The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.
First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day! I know this isn’t a very Valentine’s Day-y post, but Daring Cooks challenges always go up on the 14th of the month, no matter whether or not there is a holiday.
There are a few things I want to say in this post; let’s see if I can get them all out and still have the post make sense! I’ll start off with the Daring Kitchen. This is my third Daring Kitchen challenge and so far I’m loving participating in the group. All three of the challenges I’ve done are things I was already interested in trying, but the challenges just pushed me to go ahead and do it. If you love to cook and want a way to push yourself to try new things, I highly suggest joining. You don’t even have to have a blog! It’s so much fun seeing how each person interprets the challenge recipe in their own way. Unfortunately I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get to the Daring Bakers challenge this month, but we’ll see.
Point number two: I’ve got a date with a plane to Berlin this evening, where I’m headed for the semester break. I’m not sure how much I’ll be online over the next week. I studied abroad in Berlin a few years ago and I’m excited to be heading back to check out some of the things I never got around to doing and to revisit some old favorite places. The latter will involve lots of eating, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the culinary culture of Berlin with you, Reader, once I get back. If any of my favorite food spots have disappeared or changed I will be so sad. I’m about to eat SO MUCH CHEAP TURKISH FOOD.
And speaking of Turkish food, that brings me right back to today’s recipe: spanakopita (point number three). Spanakopita is Greek spinach pie and quite similar to Turkish gözleme and borek. I visited Thessaloniki in Greece during study abroad and had giant wedges of spanakopita for breakfast while I was there. So delicious. When I got back to the U.S. I tried making spanakopita by myself and wasn’t too pleased with the results. I’m not sure if it was the recipe I was using or if I screwed up somehow, but, no matter, because this spanakopita is delicious.
The process is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of before. You mix together the ingredients and squeeze out the liquid, then let bread crumbs soak in the excess liquid before adding them back into the spinach and cheese mixture. Curious! But it worked! The suggestion to use at least two different types of onion built up a lot of flavor in this spanakopita. I ended up using three types of onion: yellow, green (or spring), and leek. The ingredients themselves are quite simple but all combine really well together for a super tasty dish.
Recipe from Daring Cooks forum via Audax of Audax Artifex
- 8-10 thick or 20 thin phyllo sheets (I used thick)
- 18 oz (500 grams) thawed frozen spinach, using 1 lb. would probably be OK, too
- 7 oz (200 grams) feta cheese
- small bunch fresh dill, about 1 oz in weight, thick stems removed and chopped
- 2 large green (spring) onions, bulbs removed, chopped
- 1/2 a medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 cup chopped leek (this was about 75 grams or 2.65 oz of leek for me)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 egg
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- salt, to taste
- 2 T melted butter + 2 T olive oil, for brushing
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8×8 inch (or 9×9 or 7×9 inch) pan.
Combine spinach, feta, dill, onions, leek, and garlic in a large bowl. With clean hands, combine ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should shrink to about half the original size.
Taking handfuls of the mixture, squeeze out the liquid into a new bowl. Once you have squeezed out as much liquid as possible, mix the breadcrumbs and 2 T olive oil into the liquid. Allow the breadcrumbs to soak up all the liquid; this should take 3-5 minutes. Mix the breadcrumbs back into the spinach/feta/onion mixture.
Add egg, nutmeg, and black pepper and stir to combine. Taste the mixture before adding any salt, as feta is a salty cheese.
Cover the base of the pan with 4-5 thick phyllo sheets (or 10 thin). Spread the melted butter and oil mixture over every second sheet. Let the sheets hang over the edges of the pan so you get phyllo around the sides of the pan as well. Pack in the spinach and feta filling, then fold any hanging phyllo toward the center of the pie. Top with 4 more thick phyllo sheets, being sure to use the butter/oil mixture on the top layer. Cut into portions with a sharp knife before baking to ensure a clean cut when serving. I cut mine into six pieces.
Bake for about 30 minutes until thoroughly heated and golden brown. Check halfway through and turn if necessary.