Sunday, June 22, 2008

Grease-free Spanakopita

The farmers' markets have finally arrived! And while there's not much produce out yet, it's exciting to know that there will be so many fresh ingredients in the coming months. I picked out some terrific spinach this week with the hopes of making spanakopita. And yes, it's more time consuming to use fresh spinach (and not baby spinach or frozen spinach), the outcome is a much greener taste - you can tell that the filling didn't come from a bag.

I grew up eating things wrapped in filo dough - mostly berag, because I'm really not a fan of paklava. The filo we used was the very thin kind - the kind that rips when you just look at it. It's frustrating sometimes, but the results are worth it when you bite through a little crispy cloud of goodness. It wasn't until I visited Greece that I encountered the other kind of filo dough (although I'd seen it in our Armenian market before). The "other kind", labelled country-style or horiatiko or sometimes just "thick," is denser and not so fragile and is a great place for beginners to start. It also makes dishes a little heartier, as this dough has more body. And, as an added bonus, it sucks up any extra grease, making the results feel a little more healthy (even if there is still a stick of butter in there).

Grease-free Spanakopita
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 yellow onion, finely chopped
-2 lbs fresh spinach, ribs removed; washed and chopped
-10 oz feta cheese, crumbled
-1/2 bunch parsley, washed and finely choppd
-2 eggs
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 stick unsalted butter (you may need more)
-1 package "country-style" filo dough (should be 8 or 10 sheets)

In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute until the onions begin to brown. Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the leaves are cooked down. Pour the spinach mixture into a colander and drain out as much water as possible. Allow the mixture to cool, still draining in the colander. When it is cool, press out any additional water with your hands, then put the spinach in a large mixing bowl. Add feta, parsley, eggs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and mix to incorporate.

Preheat oven to 325°. Melt butter and brush the bottom and sides of a large glass baking dish. Carefully lay down one sheet of dough, then brush on a layer of butter. If the dough is too large, fold over the edge to fit into the pan, making sure to butter everywhere the sheet overlaps. Continue to layer the sheets and the butter until you have used half of the dough (4 or 5 sheets). Add spinach mixture and spread out so that all the dough is covered. Then lay down another sheet of dough, and continue alternating between dough and brushing with butter. For the final sheet of dough, instead of folding it over to fit into the dish, trim the sides so it fits exactly. Use any remaining butter on the top layer. Before baking, cut into servings, making the slices as large as you would like (I got 12 out of my pan).

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

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