March 26: National Spinach Day
Our college friend, Christos C. from Crete, hosted a small graduation party for Islander at his house. He cooked a traditional Greek dinner, including oregano lemon chicken, cucumber yogurt dip (tzatziki) and spinach pie (spanakopita). It was a delicious dinner showcasing his culture and cuisine.
Decades later, when we lived in Illinois (the state ranks in the top 5 with the highest Hellenic population in America), we attended the annual Greek festival in our town. Eating their food brought back good memories of the graduation meal.
Once in a while, we still cook those simple dishes that Christos taught us. We transformed his version of spinach pie into triangular dumplings so we can serve smaller spanakopitas at celebrations. The petite pies are especially perfect on National Spinach Day!
(Adapted from Athens Foods)
For the spinach filling
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped spinach
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
Thaw and drain the spinach well. Chop the onion. In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Saute the spinach with the chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the ricotta and feta cheeses. Add the dill. Cool to room temperature.
For the pastry
- 1 package of phyllo pastry sheets (we used Athens brand fillo dough), thawed according to the package directions
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Remove thawed pastry sheets and slice in half lengthwise. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth/towel to avoid drying out the sheets. Assemble the spanakopita by placing one sheet on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. Brush with melted butter.
Layer 2-3 more sheets on top and brush with butter. Place about 2 tablespoons of spinach filling on the edge of one sheet. Carefully fold the corner diagonally to the opposite edge to make a triangle. Fold again, like a flag, to the other edge.
Continue folding until reaching the end of the sheet and tuck into the triangle. Brush both sides with butter. Place on a sheet lined with wax paper. Continue assembling all triangles. Brush the tops of the spanakopita with butter when the pan is full. Add another layer of wax paper and place more triangles on top. Brush with butter again and cover with plastic wrap/film. Freeze until firm.
Line a baking pan with foil and mist with cooking spray. Place the spanakopitas seam side down on the pan in a single layer. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
- Cooking spray may be used instead of butter between the sheets of phyllo dough.
- Fond of phyllo? Try lakror, an Albanian meat pie on the Feast Day of St. Basil on January 2.
- Σε ευχαριστώ πολύ. Thanks to Christos C. for the ceramic plate from Crete which we used for the final food photo above.