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Okay, I've never made this but my SIL made something she called Spanakopita, and it inspired me to do better. She used frozen phyllo, and that was the best part of the dish. Her filling was missing the spinach, as far as I could tell, and the cheese tasted sweet. I believe I bit down on some nuts, too. So the filling was pretty awful (like out of some new age vegetarian health food book), but the dough was crispy and flaky right out of the oven, and not greasy.

Not critical, but my first stumbling block upon googling recipes was spelling. Spanakopita wins, but spanikopita is popular. Is it phyllo or filo? The frozen package I have says filo.

Here are some other questions: Butter or oil to brush the layers? How eggy should it be? Some recipes call for 3-4 eggs. As for cheese, some recipes use a combo of feta and ricotta or feta and myzithra, presumably to cut the saltiness a bit. Adding some ricotta would make a creamier filling, I presume. That sounds reasonable, but is it typical? When I make Greek salads I've taken to using French feta, because it seems less salty than some others. My preference would be heavy on the spinach and not too salty. As for spinach, I'm going to use frozen to start with, since I have some Cascadia organic spinach and I think it's pretty good. Once I get some technique down I'll branch out and try fresh spinach.

I have no intention of making my own dough, not just yet that's for sure; I already have some frozen. But rolled or flat? Some recipes make folded triangles, some make a flat casserole. Flat sounds easier to start with. Some recipes suggest scoring the top filo layers before baking. How essential is that?

Does anyone have a great traditional recipe? Or other hints? I'm already hip to the fact that you need to keep the filo/phyllo moist and work quickly, and I won't be surprised it there's a steep learning curve there.

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I have two recipes printed on one page. I have to start saving the provenance!!! Both came off the internet. I usually go for websites like Epicurious. I sort of travel between the two of them.

I do use oil. I do use lots of spinach. I use 3 eggs. No onion. No garlic. Feta cheese. Lots of phyllo. Salt and pepper. Nothing else. Make it in a casserole dish. Cut it in lozenge shapes before baking. Love it to pieces. Eat it with Moussaka. Even freeze the finished dish and thaw and eat latter.

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Pretty sure there is an article on this in the current issue of Cook's Illustrated.

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Very critical to the assembly...squeeze that spinach very thoroughly (after defrosting or cooking the fresh leaves), you need it as dry as you can so you don't get spinach water messing up the lovely crispness. Tiny pinch of nutmeg in the mix is nice (optional).

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My step-dad is Greek, and he has worked for years to get his right. He uses fresh spinach, green onions, fresh dill, eggs, olive oil, feta, salt and pepper.

Some keys that we have found over the years is don't make them too thick (when making in a pan). The bottom of the phyllo will not brown or get crispy otherwise.

Use clarified butter for the phyllo (or a combo of olive oil and butter). By clarifying, you are removing the water that will prevent the phyllo from getting crispy. And salted butter adds more flavor as well. You don't need a lot, just lightly brush each sheet. I'm pretty fast with phyllo, and I don't have a problem with it drying out. I just keep a piece of plastic wrap over it.

He usually buys a big bag of fresh spinach at Costco, and that will make two 9X13 pans. He just chops it up and mixes everything else with it by hand. The moisture from the eggs and oil wilts down the spinach a little.

Score the top of the phyllo before baking into the serving sizes you want, and sprinkle with a little cold water right before going in the oven. Helps prevent the edges from curling. Otherwise, when you cut it, the top will shatter and crumble all over the place and not look as neat.

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This is one of my daughter's favourite snacks/appetizers. I make the triangles using the flag fold and then freezing them so she can bake when she's ready.

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My mom makes the best spanakopita. She learned from my yia yia. Ricotta, cream cheese and cottage cheese have no place in spanakopita. The mixture is spinach, eggs, fresh dill, onion, green onion, feta and kefalograveria. The sheets are brushed with melted butter. Most important, it is not neccessary to place a single sheet of phyllo and butter it. It is so much easier, quicker and just as crispy and brown if you double up the sheets and then butter.NO FUSS. NO MUSS.

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My mom makes the best spanakopita. She learned from my yia yia. Ricotta, cream cheese and cottage cheese have no place in spanakopita. The mixture is spinach, eggs, fresh dill, onion, green onion, feta and kefalograveria. The sheets are brushed with melted butter. Most important, it is not neccessary to place a single sheet of phyllo and butter it. It is so much easier, quicker and just as crispy and brown if you double up the sheets and then butter.NO FUSS. NO MUSS.

kefalograveria...I know it's a Greek cheese but I've never tasted it. Can you describe it? How does it compliment the feta, which is what most of us seem to use in spanakopita?

I like your suggestion for doubling up the phyllo sheets, thanks for the tip.

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Thanks to all for helpful replies. I looked up that cheese and learned that it is a salty aged sheep's milk cheese. One of the sites I found suggested it might not be that easy to come by, and that aged myzithra or some type of pecorino can be used as a substitute.

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Katie,

I generally use a mix of grated Haloumi (or part-skim mozzarella when I can't get Haloumi) and drained, crumbled feta cheese, and it turns out great. Sure, some of the nicer Greek sheep cheeses ... like Kefalotiri and Manouri ... are even better, but you can't really get them outside a Greek grocer or well-stocked cheesemonger.

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I am Greek and make spanakopita once per week, myself and my wife love it. My recipe comes from grandmother.

12 filo sheets

500kg feta

1 onion

500kg spinach

2 eggs

small bunch of dill (optional)

teaspoon of salt, pepper

extra virgin Olive oil

As someone mentioned you can grate another 100grms of kefalograviera, which is nothing else than greek gruyere. I don't use it.

recipe is pretty simple.

saute the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil in low heat, do not brown them. add the spinach to the onions and wilt it. Once spinach is wilt, take the onion-spinach mixture off the pot and drain it in a pasta drainer. crumble the feta and add eggs (and dill if you use it) in bowl, mix. add spinach/onions and mix. Salt and pepper to taste, depends on how salty the feta is, but definitely use at least a teaspoon of pepper.

I lay each filo sheet. I have a spraying bottle and use it to spray olive oil. It saves time (and calories) and most importantly does not make the pie greesy but keeps it very crunch. Alternatively you can buy the olive-oil spray from the supermarket, or brush it lightly. I am against butter and not very traditional in Greece, we use mainly olive oil because it goes great with feta and spinach, and also adds complexity, especially if you use a good olive oil.

after 6 sheets at the bottom, I put in the filling, and then do the same thing to lay the next 6 sheet on top. Scrunch in the excess filo on the sides, nothing tastier than the crunch corners. Cut the pie before baking. I use an egg wash but most importantly I spray some water. It will make the crust very crunchy.

cook in a preheated 180C degree oven in the middle shelf for 50mins to an hour, until crust golden.

thats it!

I take a big piece to work as lunch almost every day, keeps in fridge for a week.


Edited by RedRum (log)

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also to ask the question of the original post, you keep the filo sheet moist by just covering them with a damp towel.

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kefalograveria...I know it's a Greek cheese but I've never tasted it. Can you describe it? How does it compliment the feta, which is what most of us seem to use in spanakopita?

I like your suggestion for doubling up the phyllo sheets, thanks for the tip.

Kefalograveria is similar to pecorino romano or parmesan. I think it complements the feta because it's a salty sheep's milk cheese and it's truly an assertive flavor. I love it grated over orzo with butter or over lamb youvetsi. It's almost an aquired taste. Maybe a little gamey in flavor. But that flavor won't be imparted in the spana mixture. There's already too much going on.

Trust me on the phyllo sheets. Some people get very nervous working with it. When you double the sheets it goes so fast and phyllo is really forgiving. Just keep a damp towel over it if you are worried.

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Thank you all for great suggestions. Finally I got around to this and for a first effort I thought it was great. I made the filling as simple as possible, and checked several recipes from various places for quantities. I ended up using 2 lbs of raw fresh spinach to 1.5 c feta. I used half an onion and 6 or 8 scallions, 2 cloves of garlic, a generous amount of dill, some parsley and 2 eggs and a little grated nutmeg. I used French feta, which is a bit less salty and a little more creamy than some other types, and no other cheese at all. A little pecorino might have been nice, since my feta was not that salty, but I didn't have any on hand. It made just the right amount for a 9x13 baking dish.

One of my pet peeves about most spanakopita is that it is too greasy, so I took to heart the recommendation above to use 2 sheets of pastry at once, meaning that every other layer got a modest slick of olive oil. I can see how using salted butter instead of olive oil could be pretty good, so I might try that next time. My husband actually thought I should have used more oil; the filo sheets were so light and crispy they practically floated away. But I kind of liked that. I'm very very glad that I cut through the top layers of pastry before baking. I can see how not doing so would result in much frustration at the table.

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Some version is on deck tomorrow. I'm torn between the flag fold triangles , a sheet pan pie, and a rolled "strudel". Also up in the air on herbs. Anyone have new input?

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@heidih - I've always used the flag fold.  I was taught to make them by the cook at a restaurant in Alexandria VA owned by a friend's family.  She added a little dill and a very little mint and always a few scrapes of nutmeg.  Later, I started adding a little white pepper to the mix.  They were my go-to appetizer in the 1980's, but I haven't made them for years.  I need to do it again.  I also loved making tiropita (just cheese, no spinach).

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Yes. The triangle flag folds prevent sogginess. 

 

I know you live alone now, as I do, @heidih. Having these delicious little triangles in your freezer to cook up at whim is what you absolutely want to do.

 

I love spanakopita, and the best way for us single folks to enjoy it is frozen in little triangles to enjoy whenever we like.

 

You can also pull them out impress guests on short notice, too.

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6 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

Yes. The triangle flag folds prevent sogginess. 

 

I know you live alone now, as I do, @heidih. Having these delicious little triangles in your freezer to cook up at whim is what you absolutely want to do.

 

I love spanakopita, and the best way for us single folks to enjoy it is frozen in little triangles to enjoy whenever we like.

 

You can also pull them out impress guests on short notice, too.

I've only made the full dish Spanakopita and would like to try this little triangles method.  Care to share your procedure, either of you, @Thanks for the Crepes and @heidih please.  @Kim Shook also.

 


Edited by Darienne (log)
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@Darienne,

 

This is what I do when I'm feeling energetic.

 

This recipe originates from an old "Joy of Cooking" that does not even reference it in the index, so it it hard to find. I know it's there, and have made it several times, so I still find it on page 152.

 

Melt 2 T butter in a skillet, cook 1/2 c. onion for about 5 minutes. Add one ten ounce package of frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained. They do not stress the drained well point, but I will. You need to squeeze out the moisture with your hands, and it you can't do it, get Ed to do it. It's important so the pastry won't be soggy.

 

They say to cook spinach and onion over medium heat for about five minutes to evaporate remaining juices. This step is important. Then they have you stir in 1 t fresh lemon juice 1/2 t black pepper with 4 oz. feta cheese crumbled up. 

 

That is your filling according to JOC, but I like to add a small amount of dried dill, or or course, fresh, if you have it. You really do not need to add salt as the feta is extremely salty.

 

Then they ask you to slice the strips of phyllo into thrids longways. You proceed to wrap these up, placing a T of filling at the end and then wrapping them up in triangles like a flag. These can then be baked immediately or frozen raw to have on hand for great appetizers anytime you have company or just want a tasty snack for yourself.

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I need to add to my above post in that phyllo is hard to work with, must be kept under plastic wrap and then damp towels. It's the single ingredient that has caused me to swear most in my kitchen, but I'll still say that the spanakoita, baklava, mushroom triangles that I've enjoyed were worth the effort and frustration.

 

I think I neglected to mention that the sheets of phyllo must be brushed with melted butter and separated one by one. This is where the frustration part comes in.

 

The satisfaction part comes in when you have spanakopita, tiropita and mushroom triangles in your freezer. 

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Actually reading the posts from TFTC this morning put me in mind of some earlier eG posts...I think...which I looked for and couldn't find...I think @heidih was in on that discussion...and heavens knows, she knows where all the bodies are buried...about making a full pan of Spanakopita using a whopping amount of phyllo and not buttering the layers, but slashing the full pan and pouring a whopping amount of melted butter over the top.  I have to admit that that method appeals to my nature more than the making separate triangles.  I'll just cut it before I freeze it.

 

As for working with phyllo...I've had my dear sister-in-law here to show her how to manage with the stuff...and moreover, not to worry when it tears.  In the end, it makes no nevermind. :P  Just stick it together with some extra oil/butter and move on. 

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Suddenly came to me.  It was ChefCrash in "Baklava, Baklawa".   Will do a big Spanakopita next time I guess.  But thanks for the information.

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On woking with phyllo: don't ovrthink it and don't doddle. I've been wrangling it since I ws a young girl so it is second nature to me. Make sure your hands are dry. It gums up with moisture. We used to do the butter (margarine!) every layer but as @Darienne noted Chefcrash in the baklava topic turned my thinking around.  Melissa Clark has an interesting recipe where you drape the phyllo over a Bundt pan, poking over the tunnel, fill, and fold over excess. No spinach but I think it would be a welcome addition (well squeezed). Holes are poked and butter over top. It is on deck for my next gathering.  https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/dining/151arex.html

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