Spanakopita Dinner

Monday, November 14, 2011

I have been wanting to make Spanakopita for quite some - years actually. Now that I've made it, I'm really wondering what took me so long. Perhaps the idea of working with phyllo dough seemed daunting... I don't know. Anyhow, there was nothing at all daunting or challenging about making this dish. I mean, it does take a little bit of time, but with a whole stick of melted butter between the flaky layers, it isn't exactly the kind of thing you will be making every week. It's more of a treat, and a treat it was.

I found that the key to making this is to make sure that you cover the stack of phyllo dough that you are working with, with a damp towel. If your towel is too dry the phyllo dough will dry out and stick together and if the towel is too wet it will turn the sheets of phyllo into mush. Making the filling for the phyllo is pretty straightforward - just make sure to get a flavorful feta cheese that you like. So many of the feta cheeses I have bought over the years have been too bitter for my tastes, but I finally found one that I like and I think that makes a real difference in this dish. I also imagine this is the kind of dish that would freeze really well. I guess you could make this recipe in two smaller dishes and bake half and freeze half, or double the recipe and freeze one and bake one, or make this recipe as-is and freeze it. But this last option means that you don't get to eat the Spanakopita right now, so is seems the least ideal.

Tonight I served the Spanakopita with a fall salad (mixed greens with crisp apple, toasted pecans, and chewy craisins) along with Roasted Delicata Squash with Sage. It was a very Fall meal and all of the flavors went well together. Plus the squash bakes in the same amount of time that Spanakopita does. Oh, and for dessert, warm oatmeal raisin and and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Recipe soon to come.


Serves 8

Crisp buttery phyllo dough pairs perfectly with a hearty spinach and feta filling, in this Greek classic.

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed, drained
2 pinches fresh nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
20 13 by 9 inch sheets phyllo dough, thawed
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use some of the melted butter to butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Meanwhile, squeeze any excess liquid from the spinach and stir into to the onion mixture. Turn off the heat and season, with salt, pepper, and the nutmeg. Transfer the spinach mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the eggs, parsley, lemon juice and feta cheese. Set aside.

Lay the phyllo dough on flat work surface and cover with a damp towel. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking dish. (Keep the remaining phyllo sheets covered with the damp towel while you work.) Use a pastry brush to butter the sheet of phyllo dough, then top with another sheet. Repeat this process, butter and phyllo dough until you have used a total of 10 sheets. Spread the spinach mixture over the dough; then place a layer of phyllo on top of the spinach. Butter the phyllo dough and repeat the same process with the remaining sheets of phyllo dough. Brush the top and final layer of the phyllo with butter and season with salt. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Note: The phyllo dough that I bought had to be cut in half to make 13 by 9 inch sheets and one package had double the amount of phyllo dough needed.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Sage

Serves 4

The sages leafs become crisp and mild in flavor when baked, and pair perfectly with the buttery squash. You would think that you would need to peel the outer edge of the squash, but there is really no need. It is thin and totally edible when cooked.

2 medium Delicata squash
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
12 sage leafs
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the top and the bottom off of each of the squashes. Cut in half lengthwise and widthwise. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds and flesh out of the inside of the squash. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place the squash on the baking sheet with the sage leafs and toss with the olive oil – just enough to coat everything. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-35 minutes or until the squash is caramelized and golden brown. Serve warm.


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