Monday, May 9, 2011
Something sad happened last year in Vancouver. We lost the best spinach pies in the universe. There was a Greek bakery on Broadway that sold homemade spinach pies that were to die for. Flaky and delicious, these spinach pies completed many a hasty weeknight dinner at our house... for as long as I can remember. I never thought that a normal human being without years of experience and many generations of traditional spanikopita makers behind them could actually produce something tasty and authentic. It turns out I was wrong. Enter Joanna, spinach pie maker extraordinaire, owner of SkribblyKids and girlfriend of Adam's friend Marc.
After enjoying Joanna's spinach pies at Marc's family Christmas, I asked her to teach me how to make them. She did, and it was a lot easier and less daunting than you might think! This time around, I took her method but for the spinach filling, I did my best to replicate the Broadway spinach pies of yore. Once I master the mini version, I'll attempt the regular size. Don't worry if you're not crafty (my dexterity level is low - Adam claims it to be eight, but I feel that it's more like six or seven) because even if your spinach pies are lumpy and asymmetrical like mine, they still taste great.
I would strongly advise against adding salt to this recipe. Phyllo is very high in sodium and with the feta, it's a salt double whammy. Even without the feta, I have found that if I eat too many of these (a probability, I assure you) I feel over-salted and pickled. I'm not sure if anybody else ever feels salt-sick, but if it helps, imagine eating a large bag of salt and vinegar chips to yourself. That's how it feels.
Keep in mind that this is a loose recipe. Feel free to change things up.
1 box phyllo pastry
2 bunches of spinach
1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp fresh dill
fresh ground pepper to your taste
1/4 cup melted butter
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
Wash and dry your spinach, then pull off any stems. Chop spinach and throw it in a large bowl. Add eggs, feta, dill and pepper. Ensure that everything is well incorporated - I find that it's easier to do this when mixing with your hands.
Open your phyllo pastry and spread it out on a cutting board. Cut it in half, then cut each half into halves.
Using three layers of pastry at a time, brush a tiny amount of melted butter in a patch on the lower portion of the phyllo. Scoop roughly 1/4 cup of the spinach mixture and put it over the butter patch. Now you roll up your pastry. Roll it half way, fold in the ends, and continue (think burrito or wrapping a Subway sandwich). Brush the top with a small amount of melted butter. Repeat until you are out of phyllo and spinach. If your phyllo tears (and I am sure it will at least once), just wrap the whole thing in another layer of phyllo (a band-aid, as Joanna calls it).
If you are planning on freezing your spinach pies, do it before baking. They freeze very well that way, but might not survive the freezer post-baking.
Bake for 25 minutes, turning once. From frozen, they will take around 30 minutes.