid-19 we wouldn’t be hosting guests, so appetizers and a large pan were unnecessary. I opted for side dish-sized pieces.
Making spanakopita is easy and one of those dishes that easily lends itself to your individual tastes. More spinach or more feta? More dill or more lemon? I don’t measure when I make this, but took care to jot down my quantities so you’d have a base to follow.
Here’s how great they turned out. My husband told me he doesn’t like spanakopita (so all those times he’s eaten it at home or in restaurants, he didn’t like it?) and wasn’t crazy about feta, so he wouldn’t have any. I decided making them as a side dish and freezing any not used immediately would be just fine for me when I needed a snack. When my sample one was done, I ate a third and brought him the remainder, still warm, to try. I didn’t get back any of it, followed up by he thought it might be a good idea to leave out a couple more for the next day.
Set oven to 375. This made 9 side dish or snack-sized pieces.
You’ll want an area to butter the filo, stuff with the filling, and set aside until ready to bake or freeze. If you are not used to working with filo, it dries out quickly, so keep the plastic wrap over it between removing each sheet. Keep a slightly damp clean kitchen towel over the filo plastic. I put a piece of wax paper on my pan while prepping all the pieces.
4 C. fresh spinach, loosely chopped
small onion, diced
¼ C pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ C feta
2 tsp dried dill
salt/pepper to taste
1 Tbs lemon juice (not pictured in the ingredients photo)
8 Tbs. butter, melted
1 package of filo dough (there are 2 in each box), room temperature
In large bowl, mix all the ingredients (except for the butter) together. The spinach/feta mixture should be moist, not soggy.
Melt the butter and baste one sheet of filo. You don’t need to cover every inch of it but get the sides because the dough dries out quickly. Baste casually on the rest of the sheet. For this side dish, I used two filo sheets, basting each.
Fold in half. Add about 4 Tbs of the filling to the middle in a long line. Fold in the sides and then fold in the ends towards the middle. Rebaste. Flip over. Rebaste and then add to the pan set aside.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
If you decide to freeze any not baked immediately, place wax paper between layers so the buttered filo pieces don’t stick to one another.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2019 – 2020 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. Karen@KarenKuzsel.com; www.KarenKuzsel.com; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady. Food photos for this series by Karen Kuzsel.