Don't like spinach? No problem

Spanakopitas taste just right, cook says

Spanakopitas taste just right, cook says

August 06, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

FAIRPLAY - Ellen Catlett stood behind her kitchen counter, peeling away sheets of what could have been mistaken for thin folds of beige tissue paper.

"This is the part that takes getting used to," Catlett said, removing a torn sheet of phyllo dough that resembled ripped paper. "If it's too dry, it will tear."

This is the trickiest part of the spanakopita recipe, the most requested dish in the Catlett household. Spanakopita, as she prepares them, are puffs of spinach and cheese. They work best as an appetizer or snack. Catlett, 55, of Fairplay, is convinced they're one of the best ways to persuade a spinach-loather to eat (and enjoy) the greens.

The process seems simple enough: Simmer the spinach mixture, dab into a square of dough, fold into a triangle and bake. But the phyllo dough (pronounced fee-loh), is temperamental. It must be kept moist at all times, but if it's too moist, the sheets will stick together.


It only takes a half-hour to prepare the spinach stuffing; the final product only takes 12 to 14 minutes to bake. Filling and folding the puffs can take an hour - longer if you're not used to working with the filmy Greek dough, Catlett said.

The end result makes it all worthwhile, Catlett said. The dough forms a thin, flaky crust that's perfect for appetizers. The leftover dough can be used for an impromptu fruit pie. Experienced cooks can step up the basic recipe by trying crabmeat or playing with spices, Catlett said.

Q&A with Ellen Catlett

Q: Have you always been into cooking?

A: It wasn't something I started until after I was married.

Q: You didn't learn to cook as a child?

A: Well, my mother baked, so I kind of learned by osmosis.

Q: Where did you get this spanakopita recipe?

A: I found it in a cookbook seven years ago. I've made several changes since then.

Q: That wasn't your first time having spanakopita, was it?

A: No, I had them once when I was in Greece.

Q: What is it you like so much about them? Why are these a family favorite?

A: People who usually aren't spinach eaters eat this and say, "Oooh, I like spinach if it's made like this."

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