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Home cooking: Greek dish favorite for festive events

April 21, 2010

Spanakopita is Greek spinach "pie." You can think of it as Greek spinach quiche, but made with phyllo dough instead of a pie crust, and using feta cheese.

My family made this often, for festive occasions, and also just to eat as a snack or side dish.

Spanakopita is generally not served piping hot - just warm, or even at room temperature.

My grandmother and her three sisters sometimes would sprinkle sugar on their pieces before eating it.

I remember my great-grandmother making her own phyllo dough on the kitchen table, rolling it and stretching it out by hand until it was very, very thin and covered the table.

I use frozen phyllo, or sometimes spelled filo. It's available at most large grocery stores, usually in the frozen desserts or pastries section.

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--Courtesy of Vicki Theodorakis Hughes




Spanakopita



3 9-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained (or 2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, chopped and drained)
3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 bunches green onions
Ground pepper, to taste
5 or 6 eggs

1 pound feta cheese, (see cook's note)
1/4 cup fresh, chopped dill (optional)
1-pound package phyllo dough (see cook's note)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using frozen spinach, let it thaw and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Put four tablespoons of the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Chop onions and brown in butter. Mix the spinach with the onions. Add some ground pepper.

Beat eggs; crumble feta and mix with the eggs. Combine the onions and spinach and dill, if using, with the mixture and mix well.

Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Put one leaf of phyllo down on the pan and brush it with butter. If sheet of phyllo is too large, cut to fit pan or let edges hang over. Repeat until eight or 10 leaves of phyllo have been layered, buttering between each layer.

Add the spinach mixture to the pan and fold edges of phyllo dough over the mixture. Repeat the phyllo layering on top, making sure to butter the top layer well. Cut away the excess phyllo from the edges. You may refrigerate the uncooked spanakopita for an hour or two and then score the top with a sharp knife. Scoring makes it easier to cut the baked spanakopita. Do not cut through to the bottom.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and cut into squares.

Cook's note: You may substitute grated Romano cheese for as much as a quarter the feta; or, if it's available, use grated kefalotiri or myzithra, two Greek cheeses. Let phyllo thaw out thoroughly before opening or the sheets will stick together.

-- Courtesy of Vicki Theodorakis Hughes, member of St. Catherine Orthodox Church, 433 Liberty St., Hagerstown. The church published members' recipes in its "Taste of Heaven" cookbook, on sale at the church. Call 301-790-2616.

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