Spanakopita AKA Spinach Cheese Pie (Vegetarian)

This is slight modification of the “Vegetarian Pleasures” spanakopita recipe by Jeanne Lemlin. She uses small curd cottage cheese and doesn’t include nutmeg. This recipe is great for a buffet, as it feeds a crowd and tastes great at room temperature. I cut it into small squares for pot lucks.

Ingredients

  • 2 10 oz packages of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 3 medium sized onions finely diced
  • 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (Optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 1/4 lb of feta, crumbled
  • 1 cup ricotta (whole milk ricotta tastes better)
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 16 sheets of filo (about 3/4 lb),each 12 inches by 16 inches

Equipment

Pastry brush, 12 by 7 by 2 inch rectangular baking dish, a large skillet, large bowl

Instructions

  1. Squeeze frozen spinach dry to remove all the moisture. See notes below.
  2. In the large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach and stir until it is heated through.
  4. Add the dill, salt, freshly grated nutmeg, and the fresh ground pepper to the skillet and stir often, until all the liquid has evaporated and the spinach has begun to stick to the pan. (This takes about 3 to 5 minutes.)
  5. Scrap the spinach and onion mixture into a large bowl and stir in the milk.
  6. Cool to room temperature, add the feta cheese, ricotta cheese, and eggs and mix well. While waiting for the mixture to cool, you can start layering the filo, see step 7.
  7. If baking right away, pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. With the pastry brush, coat the sides and bottom of the baking dish with the melted butter. Line the dish with a sheet of filo dough and press it firmly into the bottom, corners, and sides of the dish.
  8. Brush the top surface of the filo dough with a little melted butter (don’t drench it), then lay another sheet of filo on top. Repeat until 8 sheets of filo have been used.
  9. With a spatula, spread the cooled spinach mixture evenly over the top of the 8th sheet of filo. (If you started layering the filo while waiting for the spinach to cool, after finishing step 8, check the temp of the spinach to see if it has cooled enough to add the cheeses and eggs. You want it cool enough not to cook the eggs. If the spinach mixture hasn’t cooled enough at this time, you’ll need to wait or cool it with an ice bath – see notes. That said, it always takes me long enough to layer the filo that the spinach mixture is always cool enough.)
  10. Place another layer of filo over the spinach mixture, brush with melted butter, and repeat until the remaining 8 sheets of filo have been used on top. Brush the top layer of the filo with melted butter.
  11. With a sharp knife, trim the edges of the filo, leaving 1/4 inch rim close to the top of the flat part of the pie. Make shallow cuts through the first few layers (top 3 or 4 layers) to mark off where you will cut for serving. This can be squares or diamonds. (Can be refrigerated at this point.)
  12. Bake for 1 hour or until the pastry is evenly golden and crisp.
  13. Let the pie sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. It has a better texture served warm than hot.
  14. To serve, cut along the lines you made before baking all the way through to the bottom layer.

Notes:

  • The pie can be made ahead of time up to 24 hours in advance up to step 12. You just need to cover and chill it. and when you are ready to bake it, pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees F.
  • It reheats well and it is also great served at room temperature.
  • I like to take the filo and spinach out of the freezer and put into the fridge to thaw at least 24 hours before I make the pie.
  • To squeeze the spinach, I put it in a colander or strainer with small holes and press a spoon against the spinach. I also will pick up the spinach in small balls and squeeze the balls until no water runs out.
  • Ice bath – To cool the spinach mixture quickly, you can use an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Put the spinach mixture in a small bowl that will fit into the large bowl. Press the spinach mixture along the bottom and sides of the bowl and then carefully put the bowl with the spinach into the large bowl so that water does not get into the spinach bowl.
  • For a pot luck, I make the pie the night before up to step 12. In the morning, first thing, I take it out of the fridge, turn on the convention oven to 300 degrees F, and put it in. I get ready for work (it takes me about 45 minutes) and then watch the pie finish cooking. I cover the pie with foil with one edge open so steam can escape. I don’t want it to be soggy. I put a towel on my car seat and put the hot pie on the towel. I have a kitchen towel that I use to hold the pie when I bring it in from the car to the office. When I get in, I open up the other side of the foil, so more steam can escape. The pie can sit at room temperature until ready to eat.
Spinach. Watercolor illustration.

One thought on “Spanakopita AKA Spinach Cheese Pie (Vegetarian)

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