Spanakopita is one of those dishes that looks alot more complicated than it is. It has always been one of my favorites (I just LOVE spinach) so I tend to order it out alot. But it is not that hard to do at home – especially if you have a crew of kid chefs to help.
Basically, you will need a pound of thawed filo dough, about 2 and a half sticks of butter, 2 cups of crumbled feta cheese (though crumbled goat cheese will work too), 2 cups of cottage cheese, 2 pounds of fresh spinach (pre-washed is necessary or you will go a little nutty on this part), 5 eggs, two small or one big onion – chopped (about a cup though I usually go a little more), some basil, some oregano and some flour.
The first thing we do is prep the vegys. I chop the onion while the boys go through the washed spinach and pull off any of the noticeable stems.
Then we chop of the spinach (it can be coarse – the spinach cooks down alot) and saute the onions in butter (amount depends on how much onion you are sauteeing – 3-4 tbsps) and the spinach by itself (the water in the spinach makes it not burn).
While the vegys are cooking Jesse starts mixing the eggs (which he beats first) with the cheeses and herbs (figure about a teaspoon of each – not much – and rub them in your palms into the cheese mixture) and a couple of tablespoons of flour. You can add salt and pepper if you like. We don’t usually add them to food unless we really feel we need it for the recipe. Here the real flavor comes from the spinach/cheese combination so I leave it out.
Markus started melting a half a pound of butter (mmmmmm – butter) in our butter melting pot, with Vash making sure he was doing it right.
After the butter was melted, Markus and Vash started laying out the filo dough. Markus was primarily in charge of the butter and Vash was primarily in charge of the filo dough. This is laid out in a 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking pan which we buttered first with the melted butter before laying down the first layer.
They did, however, actually show teamwork in making sure each sheet laid flat across the dish.
You lay out 8 layers of filo dough, brushing each layer completely with melted butter using a pastry brush (which is why I think pastry brushes were created). Markus did the buttering of each layer of dough. On the bottom layers, let the extra dough layer up the sides of the pan. On the upper layers you want to tuck it down – kind of making a closed package for the filling.
In the meantime, Jesse had mixed the sauteed vegys into the cheese mixture and the filling was ready to go.
So was the bottom layer of 8 sheets of filo dough.
We laid out half of the filling on top of the bottom layer of filo dough.
The boys then added another 8 layers of buttered filo dough to the pan and we put the remaining half of the filling on top of that.
For the top layer you just start adding layers of buttered filo dough – tucking the sides down – until you either run out of filo, butter or room in the pan – whichever comes first – ending with a layer of butter.
You bake it uncovered for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until it is golden.
And it should look like this when it is done.
I would buy that in a restaurant!! It looks great and it tastes great.
This recipe is basically the recipe you will find in the Moosewood cookbook as that is where I learned to make spanakopita – so it may vary from a traditional spanakopita. Moosewood suggests adding whole anise or fennel seeds to the top that I don’t use and say you can use pot cheese in place of the cottage cheese.
I hope you try it – especially if you are cooking with kids because the extra hands make it go fast and they seem to love the construction of it.
I’m not sure what we will present next week. I have the choice of a pie, sweet potato pancakes or baked pork chops. Hmmmm. Time to ponder. Have a great weekend.