Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the cookbook to facilitate my review.
When I was in college I had a Greek roommate. Aside from introducing me to what became my favorite salad, she also introduced me to spanakopita. She didn’t like to cook so she never made it for me herself, but she found an amazing cafe that made one she claimed was just as good as her mother’s. It was amazing! Unfortunately, I didn’t ask the cafe for the recipe and after trying several recipes over the years, I never found one that had the same great flavor.
So when I was asked by BenBella Books to review Debbie Matenopoulos’ cookbook It’s All Greek to Me for the one year anniversary tour and saw that spanakopita was one of the recipes in the book, I quickly agreed. The recipes in the book are ones handed down in Debbie’s family through generations so I was hopeful that I’d be able to recapture the flavor of the first spanakopita I had enjoyed in college.
I wasn’t disappointed! I’m not sure if it was the fresh ingredients or the fresh, citrus flavor of the dill, but this recipe was distinctly different from the others I had tried and everyone besides my sons (who hate cheese) LOVED this dish. Even better, the cookbook is full of information about Greece, Greek culture, and about the traditions surrounding the recipes in the book making it so much more than an ordinary cookbook. The BEST part of the book (for me) is the helpful tips Debbie includes that are sometimes missing from other cookbooks. For example, the tips she includes in this recipe are 1) to score the phyllo before you bake it to make the slices less crumbly when you serve them and 2) a variation to make the flavor more robust if you are willing to accept more fat and cholesterol in trade.
I’m not sure why mine came out looking so different. I think I was too stingy with the olive oil when I brushed it onto my phyllo layers. Debbie’s picture is above. Mine came out like this:
I assure you it was absolutely delicious, even if it didn’t turn out looking like the cookbook version. And, truth being told, until I compared our photos I was really pleased with the appearance of mine.
Great recipe to bring to family events and parties!
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided, plus more for baking dish
- 1 bunch scallions white and tender green parts, washed and thinly sliced
- 1/2 large sweet onion finely chopped
- 2 pounds fresh spinach coarse stems removed, washed in several changes of cold water, drained, and chopped
- 1 pound brine-packed Greek feta
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1-pound package phyllo dough sheets (13 × 18 inches), thawed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 × 13-inch baking dish.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the scallions and the onion, and sauté until translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until just wilted. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and transfer to a fine-mesh strainer. Cool slightly, then squeeze as much excess water as possible from the spinach, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Crumble the feta into small pieces and add it to the spinach mixture. Add the dill and mix gently to combine. Add the eggs and pepper. Mix well to combine with impeccably clean hands or a silicone spatula.
Roll the phyllo dough out on a flat surface, working quickly and keeping it covered to prevent it from drying out. Place 2 phyllo sheets into the baking dish at a time, centering them and letting the edges hang over the sides. Brush the top sheet of each 2-sheet layer with a little of the remaining olive oil, but do not brush the overhanging edges. Continue in this manner until you have used 10 of the phyllo dough sheets.
Spread the spinach-feta mixture evenly over the phyllo dough layers in the prepared dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the filling, then continue to layer the phyllo dough, brushing each 2-sheet layer with olive oil, until you have used all of the dough. Trim the top layers of phyllo to fit the baking dish. Slowly pour the remaining olive oil on top, and spread evenly.
Before baking, using a large knife, very carefully score the pie into 8 to 10 pieces, cutting through the top layers just until you reach the filling. Precutting makes it much easier to serve, as the phyllo dough becomes crisp and very fragile after baking.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and flaky, watching carefully. Cool for 10 minutes, slice the precut pieces all the way through, and serve.
Debbie’s Tip: As noted earlier, as with most of the phyllo pies, spanakopita can be made with either melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil. I find the olive oil version to be a lighter, more healthful dish, but I also love to indulge in my mom’s decadent, traditional version once in a while. To make it Mom’s way, replace the olive oil used to brush the phyllo with 6 tablespoons of melted butter (see tip, page 112), add an extra egg, and use 11/2 pounds of feta instead of 1 pound. It’s over-the-top delicious!
This is just the start of the anniversary tour for Debbie’s cookbook. Be sure to check out the blogs below to find even more family recipes from It’s All Greek to Me. And then scroll a little farther down to enter to win your own copy of the book so you can have the entire collection of recipes all to yourself!
You can win your own copy of It’s All Greek to Me by entering the contest below.
Open to all US residents 18 and older. Ends 11:59 pm 4/12/15.